Whether it’s an intended ‘artistic destination’ or not, geometry is a strong part of composition, whether acute or subtle. From a theoretical stance, one of the first photographic rules taught to students is without doubt the infamous ‘rule of thirds,’ the idea being to visually break up your shot into three parts, horizontally and vertically. Using the resultant nine equal rectangular sections, the proposition is to place the most important or interesting features in your photograph along the intersections of these angles within your frame. Course, then the subject moves, does something unexpected and for the sake of photojournalism, all rules are thrown out and you go with gut instinct muttering; “Rules are meant to broken” as you go, under your breath. As a documentary wedding photographer the pace breaks during a day, and you indeed have time to take back that breath and enjoy piecing together the angles of story in a more geometrical fashion. I look back at my work and I see this happening usually more with my set ups. I like leading lines, and I think this serves that intention well. The footpath sign is pretty much on the third, and pointing in to the picture, your eye follows this line into the scene. The appearance of a groomsman does assist in a subtle sense too, bringing a little context to the overall composition. In technical terms, I know I was seeking a shallow depth of field, but at 1/8000 I’m on the edge, and in truth, I could have pulled back on my ISO. First frame of the day though, and reckon I was in that ‘warming up’ zone.
SHOOTING DATA: Canon 5D Mk2, 24mm lens, F3.2, 1/8000, ISO 320, under exposed by a stop.
Decisive moment. It’s a phrase coined by the French ‘father of modern photojournalism,’ Henri Cartier Bresson. According to Bresson, there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a photograph. If you miss it, it’s gone forever. Wedding photography is alive with such decisive moments and I’ll retain a plentiful serving spoonful of humility when I reference one of my documentary photographs alongside a mention of one of the, if not the greatest photographer and communicator in photographic history. But this image in it’s own way does underline how important it is to judge a situation and take a decision at the right moment to depress the shutter. In essence it’s merely a ‘groom thanks groomsman’ moment, but photographically it’s captured a little more than a simple benign handshake. Mum to the groom’s right enjoys a little light banter, though from her expression I am lead to believe the banter’s a little sharp. The groomsman leaning in echos her expression with his own humour. The movement in this image is underlined by the geometry of the composition. If I were to critique this, I would mark myself down on the fact the bride is obscured by the handshake; oh that I could have thought to have dropped down to my knees to capture this scene. Still, Bresson lived to be 96. I am less than half his grand age reached. I’ll keep heeding his valuable words.
BERKSHIRE WEDDING VENUE: Wasing Park, near Reading
SHOOTING DATA: Canon 5D Mk2, 50mm lens, F1.2, 1/250, ISO 2500, overexposed by a third.
ETHOS: I think there’s a charm that assists this photograph in the ‘include or not include’ stakes. Is it the most flattering photograph I took this day at Botleys Mansion? Probably not. Is it an honest one? Probably yes. My main method of wedding photography coverage is reportage, fly on the wall, documentary – many labels to a photojournalist approach. Most of the time guests get used to me. I work fairly closely with short focal length lenses, which I believe actually helps. I get amongst the conversations and wedding as it breathes. But of course now and then, I get this. I absolutely adore this look of contempt juxtapositioning with her friend’s utter joy at the very same scenario. If images are supposed to make one think, this fits the bill for me perfectly.
VENUE: Botleys Mansion
WEDDING 365 PROJECT – 365 days, 365 wedding images.
SHOOTING DATA: 5DMk2, 24mm, F1.4, 1/125, ISO 250, under by two thirds of a stop.
I was asked on Monday to submit my thoughts for a magazine article being compiled about photographing weddings in trickier climatic conditions. My thoughts on this were immediately blogged this week here. I find myself ironically able to update those words as today’s Wasing Park wedding between Mike and Sally featured a drop or three along the way. If our latitude and longitude were say 36° 10′ 30″ N / 115° 8′ 11″ W, then wet weather would be less of a problem. In that we’re 51° 26′ 0″ N / 1° 0′ 0″ W, then rain is most certainly a consideration. I often get asked by prospective clients; “But what if it rains?” My answer is based on how many portraits within the landscape of their venue a client requires or desires if such conditions occur, but more often than not my answer simply reflects a reality that we’ll just photograph inside a little more. Talking of reality, being outside is actually a small portion of the day. Generally speaking, you get ready in a room, married in another kind of room, enjoy a wedding breakfast in a room with tables and dance, well, in a room. The wet stuff certainly doesn’t wreak quite as much havoc as couples may fear. Let’s add a third reality; it doesn’t generally rain forever. If I were somewhat more of a formal photographer or one for capturing rather more contrived big production portraits, of course this would perhaps be trickier. Iin documentary terms, a break in the weather provides time to capture some outdoor shots easily. It does of course help if your venue is a good one for ‘weather,’ meaning the plethora of varieties we can receive in one day. Wasing is certainly that, boasting a ‘glass walled’ ceremony and drinks reception room and separate barn for the wedding breakfast itself. A church is but a mere minute or two’s walk from the front door, so this all amounts neatly to present a solution to unkind clouds. There is a mistaken belief that rain will somehow put paid to the festival of enjoyment that is, a wedding. Wrong. Wrong and wrong. We had a fair amount of rain to contend with today, but I hope you’ll agree the images within this post show the story of a day that was magical despite.
Look, from the outset, I’m a softy. My eldest little boy this week told me that I was; “The best daddy in the World,” for the first time. I cried. The Green Mile, Schindler’s List, Meet Joe Black; three films that you shouldn’t watch with me if the sight of a grown man shedding a tear embarrasses you. Unashamedly, I’m soft centered. For me, an observational emotional connect with my clients is important in documentary wedding photography terms. If you follow this blog and indeed the stories within my 365 project or main gallery images, it’s clear that I work stylistically cheek by jowl. I photograph primarily using short focal length lenses, that requires a closeness to the story unfolding before me. I hope the images in this blog piece demonstrate how in wedding story telling, it’s an approach and philosophy that can work well. You’ll be the judge and as ever I’d welcome your comments, either on the blog or by mail. Before you look further though, a further dimension to this story is that the couple concerned I count as friends, our bride Jennie having been a former work colleague when I frequented the radio airwaves. Jennie, I’m so incredibly proud of you for your accomplishments personally and of course latterly professionally, and look forward to hearing your reports as you jet the globe covering F1 2012. (I’m also a little bit envious, but shhhh, don’t tell anyone.) What an emotional day too. You underline why documenting these days has become a vocational life choice. And Jamie, thanks for letting Jen talk you in to allowing her softy friend to be present as photographer on your special day. Lots of love and I hope you enjoy this sneak preview.
Alex and Jo’s Rivervale Barn wedding was a celebration of detail. Hundreds of photographs reveling in family history past and present hanging from beams, nostalgic table collections, a towering profiterole cheesecake designed by the couple. My intention is to produce a documentary book for them featuring images and words from the day, as the latter seemed just as carefully sourced. Of the many readings I hear during services, this is a new one on me. Bear with me, it has resonance. “All of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school. These are the things I learned… Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, say sorry when you hurt somebody, flush. Warm cookies and milk are good for you, give them to someone who feels sad. Learn and think and draw and paint. Sing and dance and play and work every day. Take a nap every afternoon. Be aware of wonder. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” I looked around the room as I took pictures during this reading. Adults nodded. In unison. It was somewhat warming for an old softy at heart.
It seemed appropriate in the week that I published my long considered article on wedding photography within churches, that I should enjoy the welcome bestowed by Canon David Winter near my home town of Thatcham for the wedding of Mike and Nichola. I do hope that Canon David will afford me some more time, to answer the questions posed within that article if he happens upon this. His response is particularly interesting as upon the morning of this wedding, he’d broadcast Radio 4′s Thought for the Day piece. A regular contributor for the BBC, he’d even mentioned this wedding! That aside, you can see the wondrous results that emerge when you’re trusted to subtly photographically document a church service within the pictures presented in this article. Now to Nichola, our bride. I wasn’t quite expecting to be the reason your wedding day was moved so as to allow me the absolute privilege to cover your day. Pressure on! I hope as you preview some images from your day here that you feel I have delivered the honest storytelling experience you were keen to commission. And Mike, you are the reason that I intend to start audio recording within the next twelve months, so I can add a further dimension to wedding coverage. Your speech, as I said on the evening, and genuinely meant, is one of the best I have heard. Big hearty man slap in a rugby style fashion on the back Sir. Some of my favourites from the service and the reception, hosted at Berkshire’s famous Cheam School.