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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Love and laughter conquer all.