Entries in Bilmar Hotel (3)
Visiting from Chicago, Lisa wanted to have some professional portraits made of herself on vacation. I met her at the Bilmar Hotel, a place I have shot at before. The weather the three days prior to our shoot were nearly constant rain, and Lisa was concerned, but my lucky weather streak for beach portraits continued as you can see we had a near ideal sunset.
Like many people, Lisa told me she was not that comfortable having her photograph taken, but as is often my experience, they turn out to be much better models than they ever thought they could. I may see Lisa again for a photography lesson in the spring when she returns with a Nikon DSLR of her own.
There are always challenges photographing a wedding, but for me personally this was the most difficult due to the news I got about the oldest member of my family when I first woke up that morning. I have a strong ability to compartmentalize so I rallied and once I first put the camera up to my eye, no one all the six and a half hours I was on site at the Bilmar Hotel on Treasure Island had any idea what I was really feeling inside.
The wedding rings were with the bride, Jessica, in her hotel room, which is unusual as the groom tends to keep them on hand. Looking for a good place to photograph the rings, I recalled what I did for a Christmas wedding last year, which was to hang the rings from a string type object. The bride took off a necklace she was wearing an assisted me in getting this shot. The cross was already on the necklace.
The bride had a very loyal wedding dress assistant her continued her job the entire afternoon and evening. For the above shot I had two volunteer assistants hold my speedlights as there was not much space at all to setup a pair of light stands. The weather looks great outside right? Well, to the east clouds were rolling in fast and within 20-minutes it was raining right at what was to be the start of the ceremony. There was only a 30-minute delay which was actually welcome, allowing the bride more time to get ready and the guests to cool off in the reception area.
I learned a new trick for shooting in hotel rooms: use one of the room lamps as a backlight in tight quarters. I had the groom, Justin, and the other groomsmen squeeze between two beds causing them to get into a fan-like pose and also allowing the table lamp to backlight them. This is definitely a type of shot I will be doing again in the future!
Once the rainstorm passed it was kind enough to leave behind all sorts of clouds decorating the sky. I much prefer clouds to a cloudless beach sky. Not only are day time photos much better, I think sunset shots with clouds are much more dramatic as well.
It was an emotional moment for the bride and especially the groom once the ceremony began. For me, it is nice to see as I like to see people express genuine emotion. It also of course helps the photographs.
The bride in a quiet moment faces the Sun and the Sea. This type of shot, where the subject is not looking into the lens but rather off into the distance is my favorite type of portrait. For me, I wonder what the subject is thinking about. I hope that some years down the line when the bride looks at this image, she, herself, will also wonder what she was thinking of at that moment.
After I took the final photograph of Jessica & Justin at sunset time, I had a few moments alone as I packed up my strobist gear and they started to walk back to the hotel for the reception. This gave me a few seconds to send my own thoughts out to the horizon, as I do every day, but even more so that time.
For years when I first crossed the inter-coastal waterway bridge and arrived on Treasure Island on my way to Sunset Beach, the Bilmar Hotel would be the first thing I saw. Next to it the Thunderbird Hotel. Over the years I built up in my imagination what they must be like inside and created a history for them. I always thought one day I would go inside one of those hotels, but never did, not until I photographed Christina and Sean's wedding last month.
What I was immediately reminded of upon entering the Bilmar Hotel were my own childhood memories of my family's first visits to Florida and the hotels we stayed at in the 80s. I have not taken a true vacation in the U.S. in over 11 years so I do not often see the insides of hotels of any kind. I really like checking out travel related places like hotels and airports. They are good places to imagine where the people you see came from, why did they take vacation on non-descript week in May, etc.
The sunset light was nice and soft as usual, so there were no particular technical challenges in photographing this wedding. The beach for a change was largely free of looky-loos giving me clean backgrounds when shooting just the bride and groom. It was a cloudless sunset allowing the sun to be seen all the way until it slips behind the horizon beyond the sea.