Or when Paradise isn't quite so paradisical...

Being a wedding and family photographer on the beaches of Hawaii can seem to be a dream job for many photographers. And it certainly has been for me! However, it's far more challenging that it appears at first glance. Not everything is always perfect in Paradise! (and yes, I made up "paradiscal")

One challenge is the intense amount of light involved with beach wedding photography. The harsh mid day sun is challenging to deal with anywhere in the world, but Hawaii can be especially difficult due to the way the white sand beaches and the ocean bounces, reflects and intensifies the sun.

After years of shooting weddings, elopements, engagements, proposals and family vacation photos on the beaches of Hawaii, I've learned how to cope with the challenges of bright sun, strong tradewinds and airborne salt spray from crashing waves. Last week, however, I had my greatest challenge ever...

On Feb 18th 2018, Oahu was deluged by torrential rains for over 24 hrs, breaking several records for rainfall. Bonnie & Ralph had their wedding schedule for that afternoon and as the day progressed, the rain just kept getting heavier! As I left my house it was raining so hard I could barely see even with the windshield wipers on high. Many streets were flooded and water was getting so deep in places, I could see my front bumper pushing a bow wave!

For the next 40 minutes as I navigated overflowing streets and freaked out motorists, I kept wondering how I was possibly going to shoot this wedding. Dark, wet, gloomy, everyone with umbrellas... I could see no good options, no way to avoid taking the worst possible wedding photos ever! I finally just had to give it up as hopeless, do my best and realize it was that or no wedding photos at all. 

When I arrived at the Waialae Beach parking lot, I put on my swim trunks and my surfing shirt. Over that I put on my rain coat - not to keep myself dry but to have a dry place to store my lens cloth so I could dry my camera lens when it inevitably got wet. Then I grabbed my umbrella and stepped out into the storm.

On the drive over, as I had contemplated my options, I quickly realized that on-camera flash was going to be the only way to shoot this wedding. Which, frankly, is the worst way to light up your subject as it produces a very flat and unflattering light. 

The other big challenge I had was that I had to shoot the whole wedding one handed - with a very heavy two-handed professional camera, topped with a flash! To keep my camera dry I would have to hold an umbrella in one hand and shoot with the other. And that meant using TTL (auto) flash, not manual, and semi auto camera settings because I simply wouldn't be able to change settings quickly or easily.

Oh, but wait... it gets even worse!

  • It's raining heavily, big fat wet drops.
  • Everyone has umbrellas, obscuring faces, my flash, each other and any available natural light
  • It's windy as hell, gusting and blowing, tugging on our umbrellas...
  • And then just as we're getting ready to go out on the beach to start the ceremony... lightening starts striking all around us! 

Yeah, I don't think so either. So to make it all EVEN MORE CHALLENGING, let's all huddle close together under this very dark arbor for the ceremony. 

Worst. Wedding. Situation. Ever. 

BUT... I am SO impressed with Bonnie & Ralph! Not a flinch, not a bad mood, just a "let's enjoy it anyway" attitude. Wow. My kinda people!

I knew before the ceremony was over that I did not want Bonnie & Ralph to go home without at least some beautiful Hawaii wedding photos. So when I found out they were leaving late in the afternoon two days later, I offered to meet them again if the weather cleared. Two days later the sun was shining and we met up at Sherwoods Beach in Waimanalo to get the wedding photos they came all the way to Hawaii for.

I have to admit, while Bonnie & Ralph's wedding was a serious challenge - and I really hate taking photos like that - I also love the challenge that wedding photography in outdoor settings provides. For me, it's better than a boring desk job inside any day. And I'm proud to have been able to send Bonnie & Ralph home with a gorgeous Hawaiian wedding portrait like this!