Eleven years ago I walked into the Center for Faith and Life on Luther College's campus armed with my cameras and a selection of lenses. It was my freshman year and I was sent there to photograph Christmas at Luther. I have to admit, I had no idea what this performance was or just how big of a deal it is. Heck, I don't even like choral music and I'm quite well known as the person who highly dislikes Christmas music. But this is Luther's flagship performance and as I was about to discover, there's a reason why Christmas at Luther is an Emmy award-winning program.
Every year there seems to be at least one point in the program that gives me goose bumps. I've never been a singer, so I can't tell you anything about what I am hearing, but I can say that being literally surrounded by hundreds of musicians all singing in perfect harmony (or at the very least what sounds like perfect harmony to these untrained ears) can evoke quite an overwhelmingly joyful sensory experience.
Photographing the show has always posed a number of challenges. First, because the college records the show live every night, and we take such great pride in the audience's experience of the show, my team cannot take photos during the actual performances. Therefore, we are allowed just one opportunity to capture images from the dress rehearsal. So there's a bit of pressure to do it right the first time as there's no second chance. The conditions in which we photograph are also quite challenging. The program is lighted to create a moody, magical ambiance. When we photographers hear those terms we instantly think, "Okay, that means it's going to be dark, dimly lit with spotty/harsh lighting." And boy, is it. I also tend to have a bit of a challenging time coming up with new ways to photograph the thing I have now shot over the course of 11 years. I wrack my brain to walk the balance between getting new, unique shots while also being sure I capture the images the college needs. For me, this challenge extends beyond C@L. Many of the things I help photograph are the same events year after year. It definitely becomes harder each year to figure out new perspectives and ways of covering the same event. But that's also part of the fun of it.
Here are a few select images from this year's show.