The Beaumont Estate in Windsor is a sprawling venue in terms of sheer grounds and expanse of buildings, but devour some history and you’ll discover there’s more to this place than the forty acres and four hundred plus hotel rooms in wings running west and east of England’s own White House, initially mentioned by every Google search turned up. From the top; the swimming pool was the first heated dip in England. The Magna Carta was signed in these grounds, true story. It was a school and Coco Chanel’s nephew was a pupil, slightly tenuous that one. The first motor car driven in England ended its journey in the grounds of this house. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor. And in terms of wedding factoids, this is the first venue I’ve witnessed small casket coffins with incumbent Lego figures feature as wedding favours. But then this is a wedding with a firm nod to Halloween, so brain themed candy and skull motif wine carafes seems apt enough. Let me share some pictures then from Tom and Jasmine’s wedding day at the Beaumont Estate.
Not that I’m obsessing about food, but when Lydia mentioned this Spanish national dish was to be her wedding breakfast, I was sold. What’s that thing about the way to an Englishman’s heart being his stomach? Lydia and Ian were real childhood sweethearts. They first met aged but a few years at kindergarten, before a chance online reintroduction many years later primed Cupid’s Arrow for what was to follow. For brides and grooms planning their big days and reading through wedding blogs to grasp some nuggets of advice upon what to serve up to hungry guests, let me promise you that paella is a star choice, if not slightly unusual when you consider the more regularly selected beef or chicken options. And what then for pud? How about a bake-off competition? Lydia’s star baker background prepared the way for a cake clash between ten friends, the result being well fed guests and a wedding banquet boasting a real difference. Here are some photographs shared from Lydia and Ian’s big day, the ceremony at Fareham’s Sacred Heart Church, the reception at the Jervis Gallery in nearby Gosport.
So what to make of a preacher who is described as a hip hop artist from Bath? I’ve been meaning to ‘pen’ a few words since I photographed him deliver the sermon at Mike and Sian’s wedding at St.Peter’s Church in the quaintly titled Englishcombe, a sheep’s bah echo from what I regard as the most beautiful spa city in Europe. Google Joshua Luke Smith, and you’ll come up with a plethora of information about this wandering missionary who has birth roots in England, though grew up spreading the word in Northern Pakistan and Canada. Spend but two minutes in his presence and you too will be completely perplexed by his accent. Spend two minutes on his Instagram account, and you too will wish you could be as cool as this dude, well, I did at any rate. But this preacher, I’m not even sure if that’s the right and proper description of his day to day dealings, is also a singer, a record label exec, and activist for positive social change, a slam poet and a communicator like, well, like, nothing I have ever heard in Church, period. And I’ve been to a few of these establishments in my 800 weddings of photography. Now I’m acutely aware there are preachers and clergy of all denominations who may well have something to say about my rather grand statement, so let me be clear. I’m not creating a league table of who spreads the word best, simply reporting back on something I witnessed as I looked around to record the awe and wonder of those poised slightly forward on their pews this afternoon as they drank in Joshua’s words. And don’t take this as a platform from which I intend to preach or spread the word either, for I, like many, have their own questions-a-plenty when it comes to faith and my own relationship with what some perceive as a behemothic organisation. But there’s something really very special about spirituality of whatever persuasion and understanding, when you listen to words delivered with such compassion. So what I thought I’d do today by way of a PodBlog (the sounds of a Podcast, the pictures in a blog post) is share a little of the audio I recorded that day. Listen along as you look at the photographs and I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments. Oh, and a quick postscript; hearing him ‘noodle’ with Ben the musician who had only really expected to be playing some accompanying Celine-esqe chords during the register signing, made the whole thing really come to life for me. As they say, just press play. 🙂
Let me share the words from an email I received only this morning; “A story of coincidences to share with you. As you may recall from our wedding (May 2012, Four Seasons) we are big Michael Buble fans.: [I do remember this yes, it’s equally my guilty pleasure. Not sure if you’re supposed to admit that, so we’ll just keep that between us.] “In July we went to see him perform live in Hyde Park, and in amongst 80,000 people we met another couple when sheltering from the rain.” [An outdoor concert in England being interrupted by rain? Surely not!] “Chatting away we found we had a lot in common, both couples having been together many years before getting married relatively recently (they in 2014), the best man was the groom’s son in both cases, and various other funny coincidences. We got on so well we ended up sitting together all evening enjoying Mr Buble, and sharing a few drinks back at our hotel. We vowed to keep in touch, and invited them to dinner at ours at some point – and last night was that night. After dinner, Diane looked through our wedding album, then showed us on her phone the wonderful photo montage to music they have of their wedding.” [Ah, you see, that sounds like the kind of thing I do for couples; the Photofilm.] “Turns out one of her images had won an award for the photographer, and Steve looked to see if that photo was still on the photographer’s website – which by now you probably have worked out, was, on your website! So here are four people who have now become great friends through a chance meeting, and who share many things in common – including shared taste in their chosen wedding photographer!”
The World is a small place indeed Mike, Eleanor, Steve, Diane, though there is a small part of me which believes we have just been transported on to the set of The Truman Show. Actually, this is perhaps more aptly fervent proof that the ‘Six degrees of separation’ theory where all living people on this planet are six or fewer steps away from each other is alive, well and beating in tune with a mid 40s Italian Canadian crooner, whose ancestry is Croatian, which per chance, happens to be where I am visiting next Summer. See the circles are starting again! Happy memories from your weddings, as these pictures hopefully share.
There are those times as a wedding blogger, that you don’t necessarily want to make the two hundred and fifty word target Google, or is it Yoast suggest is the optimal figure to aim for, when writing copy for search engines to get excited about. I am that thrilled about this wedding at the Round Chapel in London’s east end, that I simply want to upload a stack of pictures to show what a great day and evening we all had. And I purposely say ‘we,’ it’s not just in the Royal sense. So, here are some highlights from Paul and Surendra’s big day – and it was, just that.
What do Muse, Queen and Pearl Jam all have in common with the wedding photographs I’m about to share below? Answer; they’ve all shared the same space at Ridge Farm in Surrey. In the sixteenth century when the first stones were laid at this farm, I doubt those who tilled the soil would ever think, or even be able to imagine the kind of music produced by Manchester’s iconic stars of rock, Oasis, filling the four walls of a barn designed for keeping grain dry. Be Here Now, one of my favourite albums was recorded on this farm at the famous residential studio retreat in a room a stone’s throw from a cottage where brides prepare for their weddings now. The studio (two pics down on left) is used no longer, its windows shaded by the foliage that’s gradually enveloping the building sadly, though I did stand on tip toes to see if the hallowed mix desk was still there, until someone remarked it had been sold over a decade ago to Radio Denmark! The bridal preparations take place on the first floor of this neighbouring cottage. Legend has it Ozzy Osbourne’s girlfriend, Sharon also got prepared in this room, although it was a good few years before their wedding. She infamously threw a Rolex watch belonging to Oz in the pond from the balcony and it’s apparently still in there. I looked hard into the shallow waters. It’s not there. The studio closed and the farm grew other business wings as a party venue and latterly, a wedding venue too. Ridge Farm is unique indeed. I doubt there are many other wedding venues where you can play tennis on a court where Freddie Mercury fought five setters, or sit at a breakfast table that entertained Morrisey of The Smiths. I can understand why bands came here. You can breathe in creativity when you’re not fighting in the smoke or struggling to get into work in time thwarted by city traffic and executive attitude. Bands were encouraged to live here as they created their albums and I can just imagine Noel and Liam in more harmonious times, sat writing lyrics and melodies where outdoor wedding ceremonies now take place, serenaded by the sound of wild woodland.
In the past year I’ve learned, courtesy of the late documentary photographer Steve Shipman, to look up; appreciate the sky, the weather, the light. But there are times you should look down too. As photographers I believe we’re very focused upon what appears before our eyes on a plain. We’re that invested in the stories we seek in the eyes of our subjects that it’s easy to forget to devour the scene for other angles and plains that can paint a narrative. Do you remember the phrase; “It’s not big and it’s not clever?” Well, in some respects that could come to play with the image published below. At face value it’s really just a shadow. Equally it’s a hard shadow, it says; ‘This day was hot, the sun was high, it was cloudless.’ It’s also a social message; the consumption of a drink from a flute suggests celebration of sorts. It’s a picture designed to sit within a collection, it hopefully paints a climatic picture. For my photographer friends, look down. There’s a world of information there.
It may seem a strange title for the following image, but the reality is, if you photograph everything from 5ft 10 (I’d like to believe I’m 6,1) then your images can/will become creatively static. I talked this evening to a visiting couple about some advice I was given some time ago by a photojournalist more known for his work on the African plains and conflict zones than a nuptial arena and his thoughts upon the subject of composition were simple; “I always look at a photographer’s trousers before I consider his shooter merits. If his/her knees are worn, then that’s the photographer for me.” Short moral, drop down, and consider how the scene looks from say a child’s perspective.
I think as a wedding photographer you need to constantly address the question; how could I have made this an even more engaging pic? Bleat-casting only your favourites can become a rather two dimensional personal experience. Seeking the ones you like and then recognising a thought process that could have been employed to create a stronger record if for a step to the left/right or marginally more patient eye, is a cathartic opportunity to question your own so called decisive moments. In this case I’m going to share immediately that I rather like this picture. It’s a quip pic. Not a belly laugh, but a brief grin thing. It’s not ground breaking for sure, but it does share the humour of a high spirited afternoon drinks reception in the high sun at an early Summer’s wedding in London. I’m drawn back enough to embrace a little of the context, but not enough. As the song sort of goes; ‘It’s a step to the right.’ That would have invited more of the guests you currently see to the left of frame, busied up the picture, made it look like more like the event I was personally witnessing. The context is certainly creeping in, but not as prevalent as it could be. It’s a hot sun, hot indeed. Swinging right the way round to the right would have lost the over exposed tree behind them, and possibly extricated the stone wall to the left too, though it may have also lost some of the amusing aspect of the two chaps face on. They’re a little centered for me, maybe a tad too obvious in compositional terms. In my defence your honour, it’s a grab shot. A second later and this image is gone, or certainly very different. But it’s always worth sharing that as photographers, we do or at least should have a thought process whenever we go to record a moment. I’d be hoping for a seven from Len in the old days for this one. Perhaps.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f1.8, 1/200, ISO 100, over-exposed by one third of a stop.
When I was training to gain my commercial qualification for operating drones, one mantra more than any other was consistently expressed, nee preached; ‘Thou shalt not fly one’s machine directly above un-briefed public gatherings.” I’m pretty sure the risk assessment requirement for drones weighing far shy of an evening’s supply of bagged supermarket ready meals was equally, if not more demanding than that of a full sized rotary cousin with permission to land on publicly accessible land anywhere within the four corners of our green and sceptered isle. Airport near misses and various privacy eye raiser missions have all helped to create a belief that nothing good will ever come from one of these ‘toys.’ I didn’t end up using my drone at weddings. It was too much of a distraction and the permissions required to fly would challenge all but the least faint hearted at Dublin’s finest airline. I have relinquished my sky policing and accepted these super agile reasonably stable platforms are now accessible to any guest. Trouble is, guests don’t usually read the small print of what is and is not legally acceptable. This for instant is not. But, and as an observer minus my obligations I’m there to record a unique and dynamic angle of operations.
Shot data: focal length 24mm, f2.8, 1/1600, ISO 100
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