My latest Photofilm records photographs and sounds from Stuart and Rochelle’s Notley Abbey wedding day. I’m going to let the film do the talking, although I do want to add a foot note re the best man’s speech segment. I’m one for subtlety undoubtedly, but there are some stories that just capture the spontaneity of an expectant audience in terms of honest ‘didn’t quite expect that one’ laughter. I thought with a cheeky smile this fitted the bill. It was either that or the story about…
A tale of two halves in the back story department. Technical first, then some wedding narrative. Please take some time to click the more button and see this wedding unfold. A good friend recently said to me; the best camera is the one you have in your hand at the time. It’s easy to get caught up on gear and upgrades and forget that photography is about the emotional connect to an image, not necessarily how you technically arrived at the capture. We get all too easily concerned about perfect light, perfect sharpness, perfect control. An American much respected celeb wedding photographer, Joe Buissink added to this with his own particular mantra; there’s no such thing as a perfect picture, just a perfect moment. BUT. I’ve just completed my first documentary wedding following upgrading the camera bodies from Canon 5DMk2 to Mk3 and if I may just use text vernacular; O.M.G. The photographs you’re about to view have indeed been through some basic post processing procedures, but shot aperture priority I promise you this, they’re not too far from how they appeared out of camera – and jpg captures. Many of them are shot at ISO 4000 and above. To say I’m impressed by Canon’s latest offering would be an understatement. I’d considered running one more season with the Mk2s, but after this experience, I’m glad I changed. Right, to the wedding. Stuart, Rochelle, what a day. I always say that if I can capture expression at given points during a day, I’ll return a happy wedding photographer. I returned happy, and I hope by the pictures you see in this taster, you remember just how much expression and character your day had. If I may just explain one image, and forgive me Rochelle, there was a red wine moment just after dinner with the wedding dress. The usher with outstretched arm talking to the bride, well, he’s making sure any further red wine remains as far from what the navy would call the splash zone, as possible! Did the laughter stop? Not once. This wedding had soul.
Here’s one I’ve been meaning to post for a while, and it’s as much a mention too for wedding photojournalism and what it is, or can be. A good wedding photographer friend of mine sums it up sweetly; observation not orchestration. It’s nigh on impossible to be purist about our ‘sport.’ Sooner or later someone will ask or expect me to orchestrate a group shot or I’ll ask the bride and groom to simply hold hands for a portrait. Then my cloak of PJ invisibility shreds itself. I just mention this because of late, and following my article in Professional Photographer magazine about church coverage, I’ve exchanged a number of mails with fellow togs about working as a documentary wedding photographer and what that actually means to me. I use many terms to describe my work and yes, I do use wedding photojournalist as it’s a phrase championed by wedding magazines; so I embrace it for search term reasons. In reality though I’m a documentary photographer. If you will, I have a ‘light touch’ on the day. I do help arrange a handful of portraits because when the dust settles and the cake becomes crumbs, this is what is left. This is the legacy of the wedding. Only a small percentage of my work requires any orchestration, and even then I’ll work in my described professionally brisk method, as I want key members of the bridal party to get back to the main event. This is after all a wedding day, not a photo shoot. So, the photographs within this post demonstrate my creative take on the subject of docu-coverage. Notley Abbey, sublime venue, superbly charged atmosphere of excitement, a bride and groom who desired some portraits, but equally wanted to relish time with their friends. Craig, Liz, what a day!
Quintessentially English weddings have changed somewhat since civil rulings were altered to accommodate outdoor ceremonies. Many guests will not have witnessed such an event before; it’s a relatively new twist on the nuptial landscape. The expressions on guests’ faces continually delight me. Their first words reflect the surprise. “Like a film set,” is one of the most familiar comments I hear. Venues need to have some kind of permanent structure inside which the legal contractual parts are conducted – and of course it works best if close by there’s a back up plan, i.e. an indoor licensed retreat for all! I’ve been to a handful of outdoor ceremonies where the heavens have opened half way through. Not so with Stuart and Jo’s celebrations at Notley Abbey though. Sunshine the order of the day, here are a selection of my favourites.
Part one of two weddings for Chris and Anouska, the first hosted in the UK at the impressive Notley Abbey, the second a mere two inflight meals and three movies worth of flight time away in Mauritius! A good third of all guests were making that flight the very next day, so emotion and excitement was coursing through this wedding.
My dear beloved late father, John, never got to experience one of his more particular aspirations; that of piloting an aircraft. As child, as adult, as father and son, we visited Duxford in Cambridgeshire, stood in the sun, stood in the rain, ate sandwiches from Tupperware boxes and gazed upwards at airborne types of all nature, sharing an unspoken passion; to one day be in charge of our own destiny behind the control column of a Spitfire. Well a Spit for him, a rotary variety for me. Five years following his passing, in honour of my father, I piloted my first solo flight in a Robinson R44 helicopter out of Thruxton Airfield, completely alone, save the shakes of realisation that what goes up must come down and for the first time in my life I truly was in charge of my destiny. Whether you believe that our loved ones look down or not, I couldn’t help but shriek a private message to my Dad, that we were in some significant fashion realising our shared dream. I would have punched the air, were it not for the fact that as a freshman in this field, you wouldn’t dare take your hands off of any part of the control system. Tears rolled that day, and I didn’t have the ability or indeed desire to wipe them away. My licence has sadly lapsed in recent years; having children and building a wedding business has rather curtailed that chapter of my life. So imagine my delight to meet a groom that shared two common interests. Flying Robinsons. Notley Abbey. And what a way to arrive at the most incredible venue. Frazer, Georgina, an absolutely glorious day for all manner of reasons, not least Frazer for a return, albeit brief, to some fond memories that those fortunate enough to have literally held their life in their hands in the name of recreation and passion will only truly understand. I’ll punch the air for you both. I’m on Terra Firma, so it’s safe.
It’s no secret I enjoy photographing at Bijou’s Notley Abbey near Thame. The place is photographically and historically rich with reasons to enjoy recording nuptials here. Added to the fact it’s one of the few places in the south to offer outdoor ceremonies, you’re never short of something to point a lens at!
What is the collective noun for a series of post wedding edits that have nestled in our creative minds and Photoshop server files at Breathe Pictures HQ? An ‘excitement?’ A ‘romance?’ I’ve spent much of my summer shooting incredible wedding days and evenings. Following that, ‘our Natalie,’ resident retoucher and self proclaimed ‘Trusty Sidekick’ at the Thatcham showroom has spent her time revisiting each special day in post edit mode. So it’s with a huge serving of pride and gratitude that I post the following shots from Dan and Elinor’s amazing Notley Abbey wedding. Teamwork!
It’s not possible at every venue I visit and Chef decrees the verdict as to whether my macros can come anywhere near his or her souffle. That said, if I have the right access and when working with a documentary album in mind, part of that wedding photography work may be something akin to a cookbook. Now as most of my friends and certainly my wife will testify, I ain’t no Jamie Oliver! So my inspiration for food photography shots comes not from my knowledge of how a dish comes together, but how I can make it glisten on a window ledge, or perhaps more importantly how I can shoot it within 20 seconds before the commi whips it away for the top table. Like most things in a wedding photographer’s day, there’s a limit to how long you have to capture. This is certainly not the life for a commercial photographer! Every year I maintain that a wedding photographer’s work should mature and develop. I’m trying to think back to how this has happened in my own portfolio. My memory being consistent with that of a 40 something year old, I can think back 24 months! Two years ago I was shooting brides under street lamps after tiring with the stark napalmed look of flash – Nikon became Canon in my kit bag. Last year it was fast lenses and close up portraiture. This year has definately been the year of documentary and food. Next year? I may even learn to cook. Dishes prepared by chefs at Cain Manor, Notley Abbey and Silchester House, venues within the Bijou Wedding Venues group.
Now, if I had a penny (etc etc), the most popular question asked about wedding photography is; “What happens if it rains?” Seeing that we don’t seem to be constantly bathed in sunshine in the UK, it does present an issue a few times during the year, though my; ‘It can’t rain forever’ mantra rarely bites me on the proverbial. And so the Saturday just gone I was Thame bound to photograph Sean and Laura’s wedding at Notley Abbey. Despite the weather forecast not being the kindest, I thought we’d entered Sunshine valley as I drove up the impressive tree lined drive that leads to Notley’s front door. As you read the post you’ll notice the bride and groom in rapturous laughter. The reason for their smiles? It was an outdoor ceremony and as one of the ushers started his reading, a horse started to join in in the background. And then, the clouds started to gather! We got through the ceremony before the heavens opened. This is probably one of my favourite shots from the day and it shows something very important. If you accept the rain as part of your day, embrace it and enjoy the occasion, you get magic all day long. Being a headlining dancer on the Take That tour, the evening studio brought a few surprises…”Greatest Day” the first dance.