First it was wildfire, then tornadoes. What will be the next crossover photo shoot between natural disasters and weddings? Not every disaster will work: this is my analysis of which disasters are best suited to join the growing genre of natural disaster wedding photography.
The first mix of wedding photography and natural disasters was a couple in Oregon posing for their wedding photographs in front of a wildfire. Before that stopped popping up in my news feeds, a new set of photos joined it of a couple in Canada posing for their wedding photographs in front of a tornado. I have to know: Is this the start of a new trend in natural disaster wedding photography?
Technically, it's debatable inaccurate to term these photographs as a new genre of natural disaster wedding photography. So far the happy couples have posed in front of events that did not cause fatalities or substantial damage. That's a good thing, but it can be enough to make some people declare the lack of death and destruction precludes these events from being labelled disasters. As someone who researches geohazards, I find it much easier to lump the same physical phenomena together irrelevant of the measured impact of any particular event.
Now we've moved past the vocabulary-labelling problem, I'm genuinely curious if this is the start of a hot new trend in natural disaster weddings. Not all disasters are created equal: the photographs so far have been happy accidents when the photography session coincided with very mild disasters where no one died and the damage was minimal. Using a more catastrophic disaster as a backdrop or deliberately triggering a disaster would be in bad taste, twining memories of a wedding with death, destruction, and catastrophe. This limits which disasters are suitable to join the trend in wedding photography.
Keeping that in mind, here's my evaluation of the potential for various disasters to balance between epic backdrops and celebration-quelling devastation:
Storm over Havana, Cuba. Photography credit: AP/Ramon Espinosa
Pro: Awe-inspiring with low risk of actually killing anyone. High probability of looming storm clouds and gorgeous lightning during a storm. Enables teasing about electrifying chemistry between the couple. Relatively safe.
Con: Predicting lightning strikes is pretty much impossible, so necessitates many, many photographs in the hopes of capturing the perfect moment.
Verdict: High probability of beautiful, dramatic photographs.
Pro: Highly visually dramatic with relatively low potential for destruction. Can be contained within firebreaks (like roads).
Con: Difficult to predict, although likely to form in specific, predictable circumstances. Difficult to photograph from a safe distance.
Verdict: With the luck of being in the right place at the right time, blending the smaller cousin for tornados with fires could make for some astonishing photos.
Road cracking from the earthquakes in New Zealand. Photography credit: AP/Mark Baker
Pro: Get to tell people your love makes the earth shake. Giant cracks can be highly photogenic.
Verdict: Difficult to predict, large chance of death, low visual impact: overall, that makes for a low potential for wedding photography. Niche market for posing next to cracks from mild, non-fatal earthquakes.
Pro: Lots of advance warning to get in position for distantly-triggered events. Once it's come onshore somewhere, relatively easy to predict runup height.
Con: Not particularly photogenic — despite the iconic cresting wave on warning signs, they look more like a quickly building tide or a wall of water. Difficult to predict runup height or arrival time for locally-triggered events makes photography far more risky. Large magnitude events likely to be extremely devastating.
Verdict: Large chance of death paired with low visual impact make tsunami a bad prospect for wedding photography.
Cecil Lake road landslide in Peace River. Photography credit: R. Couture/GSC
Pro: Visually dramatic even years after the event. With good reaction time, it's plausible a couple could get in a good position to use a smaller active landslide as a backdrop. More teasing about making the Earth move or getting swept off their feet.
Con: Unlikely to capture events in-progress. Difficult to predict exact runout distance for large-magnitude events. Broken rocks and debris require a particular "eye of the beholder" approach to beauty. Large landslides in accessible locations are likely to bury entire towns.
Verdict: Excellent to use existing no-fatality landslides as backdrops. Potential for positioning in front of a smaller landslide, rockfall, or avalanche for a dramatic wedding video.
Pro: Pretty to photograph post-event.
Con: Difficult to predict in advance. Not particularly photogenic while in progress.
Verdict: Possibly best to seek out a nice, tropical sinkhole for the honeymoon photos.
Sunset over the Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador. Photography credit: Dolores Ochoa/AP
Pro: Glowing lava is inherently visually exciting, while lightning makes pyroclastic clouds that much more striking. Visible over long distances. Basaltic flows are slow and steady, easy to predict and set up the perfect photograph.
Con: Felsic and intermediate lavas produce highly-dramatic, violently explosive eruptions paired with devastating, quick-moving lahars and pyroclastic flows. Volcanic ash is abrasive, both hazardous for breathing and scratching photography equipment.
Verdict: Variable. Photographs in front of predictable basaltic flows would be pretty without being overly risky, while photographs in front of a pyroclastic flow have a high probability of ending in ash-smothered death.
What do you think? Any pros or cons to add? What about other disasters?