Photographers make friends ,we chat, we exchange ideas,stories and yes we do 2nd shoot on the rare occasion. So when MIchael asked if I was available to second shoot a destination wedding in Mozambique with him I was more than pleased in fact I was over the moon. So this entry is going to be a lot different to what you have been used to, it will me more about the people, behind the scenes,and most importantly the friendships that ones builds up and friends that one makes.
I received my e – ticket, did a google search and found out that we were flying Air Mozambique, early start, great flight , friendly staff this was a breeze. Prior to checking in, I cleared my two camera bodies, two lenses my favorite beings the 70-200 which believe it or not fitted into a bag that one can only describe as being tiny, slung over my shoulder two bodies,two lenses, one flash, some cards, no batteries as this adds weight and if needed batteries can easily be purchased just about anywhere. I love traveling light, one day when I am a big shot important well know photographer I will be bringing along all the gear and crew of course in entourage, but this time the brief was travel lit, go in do the job and most importantly have fun and enjoy the experience.
I had just checked and validated all my serial numbers on my cameras with customs when Michael arrived , with formalities taking but five minutes we were clear to go. Some advise here I know it’s tedious and time consuming but my suggestion when traveling abroad,internationally declare the gear you are taking out you never know. And of course you will have the paperwork which makes it easier should you be selected to be asked how you are now entering he country with all this camera equipment. It took me less than five minutes,and I must commend the authorities at ORT for making this an effortless process. Advise no 2′ before flying, jot down the serial numbers of all your gear. The most. difficult part is actually hunting for the serial number on the lens, no two lens serial numbers are in the same place, so good luck. You know the game 30 seconds well I reckon there should be one for photographers find he serial number of MHz! Your 20-30m in 30 seconds or canon 5D or Nikon 3D in 30 seconds ,try it and you will be amazed
When ever traveling internationally I always have my serial numbers handy be it on my phone,ipad, or just plainly written down on a piece of paper. Yes you may ask, it’s just after 6 in the morning and there is no way that the person behind the counter is going to check all my gear just now, so I will just get away with giving her/him any random numbers, don’t do it. It’s not worth it, play it by the book, you are a professional, declare your gear going out.
Now how do you whittle away 120 minutes before departing?
Both Michael and I just talked photography, recent album designs we had just done, new marketing strategies, past clients, gear, anecdotes from previous workshops,it was just so cool to be able to hang out together and being able to share stories ideas and fears. Before I knew it we were landing. This was the first time that I had flown into Maputo, and yes my Portuguese was a bit rusty, I needed have feared it was all coming back to me know and had it all covered. Customs was a pleasant experience, and within five minutes we were outside scanning the arrivals lounge for a sign bearing the names Michael and Mario.
Junior was a jovial character with a broad smile,easy manner and just one of those people to whom you take an instant likening to.Making our way downtown towards our hotel, I asked Junior what he does for a living? His reply ” I am a commodity broker “ So in essence a commodity broker basically does a bit of this and a bit of that in a nutshell and from what I can gather gets pretty well re numerated for his work. Driving through Maputo I was amazed at how much buying and selling actually takes place. Everyone here’s is an entrepreneur, from selling bread, cool drinks, clothes the streets were bustling. We were staying at hotel 2001 which is not quite dead centre down but offered a mean espresso and comfortable accommodation. We were then taken on a quick tour of where everything was going to be taking place from the Palace to the Polana hotel and then onto Girassol where the reception would be taking place.
Wedding Emporium was coordinating the wedding and were busy at work when we arrived. Thinking back now, imagine planning, coordinating a wedding in a foreign country takes skill, insight and loads of organizational skills and negotiation. Fresh flowers need to be flown in, permits need to be arranged to keep officials happy, language barriers need to be traversed, et al. I was very impressed with what I saw and to top it all this was a remarkable team with a great sense of humor.
That evening after a hot shower MIchael and I went out for supper and then decided to take a walk downtown looking for a coffee shop for pastries and tea. Yes I do indulge in tea and pastries when called on to do so. Anyway we had just finished paying the bill and must have walked about two blocks back to the hotel when we were greeted by ” excuse me” can we see your passports. Following us out the coffee shop were two policeman! Who carries the passport with them going out for coffee..? This was clearly a ploy to fund or add some fat to their evenings takings. You know the story good cop , bad cop this was like out of a Hollywood movie scene and at some stage I was told that I would be taken care of in jail and my friend would be ok , but me. Mhh that was going to a different story . I was fuming even speaking to them in Portuguese was not going to help. At that stage I realized it would be best to follow Michaels example and be totally diplomatic. To cut a long story short and my wallet a bit lighter minus receipt we were escorted back to our hotel the best of friends. For those of you intending walking the streets make sure that you have a copy of your passport and also have it certified by the local authorities. It is a legal requirement to carry original identity documents at all times and present them upon request to the authorities. You can have them notarized which I suggest you do and carry that with you and leave your original in your hotel room.
The next morning we were both collected in the latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class each with our own chauffeur. Michael was going to be covering e bridal preparations whilst I was going to cover the groom. I was fortunate as I only had one videographer and one local photographer covering my back, Michael had three photographers and two videographers just in case.Our sms’s are hilarious.
Michael : Makeup been done and another two photographers arrived, we have 4 now:)
Mario: One photographer and one videographer using flash all the time.
Michael: That’s nice mine too,all using flash Gary Fong flash modifiers:))) I am watching a Witney Housten concert on tele, it’s like a live concert here in a room the size of a matchbox.
Now this is where I take my hat off to Michaels creativity, from the images he showed me what he created under these conditions was amazing.
From Michaels perspective, I think I was at a better advantage my groom had arrived with his clothes, whilst Michael’s bride was still having makeup being done. I was about two hours ahead of schedule with loads of time to get some awesome creative edgy images of the groom. This one is in the bag I silently thought to myself. Action, lights ,sound groom start getting ready! Then the unthinkable happened I could not believe it, they sent the wrong trousers with the grooms clothes. Back to square one, luckily his trousers arrived five minutes before we had to leave for church, so you can just imagine the chaos.
All heading off to the cars, the videographer who was with me bolted down the road, I then realized that I needed to collect my mini camera bag which I had left outside the porch. This had now disappeared, cards , batteries, one flash.F**^! Get in Get in we are late my chauffeur beckoned, I am looking for my camera bag, don’t worry its in the car already in the boot. I needed to be certain and got him to open the boot to confirm . All good. These guys were good. Coming back to the videographer, we passed him down this dusty street, him lying low and filming the cars whizzing past him. Traffic in downtown Maputo is crazy especially at two in the afternoon, I was sitting in the front seat while my driver was talking on his mobile and following the cavalcade at an alarming rate that had my heat beat skip a few paces. All of a sudden there was the videographer ahead of us on a street corner, how did he manage to get there that fast. And so it went we must have passed the same videographer at least six times, and the award for Racing Driver of the Year must certainly go to him.
Leading the entourage was the groom and following was a cavalcade of twenty white Mercs, approaching the Palace, I quickly jumped out and joined Michael who had arrived a little earlier. As there were still two wedding in progress our wedding party was put onto a holding pattern and decided to circle the block a few times waiting their turn. To put it into perspective, the Palace of Weddings had recently been refurbished and is one of the first buildings used by the authorities to hold weddings in Maputo. I have been told that as much as 100 weddings used to take place here every Saturday, can you imagine that. Now the authorities want to bring this down to about thirty a day. I saw first hand how brides are ushered into a waiting room before it is there turn and have the pictures to prove.
Finally our turn arrived and it was an amazing experience. Sharing a wedding or should that be “ Shooting a wedding with seven official photographers and three videographers” is interesting. Within 20 minutes it was over and we were on the stairs doing the traditional formals, avoiding bobbing photographers heads, cropping in camera like crazy and jostling for the best position. I just love what I do. The rest was fun, with both Michael and I setting up and moving onto the next location we finished the couple shoot in 22 minutes according to Michael’s watch.
The reception was a blast, great decor, lighting , fantastic food and a killer part atmosphere and some very sexy dance moves we finally bid our farewells and were driven back to the hotel. An awesome experience my first shooting a wedding in Mozambique, friendly down to earth people and I can confidently say I made some great friends.. Thank you Michael for the privilege of shooting with you, it was tremendous.