Tag Archives: tampa wedding photography

Whirlwind Wedding Photojournalism

Whirlwind Wedding. Nicole and Dennis.

   Nine tornadoes touched down around Tampa Bay March 31, 2011.  They tore roofs off of homes, overturned semi-tractor trailers, RVs and some elderly men and women and knocked out power to thousands.

  They also had the local TV networks covering the storms wall-to-wall beginning about 4am, reminding us constantly the mayhem raining down outside our doors.

  Even by Tampa Bay standards, it was a day of wicked, wicked weather.

  Like everyone else who could, I was glued to the TV set, watching and waiting to see if one of those tornadoes was headed for my home, one mile from Indian Shores.  And, by about 3pm that day, there was one barreling straight in from the Gulf of Mexico, heading for Indian Shores.  It was still over water, so it was really only a water spout.  But, once it comes on shore, it IS a tornado.

  I wasn’t too worried, honestly.  I knew those things moved around a lot and didn’t necessarily come on shore where they’re originally headed. 

  This one, thank God, went one mile north.  It caused lots of damage along Ulmerton Road, one of the hardest hit areas that day.

  Truth be told, though, I wasn’t that worried about it. 

  I had bigger worries on my mind.

  I had a contract to shoot Dennis and Nicole’s beach wedding at 5pm on Treasure Island. 


Nicole and Dennis

      Nicole and Dennis were not to be denied.  I talked with Nicole several times that day.  The LEAST I could do was let her know that I was ready and able and quite willing to photograph her wedding. 

  Understandably, she was quite worried about what lay ahead. 

  Understandably, I thought deeply about how to take advantage of those magnificent, powerful clouds in our pictures. 

Great clouds, Loving couple = Great Pictures

But, first, we had to get through the ceremony.

  First, it was moved to 6pm.  By that time, the worst of the storms has passed by.  It was still raining, but luckily the Bilmar Beach Resort  has a nice tent out back for their receptions on the beach. 

  The ceremony would happen there.

  Photographing a wedding is a huge obligation and responsibility and if you’re a professional, you better be ready to shoot it when, where and in whatever weather it happens in and deliver images that have power, romance, impact and emotion.

    The weather actually made my job easier.

Nicole watches the weather

  So did the beauty of the Bride.

  The beautiful, soft light that’s hitting her in the shot above is courtesy of soft, cloud-covered sunlight.  I actually always hope the skies are overcast for photographing beach weddings.  It’s such a flattering, soft light.  Perfect for photographing a bride in white.

  The sky becomes a giant softbox or lighting umbrella, diffusing the sun and making natural-light photography ideal.  The larger the light source, the softer the light.  What’s larger than the sky?

  What’s prettier or beautiful than Nicole’s face, a mix of stress, anxiety and femininity lit by the world’s largest softbox?

  Not much.

Nicole, lit by the world's largest softbox.

      Believe me, there was a lot of stress during the hours before the ceremony.  Dennis was worried about Nicole and where to have the ceremony if the tent on the beach flooded.    The Bilmar Beach Resort staff was worried about not having electricity,  nor phones as well as the water that was creeping into the reception site. 

  Nicole was stressed about everything, but kept her cool, her smile and her attendants and family close to her.

  Until it was time for her grand entrance.

Nicole and her father

    I usually don’t use photos in which someone’s eyes are closed, but I made an exception in this case.  Why?

  Nicole’s father’s downturned mouth and closed eyes tell a story.   You can almost hear his heart break for his daughter’s dismay. I won’t dare write about Nicole’s feelings.

  I think her face says it all.

  But, then, something incredible happened.

  She saw Dennis, her Air Force stud,  waiting for her to marry him and for those few moments that they said their “I do’s”, she forgot about the rain, the tornadoes and the water leaking into the reception room.

  And, they remembered what was truly important.

  They were getting married.

What severe weather?

    It’s always great to experience a gamut of emotions and everyone was ready for a good, releasing laugh.  I don’t remember what was said or happened here.  I only know I’m happy it did. 

  It’s one of those fleeting moments, over in under a second, that helps to build the storybook of a wedding day. 

  Of course, there were more somber, tender moments during the ceremony. 

  THIS moment, was literally four seconds later, according to the time codes on my images.

Gamut of Emotions

  The bottom lines are these:

  1.  Great emotions make great pictures.

  2.  Great weather helps to make great pictures (and great lighting for shooting those pictures).

  3.  Great couples make great pictures.

  4.  Good photographers make great pictures when they have emotion, great lighting and great couples in those pictures.

De-stressing the wedding party

  5.  Love and laughter conquer all.

Love and Laughter Conquer All


What is Wedding Photojournalism?

  First, let’s talk about what wedding photojournalism is not.

  Wedding photojournalism is not photographs of people standing around looking into the camera.  Wedding photojournalism is not a simple shot of the bride and groom as they kiss at the end of the ceremony.  Wedding photojournalism is not a bland photograph that the viewer simply glances at and goes to the next shot.

  Wedding photojournalism is capturing the emotions of the day as they happen.  Wedding photojournalism is shooting photographs that evoke an emotion.  Wedding photojournalism is capturing the joys, the laughters, the tears and the looks of love that a couple exchanges with each other and also with their guests and families.

   It seems as if every photographer’s web site I look at has  line that says they’re a wedding photojournalist, but all of their galleries show photographs of people posing for them.   Look closely for claims of wedding photojournalism.  If you don’t feel some emotion while looking at their photographs, chances are it’s not real photojournalism.

  I had the pleasure of photographing Kyle and Roxanne’s wedding at the new Tampa Museum of Arts last week.   It’s wonderful to have a beautiful, interesting venue to shoot a wedding in, but to me it doesn’t matter where the couple gets married.  I’m so much more interested in the way they look at each other, the way they interact with their guests and whether or not they’re able to forget I’m there and let their true emotions come through.

Mother and daughter before the ceremony

   I got a little emotional when I first saw this photograph of Roxanne and her mother comforting one another before the ceremony.  I actually got a lot emotional when I saw it.  My first thought was:  THIS is a photograph.  My second thought was:  THIS is why I do what I do. 

  But, how quickly things can change. 

Three seconds later

   According to the time code on my image data, this shot is exactly three seconds after the top shot.  The two shots are literal definitions of the term “gamut of emotions”. 

  Roxanne and Kyle’s wedding day did run the gamut of emotions.

Green elevator, green dress

  This shot is Kyle’s sister as she stepped into the green elevator with Roxanne to go to the ceremony.  That’s the actual color of the elevator.  Kyle’s sister said she could blend into it with her green dress.  She tried to.  Roxanne reacted to the much-needed comedic moment. 


  There were rules about shooting in the Tampa Museum of Arts.  You could not photograph the exhibits.  They are protected by copyrights.  There were, however, ways to use the Museum’s beautiful interior and exterior design to enhance the photography.

Waiting to make their entrance to the reception.

  This is Kyle and Roxanne as they waited on the second floor for their cue to make their entrance into the reception.  To me, there’s something about the annonymity of the shot, combined with the graphic elements of the Museum that make me love this photograph.

  Kyle is a very personable and charming man and I think this photograph of him chatting with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and her husband shows captures those qualities. 

Kyle chats with Mayor Pam Iorio.

    Of course, you must shoot some posed photographs, even as a photojournalist, but I believe in adding some photojournalism even to the posed portraits.  They don’t have to look posed.

  Again, classy, confident Kyle posing, in an un-posed way.

Zimmerman, Kyle Zimmerman

  This was actually a portrait I did of Kyle while dialing in my exposure and lighting and waiting to shoot Roxanne.  I told him I thought he looked very James Bond-ish.  The minarets of the University of Tampa loom in the backround. 

    Again, a posed moment with a photojournalistic angle.

Photojournalistic Portrait

  I’ve found out that very often, the almost-kiss is much more romantic and dramatic than the actual kiss itself.     

    Of course you have to photograph beautiful portraits of the bride.   I really love this shot of Roxanne standing alongside the Hillsborough River looking confident, beautiful and completely at ease.

Roxanne by the Hillsborough River

  I love shooting everything during the wedding day, but particularly love the emotions of the reception.  By that time, the stresses of the day’s preparations have melted away and it’s time to relax and have fun, surrounded by the most important people in a couple’s life.

  The bride is always the center of attention as these two anonymous young men unknowingly helped to illustrate during the reception.

The center of attention

    I always say that I can only photograph what’s there.  This reception celebration had ample opportunies to capture the stress-less moments following the planning and execution of a wedding day.

The reception.


Toasting their guests

    Light is the seasoning of a photograph.   If you know how to do it, a photographer can greatly enhance the quality of the photographs by using it well.  In the shots above, the disco lights used by the DJ add to the ambiance of the shots, as do the backround lights of the city of Tampa in the overhead shot. 

  I also knew that the Tampa Museum of Arts had colorful lights on the exterior of their building but they were not lit while we were doing the exterior portraits of Roxanne and Kyle.  I had truly wished to incorporate them into the portraits.

  It wasn’t until later that I noticed Kyle and some of his buddies outside the Museum, taking some time for man-talk and play.

  The exterior lights had come on by this time.    I used them.

  Good photojournalism is telling the story of a wedding day through the photographs.  You have the emotions of a mother and daughter together in the last, few moments before the ceremony.    You have the laughter of a bride and her bridesmaid as she tried to blend into a green elevator.  You have the drama and beauty of the romantic portraits.

  You have to leave and call it a day sometime.

  I think this shot of Kyle is a good close to the story.  He’s married the woman of his dreams. 

  He’s the king of the world in a $1.99 LED headband.

The King of the World in a $1.99 LED headband

  Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your incredible day.

Julia and Ryan’s Tampa Bay Wedding

    I can only photograph what’s there. 

    I stress that to the people I shoot for all the time.  Delivering photographs that have power, impact, drama, beauty and emotion is not just the responsibility of the photographer.  The subjects have  more to do with that than I do.    Not even the best photographer can photoshop romance or love into a photograph when it doesn’t exist between your camera’s focus point. 

  The subjects must provide those parts of the collaboration for this kind of result.


  Mrs. Julia Roeling and U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Roeling.


Mrs. Julia Roeling and U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Roeling.

Mrs. Julia Roeling and U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Roeling.

      Julia and Ryan are the perfect couple to shoot with.  They’re both confident and classy to begin with. 

      Basically, all I have to do is show up, set exposure and focus and press the shutter.


Mrs. Julia Roeling (Waters).

Mrs. Julia Roeling (Waters).

  Any hack with a camera could photograph her and have great results.    (It does, however, take a professional photographer with working knowledge of using, manipulating and controlling light, creativity, composition, camera control, working photojournalism, as well as the knowledge of how to inject and document emotion, and create drama to photograph her like THAT.   (Smile)

   Julia and Ryan gave me unlimited freedom to decide how to do their portraits.  So, how do you make those decisions? 

  As always, Julia was beautiful, elegant and regal on her wedding day.  She should be photographed in ways that capture and display those qualities.

  Ryan is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an active duty Officer in the U.S. Navy. 

  He should be photographed to reflect a sense of power and presence, as well as to capture  his dignity, pride and masculinity. 

U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Roeling on his Wedding Day.

U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Roeling on his Wedding Day.


  I always strive to deliver images with power, drama and emotion, but this wedding held kind of a special responsibility to me.  I got my initial training and experience as a photojournalist in the Navy.  It’s one of the reasons Ryan and Julia told me that they hired me for the day.  

    Ryan is quite familiar with the level of professionalism and the incredible amount of training that goes into preparing someone for service in the military.    He knows that whether you’re a U.S. Navy photojournalist, a pilot, a surface warfare officer, a bubble-head (submarine corps), a cook, a yeoman, a security guard or someone’s wing man, that when you’re called upon to do your job, it happens.   Instinctively.

    And, one never forgets it.  I’ve been off active duty for more than 15 years, yet my shutter finger and my mind still function as a single unit. 

    There was one other reason I wanted to do an incredible  job for Ryan and Julia (and their warm, fun families and friends) is because I respect Lt. Ryan and those like him for the sacrifices they give to us all with their Military service.  And, of course, to Mrs. Julia for her new role as a Navy wife.  It’s also a very difficult, demanding responsibility.

  Stepping down from my soapbox, I will close with this:  I can only photograph what’s there.

  You’ve seen the romantic, formal photographs (albeit only a tiny, tiny fraction of them).  Believe me, those shots were only the beginning of what Ryan, Julia and, myself and my assistant Broderick Winn did together before the ceremony.    Ryan and Julia chose to see each other before the ceremony and to spend an hour together shooting pre-ceremony portraits.  It’s becoming quite the popular trend)

    But, of course Julia and Ryan like to do other things than simply appear regal.

  They appreciate humor and laughter.

One too many paparrazi in the limo following the ceremony.

One too many paparrazi in the limo following the ceremony.

  They understand and embrace love, romance and passion as in this shot from their first dance:

Romantic First Dance.

Romantic First Dance.

 And, Julia especially, knows the value of tossing a Coach purse as opposed to a bouquet of flowers to make sure that “All the Single Ladies” (ALL the Single Ladies), pursue the toss with vigor, passion and enthusiasm. 


Modified Bouquet Toss with a Coach Purse.

Modified Bouquet Toss with a Coach Purse.

    I can only photograph what’s there.   In this case it was romance and passion, laughter and love and  formal military protocol,  but also sexy shots, scenes from Top Gun, hijinks and highlights.

  PS:  If you’ve never seen their engagement session, see my main web site cover photo:  www.timboylesphotography.com

If you wish to be notified when their  photos are publically posted, leave me a comment or email.

Thank you for reading!