Friday, September 27, 2013

Elements of a Perfect Day * . * . * Part One

You flight lands in Kona at noon and check in at the resort is 3.  Even if your room isn't quite ready, you can always go hang out, maybe have a drink poolside.  That exquisite island feeling probably began to kick in when you caught the first heady scent of plumeria in the airport. It is still likely to be a day or two or even three before your mainland timestream slows to island time.

There is a way to ease into your West Hawaii stay that is oh so worth the side trip right into Kailua-Kona, even if your destination is a resort up the coast a ways from the airport. That view above is the sunset view from a chair at Piper's Pedicures and Polishes in the Kona Inn shopping center on Alii Drive. The before sunset view is pretty smashing as well.  The price will not be a resort price, and is no different from what you will pay at any strip mall. But oh what a difference the waterfront view makes. Lean back, soak up the contentment of the swaying palms and lovely aqua ocean.

To make a reservation before you leave the mainland, call 808-324-4852. There is a shave ice stand not far from the salon where your traveling companion who is not into the mani-pedi thing can get a rapturously fabulous shave ice with an ice cream center and a snow cap. It is across the street and down about a block to the left. If that does not appeal, there are opportunities for a beer or a coffee at any of the Alii Drive spots nearby.  You might consider arriving with a cold split of champagne from the ABC store for your relaxing pleasure. 

Remember to wear your slippahs on da plane!  Aloha! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Those Crazy Little Extras

If you read bridal blogs and subscribe to wedding newletters, chances are you are bombarded with ideas of fun things to add on to your wedding celebration to make it so especially your own.

To the left, we have a signature cocktail served in an antique glass. Because, what is a signature cocktail served up in plastic or those thick stemmed all purpose wine glasses?

For beach weddings we love those flip flops (slippahs if you from here) where your footprints leave words in the sand.

If you go to this Etsy shop you can custom order them with your names, and of course "just married" is already there for a standard order.

Maybe they don't look all that, but for the photo op after the ceremony, may be irresistible.

Chair decor is a current trend.  Maybe just the bride and groom need the prince and princess of the event treatment, or possibly all the chairs require a slip cover, a bow, and perhaps a garland. Or at least the garland or mini bouquet on the aisle seats. And don't forget the carpet of flower petals if you are going all out with the chair covers and garlands.

Then on the tables all the small touches, like the place holders - not just a card, but something twiggy and sentimental. I am not meaning to poke fun at all these extras, as nothing is quite so special as a wedding. And nothing is quite as much fun as putting together all the little extras to make a celebration special.

From a practical point of view, you may want to consider that "less is more" whereas "more" is absolutely "costlier". You will rarely see an item by item price description of your choices until or unless you request that after you have done your ordering or you are in the midst of it and all signed up.

One way to save big on the cost of your wedding extravaganza is to put the money into the big stuff.  Photography is number one. Those photos in an album are with you for a lifetime.  How many people pull out their wedding videotape?  Do they get it moved over to DVD or does it ride out the change on the shelf?  Have one photo matted and framed. It need not hang over the fireplace. But on your 10th and 15th and 25th wedding anniversary you will like to be reminded of what that day did look like.

If you have chosen a destination wedding, the sense of place in that photo is all important.  A sweet hazy shot where your smiles are the main feature is lovely, but do choose a photo where you can see where you were, right in the picture.  Even a courthouse wedding deserves a shot of the sweeping staircase or the sturdy pillars in the front.

Ah, the wedding gown... To the right, a delicate Amsale Aberra concoction befitting the most formal of occasions. And you can make your destination wedding a formal occasion, and wear such a gown.  You are probably equally aware you can go to a bridal shop and buy a knock off gown at a far lesser price, or even rent a gown.  For most brides do not see themselves re-donning the bridal attire for another function.

If however you are planning a destination wedding somewhere tropical and hot, maybe with ocean or forest in the mix, non-traditional attire is entirely appropriate.  To the left, a rayon wedding dress available from  The bustle effect gives way to a softer, easier style, where your wedding lei will match the loveliness of your attire.

For your Hawaii destination wedding, if you want something extravagent to commemorate the occasion, it would not be the diamond on your finger but the shell lei.  These ni'ihau lei are made of thousands of tiny shells gathered from the sand of the island of Ni'ihau. The lei are crafted by a few remaining Hawaiian lei makers who are keeping the art alive.  The crazy little extras would be orchid lei for your guests.

The elegance of your destination wedding comes not so much from the amount of money you spend on the extras, but how you select the main elements.  That would be the venue, your attire, the music, and the sensibility of those you work with.

May your wedding be brimming with aloha.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Beach Wedding, Hawaii Style

The so called toes in the sand Hawaiian wedding has such a universal appeal that couples from all around the globe select Hawaii as their destination wedding.

As those couples may suspect when they begin viewing vendors for these weddings, the quickie ceremony packages are more than a little bit like eating out at MacDonald's.  What's on your tray is pretty much what's on the tray next to you.  The wedding reality is there will be a couple ahead of you, then you step up to the front of the line, have your turn, and it's over.

Once you begin speaking to a wedding planner, you may find yourself steered away from the wedding on the actual sand.  There are many reasons for that. Hawaiian statute throws up roadblocks. All beaches are public. There is no way to simply reserve a piece of beach for a wedding. And this is just the beginning.  But take heart. There are ways to make it all come true.

The experience you may have had sitting out on a beach at sunset listening to a couple of guys play guitar while you sipped drinks and had coconut shrimp does not readily translate to a weddng ceremony with the same elements, because the beach is a place where children play and everyone with a camera phone stands up and starts walking between people's beach chairs when the light gets pretty.

All that being said, there are ways to have that beach wedding. The very best way is to reserve a beach front house or cottage.  This still does not guarantee you privacy, but it will allow the person who is setting up your wedding to stake out some territory and create what for lack of a more suitable phrase we call sacred space. This patch of sand dedicated to your wedding becomes a place even the children understand is special, and they respect it. The people bearing cameras get it that this is special, is yours, and they can generally be discouraged politely and kindly from intruding upon your ceremony.

If renting beachfront is not within your budget, we do have a choice spot where we can take you, away from the crowds. It means driving awhile, and walking a bit, and then you will be where it is just you, the sand, the waves, the palms. For this style of wedding, we recommend the party take place away from the ceremony spot. It can still be at the beach if you want it there, but it will be at a place not so isolated, where bringing in your cake and so on is much easier.

A third alternative is the lawn.

Here you can see the beach just beyond the lawn. The lawn is private. Here, your event designer can bring in an arch or chuppah and decorate it.  You can rent an open sided canopy as rain is highly unlikely, and in the middle of the day, you will like to have shade. Would you rather have cake and champagne or a fully catered party? Either is possible. And you can have photos done right on the sand, after the ceremony. Or before.

Now you maybe thinking, hey, I like those guys with the guitars. I like that beach. Can I just rent that place and get those guys to come out? Yes and no. Or, not exactly. You can only share the restaurant, and those guys will be playing for the restaurant.  As for the happy people in the background, even though you did not invite them to the party, they will come.

Perhaps now you are thinking, but wait! This is my wedding! Can't I just have a couple of guys with guitars, a nice beachfront, and a few dozen of my closest friends and family, without the paparazzi and the children running in and out of the water?  Yes ! But, that would be the beachfront house. Even the poshest resort on the island has myriad other guests, and they will have equal access to your sacred bit of beach. The beachfront house will be away from the public area of the beach, unlike the resort, and that is its secret.

Having thought about all this, you might mull over the recipe we have for a perfect beach wedding. There are some very nice houses in spectacular locations around the island that are available for rent. They generally rent with a five day minimum stay. Visually, some are like private resorts.  The per bedroom cost on these homes can be comparable to staying at a mid range resort in a garden view room.  These houses can be the party site, with the wedding a sweet walk away along the sand, on a part of the beach away from the crowds at the resorts.

And sure, the guys with the guitars can come to the party if you like.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Your Wedding Photographs

There are two kinds of wedding photographs - bold statement, yes?  Those two types are your wedding photos and other people's wedding photos.

I have photographed enough couples now that I have lost count. The setting for these photos recently has been the Big Island, Hawaii Island. I love this place, and the couples who choose to come here to become married generally love it too. But nothing is guaranteed in this life.

Awhile back, the bride in the photos was unhappy with the shots I liked best. I felt dreadful for her, and sought to understand what was amiss so I could edit appropriately. She told me she didn't like her expressions in some photos, her husband's in others, that they generally did not look interested enough in each other, and that the photos were not flattering. Most of that commentary is not subject to editing. She was unwilling to discuss further, leaving me to sort through the experience from this end and learn from it.

I wish I could put up that selection I liked from that shoot so you could see their photos for yourself, but she has forbidden their use. To my eye, they are among the best I have done. Based on her remarks and looking at the photos, I think she would have preferred a more animated set of photos on the one hand, and something more studio-like and posed on the other. I am also pretty certain that in future years, perhaps as few as two or three, when she looks at those photos, she will be stunned at how pretty she is, how handsome her husband, what a great looking couple they are.There is also something else - during the shoot she repeatedly remarked about how little she cared for this island, for its culture, and for what it is about.  Perhaps that has something to do with her perception of her photos as well. 

The photo above is of other people. I have chosen to use it here to illustrate what wedding photography is for me as a photographer - it is an opportunity to make a record of what this experience was for these people, in the context of this place, Hawaii island. Here the couple is studying the ground, the a'a and pahoehoe lava in a somewhat recent flow. There is a look of geologists about them, because they had a sincere interest in the lava. Their intelligence and sparkle and shared enthusiasm comes through, despite the sunglasses. They are in a place they have not been before, and it is fascinating. This is both one of their favorite photos from the shoot and mine as well. It is right for them - it is them. For you, it would be another sort of picture altogether. 

So here is my take as a wedding photographer. If you are looking for verve and animation, dress casually and be prepared to jump about, run, and be excited. That sort of look does not happen in a dress with a long heavy train and a suit, tie, and heavy dress shoes. As a wedding photographer, I always suggest the couple take some photos in their wedding attire and the remainder in casual dress. Both sets look lovely, and the contrast tends to be between the solemnity and joy of taking marriage vows and the playfulness of having succeeded in becoming married and being happier than you had even imagined. If you are looking for studio shots, use a studio photographer. There everything is controlled. The camera person sets you in position and moves you and the lights until everything is as flattering as it can be, for each shot. 

If you have seen an effect or a set shot in someone else's photos you would like to try, by all means tell the photographer about it. But do not keep trying to recreate it as your photos are being done. This is likely to have peculiar results. In the photo session that disappointed the bride, she repeatedly asked her husband to lift her vertically into the air. She was wearing a dress with a long train. The effect was that she appeared over him in a surreal column. She did not look like she was floating, being held down like an unruly balloon, but more vampire like. And no, she did not see any of the photos where she looked like that! And there were dozens of them, because everywhere we went, she would repeat the pose  And yes, I included a couple of them that sort of worked in the set of photos she received. Be prepared to find out that the set shot you imagined is not at all what you envisioned. It was someone else's photo, not yours. 

In viewing Pinterest wedding boards, I note there are certain genre shots that are popular now where a heart appears in the photo. Sometimes the heart is drawn in the sand. Sometimes it is fashioned from rocks or shells or flowers. More often it is formed using the hands and arms of the wedding couple, the setting sun behind.  If you desire shots like this, it is vital to tell the photographer. Do not expect your photos to duplicate what you have seen elsewhere. Your photos are not and cannot be what you have seen somewhere else, of someone else. I know that sounds remedial, but that is a fact.  You may have been told you look like a certain celebrity. Do not expect that in your wedding photos you will look like her double.  If you ordinarily do not wear makeup or wear very little, and then have your face done for your wedding or your photos, you will look different than you usually look. Be certain you like that look. Makeup is not an essential part of wedding photos. The best photos of you are the ones that look like you. Again, this sounds so very basic, and yet we do not always think in basic terms. 

Everyone and anyone, any couple, can look wonderful in wedding photos.  By wonderful, I mean like your own best self.  As a photographer, that is what I am after.  You as your shining, happy, most radiant self.  I am also after the you of you, whatever person is beneath your skin.  This is why I love doing this work.  It is a treasure hunt, and there is always treasure to be found and shown.

When we do wedding photography, it happens on the scheduled day, out of doors for the most part. We can do some indoors, incorporating the sense of place. We can always use the treehouse, even in the pouring rain, and get sweet results. We can also go somewhere the weather is nicer. We have not had a wedding shoot yet where we could not find good weather and pretty light. We do half day and full day shoots.  Half day seems to work the best. You do not want to appear tired in the photos. What every couple always comes away with is an experience that was unlike any other - a journey around and about the island that was recorded for them in dozens of photos, where the context of the island frames who they are, in this time, in love, in this gorgeous place.