My desktop icons are floating in this deep green sea, while my reminders and sticky notes are swimming in bright umbrellas. I have set this image as the desktop background on my oversized photo-editing monitor and it makes me feel like I’m at the beach and not home in my office. I get a little spark of joy each time I close a window and think about plunging into that cool water.
I’ll let you in on a secret. This isn’t a summer scene. This is a beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the middle of the winter. But any day is a beach day in Rio.
I used to think that Australians invented the beach lifestyle. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast all my friends would compare tanlines, salt hairstyles and surfing injuries each Monday after spending as much time as possible at the beach on the weekend.
But even Sunny Coast locals are no comparison to the residents of Rio. They treat the beach like a backyard. Its a playground full of volleyball nets, soccer games, street food vendors and flying frisbees. The beach is a free for all. Soaking up sun in a skimpy bikini, drinking, relaxing, playing sport, swimming, eating – Brazilians take beach life to a whole new level.
Wandering among the ping pong tables, sweaty skin, flying soccer balls and frolicking teenagers is a memory I’ll never forget. But I enjoyed Ipanema in a laid back Australian way. After a busy day of sightseeing, I bought a fresh hot churros pumped full of chocolate sauce, sat on the sand and watched the sunset over the mountains. Rio won me over.
It is always a challenge to create a meaningful portrait when you don’t know the people on the other side of the lens, and they don’t know you. I only spent an hour early one Saturday morning with this gorgeous bunch, but when I sat down to process their images, I really enjoyed observing their relationships. Their natural poses, their playfulness and their friendships all shine through the finished photographs and show what makes them unique as a family.
The kids hired me as a wedding anniversary gift to their parents. They asked to have the shoot at the beach near the family home, and to make sure the landmarks were in some of the photos, especially Old Woman Island which sits just offshore. When I arrived only a couple hours after the sun rose out of the sea, they were dressed and ready in bare feet and we walked across to the beach. We packed a lot into an hour long session. It is hard work for me to get flattering shots of everyone looking relaxed and natural. A bit ironic.
Back home on my computer, as I sifted through the photographs it occurred to me how many times they must have walked this beach; together, in pairs, alone with the puppy. It seems to me that this beach is like an extra family member. It is the place where this family goes to talk deeply, run away, reconcile and play. In this way it is the perfect location for a portrait, as these simple photographs represent many hours together walking on the sand and looking out across the waves.
You might not believe it but not everyone was keen for this photo session. Which is fair enough. They jokingly apologised for being ‘dysfunctional’, but in my opinion, being together for a photo shoot early on a Saturday morning is the very definition of a well functioning family. The fact that some didn’t like having their photo taken, but did it anyway, speaks volumes about their commitment and love for each other.
They wanted to bring their puppy in for some shots at the end. For me, when people start to really relax is when my job really starts. My favourite shot of the morning is the one at the top of this post, a moment of real family fun.
The beach is such a beautiful place for a photographic shoot. The pale blues, the shiny shoreline and the endless blank canvas of soft yellow sand. It lends itself easily to any style of photograph. And at this time of day, I don’t have to worry about the background, wherever I point the camera it looks gorgeous.
I only wish I had photos like these of my family.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite. – Shakespeare
Many people describe their wedding day as a blur. A blur of smiling faces, teary eyes, momentous promises, glamour, celebration, family and passion. A good photographer can return to you those memories that have tangled together by the end of the day.
Yet squashed in there somewhere you also want a photo shoot that is dramatic, passionate, romantic, relaxed, creative, fun and memorable in its own way. But you don’t want to get your dress dirty or your hair messy. And, let’s face it, you probably aren’t your most relaxed and natural while fretting over your dress, your family, and not being late for your reception.
What if you could set aside a special day just for taking these kinds of photos, and it didn’t matter how you looked at the end of it all. Many couples are doing just that and calling it a ‘Trash the Dress’ photo shoot. While the internet abounds with images of brides covered in mud or paint (!?) my humble opinion is that such an opportunity should be used to pursue the most dramatic and romantic images possible, where all concern for the dress is gleefully abandoned.
It is with this in mind that I made plans for a ‘Trash the Dress’ shoot with the lovely, and newly married Lisa and Clay. Their wedding photos are stunning and wedded almost a year ago they’ve got frames all over the house and a gorgeous baby blue leather-bound album under the coffee table. But Lisa wasn’t happy with her custom-made dress, decided it was taking up too much space in the wardrobe, and wanted to make the most of it before throwing it out.
Lisa knew what I did: if you didn’t care about the dress, well, imagine the possibilities.
Four of us drove to a beach north of Sydney on a stormy February day with a bridal gown in a garbage bag. …Continue Reading →
Right now the ocean is angry. Whipped by fierce winds and dirtied by the muddy rivers spewing into it. It’s summer: rainy season. We’ve had vicious tropical storms, floods, king tides and angry waves that have swallowed all the sand exposing ancient lava rocks. Too dangerous to swim most days I stay in looking over images from seasons past. Those visiting the glorious Sunshine Coast during the peak holiday season might find it hard to believe how this same ocean behaves in winter. See for yourself.
Wandering through my archive recently my eyes dove into these vibrant memories of my beach last August: crystal clear, clean and impossibly calm. The ocean was like an enormous lake with just one small wave gently greeting the shore. Children delighted in the soft winter sun and everyone marvelled at the deep aqua reflection of the wave at the moment it folded in on itself. These images make me long for winter.
Wandered down to the beach this morning before sunrise. Kicked off my shoes and rolled up the bottom of my cotton pyjama pants. The puffy clouds reflected in the glassy mirror of the dark freshwater river that lives in the sand dunes. The ocean was soft, gentle and made me catch my breath. I sat in the cold grainy sand, watched and waited. The clouds changed colour first, from grey to hot pink, then everything came to life. There was no one else on the beach. Just me and a big pink star that rose up out of a clear green ocean.