Full disclosure: in 2012, my first wedding I photographed was a blustery experience. Of course, that had little to do with me, my co-photographer at the time (and best friend, Kathy), or anyone in the wedding party or any of their guests or logistical issues. No, while this experience went as any wedding really ought to otherwise, Mother Nature had her own plans: wind speeds at 60 miles per hour.
I actually really love working with nature when and where possible. I'm an avid hiker, and I've recently taken up full-on backpacking so that I can get to backcountry photo opportunities that just aren't available on day hikes. I have a personal blog that I've maintained for years with photography of myself and my adventures in nature, so the urge to go find a new way to photograph wild places has always been strong for me. The problem with nature at a wedding is that most brides spend a lot of time and effort planning for a day with somewhat pleasant weather. It's not on the list of priorities when a bride is also concerned about seating charts, catering, and how to get grandma wheeled in over rough terrain.
Nicole had approached me to photograph her wedding well in advance of any weather reports. I asked my friend Kathy to work with me, and we were up and running under our short-lived business, Stripes and Spots Photography. Kathy is nothing if not prepared, so I felt confident that we would capture the bride and her family, including their two small boys. In the week leading up to the wedding, though, we all started watching the weather reports with some dread. As in many places, the high deserts of New Mexico have a tremendous capacity for strong winds in March.
I took myself out for some test photos ahead of time, after doing research on how to get great photos in the wind. It is possible. It involves surrendering to the powers that be, and for truly dramatic photos, it means allowing hair and loose clothing to do what it will. I was extremely pleased with this self-portrait I took on top of a mesa overlooking the Rio Grande.
That's all well and good, but I wasn't in a wedding dress, and I didn't have a can of hairspray plastering anything down, and my wind was probably only 30mph; much gentler than 60mph. I also didn't have chairs for wedding guests being pushed over by the wind nearby, nor did I need to secure wedding decorations from flying away. March in New Mexico, outdoors, can be really very beautiful, as long as wind isn't a factor, so this wedding was planned for the back porch of a winery in Las Cruces.
Kathy and I tried to be as helpful as possible. One thing about a kind photographer (which I learned from my own wedding's photographers) is that they tend to come prepared to help out. Sometimes, it's a matter of ushering along the events of the wedding and reception, and other times, as in this one, it is a matter of handing my scarf over to the bride between photos to keep her Adele-like bouffant in as smooth a condition as possible.
We made the most of it. We hid the bride and bridal party from the wind in alcoves of adobe buildings and put the groom and groomsmen out in the wind to let their ties whip about in the wind. The ceremony itself was brought in close to the side of the winery's main building to shield from the storm as much as possible.
Ultimately, I think the bride deserves some kind of medal for getting through this day with the confidence and calm that she did. It would have been easy to let nervous energies combine with bad weather, but she went with it. Almost all the photos that came out of that day's outdoor photos involve people clutching their clothing, which looking back, does make me grin a little bit. Everyone was just trying to enjoy the chaos of this unbelievably powerful wind. I think you can see that best in the last photo out of those below, a favorite of mine featuring the groom and his sisters.