A Vineyard wedding | Gren and Katie

The Vineyard at Stockcross; one of Berkshire’s treasures for foodies, wine lovers and those seeking a wedding experience with five star order. And if you’ll excuse the somewhat tenuous dovetailing, it’s the word order that inspires this blog post.

It’s not often that I absorb the words of an order of service and that’s not born of disinterest or indifference. Far from it; the day is usually an engaging journey where opportunity to read these oftimes carefully crafted pieces of art doesn’t really present itself. But as I sat at the back of the church on this dawning date of August, I was granted the time fortuitously by a vicar who had effectively given me a shot count. Around a dozen shots were permitted, although I’ll admit to stretching that with one eye on a verger who seemed armed with instruction to keep a wary eye over any gathering shutter toll. So, during an impressively rousing rendition of “I vow to thee,” I cast my eye across the pearlescent booklet that had been presented to guests at St. Michaels in Little Bedwyn, Berks.

At the back of the piece there were two passages chosen by groom and bride respectively; a lesson about love by Albert Einstein, whom I’d never considered scholarly in matters of the heart, after all here is a brilliant man who divorced his wife on St. Valentines Day. Though if you have a chance, read his theory of emotionally shaped relativity. Then a short exchange about love from the mouths of Piglet and Pooh and the mind of A.A. Milne.

Above the literary quotes, some additional words, this time only by Gren. An account of how he met his wife. I was going to repeat the affectionate paragraphs he penned word for word, but actually, I think the sound of their voices within this Photofilm does that far more eloquently. For me this is why a Photofilm is potent. The stills certainly recount Gren and Katie’s feelings, in particular during the speeches, but the sound, well that engages me in their story. It’s a film of stills from their wedding day, 2,235 days of courting later.

Wedding Photofilm | 5,000 miles from Vegas

In this latest Wedding Photofilm, the guitar playing directional driller from Oklahoma, meets a radio newsreader from Lancashire in England. It’s the stuff that fairy tale love stories are made of right? Well actually, if you believe in fate and I’m a subscriber to that church, then this story will cement the sliding doors theory as what really deals your cards in life. Despite now living in America, Dusty and Alex decided to celebrate their big day in Singleton, Lancashire, on the road to Blackpool, 5,000 miles from Vegas, where the story started. But you wouldn’t expect an Oklahoma boy not to bring a taste of his homeland to a garden party in England though, as the motion opener within this Photofilm shows.

Music is a key part of my film production and I’ve used various resources to seek soundtracks that are rich, both in dynamic presence and breadth of style. One of my favourite resources for these scores is The Music Bed. TMB represent Ben Rector within their catalogue, an American musician from Nashville, though now I’ve done a little more reading up on the lad, I see he grew up in Oklahoma. Well looky-here, as they may say across the pond, we have another coincidence, since here’s a film about the chaos of chance and the groom is also a singer songwriter, from Oklahoma. Sliding doors. Sliding doors. Man I love it when a plan comes together.

And some stills from the day…

Alex and Dusty's wedding
Wedding in Singleton
Lancashire wedding picture
Wedding picture by Neale James
Wedding speeches
Singleton Lodge wedding
Wedding rodeo pictures
A bucking bronco rider
Wedding disco pictures

At Lyme Regis | a Lyme wedding

I’ve been somewhat quiet on the blogging front during the summer weddings period, much to be expected, so long overdue here is one of our latest Wedding Photofilm productions.

It could be all romantic notion, but I’ve always thought of people who live in (or have a strong bond) with a town by the sea, as somehow calmer, perhaps more grounded. I’m several something decades away from being an excitable school boy visitor, but even now, and not even under my breath, there’s still a sincere victory to that grand reveal, when I’m the first to spot the sea in a car full of people coastal bound.

This is the story of Fran and Zenek’s Lyme Regis wedding.

There’s something special about Southwold

I distinctly remember meeting Liz at the National Wedding Show at Olympia in 2013. I remember her first words; “We’re getting married in Southwold. Will you consider driving that far?”

I’m not even sure she managed to finish her sentence, because the answer was a resounding, positive, no nonsense, clear English; “Yes.” I probably uttered the affirmative half a dozen times just to make sure the message got through.

See, as I narrate within the Photofilm below, there is something about Southwold. I took childhood holidays there with my late parents, actually my father has a plaque on Southwold’s pier. I don’t recall the seaside town that pecks at the chilly North Sea waters as being a particularly warm experience. We always camped there, wet canvas and buttoned up walks along the beach being a feature of my main recall. But I’m sure I also remember if only as a romantic notion crossing the estuary that sits between Southwold and the beautiful neighbouring village of Walberswick on slightly warmer dusk kissed evenings to visit the kind of pubs for tea that only quintessential English hamlets can boast.

I love Southwold. My mother loved Southwold. My father certainly loved Southwold.

And so returning to the town to photograph a wedding was a privilege that genuinely excited my nostalgic senses. This Photofilm pays a fitting tribute I think. I certainly hope you get a feeling for the relaxed nature of this special day, and I want to thank you Liz, Michael (AKA Oli), for inviting me to a part of your wedding.

Much love, Neale. I shall return. Soon.

Mike and Victoria’s Sheepdrove wedding

The line; ‘Surrounded by countryside,’ is well worn within wedding literature. To be able to escape the sights and sounds of traffic and noise, well, it’s a USP that decorates brochures in many of the wedding venues I work at. Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, or Sheepdrove Farm as it’s colloquially known, could certainly boast this facet.

Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to visit, don’t trust the sat nav, because ‘fast route’ is a setting that will guide you down adjacent country roads close to this estate, but never the right ones to force entry. ‘Fast route’ is not what Sheepdrove is about. If there were a ‘far from the madding crowd’ setting, well, you’d be on home ground. And that is what this venue is all about. Tranquil doesn’t seem adequate in the league table of adjectives to describe this place.

Back to sat nav. Take the road to Lambourn nestled within the self proclaimed valley of the racehorse, and then Jane or whoever’s voice you have designated to your nav system, will guide you down a road that seemingly runs for miles with nothing to the left, and nothing to the right, but open, rolling, countryside. Actually I say miles. It is miles. And then some.

Being an eco centre there are actually many other facets to this venue I could wax lyrical about, but this is a blog post about a wedding. It’s also a post about a party; Mike and Victoria’s party. The day started for Victoria at The Vineyard, Stockcross, just outside Newbury, moving to Sheepdrove for the ceremony and reception. This Photofilm is dedicated to a venue I regard dearly.

Turkish weddings | A cultural excursion

I read a Facebook update recently by one of the industry’s universally accepted good guys, suggesting he was somewhat frustrated by wedding photography as a genre, that the practice of guests capturing an event on their own photographic devices was seemingly withdrawing them from being part of the day; resulting in them watching the day more than participating in it. As a wedding photojournalist he was spotting a trend for people to experience a day as photographic spectators instead of enveloping themselves in it all as, well, guests.

And if guests aren’t being guests, well, that does make some elements of a day somewhat harder to record. Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that guests should not take photographs, far from it, actually that can create an odd dynamic; guests love to take photographs. It’s a balancing act. Personally I enjoy it when a celebrant or clergy ask guests to enjoy the occasion and after snapping merrily for the processional, put down their photographic weapons of choice and just be. 

I’ll concur that I’m seeing this trend for guests to snap increasing amounts of zeros and ones, and I am left wondering what they are actually going to do with all their pictures of a wedding cake or the back of a bride and groom’s head at the far end of an aisle. Okay, it’s like watching your child running in the egg and spoon race on school sports day, only you’re not watching it, you’re concentrating upon focusing in on the action from behind your iPhone 5S, contemplating how good it may be in slow motion mode.

To get back on track, whilst this is a muse for photographers, it’s also definitely a post about weddings and cultural diversity. This is a Turkish wedding, where aside the formal family photoshoot which takes place prior to the party at a pre arranged portrait studio, the rest of the event is about people being people, and not camera operators. Guests being, guests.

Highfield Park Wedding Photofilm | James and Phuong

Some time last year I made a personal pact about snacking at weddings. It had to stop, or at least subside, if any kind of athletic build were to be nurtured once more. I’m known for my prolific shooting nature, i.e. I photograph a lot of weddings over the course of a year. Being the occasions they are, luxury and indulgence are often a key ingredient. Course, ingredient, I’m doing my best here but the calorific metaphor monster is biting at my rump. It’s easy to snack at a wedding. Oh yes.

Lately one particular group of venues I work at reasonably frequently invested in their own vintage sweets trolly. So, in the name of photojournalism I do feel obliged to sidle up and compose the odd frame or quarter; guests sorting through the Sherbet Dips and Flying Saucers, and of course if sweets were thrown my way, with pupils fully dilated I’d probably catch them full flight if flicked photographer bound.

James and Phuong’s Highfield Park wedding was to be a chocolate themed occasion, a tipped top hat to their favourite cult Dahl tale, which only weeks before this wedding I’d seen in it’s West End incarnation, a treat and first big musical experience for our eldest son as he turned six. Suffice to say Wonka enthusiasm was high in our home, and so arriving at a wedding to find the chocolate theme extended to providing free Wonka Bars to all guests did rather test my pact.

As far as Photofilm production goes, if you’ve been following our films of late, you’ll have noted we’ve been raising the bar (chocolate pun most certainly intended) to embrace establishing narration and themed opening credits.

Congratulations James, congratulations Phuong. And thanks for the chocolate. Sorry, did I just say that out loud?

It’s incredibly heartening to hear you’re on the right track with something. Thank you Phuong and James for your kind words following release of this film.

We have just finished watching the photo film you created of our wedding. As you know, we were always so excited to see the film in particular as we felt it would be so unique and would capture all the senses and emotions of the day.

What you have created for us has completely surpassed our expectations! From the originally produced introduction, the beautifully selected music, the memorable audio selections, and the wonderful photos, you have created something that truly captures every aspect of our special day! Furthermore, everything about the film is so befitting of us as a couple. Right down to the theme and the atmosphere we tried to create, you completely understood what we were trying to do and how we wanted to always remember the day! It’s perfect!!

Perhaps the biggest decision when planning a wedding is choosing the right photographer and we are absolutely convinced that we couldn’t have made a better decision than choosing you. We can’t thank you enough for producing a memory that will allow us to re-live the happiest day of our lives and that we will cherish forever!!

James & Phuong

Cannizaro House Wedding Photofilm | Adam and Fia

As father of the bride speeches go, you may have expected this to be somewhat of an energetic and enthusiastic one. Given that father and daughter are radio broadcasters, there was bound to be what I would term; creative showmanship at play.

Father summed it up, right at the head of his speech: “This has been the most bloody brilliant day. I have loved this wedding, it has been such fun. There was a wonderful moment this afternoon when the assistant registrar, who was looking a little bewildered anyway, saw two dogs walking into the room with the rings. She lost the plot.”

And that really set the tone for the design of this Wedding Photofilm. Many of my films do promote an extremely emotive tone and you would expect that given the subject matter I’m sure. As I sat and listened to the audio captured during Adam and Fia’s Cannizaro House wedding celebrations however, I was struck by how this really would need to take a more energetic route. It was a day of laughter, high drama, and as you’ll see by a gift exchange during bridal preparations, an element of intense emotion, but always with an embracing nod toward high spirits. And so the pace and the mood had to reflect that when presented as my Photofilm ode to the day. It may seem somewhat gratuitous to feature the father’s speech as the lead audio track to this piece, but I think that aids the tone I’m trying to promote, and it certainly wouldn’t be a first time I’ve spotlit the father’s track.

Wasing Park Photofilm | Curt and Diana

Appreciating that I can sometimes say a hundred words, when one paragraph will do (that’s the ex-hack in me), I’d like to show you Curt and Diana’s Wasing Park love story by way of their Photofilm, and simply accompany it with words from the groom after he viewed this piece.

“Well what can we say, WOW! we are totally blown away by the photofilm you have put together for us, it completely encapsulates the essence of our day and to demonstrate that in 8.5 minutes is nothing short of phenomenal!!! Everything is perfect about it, how you have married the music to our images, the quotes you’ve picked, we are both more than delighted and I have to say of all the photos, videos and and things captured of our most special day this is by far and away our favourite.

The production of it is absolutely exceptional, this is the best thing we’ve done with you and it will easily get the most airtime! We really can’t thank you enough for compiling this for us. Many Thanks once again, you’ve truly touched us in what you’ve produced.”

If you’ve booked Wasing Park for your wedding celebrations and would like to find out more about my documentary approach to wedding photography, including Photofilms, please do drop me a line via the contact form on the main menu. And if you have any feedback on Curt & Diana’s love story, please do share them with others in the comments box below.

2013 review

It’s a reasonably cathartic process preparing a photographic review each year. In the past such reviews have been stills based and surprisingly despite the production of almost 90 Photofilms, I’ve not to date produced my yearly review as one.

And so my nod to 2013 revisits a year of witnessing nuptials in stills set to the sounds of a day, as a film. The Photofilm element of my work is becoming ever more important. Almost half the couples who commission me to shoot their wedding opt for a Photofilm; a movie short that takes photographs from the day and lays them across a bed of sounds captured alongside the stills as the wedding develops. Often the soundtrack to a Photofilm is taken from speeches and the exchange of vows, those pivotal moments that as echoes of the day, become a perfect accompaniment to a film. Sometimes though other opportunities present, such as a chef passing instructions across the pass during service, or a father’s words to his daughter upon first seeing her dressed as a bride.

Although this review is more musically based due to the sheer amount of weddings focused, I’ve included a short passage of speech to give those who haven’t seen our Photofilms an opportunity to understand that part of our work.

And so 2014 beckons. My work really starts in earnest this coming March, though I have a few commissions during January and February to keep the photographic mind sharp. My thanks to all those who commissioned me to provide a pictorial record of their wedding in 2013. I consider it a genuine privilege to be entrusted with this task. Happy New Year!