Entries in Sand Key (5)
I have photographed dozens of beach weddings over the past few years, but this was only my second daytime (i.e. non-sunset time) wedding. The first was just over a year ago and lasted only an hour, but I still remember the heat from that one! This wedding was two hours and a little later in the year, so I prepared myself accordingly.
This wedding was for current DSLR Photography Lesson student Chris & his bride Valentina. I actually first met Chris briefly over a decade ago during my USF days. For the above photo Valentina wanted a shot that featured the back of her wedding dress. I thought black & white made the dress stand out from the background.
Shooting a ceremony that starts at 10:30am means basically shooting in direct, harsh sunlight, i.e. the least ideal conditions. Still, as a professional photographer one is expected to produce results. This starts with altering expectations as of course I will not be able to produce any of my trademark stunning sunset portraits. However, I can get very vivid blues still.
I could also focus on my prefered candid style of shooting, like in the above shot of Valentina and Chris right after their first kiss as husband and wife. Despite the power of the sunlight, I did have the one advantage of the couple facing the sun during the ceremony allowing for the best possible exposure given the conditions.
This group shot is of everyone in attendance at the wedding. The goal is to make sure everyone's head is visible. I took a new approach this time asking people to please just stand still! I would get the left side of the group all aligned then go to do the right and turn around to see the people on the left mingling amongst themselves again. Finally I had to be firm and say please stand still or we will all melt in the sun! For all future group shots I will start out with this firmness as you may find it hard to believe but adults cannot stand still either, just like kids!
The width of the Gulf of Mexico makes it tempting to only shoot landscape orientation shots, but I think it is important to produce a variety of shots, including ones like the above portrait orientation shot. I still concentrate the most on getting the horizon level be it landscape or portrait orientation as my photo students know I am a stickler for level horizons.
No sunset in the background, but the Gulf of Mexico at any time of day still makes for a pretty good backdrop. I asked Chris if he could dip Valentina for me. Surprisingly, he chose this kind of dip rather than putting her into the Gulf!
The reception was also out in mostly direct sunlight, but nearby was a shady refreshment stand the guests hung out in until the food was ready to be served. This is where I was able to get this candid shot of Valentina and her son.
You may already recognize Olivia from her bride series entry several weeks ago, so allow me to introduce her husband Felix. Their Florida beach wedding on Sand Key finished just before a huge storm swept in. That was the good news. The bad was Olivia really wanted sunset backdrop portraits and in my long time Florida resident opinion, it was just not going to be possible. However, I was obviously proven wrong as the storm was extremely fast moving and left enough time for the portraits Olivia hoped for. The bonus was the leftover stormy skies provided a unique and dramatic background.
Even during the ceremony the storm clouds were already visible. The above is my first try at a new wedding ceremony shot for when a bride wears a long veil -- using the veil to frame the foreground in order to feature the groom. The bride always gets so much attention, I want to try and do something for the groom when I can.
This throwing stones into the ocean was a new custom for me to photograph at a beach wedding. The beast of a storm in the background is on its way south to rain upon St. Petersburg.
The flower girl and her big sister were no worse for ware after the rain delay. They were staying dry in their family van, me I was out in the semi-protected cover of a changing area listening to the storm carefully.
So it all turned out well and ended with smiles and even a pirate ship! Rain is a reality in Florida, especially in the summer time, but even if it comes, a photographer should be patient and wait it out until the last possible moment to see if a few more shots can be made. Plus I always am aware of my surroundings and note where I can take cover should sudden rain come besides keeping a rain jacket next to my gear.
Karen and James had perfectly clear western skies for their beach wedding at Sand Key. Such conditions are actually rare. It is not often the sun can be seen all the way down to the horizon for a Gulf of Mexico sunset.
However, turning around to the east offered an entirely different sky. As usually happens in late summer, storms roll in from the hotter inland parts of Florida, sometimes reaching the coast. We were fortunate this time as we got the benefit of having the dramatic storms clouds as a portrait background, but with none of the rain!
Last night I came up with a new mathematical photography formula:
wedding portrait (constant) + children (variable) = unknown
Often it is these types of images that get the most feedback and comments from everyone! I believe in 20 years, this type of photograph will produce the most reaction still.
Being patient and persistent allowed for these images of Olivia for this Bride Series collection, as well as spontaneous. Soon after her wedding ceremony, a huge storm rumbled across Sand Key Beach forcing us to take cover for over twenty minutes. It was already getting close to sunset time and I really thought we would have no more portrait opportunities. Then as suddenly as the storm arrived, the rain ceased leaving behind a dramatic sky background over the Gulf of Mexico.
This is Olivia as she is getting ready to walk down the sandy beach aisle, before the storm. The weather was still calm then and the sun was giving off its usual warm glow of late evening. It is the ideal time for natural light portraits.
I mentioned before being spontaneous helped. This photograph was very impromptu (as was the lead image). As we were leaving our respective shelters, they from their cars (too hot for me) and me from the changing room covered open air deck, on our way to the beach I liked the green grass background and thought it would be a unique shot to have amongst all the other on sand shots. Olivia was willing to leap up onto the railing of the boardwalk. I quickly setup my light stand and dialed in the settings. I was very happy we made the effort to get these shots.
So what could have ended up as a very shortened wedding portrait session turned into an opportunity for portraits with a unique and dramatic backdrop. Over this summer I have come to actually prefer stormy sky backdrops over ordinary calm sunset skies. Thanks to Olivia for being so open to all my ideas.
When photographing a beach wedding in Florida, you really never know what kind of sunset, if any, mother nature will provide you with that particular evening. For Lynn and Stephen's wedding, we were treated to a very rare golden twilight sky. Stephen wearing white along with his bride Lynn helped them not overpower the golden light, but rather blend into it. Given such fantastic light conditions, I made sure to do my part to make the best possible wedding photographs for the newlyweds.
Another rarity this time was being able to see the sun make its way all the way down to the horizon itself, unobstructed by clouds. Once I found the settings that I liked best: f/8 ISO 400 1/80th manual mode I put a mark in the sand and just moved and had either the couple or just the bride stand on that mark for various shots. This allows me to maximize the variety of shots I can take while the sun continues its accelerating trip to the southern hemisphere.
Now I am not one for gimmick photographs like drawing hearts in sand, etc. However, the heart in the above photograph was already there in basically in their path so I asked them if they wanted to include it in the shot. They said yes and we were able to make this shot on the first take. How do you feel about including things like hearts drawn in the sand?
Thanks to mother nature and Stephen and Lynn for making this a unique and colorful wedding photography experience.