By now, most of you have no doubt seen the wedding portrait gone viral last week of couple Dillon and Corrie posed in front of a raging fire that tore through a vacant building in downtown Dayton, Ohio. Photographer Megan Allen of Choosestudio 22 spoke with our online editor, Stacey Goldberg, about what it took to get the shot. We don't recommend or encourage ever putting your clients in harm's way for a photograph, but Allen wants everyone to know she was very aware of both her and her couple's safety at all times.
Says Megan: "We were at a popular downtown Dayton venue called Top of the Market. As the reception was slowing down something caught my eye and as I glanced out the window I saw huge flames erupting from the building across the way. There’s an overpass between Top of the Market and the building that was on fire, so this is a building I see every time I shoot a wedding there. It’s not even a mile away. The guests all began to rush to the windows and videotape the fire, and I knew we had to somehow capture this moment so I ran to find the bride running toward me yelling, 'We have to get this! We have to get the fire!' So, without any other questions, I grabbed my second shooter, and the four of us ran out, scrambled up the hill to the other side of the overpass, and snagged the image that went viral. We were there for 2 to 3 minutes, shot a couple of angles and with an 85mm and a 35mm lens, and then quickly left when the response teams moved into position. It was such a fast moment, but one that I think we all will remember for years to come."
Megan stresses that she made sure they all maintained a safe distance from the fire and obeyed all the requests from the first responders when they arrived. "There were approximately 20 to 30 people up on the overpass with us watching the first responders below as they began to fight the flames, and we worked quickly to make sure we never were in any danger or impeding the first responders’ ability to work in any way. I’m terrible at distances, but I would guess we were probably 800 or so feet back and up away from the actual fire, and the venue itself was probably about 800 feet back from that."
She adds that no extra lights were used—"the images were all natural light, thanks to the incredible backlight of the fire, and the smoke created a bit of a soft box effect to diffuse the setting sun." Again, she adds, the hardest part about capturing this shot was "making sure everyone was safe and we obeyed the first response teams to ensure we weren’t in any danger, nor were we distracting or impeding their ability to fight the fire. No photo is worth losing a life, and I’m glad we were able to be a safe distance away, but still close enough to really capture the essence of that moment in time."
A week later, the photographer is still digesting all the feedback and attention the image has garnered. "It's honestly been a wild ride," she exclaims. "When I saw the fire, and my couple was game to chase the opportunity, all that was going on in my head was the words of my wonderful friend, Erika Mann, who always says to capture the moment. Dive in, commit to it and tell the story to its fullest extent. And, for me, I just kept hoping we could capture the essence of that moment. My favorite part of all of it was when I transferred the RAW file to my phone to show my couple, and they lost it. They immediately began passing the phone to everyone in the wedding, and to see their excitement for what we’d captured, that meant the world to me. If I can create images that excite my couples, then I’ve done my job. My goal is to tell their stories and give them a time capsule back to their wedding day, and I think we certainly caught a moment in time on their wedding day that was quite out of the ordinary." —Reported by Stacey Goldberg
Gear used: Sony A9 | Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 at f/1.8 ISO 100 1/1000 of a sec. Edited with DVLOP presets Two Mann Studios “Amarone” with Megan's personal modifications.