A winter wedding at Ufton Court

Ufton Court, with land for five ploughs, forty acres of meadow, and wood for one hog.”

The description of the place may have changed since that entry in the Domesday Book; it’s not exactly the stuff of wedding literature of course, but there really are not many venues with the long heritage enjoyed by Ufton Court. I’m practically a neighbour to this manor, though I’ll admit my own humble abode is not quite so historically lavished by association to a who’s who of notable Monarchs through the ages. Neither does my ‘gaff’ have a secret chapel or escape tunnels into nearby woods; all facets of Ufton Court, an English country home that surely has American tourists salivating at the very thought of it’s historical legacy.

Being reasonably close to the place, I get my fair share of invitations to photograph at Ufton Court and I think there’s a particular romanticism to the venue during the short winter days and long biting evenings; guests found revelling round the magnificent log burning open fire place in the main house, and the echoes of dancing as the evening’s musical celebrations take hold in the Grade 1 listed tithe barn, but an archer’s aim away from the manor itself.

This is Laura’s and David’s December story told in a Wedding Photofilm. Or Laura and Andrew. The names seem interchangeable, as you’re about to find out.

If you’ve fallen in love with this fabulous venue and are planning an Ufton Court wedding, I’d be delighted to hear about your thoughts for photography via the contact form on the main menu.

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

Nigerian wedding | postcard from The Rock Tower London

This is a Photofilm with a twist. It’s one of my ‘Postcards;’ an opportunity to inject my own narrative or documentary alongside photographs of a similar notion. It embraces personal broadcast roots and gives me a chance to let my creative imagination wander a little.

Sometimes as I comment at the head of this film, there’s an air of indifference afforded the photographer when he or she enters the House of the Lord. I’ve often mused and even written magazine articles that everyone is welcome in ‘The House,’ except me. But entering the Rock Tower this day for Ayo and Funmi’s Nigerian wedding, there was a cleansing reality that actually in some churches everyone really IS welcome. When I asked the Pastor where he would like me to stand for the photography his reply was certainly refreshing; “My son, today you go where your feet take you,” he said, in high spirits.

When the music started to take a hold on the occasion, when the choir and preachers came to life as Funmi made her entrance, I found myself firmly snapping a 24mm prime into place on my main camera body, feeling free to get truly and photographically involved with the ceremony. Now I’d be the first to admit; not all weddings would necessarily provide me the ambience to feel comfortable to take to my feet when confronted with the open ended emotion I witnessed this day, but gifted a freedom of expression, I intended to make the most of it.

I remember turning to my assistant photographer, during one of the songs, guests throwing themselves to the floor in celebration of this couple, clear in my mind the memory of saying; “Alex if I never shoot another wedding again, I’ll have finished on a high.”

I’ve photographed a modest number of weddings with a flavour from the African continent, but I certainly hope to cover more, many more.

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.