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Saturday 7 September 2013

Destination Photography: Westin Bayshore, Vancouver

What a spectacular weekend!

Continuing from Friday's blog about shooting video, my wife and I attended a wedding this last weekend in Vancouver and stayed at the Westin Bayshore Inn. What an experience. The service, the comfort, the views ... incredible. You can see one of the shots I took of the area above. Is that not breathtaking?

Arriving somewhat early to video the guests arriving and the venue before the shindig got started, I felt the first stop should be to introduce myself to the photographer who was hired for the wedding. As he watched me approach (with two camera bags, lighting bag, tripods) you could see apprehension in his eyes about this "presumptuous guest" being his worst nightmare. Photographers are largely lone wolves; they might not mind working with another photographer at times, but to have a guest show up with a pile of equipment usually translates into another obstacle that needs to be navigated.

I quickly explained to him I was very close friends with the bride, and that I was here to video her wedding for her elderly grandmother. This did not change the look on his face, but my next question did.

"Where can I be so I won't impede any of your photographs?"

That, my friends, was the key. This man and his assistants have a very difficult job to do and every guest on that boat has their own special way of becoming irritating to the wedding photographer. It was an obvious relief to him that I was willing to work around him, rather than getting in his way.

I took special effort to ensure my equipment was always out of the way and not impeding on any of the shots he was taking. Towards the end of the ceremony, he and I had some time for a bit of a chat. He went through some of the stills that I took and gave some great feedback on them. One he liked in particular was this, taken at full dusk.

Keep this in mind when you are a guest or at a venue you have not been hired at. Introduce yourself, be courteous to the staff photographer, stay out of the way, and maybe you will get some gems the way I did. If you stay out of their way, they're more likely to let you get your shots after they're finished, and everyone is more likely to have a good time. It's a matter of respect, and who knows -- maybe one day the tables will be turned and you will be the staff photographer wishing that everyone would stay out of your way.

Now I can't let this blog end without explaining the full experience of staying at this grand hotel so please read on.

I booked our room about six weeks ago and speaking to the staff on the phone left me feeling that I would be enjoying a very luxurious weekend at their hotel. There were a variety of packages available and they patiently walked me through each one that interested me explaining the perks and pitfalls of each one. They were not hesitant about explaining where one package fell short or another shined based on the needs of my wife and I. Even after I had booked the room, which was a non-refundable discount, they had no problems exploring my options when I thought I had to cancel (which, luckily, I didn't). One issue that did arise was the request for corporate discount, which the staff suggested was very difficult to qualify for, seems reserved for large corporations not small business people. Some places are more welcoming of small business owners and require only a business card or other proof that you do, in fact, run a business. Unfortunately Westin Bayshore wasn't one of them, but it's not anything I was going to sweat about.

We arrived about two-and-a-half hours before check-in time, and they allowed us entry to our room which was ready without an early check-in pricing. A bellhop was assigned right away to take us and our luggage, including a formidable amount of video gear, to our room and our vehicle was taken by valet parking. En route to our room, our bellhop explained many of the features of the hotel, some of which I immediately pegged as opportunities to get some shots of Vancouver. There was a beautiful dining area overlooking the harbour of Vancouver, an exercise/fitness centre open 24 hours, indoor and outdoor pools, spa, coffee shop, and the list goes on.

In our room we were delighted with the spaciousness of it all. A stylistic tile bathroom with more than enough space for you and your travelling partner to spread out all your hair face and beauty needs. A tile and glass rainshower to  relax your fatigued muscles from the trip in and freshen up. Sitting and office area are combined with large flat screen TV and high speed wired and wireless internet. Finally, (and I leave the best for last) the most comfortable, relaxing, enveloping bed I have ever slept on in my entire life.

This bed is so comfortable that it requires its own paragraph. When I check in to a hotel I usually will flop down on the bed just to see how it feels. I am so thankful I was already dressed for the wedding my wife and I were attending because if I had of flopped onto this gem I may not have made the wedding. It is hard to describe just how this bed seems to wrap around you, as you lay under the comforter. It's not that it was an overly soft bed, which tend to be hard on your back if you sleep in them, but it just seemed to provide support all around you in just the right amount of resistance. In a nut shell this was the best bed I have ever slept on and I thought it didn't get any better than home.

I would strongly suggest if you are looking for an exceptional getaway, where you are pampered, truly looked after and made to feel like the most important client ever, stay at the Westin Bayshore Vancouver. It was a relief to check into a hotel that took care of the little details and had everything I needed nearby, so that I could focus on the wedding and on getting some leisure shots in my spare time.

Normally a photographer would end this piece with the bride and groom, but that's normal instead I would like to leave you with this photo of the bride and her new niece, and the reminder that special moments can happen any time, so just pick up the camera and see what you capture.

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