Festive Hotel Buckhead Wedding
Indian weddings are incredibly rich in culture and tradition and the Indian/Hindu wedding of Payal and Dave at the Intercontinental Hotel Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia, was no exception. It all began with a ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents in Smyrna, GA, and Day 2 and 3 took place at the hotel.
The second day began with the baraat. Custom dictates that the groom and his family ride a white horse to the bride’s home to get married, singing and dancing the whole time. “This has been abbreviated over the years and while it sometimes still includes a horse, it’s often a white car or even a white boat,” says Minneapolis based photographer Bradley Hanson. It is one of his favorite traditions to photograph where the dancing, music and drumming have remained. The groom meets the bride and her family, and the bride’s mother applies a tilak (red dot) on the groom’s forehead. This brief custom is called the milni. Sometimes the mother will pinch the groom’s nose to remind him that life can be painful.
During his career, Bradley Hanson has photographed over 600 weddings, and 35 to 40 have been Hindu celebrations “I photographed a large Indian wedding in Rajasthan, India, in 2005, and from that point on, the floodgates opened because couples and families knew that I was familiar with the intricate customs. This wedding included impressive dancing by the groom. The coordinator, Ushma Desai, was very hands-on and extremely helpful in juggling the multiple events, locations, and outfit changes.”
Of course, a wedding that takes place over multiple days can include its share of challenges. But Hanson, ever the optimist, says that the biggest challenge was also part of the biggest joy of photographing this wedding. “The baraat is extremely difficult to photograph because of the nature of the fast dancing and the circular formations by the guests taking part in it,” he explains. “It’s akin to the hora in a Jewish wedding where you must commit to wedging your way inside a circle or holding your camera ‘over’ the circles as they form spontaneously. I am tall, experienced, and confident, but I’ve learned to wear combat boots and protect my eyes while photographing, because arms, fingers and elbows are flying for the entire hour. The other challenge with these dancing circles is that the moment you see the shot line up in the viewfinder, someone will jump in front of your lens, or the composition will disintegrate as quickly as it appeared. I shoot the entire baraat with one camera and a wide-angle lens, because I have to get in close to get to the real action. My favorite moments from this wedding are the groom dancing during the baraat.”
For this lively Buckhead Hotel wedding, Hanson’s gear of choice included Fujifilm cameras, two XT-5 bodies and one XT-4 with 18mm f.4 WR, 33mm f/1.4 WR, and 56mm f/1.2 WR lenses. For the most part, he also relied on natural light, except during the last hour of dancing, where he used a Godox V1F flash, remotely triggered.
Like many wedding photographers, Hanson sees himself as an observer and is always happy to let the day unfold naturally. “I tend to see the world in a more abstract, compositional way, and I am constantly scanning the scene in my mind for shapes and observing where the light is coming from,” he describes. “Most of my images are lit from the back or from the side because I love the mood and glow that this creates. I shoot with 3 camera bodies and 3 fast prime lenses, rather than a zoom, because I like to be as invisible as possible and avoid flash or artificial light unless absolutely necessary. I don’t previsualize and I don’t go into a wedding with a template or an agenda. Technically, this approach makes it harder because I don’t know what will happen or what to expect, but it is exciting for the very same reasons: my greatest joy is watching something amazing unfold in front of me, and my favorite photographs are moments that happen in an instant and can’t be posed or duplicated. I am not so much interested in the details as I am in the emotional moments of the day.”
[Bride: @payal_cshah; Groom: @drpnsince92]