Walter Van Dusen Gets Ready for Hannah’s Big Day
The contact page of Walter van Dusen’s website features a picture of his daughter with a caption that reads “Every wedding that I photograph is preparing for my daughter Hannah’s wedding. That’s how important your wedding is to me”. And he means it. Some photographers approach weddings as cookie-cutter catalog work. New England-based Walter van Dusen approaches weddings with a passion.
With 20 years as a correction officer under his belt, Walter has the steely nerves required to deal with the heightened emotions and meltdowns that often go hand-in-hand with wedding days. Careful to avoid repetitive grip and grin-ish wedding photography, van Dusen makes a conscious effort to spend up-front time in order to get to know the soon-to-be-married couple, and sometimes their families and significant others in their lives.
Every couple has a story, and by getting to know the parties involved beforehand, van Dusen can tell their story that much better. Another benefit of investing ‘upfront time’ is when the big day arrives he is no longer a ‘stranger among them’, which is reflected in their attitude and expressions when it’s time to go to work.
Though color images are a given at weddings, some of van Dusen’s stronger images are black & white, a medium van Dusen learned to appreciate back in the film days. Seemingly invisible to his subjects in many of his images, much of van Dusen’s work is classic journalism.
When he first became seriously involved with photography back in the 90’s, his camera of choice was a Rolleiflex 6008i film camera. Fast-forward to today and van Dusen is a dedicated Nikon D4 shooter who depends on fast, fixed focal-length prime lenses and a few zooms to capture the action. For lighting, Walter depends on a gaggle of Nikon SB-910 SpeedLights and PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radios that for van Dusen’s needs, work like charms.
Not big on boxing himself in with lights on stands, Walter prefers keeping his lighting as mobile as his camera, and much prefers to have an assistant mirror his actions as a second light. Crediting the accuracy of his flash and PocketWizard radio trigger system, van Dusen concentrates on the moment, making sure his camera is where it should be when the moment occurs.
This ability to move about freely while maintaining full TTL control of the lighting is one of the keys to van Dusen’s shooting style. He fully credits the accuracy of his PocketWizard system for the often-subtle lighting effects he’s able to dial in on his Speedlights, especially in the images that display narrow ranges of selective focus. Regardless of his surroundings or how many other photographers are working in his vicinity, van Dusen is able to record the picture the way he saw it the moment he went ‘click’.
Though he’s tried other brand radio remote systems, he quickly narrowed his choice of remote triggering devices down to PocketWizard radios, which he finds the most reliable and flexible of them all. He also appreciates the speed in which he can power up and start shooting when unexpected photo ops arise.
A good example is the above evening shot of the bride and groom in the back seat of a white Bentley. This image came about when everyone was packed up and ready to leave. Seizing the moment, van Dusen asked the wedding party to stay put while he powered up one of his Nikon SB-910 flashes and a PocketWizard FlexTT5, handed it to the driver and told him to hold still and aim it back over his shoulder. From there it was easy work to capture the moment with a perfect balance of flash and ambient light values. If you ask van Dusen, the secret of nailing the tough shots, he’ll tell you “PocketWizard”.
In addition to shooting weddings, van Dusen runs Mystic Seminars, an annual event he founded nine years ago that according to the banner on the Mystic 2014 homepage is four days of ‘No bullsh*t Topics for Wedding Photographers’ (January 23-26, 2014 Mystic, CT). And no doubt each of the topics are discussed with the same level of intensity and passion you can expect from Walter.
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