Denis Reggie Inspirational Story

As a teenager, I was always interested in playing football but a recurring thumb injury dashed my sporting dreams. Still wanting to be near the game led me to becoming the team photographer for our high school’s Friday night games. This also meant that I spent many a night and weekend in the darkroom push-developing my black-and-white film to somehow get usable photographs under poorly lit stadium lighting. But it was that first time seeing (under that red-orange safelight) an image slowly appear on an 8x10 sheet of white paper in the developer tray that amazed me, instantly hooked me on the magic of photography and lead me to my life’s work.

Shot with the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II with 24-70mm F2.8L II zoom lens with camera set manually to 1/50th sec @ f/3.5 at 3200 ISO

My first camera, an all black Canon FTb-N model was my pride and joy and served me well with a 80-200mm zoom lens in capturing sports action. Covering Friday night football games instilled in me the journalist’s perspective of discovering and documenting real moments from the sidelines, never directing folks or calling attention to me or the camera. I’ve always felt that people look better when they are unaware of the photography process. This attitude and approach became the basis for my career as a wedding photojournalist.

Today, after nearly 2,000 wedding assignments throughout the country and often beyond, I see my mission as being the historian for one of life’s happiest days, not as a director or creator of fantasy. I sometimes pinch myself as a reality check when I ponder my nearly 40 year mission to serve clients that have included Mariah Carey, Vera Wang, James Taylor, and John Kennedy, Jr. with accolades along the way from Oprah Winfrey, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Town and Country, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Entertainment Tonight and NBC’s Today show.

This happy couple is receiving quite a send-off in Sea Island, Georgia, in summer of 2017 with festive fireworks and final farewell from a joyful best man. I used a Canon 1DX Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens with 600EX II Speedlite set to E-TTL with attached CTO filter with my camera set manually to 1/160 sec. at f/3.2 at 3200 ISO.

My gear bag has also come a long way since high school days but Canon equipment has been inside of it every step of the way. Nowadays I bring both Canon EOS 1D-X Mark II and Canon EOS 5D Mark IV cameras to every assignment and rely on zooms and primes for my assignments. The lenses that I call on mostly are the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zooms with their ideal focal ranges and superb optics. I am also a big fan of the EF 35mm f/1.4L II lens for its crispness and often use it for reception work at around f/2.2 to keep subject separation from the background. Regardless of lens, much of my work is at nearly wide-open apertures for shallow depth of field and to take in the ambient light and mood. Even my group photographs are typically made with an aperture setting of around f/4 and every face is tack sharp thanks to the distance I generally keep from the subjects using an approximately 45mm focal length setting on my zoom lens.

This was taken at a 2015 wedding assignment in Atlanta with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using 24-70mm f/2.8L II zoom lens with camera set manually for 1/50 sec. at f/3.2 at 1600 ISO. My 600EX Speedlite is mounted on the camera’s hot shoe and set for E-TTL exposure. It’s directly aimed to the far left for bouncing off a wall to achieve softer lighting and create subtle facial shadows that enhance dimensional quality.

Most of my wedding assignments include receptions in dark rooms often with colored or warm lighting that my clients have added to create an inviting mood. Using only available light would mean unwanted shadows that hide the expressions of the eyes. For best results to achieve the detail in the eyes that I want to record, I rely on flash which I often bounce from a nearby wall if one is available. I pack a couple of the excellent 600EX II-RT Speedlites, often with an orange filter attached (usually a CTO balanced for 3200K lighting) to better match the color temperature of the room’s ambient light. At most of my dark receptions, I set my camera for Manual mode and choose the shutter and aperture but I set the flash for automated exposures using the superbly accurate E-TTL system. Even when pointing my flash toward a nearby wall for bounced lighting (as I do quite often), I get superb exposures with Canon’s intuitive system. Bouncing light gives a softer, more realistic and flattering window-light look and is also less obtrusive – even potentially unnoticed by the subjects – compared to direct flash aimed directly toward their eyes.

This one is from a number of years ago of the bride, the youngest granddaughter of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, in Palm Beach, Florida, using a Canon D-SLR with 24-70mm lens and an off-camera umbrella flash setup with two Canon Speedlites on a light stand aimed into a 40 inch soft white umbrella.

At most every indoor wedding, I setup angled umbrella lighting for my group photography using two 600EX II-RT Speedlites pointed into a soft white umbrella on a 9-foot light stand and triggered by the excellent ST-E3 transmitter which is mounted on my camera’s hot shoe. I often attach CTO color filters to the Speedlite to better match the ambient light temperature. (Two snap-on color filters and other accessories are conveniently included in the box with the Canon 600EX II-RT Speedlite.)

Taken in 2015 just as the couple exits their wedding ceremony (while walking excitedly and at full speed) using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens, camera manually set for 1/160 sec. at f/3.2 at 1600 ISO.

I find myself using only two of the camera’s modes – Av when I want to set the aperture then have the camera meter the ambient light to choose the perfect shutter speed based on the amount of light it reads, and M for me to manually choose both aperture and shutter speed (based on experience) as I often do in darker environments like wedding receptions rather than having the camera meter the lowly ambient light. Many of my reception photographs are taken with flash with camera set for 3200 ISO with a shutter speed of 1/100 second and aperture of f/3.2.

I always use RAW files and automatic white balance (AWB) given the reality of rapid speed coverage and the ease of using post-wedding software like Canon’s DPP or Abode’s Lightroom to handily fine tune an image.

From early days and nights of film based coverage and darkroom production to today’s precise digital workflow using incredibly fast, low-light capable cameras and lenses, I am traveling my long career road with Canon at my side for every step of this amazing adventure.