Capturing Bermuda on Film | Barbara Murray

Several members of my immediate family have lived in Bermuda for nearly seven years. I’ve had numerous occasions to visit them and to learn about this tiny but beautiful island nation. Bermuda is probably most famous, of course, as the center of the mysterious “Bermuda Triangle”. But it is equally known for its beautiful beaches, warm water and stunningly blue seas and skies. It is one of the most photogenic spots I’ve visited and I’ve used many different films over the course of the years to try and capture the unique beauty of this place. One of the most striking things is of course all the beautiful colors, which every film will render in its own way. Over the years I’ve developed some favorites, which you’ll see examples of here.

But let’s start with simple black and white photos that give a more pure view without the distraction of riotous color. The shots below were made with Eastman XX, a film with wide latitude and good contrast that works for the very bright sunshine as well as the sudden clouds that often appear.

The first shots illustrate some typical residential architecture. The distinctive white roofs not only reflect the brilliant sun but are constructed in a way that funnels rainwater into holding tanks. Bermuda has no natural sources of fresh water and thus is almost entirely dependent on rain water for daily uses.

Everywhere you go, you’re never far from a bay or inlet, or the open sea. Boats are ubiquitous.

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Another ever present feature of Bermudian life is the scooter. They are often used by tourists - especially those who arrive by cruise ship - to explore the island, since rental cars are virtually nonexistent. Scooters are most popular with the locals. In general, Bermuda households are limited by law to a single car, since the roads throughout the island are two lanes and narrow. By default, many Bermudians use scooters as their primary or supplementary means of transportation. There’s plenty of scooter parking everywhere and it’s not uncommon to see businessmen riding to work on their scooters even in the rain.

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Adding color to the picture adds another dimension. Not only are the sea and sky various continually changing shades of blue and blue-green, but most of the buildings are painted brightly. And of course there’s all the beautiful tropical vegetation. One film I really like to use in Bermuda is Svema 125 color. It’s made in Ukraine, and packaged and sold in the US by Film Photography Project. It has a soft, vintage like pastel palette that works well for the muted blues and greens that you often find in the sky and water here. The first shot was taken looking across the water from the Bermuda Zoo and Aquarium. The second was at the old Princess marina before it was remodeled.

On my most recent trip in early April, I decided to try shooting a roll of the newly reissued Ektachrome 100. There is nothing quite like transparency film for rending bright saturated colors, and this one is no exception. It takes especially well to blues.

Being an island nation, Bermuda’s coast is filled with small bays and inlets both on the protected harbor/sound and on the ocean facing coastline. The bay pictured below is a small one called Devonshire Bay. While it looks calm you can see breakers just outside the opening where surf breaks roughly on the reef. The day I visited this calm bay, the sand was littered with Portuguese man o’war jelly fish that had washed up. This happens commonly between March and June. Walking on the beach requires wearing shoes and keeping an eye out, and swimming is not advised. These creatures keep their tentacles and can still deliver a sharp sting when washed onto the shore.

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The next two images were captured from the boat as we cruised from Hamilton to the area past the Dockyards, just outside the entrance to the harbor. Because the island is small, and only one mile wide at its widest point, many houses are clustered along the edge of the water on both harbor and ocean fronts. Many homes have their own boat docks. What a life.

This Ektachrome image was taken just outside the harbor entrance. Bermuda is famous for the many shipwrecks that litter the reefs surrounding it. Just outside the harbor’s entrance is a wreck named the “Victoria” which is little more than a rusted hulk projecting above the water’s surface. Fish congregate here. They seem to know it’s a common pastime for boaters passing by to slow down and toss a few bits of bread in the water. That results in the inevitable frenzy you see here.

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The last roll of this trip was also a transparency film - Fuji Velvia 50. This film is also wonderful for capturing water and sky especially in sunny conditions. I took it for a stroll in downtown Hamilton to capture some of the “city” life. I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful green of this currently unoccupied building on Front Street, complemented by its blue neighbor.

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Another thing that’s uniquely Bermudian is the moon gate. You don’t really notice them …until you do, and then they are everywhere. There are supposedly around 40 scattered about the island. Originally a Chinese landscaping feature, the gates were imported to Bermuda in the late 1800s. Built out of native limestone, many of them appear in public gardens and on hotel grounds. They are reputed to provide good luck, and especially to newlyweds who walk through the gate hand in hand. The first image shows the moon gate at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, which is often used as the backdrop for weddings. The second, I found sitting randomly between two business buildings on Front Street, framing a beautiful view of the harbor.

Finally, here are two more Velvia shots from downtown Hamilton. The first shows the ever present row of scooters on a weekday morning. Note that Bermuda shorts and boat shoes are in fact the work uniform for most of the island. Some go full out and wear knee socks and a matching jacket but usually only when a formal meeting is on the schedule. The second shot is the waterfront park in Hamilton which makes the most of the beautiful views while strolling along Front Street.

There are many more exceptionally photogenic spots in Bermuda. If you’re lucky enough to visit, be sure to bring one or more of your favorite cameras and lots of film!


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Film photographer Barbara Murray is based in California. See more of her work on her website and connect with her on Instagram.