Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cancun Wedding

I was corresponding with one of my former work colleagues when he told me he was getting married in Cancun in a few weeks. He had seen my photography and really liked my work. "I already have a photographer," he told me, "but what would you charge to shoot my wedding?" I assumed he was trying to figure out if he was getting a good deal from his photographer.

Since I don't shoot weddings anymore, I had to do a bit of research. I concluded that a cheap-but-good photographer might charge around a thousand bucks. Better photographers run two to three thousands and it goes up from there depending on what events the photographer shoots. I was freezing through a Quebec winter and joked that I would have shot his wedding for expenses alone, just to spend a few days in the tropics. The joke was on me because he wrote back saying he accepted my offer. Two days later he sent me my airline ticket and hotel confirmation.

Wedding photographers will get very upset at this point because I'm either not charging what I'm worth or that I'm undercutting their business. Not having shot a wedding in decades, I could not justify calling myself a wedding photographer so I could hardly justify charging a "proper" rate. I was doing nothing else at the time, so a few days hanging out with my pal and taking pictures somewhere warm would normally be a vacation. Here he was willing to foot the bill so it was a win/win as far as I was concerned.

Loving the beach!
My flight left very early on a Friday morning. I arrived at the airport an hour early, not expecting to find thousands of people dropping off their bags and waiting to get through security. I considered the speed of the line multiplied by the number of people waiting and concluded that I would not make my flight. The weekend was not starting off well!

Sometimes they let people jump the line if their flight was leaving soon. I wasn't in the position now, but I would be before long. I took another look at my ticket and noticed that I had gold status. I'd not flown in nearly a year and assumed that I was back to steerage privileges. I quickly got into the gold line and checked in five minutes later. I still had to deal with the line entering the security area. I'm not talking about the security line, but the line to get into the line in the security area. There was still a risk of missing my flight.

Then I noticed the sign inviting elite fliers to enter through a different line ... a line with no one in it. I wasn't sure my gold status would qualify, but if I could skip past the two-hundred people waiting in line, it was worth a shot. The attendant scanned my ticket and waved me through. Victory!

Good fortune rained down on me once more as I discovered there was an elite line for security and only three people were in it. I got through security so quickly that I had plenty of time ... to go to the Air Canada lounge! My gold status enabled me to relax and enjoy cappuccino and muffins for a good twenty minutes before heading to my gate. The weekend was starting off well!

I hoped to meet Chris when I arrived at the Cancun airport, but his flight was an hour ahead of mine. I had to make it to Cozumel on my own. The taxi stand was a monopoly and they took advantage of the fact. A car to the ferry terminal cost 100 USD, a shared bus was $25. I later learned that the public bus was a fraction of this price and actually faster.

I piled into the bus with five other people. Just before we pulled away, another man joined us. When he shut the door he let out a big sigh. "You made it," I said, "you're here!" The other passengers laughed, recognizing that the worse part of our trip was behind us and we were now in the warmth and sunshine of the Yucatan. He said something about needing some music to get into the mood. Moments later, the van was filled with the sound "Margaritaville" blasting from his portable speakers. The weekend was getting better!

The van stopped at three big resorts to let off the other passengers, my stop was last. The driver could not take me directly to the ferry terminal, so I had to walk a few hundred meters through a square bustling with tourists and Mexican holidaymakers. I really wanted to take my time exploring, but all the guests were expected for dinner shortly.

During the slow ride across the straight, a remarkably good band performed contemporary hits, keeping us all entertained. I collected my bag at the terminal and started asking people the location of my hotel. No one ever heard of it. I knew it was within walking distance so I started down the main road hoping to spot it. Some time later, I realized I had the wrong hotel name.

By the time I checked in, the other guests would already be at the restaurant eating dinner. I quickly changed, collected my camera gear and caught a taxi.

Cozumel, I am here!
A few people recognized me when I entered (it helped that I was laden with camera gear). Chris greeted me and introduced me to about twenty people taking up a long table. I was more concerned with taking pictures than eating at this point, but I still managed to get some food in me. I grabbed candid shots of any many of the guests as I could before everyone finished.

The restaurant was also a distillery. After eating, we sampled some of their various tequilas. Some were ideal for making cocktails, but the finer quality distillations were as smooth as cognac.
Everyone tries the tequila!
I arranged to meet Chris and Monica in the morning to get some shots of them prior to the ceremony. I woke early enough to grab some breakfast, scout out the area, and to get some photos of the hotel.
The pool terrace faces the straight, but this image was more appealing.
Chris and Monica
With camera, strobe and tripod, I arrived at the bride and groom's room, ready for a fun shoot. The plan was to get romantic shots of them waking up together, looking out the window, wondering what the new day would bring ... romantic stuff.

We started with them in bed then in robes on the balcony. Although the sun was behind us, the white finish of the hotel bounced the light around and made an excellent high-key setting.

They choose Cozumel for their wedding when they visited the town on a cruise holiday a few years earlier. I managed to pose one photo to make it appear as if they were on a cruise ship.

This angle is reminiscent of a cruise ship balcony.

Leaving the couple to get ready, I tracked down the best man and a few of the guests to test the light on the terrace. Since the couple had only about twenty people in attendance, I wanted to get one good shot of each person at the wedding. During the course of the day, I succeeded.

When Monica and Chris came down, I did another set of photos with them in their wedding attire. Monica looked exceptionally nice ... especially against that beautiful sea!

A very relaxed bride!
To get to the wedding, the couple arranged a jeep safari. While we waited for the vehicles, I set up some of the guests for an informal group portrait. Their colors coordinated brilliantly.
Pastel colors, perfectly coordinated for a tropical affair.
The wedding was held on a breakwater at the sea's edge. My attention was immediately drawn to the floral arrangements.
Flowers were aplenty at the wedding.
The ceremony was a splash of pastels against the blue sky and sea.

Hitched at last.
Beneath an archway of flowers, the couple exchanged vows. This being my first wedding this century, I had never seen anyone using a computer tablet to read their vows. Well, tears of happiness were shed by more than a few people present.

Part of the ceremony included pouring two different colors of sand into a bottle, signifying two becoming one. Monica and Chris then walked down the peddle-strewn isle of sand where they greeted their guests once again, this time as husband and wife.

Everyone moved to the restaurant next door seafood lunch. On the agenda was making toasts, making speeches, making merry, eating cake ... and making more merry.

After eating and carrying on, we got back into the jeeps and drove the road around the island, stopping at a couple of tourist traps. Everyone had to try one of the bizarre, alcohol-laden, coconut cocktails.

It tasted as delicious as it looked.
Grasshoppers made of dune grass. 
The bride and groom spend some time with local iguanas. 
Party time in the honeymoon suite.
Jumping for joy!
Watching the sun rise over the sea.
One of my favorite poses.