I was given this "whole cloth" assignment just days before it actually occurred. I had some idea of what to expect (flowers, a color guard, a featured speaker, the stately courthouse), but until I actually arrived, I had no idea how these elements could be composed in a visually interesting photograph. As always, I had enough glass to cover almost any possible juxtaposition of foreground and background elements, but being able to photograph from a good position might not be an option.
I had arrived about 20 minutes before the official start of the ceremony, so I had plenty of time to work with the visual elements. One such experiment involved placing the County Courthouse in the background. At my widest available setting (11mm on on 11-16 Tokina), I could get the entire courthouse only by standing about 4 feet from the wreath (Photo #1). But I was also in the path the color guard would take when presenting the colors, so that idea was nixed. On top of all that, the image wouldn't be particularly strong, no matter how it was populated.
"When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Mr. Speedlight is hard-wired to assume that a supplementary flash is always needed, but when photographing outdoors, light colored sidewalks can provide a natural fill light. So will a light colored building, assuming they reflect enough light in the right direction. It's so liberating to be able to shoot without a speedlight while all of your subjects stand on a natural fill-card, which was the case in all of these images. I was especially grateful for this fact, since everybody was wearing a hat of some sort.
It suffices to say that this shot could only have been made with a large-aperture telephoto lens, which is exactly what I used. The exposure settings were ISO 200, 1/1600 @ F 2.8. The shallow depth of field afforded by the 2.8 aperture and the 190mm focal length helped place the viewer's focus exactly where I wanted it.