Wet Weather Weddings
There and Back Again
For some photographers wet weather weddings are the things of nightmares. I guess I must just be a little weird then, because I enjoy the creative challenge!
It is April 1st 2017 and I am wondering if I am the fool. In the aftermath of tropical cyclone Debbie, South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales are experiencing some of the worst flooding in their recorded history. Smack-bang in the middle of this devastation I have a determined bride and a wedding to shoot. Ahh wet weather weddings – you do have a way of adding a level of complexity to proceedings!
But let’s step back 24 hours. Prior to leaving for this wedding, things were looking a little hairy in my own neighbourhood. The normally placid Albert River had found its voice, and it was an angry song that residents woke to hear.
(Image: POL AIR FB)
This is the family home of some dear friends of mine from just down the road. Absolutely gutted to see their beautiful home like this!
(IMAGE: JUSTIN NOONAN)
Poetic license aside, I was awakened on the morning of the 31st of March by the lights of a vehicle pulling into my driveway. Short story quicker, there was a situation in the neighbourhood, the Life Flight helicopter was on its way, but there was a concern that the water would beat the rescue team. A boat was needed to get some people out of their homes. In the absence of anything like a functioning dingy or tinny – our family sedan of canoes (affectionately referred to as the River Rat) came to the rescue.
(Images Julie Croydon)
The funny thing about living on acreage properties is that you only rub shoulders with the people living nearby when there is either a celebration or a disaster. In the absence of anything to cheer about, we set to work ferrying the family to safety. The young people climbed out of a second story window, onto a ladder and then into the canoe. The less young were collected from an external staircase where they could clamber in with a little more control and comfort. On que, the Life Flight team arrived just as we were completing the final trip.
Big kudos to the new kids on the block, the Croydon family were excellent at organizing people and resources to make sure things were as painless as possible for those impacted upon.
(Image Charlie McMarson)
It was not a wasted trip for Life Flight though. As it happened, they were needed to perform an emergency evacuation from the roof of another property, three down from mine. The owners of the property were winched up to the helicopter, captured on phone camera by Luke’s Audio.
(Video: Luke’s Audio)
This beautiful property, only a couple hundred metres from ours, was inundated with water. Luckily, the owner and livestock had been evacuated the day before. I would say that 5 properties within a stone’s throw experienced significant forms of property damage.
The strength of the river in this valley was incredible. A number of shipping containers broke their bonds and were carried over 600 metres, stopping only when they crashed into tree tops, lodging there until the water subsided.
On the other side of the river, residents of our peaceful valley were not fairing any better. A family was plucked from the roof of this structure only moments before the river dashed it into trees and power poles – setting it up for a collision with another building.
Throw into the mix no electricity, which on properties means no running water and it was time for great neighbourhood spirit to kick in with generators, gas cookers and a number of other small kindnesses (thanks for the hot shower Rick O’Shea) being shared around.
Paddocks were opened up to stray and stranded animals, hands appeared to help clean up, hugs distributed and tea made for those in need.
With the Telstra mobile network failing, residents in the Albert River Valley did not have a lot of outside news filtering in. Nor could I contact my wedding for the next day to see what was going on!
So back to being an April fool, I loaded my car and set off for a wedding that may or may not be on. With the Facebook community giving me regular updates as to roads open and shut – a 2 hour trip took me around 6.5 hours! Most of it backtracking, waiting for roads to open and occasionally driving through some rather long puddles.
(Images Crabbe Creek Community FB Page)
I got to the wedding at Crabbes Creek at 4.55pm. The wedding was set to start at 5.00pm. I call that a win!
The drama filled day did not end there though! In the moments leading up to the outdoor ceremony Geoff the Chef copped a gas fireball to the face when he opened a large outdoor oven.
It’s not too often you get to feature an emergency service helicopter landing during the wedding vows. I will share some of these wedding photos with you in another blog at a later time.
I spent the night in a camper-van that the groom supplied for me (you are a top bloke Allan) and set off home early the next morning. The roads were open but the signs of the enormity of the floods was evident. Mudslides, trees across roads, humungous pot holes and the general thrashed looked to the country side were complimented by abandoned vehicles along the roadside, destroyed bridges, sink holes where pipes had burst beneath the road.
(Images GC Times)
(Stanmore Road Bridge Bannockburn)
To say I was glad to get home was an understatement. But what an adventure! People who know me realise that my maths is quite extraordinary. Steven Hawking and I share more than just a name! Sitting down with some maps, photos and a calculator, I came up with quite an accurate indication of how much water volume passed through the Albert River Valley across those two days … Sh#tloads.
In another blog I will talk about the wedding itself. The fact that Kylie, the bride, was the third sister from the family whose wedding I had photographed made it even more special for me. This particular wet weather wedding will go down as an epic and triumphant for persistence in the face of mother nature being a proper biatch!
Steve McMarson is a multi-award winning portrait and wedding photographer based on the Brisbane, Gold Coast corridor. His full portfolio and blog can be found at stevemcmarson.com.au