If, in ten years, I only remember one thing about Amy and Jason’s destination wedding at Red Frog Beach Resort in Bocas del Toro, Panama, it won’t be the super laid-back island vibes, insane sunset, or the raucous guests getting rowdy in the pool at the end. It’ll be the moment my grace under pressure was tested in a way it has not been before.
The guests were seated, Jason, the groomsmen and bridesmaids were in place, and the processional music was playing. Everything was connecting just right except for one thing: my camera and camera strap. As you’ll see at the beginning of this set, the groomsmen and I were shooting with underwater housing in the pool that morning and my strap, which had been screwed into the mounting plate for the housing, had become loose in a day of running around shooting the preparation. The moment Amy and her dad began to walk down the aisle, my camera broke loose from the strap, landed on the wooden platform, and my 35mm lens broke off the body at the mounting point. Of course I had my other body on my shoulder but I quickly asked the coordinator to buy me 30 seconds, I grabbed my 16-35mm from my nearby bag, found auto focus to still be functional, and resumed shooting having only missed about three beats. It was a test unlike any other and I think I passed it, while also taking home some lessons that will ensure nothing like that ever happens again. And if it does, hopefully it happens at a less pivotal moment!
Enough of that, this wedding was the finale of the year and without a doubt the perfect way to end the year. Amy and Jason, a Southern California couple who spend a lot of time climbing and snow shredding in the Mammoth area, had planned to get married at Rancho Santana, Nicaragua, (a spot we’ve shot several times) which is how we were so perfectly matched. They came to Mammoth for a snowy engagement session last spring and we made an instant connection. Political turmoil in Nicaragua led them in search of another tropical venue and they landed here, in a spot I’ve wanted to visit since my wife and I began traveling to Central America about five years ago.
Bocas del Toro is a Caribbean archipelago in the northeast part of the country and just getting there is an adventure. After spending a night in Panama City, I transferred to a smaller airport for the domestic flight north, and then across town for a water taxi ride to the island. The boat dropped another guest and I off at the wrong part of the island and we walked about a mile and a half across the island, hauling lots of camera gear through sand and jungle pathways until we finally settled down at our amazing villa at Red Frog Beach Resort.
We had an afternoon of scouting and an amazing rehearsal dinner with prayer lanterns on the beach before calling it a day and charging up for the main event.
I started the next day having some fun in the pool with Jason and his legendary groomsmen Adrian before heading over to the girls’ place on the beach. Soon after, we did first look in some lovely canopy light and before some last minute pre-gaming and then the aforementioned ceremony.
The ceremony site they chose at Red Frog was perfect. Guests strolled along a wooden jungle beach boardwalk to the dock/platform area right above the water. The light in this intimate spot was ideal, and the ceremony was quick and perfect. We followed it up with some golden hour family portraits on Red Frog beach, and then Amy, Jason and I, with the help of officiant, bad ass assistant Brooklin, went to higher ground on the island for epic last light above the resort.
The reception came next and it was, without question, about as much fun as a destination wedding photographer can have. It didn’t take long after dinner (lobster!) for EVERYBODY to end up in the pool which is exactly what I expected/hoped for. This crew came to party and party they did.
We ended the evening with some night portraits on the beach below the reception site which was a great spot to wrap up a long day of shooting. Bocas del Toro, I can’t wait to be back.
Thanks to Canon Professional Services, my camera and lens were up and running for engagement sessions in Mammoth the following weekend and I guarantee that’ll never happen again.
Thanks for reading and new work is on its way to the blog.