Wedding photographer Jonas Peterson has captured dozens of beautiful weddings all over the world. But even with his impressive resume and archive of incredible images, he says a wedding he recently shot in Masai Mara, Kenya might just top them all.
“I’ve traveled the world and shot weddings pretty much everywhere, but no place blew my mind in the same way Masai Mara did,” Peterson tells us in an email. “I secretly almost dreaded shooting the wedding there, knowing how difficult it is to shoot images that represent a place, especially during the constraints of a wedding day.”
Represent it he did, though, in a collection of wedding images unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory. Taking place inside of a Masai Mara camp, the wedding was that of wildlife photographer Nina and her husband Sebastian, who were currently living in the area to work on a book about a local lion pride.
Throughout the months of working in the area to write up the book and capture the images, Nina and her husband became close with the locals, who had accepted them as family. It was this close connection that made it possible for them to have a wedding inside of the camp.
With hippos, elephants and other creatures quite literally hanging around in the background, the wedding proved to be an adventurous one to shoot. The dress shot in particular, Peterson tells us, was interesting:
I’m not a massive fan of shooting dress shots personally, I think the dress usually looks better with a bride IN it, than hanging from a window, but when I saw a herd of animals walk past just 80 yards or so away, I quickly grabbed the dress, kicked the tent furniture off the porch and managed to grab two quick frames at f/16 with the elephants in the background. I’m a sucker for symmetry, so I only had one shot.
Beyond the wildlife crashing, the weather for the wedding proved to be better than both Jonas and the couple could’ve ever imagined.
Throughout the preparation for the wedding, Nina had asked Jonas what weather he was hoping for. Jokingly, he replied, “ I would like setting sun with a brewing storm in the background,” and laughed it off. But just as the party was approaching the site of the ceremony, a storm started to build on the horizon, fueling what is without a doubt one of the most beautiful backdrops for any shoot, let alone a wedding in the savanna.
Below are a collection of images from the incredible wedding. You might want to have your jaw supported… you know… just in case:
Update: Since some readers seem to have jumped to the (completely incorrect) conclusion that the locals were used as “props” in the wedding, we’re adding this short statement from the bride to clarify:
The last couple of years I have spent many months in the Masai Mara following one pride of lions on my project about the world’s last wild lions. During this time I have become very close friends and almost family with the Maasai who have welcomed me into their lives. Therefore and because we were planning to hold our ceremony on the land of the Maasai it was very important to us to incorporate some of the traditions of the Maasai culture into the ceremony; for example the arch built is a traditional symbol of the entrance to a boma – the typical house construction of the Maasai, and after the announcement a traditional Maasai song and dance followed according to tradition.
Also, the bride of the Maasai normally wear a lot of jewelry where the necklace, called enkarewa, is especially important. When I first told my closest friend in the Maasai community about our wedding early in 2014 he came back to me with a necklace and bracelets as a special gift made for me by his family. The stick carried by Sebastian was also a gift from the local Maasai community. But even more generously my friend then offered to bring warriors from the Maasai community to the celebration. So in the end our two cultures and nature merged in the perfect moment and the best day of our lives.
Image credits: Photographs by Jonas Peterson and used with permission