It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Del Sol Photography!
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
My name is Matt Adcock and I am lucky to have found my dream partner, Sol Tamargo. Together we run Del Sol Photography in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and we are always in search of “something else.” Since 2005, we’ve been using water and climate to create original, fun, and artistic wedding photography. I’d love the opportunity to share some of that with you and also wanted to thank Scott Kelby and Brad Moore for giving me the chance to do so.
For Sol and I, as I’m sure is the case with so many talented artists and artist teams, finding ways to stay fresh and creative, break out of routines, and chase that “something else” is a labour of love. It takes patience (which we don’t always have), it takes dedication (which is sometimes hard to muster), and it takes an ability to embrace the unknown to be ready to take advantage of it – which is so hard to see coming!
For Sol and I, we have a few areas that are the keystones of our efforts in our attempts to chase that “something else…”
Make Epic Photos About Them
If you allow yourself to daydream a little, it’s pretty magical where you can go with a creative mind. After listening to and understanding our clients’ expectations, we try to figure out the perfect shot for them. We brainstorm and sometimes even make sketches (when necessary) to see the frame. Our favorite clients are always dreaming and picturing “what if”… so it’s important that our imagination is in tune with theirs.
Imagine carrying 2 Underwater Housings (and all of the accoutrements) more than 500 miles from home with 3 packs (full of gear) by car, plane and boat to reach your destination. Imagine further, 5 more boats on the wedding day and a tiny strip of sand in the middle of nowhere – San Pedro, Belize. A solid example with one of our craziest executions making photos of them happened a when our studio received this inquiry:
“My fiance Lara and I are planning a wedding in Belize…. picture it… A white sand beach that crests just above the water not more than a few inches… no trees, no dirt… nothing but sand… water so clear it magnifies the ocean floor for miles around and skies so blue and perfect that the odd cloud only enhances every scene…”
Photo by Matt (more from this event here)
Equipment + Environment – Use it and Abuse it!
Ever look down a windy beach and see that mist that travels off the ocean with the wind? In Spanish, the word for this misty salty mash is “Bruma.” We are always surrounded by it – whether we like it or not!
During one session, I wanted to feature the “Bruma.” I knew a creatively used flash would add the dimension to the frame I was looking for. Basically we sculpted with light creating shadows with a little back lighting using a small speedlight at full power, full CTO Gel on my flash and my WB set to 10,000 kelvin.
While the toll is high… Imagine changing lenses or having anything with metal contacts in this environment, don’t even think about sensor gunk – it’s unbelievable. Tropical climate for sure means a reduced shelf life for electronics – but when you get an image like this, it’s all worth it. Our suggestion is to invest in sealed camera bodies and buy the professional lenses to increase usability if you plan on working tropical.
Inspire and be Inspired
The late Steve Jobs quoted Picasso: Good artists copy and even greater artists steal! The idea is that nothing is really original, everything we produce as artists is a reflection from something or someone that we were influenced by. While I think the word stealing is heavily laden with sometimes negative connotations – I love to be inspired, I love to give credit where credit is due, and I love to take ideas to new levels.
I would like to thank Tony Hoffer (again) for stopping me dead in my tracks and reminding me to take risks with weather. A few years ago, my bags were packed and I retreated when rain occurred. Seems like the intelligent thing to do right? Ever since that first time I laid eyes on Tony’s engagement image, I’m excited when mother natures throws me a curve-ball. Tony didn’t invent the rain, but he certainly had a thing or two to share and I think we’re all the better for it!
Did I steal this image? No, I don’t think so. Did I glean inspiration from Tony s original creation? Absolutely, and I worked hard to push it further in a very different setting, and was quick enough to recognize a great set of circumstances were aligning when I captured this moment (somewhat lucky too). The reflection / bounce on this all black umbrella caused this amazingly soft down light. I didn’t plan that :). Also, her toe kick and the little trickle of water being lit by the flash really gives an additional movement feature to this frame…
Personal Projects as a Lifeline to Creative Freedom
Trash the Dress (TTD) has become a real source of creative freedom for Sol and I as it started as a personal project. Although it’s hard to reinvent yourself each shoot, we find ways to trip the imagination and come up with something else. The fun comes in the challenges we face, rugged locations, hikes, mosquitos, and almost anti-gravity underwater. The real kicker, these people aren’t models, and quite often they can’t swim! Its a bit cold as well, 62 degrees, so we really only have 30 -45 minutes of shooting time underwater. There are many risks, but the payoff is monumental.
Did I also mention that we find our way into caves to get this crystal clear water? They’re natural sink holes, called cenotes (se-no-tays), considered a sacred portal to the Mayan Underworld. The cenotes are part of the largest underground cave network in the world and exist only here in Mexico. Somehow we were able to merge daydreaming / fantasy photography and our brides into a business that is as far away from the “aisle” as possible. When was the last time a wedding photographer donned a wetsuit for anything wedding related?
I wanted to share a few TTD frames because this has been one of the most amazing things to happen to us. As you look through these TTD snaps, realize that we are always shooting for US and less worrying about client expectations.
It’s not a bad place to call the office, for sure. But one thing it definitely has is unique elements every time we visit it. No two frames are ever the same, regardless of how similar they can seem. The texture of the light, the current of the water (yes they are flowing rivers), the temperature (hot and cold) and the variance in the colors. The challenge is super fun and always matches adventure and adrenaline!
The Caribbean ocean also provides us with some material.
Just remember that you don’t need an ocean or a cave, a simple garden hose will do fine. This client was so moved by the experience with the wedding and trash the dress that she actually changed her career after she returned home and is now a successful portrait and wedding photographer in New York city.
Happy Accidents Rock
There s an old adage that goes something like, you have to learn all of the rules before you can break them. And then sometimes, there are Happy Accidents. Whether you re a novice starting out, or a leathered pro, Happy Accidents are those moments when the stars align in your favor to create that most amazing image! You have to take advantage of the situation. In this photo, I accidentally shifted my underwater housing to Bulb mode and shot this 1 second image (oops). I love it! Embrace the opposite way of thinking to get the job done to actually find you’ve done something clever in the process. Realize you’re having a learning experience as you review the happy accident and then next time, repeat and add some new flavor.
Innovation and new ideas
We love chasing love stories. We also love running with new ideas. Sol loves all things sexy and full of passion, and I love that about her creative vision. We’ve been blessed with so many amazing couples in our career who really encourage the creative path! During a trash the dress session last year, the bride literally swam out of her dress. We thought we may be on to something.
The reflection of this added super-steamy element to our TTD sessions inevitably led to another topic of inquiries we’d also received an influx of – Boudoir. We had done a little here and there, mostly in the privacy of hotel rooms or intimate villas. But doing Boudoir in a destination location usually means a whole other suitcase dedicated to attire and that isn’t always easy to justify when you could just as easily do it at home.
In a serious effort to really make the trip with the extra luggage worth it, it occurred to us that a great way to increase the inherent sexy-ness of a Boudoir Session was to merge it with the already super sexy cenote underwater sessions over the years. And thus a new star was born, the underwater conceptual boudoir.
These Underwater Boudoir sessions have been a great way to really push our ideas of image making, pondering ideals and fantasies and where those concepts collide. We offer everyday gorgeous women the opportunity to daydream a little through an amazing conceptual mermaid bridal boudoir session. There is a huge transition into an art form filled with tons of suggestive elements and layers. At times, almost abstract when you think about all the reflections and refractions of light to play with however very very complicated, 62 degrees and 30-45 minute shoot time.
Exceeding Clients Expectations – When To Realize It’s Great For Everyone!
How many times have you covered a wedding using 2 Underwater Housings with 2 different lenses from the ocean? All shots from the water and you don’t exit the water until after the ceremony is over. I tried that once – and I wasn’t even hired to be on this shoot!
Our clients were inconvenienced by the approaching Hurricane Rina in November 2011. They had to evacuate the coast and retreated inland where they spent one night only to return to their costal beach getaway a day later when it was clear Rina was just going to be a little rain in the region. In the chaos, we all worked hard to come up with a unique way to combat the rain, have an amazing experience and utilize all of our resources to make this story shine! What was originally planned as a sunset wedding, turned to sunrise (yes, that means a 5 AM start time). To everyone’s amazement, all of the pieces fell into place and we endeavored to kick it up a notch – 3 photographers: 2 on land, 1 by sea. Because of the conditions in which it took place; the awe-inspiring spectacle of a cosmic ceremony, the amazing light and dynamic coverage – this has to be one of my favorite weddings in a long time!
Despite all of the “impending threats of a Hurricane,” we got so so so lucky with a morning when the ocean was glass, the temperature perfect, and the light – the light was absolutely magical. It was the calm after Rina’s near miss. I remember photographing the sunrise as I stood in 4 feet deep water watching water birds swim by and counting the conchs as they moved around my feet. I was getting this huge reflection, as if I was in this infinity pool to the shore. I’ve always dreamed of seeing a ceremony on the beach from the ocean, but usually found that when you get in, the waves and wind just make it impossible on most days.
Photo by Matt (more from this event here)
Reading a Shoot, Your Bag of Tricks and some Serenity
How well do your hands know your bag of tricks, your bread and butter knowledge, what you re supposed to know, without your brain having to tell them what to do? Do you have muscle memory down pat so that your hands just do and you get to just be creative with your thinking instead of thinking technically? Your greatest goal is to be creative, right? So why are you still fumbling with your camera s controls or having to remember which way you have to go to stop down or open up?
Commit as much as you can technically to the tips of your fingers and let your mind be free! Escape the comfort zone of where ever your education level is now and start embracing the unknown, ASAP. And do it in a way that will really give you an uncomfortable feeling deep inside. This is the best way for you to really get a pulse on what you have learned, how well you’ve learned it, and how much further you really have to go.
Sol had the opportunity to shoot a super fun group of folks a few months back. She was determined to do what she does best – tell a story, read the scene, and anticipate the next big thing. As they started the processional back to shore, Sol ran like crazy, changed cameras for a wider lens (from and 85mm to a 35mm) mid-stride and hopped on top of one of these pillars (trying not to fall in herself) and extended her arms above her head, shooting blindly. As the couple was going to kiss, the real moment unfolded just behind the anticipated action of the kiss.
Here is a behind the scenes version of how this shot happened. That is a Superwoman technique being demonstrated by Sol…. One hand on the trigger and the other holding the strap for balance, very impressive and not as easy as it looks when the action is happening.
May you have the serenity to recognize the unexpected as an opportunity to do something awesome, the courage to step out of your comfort zone to do it, and the wisdom to keep doing it over and over and over so that you remain fresh and inspired. We hope you enjoyed seeing a few of our adventurous shoots, learning a little of the back story or inspiration behind them. Challenge the known and indulge in the unknown, make your direction full speed ahead with learning and taking on projects that might be a bit over your head! Most importantly, have fun and don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.
Matt and Sol were named as one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine. They are also featured on the cover of the 2012 March / April National Geographic Traveler Magazine. You can find link to their blogs and social network pages here: