Tradewinds on St. Pete Beach Sunset Wedding

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/8 ISO 200 1/160th Nikon SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedWhen photographing a wedding on a beach, such as this one at Tradewinds St. Pete Beach, there are many factor's out of the photographer's control.  First and foremost of course is the sun, and how bright or not bright it is that afternoon, as well as the number of beach-goers wondering around in the background.  So it is not too often that everything comes together as perfectly as can be reasonably expected as it did for Jennifer and John's beach wedding, i.e. brilliant but manageable sunlight and a near empty beach.

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/11 ISO 200 1/250th Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame rightThe Tradewinds Resort is also a good beach wedding location because of its nearby sea grass-covered sand dune, which is my preferred background for the after-ceremony formal portraits, as at that time the sun is usually still too powerfully backlighting the water.  

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/11 ISO 200 1/250thJennifer and John had a very above average number of guests for a beach wedding, which made the big group shot a particular challenge.  I am actually not entirely satisfied with how this shot come out.  There was no point in using my two strobes as they could not light such a long line of people, so I had to rely on the sun to help me out.  People's instinct in group shots is to curl themselves into a semi-circle.  My want was for a very straight, if not slightly convex line to be formed.  This would allow sunlight to evenly light all the people.  Despite several minutes of asking everyone to keep backing up and trying to put them in place, I apparently was not strong enough in my prodding as the people on the right side of the shot are still too much in cross-shadow.  I tried!  That would be the Don Cesar Resort in the far background.

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/8 ISO 200 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 to left & SB-600 to rightAfter the big group shot and the many wedding party shots, at last it was just Jennifer, John and I along with the sun and Gulf of Mexico.  There were not gale force winds that evening, the veil is being held by a bridesmaid (photo secret).  

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/8 ISO 200 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 off camera to left & SB-600 to rightThe blues were very vidid that sunset, and there were just enough clouds to make the sky interesting.  To me, I think a kissing portrait looks best when the couple is not actually quite kissing.  An actual kiss squishes faces in an unflattering way.  That's why I ask couples to keep their lips slightly apart or only just touching.  Jennifer and John did a great job with their almost-kissing form.

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/6.3 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 to left and SB-600 to rightJennifer really like the lacy bamboo canopy setup for their wedding ceremony, requesting a shot of her alongside what I hope is an artificial (or previously long-lived) starfish.  This was a bit tricky to light as she was in shadow under the canopy and the sunset was dancing on her shoulder.  This is where experience counts as I was able to properly position my two strobes (one on a light stand the other a tripod) in time as the sunset is on its own timetable.  

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 to frame right & SB-600 to frame left this timeI had already packed up nearly all of my photo gear.  Jennifer and John were strolling back toward the Tradewinds.  Then I noticed the fantastical violet and reds of the twilight sky that had formed after the sunset.  My arranged photography time was finished and fulfilled.  I had no more official photography duties.  However, I knew as a photographer I could not pass up such a background and beckoned for J & J to come back pointing at the sky.  I quickly got my gear back out and setup before the sky had time to change its mind, and was able to produce the above shot, and got the moon overhead as well.  See that empty beach?  Such a shame to have such few witnesses to a wonderful Florida evening. 

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