Canon Ambassador Katya Mukhina is an award-winning wedding photographer who shoots couples in extraordinary locations around the world. Here, she shares the story of one of her own favourite images – which wasn’t a wedding shoot at all!
“I’ve been a photographer for sixteen years and at least ten of them were spent travelling to different locations around the world for wedding and elopement photography. In every place I visit, I try to find a location, take a day out and work on a personal project. In many cases, the landscape is beautiful, but I don’t photograph landscapes without people. For me, bringing people to an environment gives it a soul and through them, you can feel how they feel to be in this place. But I usually need to find people who will fit in these pictures. Often when I ask strangers, people look at me and say ‘err…no’, but I’m ok with that – your first try is rarely successful, but I’m brave enough to make my idea come true. In time you find interesting people everywhere who you will connect with and they will say yes.
I was speaking at a Canon Russia roadshow in a Siberian town called Tyumen, and during my talk I noticed a man in the audience standing and listening. Afterwards, he came to find out more about my work and I quickly discovered that he, Mike, is a photographer who also shoots with Canon and loves adventures. I showed him some sets from my adventurous engagement photoshoots, where couples explore unusual locations and he called to his girlfriend, Kate, to come and see them. These shoots are real stories that can’t be told in just an hour, so they can take a day – or several days! – and sometimes I even write a plot or scenario of how it will go, with interesting things happening along the way. He was really interested, and they were a good-looking couple, so I thought “hmmm… why not use this opportunity and ask to photograph them? He was already kind of my soulmate as a photographer, so I thought he would welcome the opportunity. And I already had the perfect location…
Just an hour from the city, an enthusiast architect had decided to make her dream come true – building treehouses and a bus in the forest that you can stay in overnight, like a very basic hotel. I really felt like I had connected this extraordinary place with a cool couple and the very next day we set off to create the story. When I have a great story, I’m very determined and try to do everything quickly, no waiting. I see the person, I see the location, I make it happen. In this case, I was even able to show the pictures and the video the following week at another roadshow. I think it’s important to inspire other photographers to pick up their camera and create something, and this was a good example of how you have to be the artist who makes their own opportunities. But in the moment, inspiring others was secondary. I truly was engaged with this story, this place and this couple.
They were amazed that this place existed and said ‘How did you find it? We’ve lived nearby all our life and we didn’t even know!’ It was perfect. Here we were in a bus with an open fire and the romance of feeling close to the outdoors and away from the city life. The shoot took a day and a half, starting in the evening, so I used the EOS-R, as it’s my favourite camera this year for elopement photoshoots. It let me concentrate on what is happening and I don’t think too much about the technical side, as I see exposure simulation and fully trust eye autofocus even when with a very low light. Plus, you can tilt the screen, look into their eyes, talk to them and take their pictures. When they were exchanging the rings, it was quite an intimate moment so silent mode really worked perfectly.
Here, I was capturing passionate emotions – those romantic first moments.
When we continued the next day, we were already like friends. They were used to the camera and the way I take pictures. They already told me the way they got acquainted, what they love about each other – and what they hate in each other! – their hobbies, everything. So, we had a lot to talk about and all these things help to make a photoshoot very informal and more natural. Even though it was late October, it was about zero degrees. But even so the girl was always frozen because she wanted to look her best, wearing skinny jeans and only one layer of clothes. Because of this we had to wrap her with all the things we had around, and I couldn’t take spontaneous pictures of them in-between the locations while walking. All she would say is ‘I don’t wear thermal clothes.’ How can you survive without them in Siberia? If a person feels cold, pictures can’t look natural, so we put a lot of effort into the shots outside.
They had not been dating for all that long, so when I asked, ‘why don’t we use the rings? Just to symbolise the moment’, the guy was reluctant to put the ring on her finger! That’s why in the pictures he doesn’t put it on the correct finger – the ring finger – but on another. I felt like I couldn’t push him to put it on the right one. I didn’t want to make him feel like he was making a huge commitment, right there. But still when he put the ring on her finger, her eyes said everything. I don’t think she even realised that it was the wrong finger, which was so very funny.
But they were having fun. They were having a new experience together at the beginning of a relationship. A lot of the time I take pictures of couples who have been together for a long time, sometimes five or ten years and it creates a different story. They are used to each other and the way they communicate is less romantic, I would say. Here, I was capturing passionate emotions – those romantic first moments. It was how a honeymoon should be in an ideal world.”
Discover more about Katya on her website.