It’s not as though this is my first year as a destination wedding photographer. I’ve shot so many weddings that I stopped counting years ago. I’ve never tired of it; I still love it.
But before every wedding, I get a little nervous—my stomach is a little jumpy, I indulge in a little worrying. After all this time I wonder, Will my photos look too similar to the wedding I shot the week before? I’ve got to get it right, I’ve got to nail it, I’ve got just one chance to hit one out of the park.
Not so surprisingly, certain changes in the arrangements for a wedding can calm my nervousness and worry. A destination wedding will do it every time. Because I know that it’s impossible for this wedding to look like any other I’ve ever photographed. I can relax—a little—but I still have to be at the top of my game. Great! I think to myself.
Then a curious little fellow enters my mind. He says, “Dude, how can you document a wedding without being overly obvious, practically shouting, ‘This is a fine example of a destination wedding!” I must remember, this is not about the trip or the place, it’s still and always about the bride and groom, it’s about their love for each other, and the celebration that marks it.’”
Wedding photographers juggle a number of elements: the location, the weather, the lighting, the bride and groom, the mood of the day.
What I can tell you for sure is that Andrea is a photographer’s dream of a bride. She has it all, just look at the photos! And Brian is a cool dude, nice smile, easy going.
From the moment I walked onto the ship I knew there would be tons of great photo ops, some natural and some created by me so it’s possible later to claim that those were real moments—a combination of a shot from a shot list, photojournalism, and me as a director of a shoot.
The first day of the cruise began with a small gathering in Andrea and Brian’s suite. When I shoot in a crowded room, the light is usually dim so I always use a prime lens. This, combined with my new Canon 5DMKII camera, really helps getting those really natural, photojournalistic shots of family and friends rubbing elbows and enjoying their time together. We took a few really nice shots in the cabin and on the cabin’s balcony as well.
I quickly thought, This is not enough, and I took them to the stern of the ship hoping to get a “Titanic type” picture of Andrea and Brian. I didn’t get the shot (obviously) but I did succeed in walking dozens of wedding guests through the narrow corridors of the ship, single file. I was the Pied Piper of Photographic Possibilities. When we finally arrived on the deck, the sun was down and I got some really nice photos of the family hanging out together, enjoying each other and the ocean breeze. After that (phew!), I took Andrea and Brian for some night shots before dinner.
The day of the wedding began in the beauty salon on-board the ship. Andrea seemed relaxed but was giving the mirror a critical eye every now and then. How is this looking? she wondered. She was pretty much glued to the chair while family and friends were popping in to say hi.
Next stop, check out Brian and his groomsmen. The day for them doesn’t usually start as early as it does for the bride. Was I surprised to find Brian standing in his shorts drinking a beer? Nope! I got a couple of shots of the guys and headed back to the salon.
Fast forward to leaving the ship for the ceremony on the beach. There was the usual instant “shopping mall” of stalls you see at ports. Everyone at the “mall” cheered as Andrea and her bridesmaids passed by. They were all singing (something I didn’t recognize but it sounded full of enthusiasm), there was the beat of drums, and cheers and sounds as we walked by.
When we got to the site for the ceremony, I got to work capturing the beauty of the ceremony set-up, how it looked before anyone arrived. I worked quickly and also shot the reception site. Wow! Crystal from Amazae Special Events did a sensational job putting this wedding together. Chatting with Crystal after the wedding, I found out that it took three days to prepare the wedding venue, and doing it in Mexico, there was no shortage of obstacles. That’s a whole other story!
So there I was, running like crazy to get all the amazing details before the wind and the sun changed them into something less photographically ideal. Man, it was great walking in the sand, the sun appearing then disappearing behind huge clouds, the fresh ocean breeze, a totally amazing view. And a really cute couple under that amazing sky gazing at each other, taking in and digging every single moment. I wasn’t feeling those exact feelings myself—because they’re Andrea and Brian’s—but the feeling is “catching,” and it feels somehow intoxicating.
From that point on, it was pure celebration. I was jammin’ trying to get as many candids as I could. Thought to self: Maybe too many?
The whole celebration wasn’t over until the last day of the cruise when we had a little TTD (Trash The Dress) session poolside. Andrea, again in her beautiful wedding gown, and Brian jumped into the pool with the entire family and other onlookers watching.
It seemed such a cool way to say, “It’s over! We’re married. Let the fun begin!”