If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time it’s inevitable. At some point, no matter what your speciality, you will be asked to photograph a wedding. I shot a few weddings early in my career but now, I refer couples to photographers who specialize in them.
Never Say Never:
I received a call from my good friend Peter, who lives in Maine. He said his niece Libby was getting married and asked if I’d photograph her wedding. The ceremony and reception would be held at his mother’s home situated along the Kennebec River. My ties to that place run deep. I have been their guest many times over the years. I agreed to do it, happy to have the opportunity to repay their generosity and I could take a few extra days and make it a vacation. I swung by Providence on the way up to pick up my son Wynn, to share the experience and to assist during the wedding.
It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony, the reception was held under a large tent by the river. The people, the location, the weather, the music, the food, were wonderful. It was the most enjoyable wedding I have ever attended, let alone photographed.
Towards the end of the reception Wynn jokingly asked Libby if she wanted to do a “Trash the Dress” shoot the next day. Libby and her new husband Andrew talked it over for a minute and replied “Yes!” They thought it would be fun to go to the island and jump off the cliff into the river.
The plan was for me to photograph the” lovers leap” from a canoe. Wynn would paddle in the front, Libby’s Uncle Nick, would paddle from the back, I’d sit in the middle and shoot.
The Kennebec is a tidal river, only placid for a short period of time, at high and at low tide. By the time everyone was ready low tide was long gone and it would be several hours until high tide. We would now be fighting very strong currents. So strong in fact, that you needed to paddle upstream as hard as you could to counteract the current carrying you down stream as you crossed. If you miscalculated the trajectory you could end up below and on the wrong side of the island.
My crew paddled to the Island first so I could photograph the newlywed’s as they made their way across. Libby was no stranger to the river and knew just what she was doing. Andrew, on the other hand, just needed to have faith, and to keep paddling.
Everyone got to the island without incident and we made our way to the top of the cliff. Andrew hung a Just Married sign then stripped down to his birthday suit but as the song goes, “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Wynn, Nick and I made our way back our canoe as Libby and Andrew positioned themselves on the edge of the cliff, contemplating what they were about to do.
Once our canoe was at a reasonable distance from the cliff I double checked my camera settings and gave Libby and Andrew the go ahead. They counted to three then jumped. I fired off nine frames before they hit the water.
A Word of Caution: Scenarios such as this can put subjects and/or yourself in danger. Weigh the risks and take necessary precautions. No Trash the Dress photo is worth risking life or limb. In this case I was confident my subjects and my crew were up to the task and that all would return to shore safely. My trust was not misplaced.