Finding your angle | 365:54

Worn trouser knees are a good starting point from which to commission a photographer. That was some advice I remember reading/hearing/gleaning from a peer within the industry. What he was trying to convey was that you need, as a photographer, to think beyond photographing everything from a standing point. This is never more relevant than when photographing in a kitchen, because you’re constantly trying to invent an angle from which to depict the drama of service. This was captured within the top floor kitchens at London’s Dorchester Hotel. I always request the opportunity to photograph chefs at work and I’m reasonably successfully received when it comes to that question. I believe it’s a strong part of the documentary of a couple’s wedding day to be gifted this opportunity. It invites part of a day that otherwise would be unvisited to become part of the final collection of photographs.

Exif: focal length 13mm, f5, 1/160, ISO 125, underexposed by a stop

Black and white photo of a chef working at The Dorchester in London, at a wedding

When is a wedding cake, not a wedding cake? | 365:53

Answer: when it’s on the floor. I’ll hold my hands up here and claim honest responsibility because asked; “How do we cut this kind of cake,” I suggested a French lopping of the topping. Drama quickly unfolded as it became obvious that this topping was attached to the base plate by a dowel within the conical structure that holds a croquembouche together. The cake cutting is usually such a reasonably quiet affair bar some applause. Looking around the wedding guests in the right hand frame suggests anything but on this occasion.

Exif: focal length 35mm, f5.6, 1/125, ISO 2500

Colour photo of a wedding cake falling from its base toward the floor

Chef radar | 365:52

This week is food flavoured, please forgive the pun. A celebration of those who serve, eat, work with food; that essential element of any important event. I’m pretty sure I have a chef radar at weddings and this image proves that theory. Whilst a wedding speech is underway in the foreground, my heat seeking 85mm lens finds the head chef prepping the boeuf wellington. Kitchens are usually bright areas to work in, so the difference in exposure between the strip lights and hot lamps of that area and the mood lighting within the foreground dining area makes for a dramatic difference.

Exif: focal length 85mm, f1.8, 1/160, ISO 800, underexposed by a stop and a third

A chef working at a wedding in The Sanctum Hotel, London

The perfect dessert | 365:51

I adore this photograph. It’s a particular favourite; are you supposed to have favourites? Everything came together at the right moment. This is what I call mirroring. It’s habitual. If you spend a lot of time observing people for photographic reward, then you’ll see a lot of this ‘trait’. Somebody talking touches their nose, the listener does the same. A group of guests are sat, and the entertainer in a group crosses her legs. Within seconds, at least one person will copy. I’m no psychologist so armchair enthusiasts, I invite you to tell me why this happens. I appreciate this photograph of food, second serving in my week long theme of food, because it shows how peoples’ relationship with something yummy is contagious. I think ‘Greg Wallace’ when I see this, now there’s a man who appreciates a particularly rich dessert. In many respects it’s a very simple composition, but I believe it’s the reward of watching and waiting.

Exif: effective focal length 84mm, f1.2, 1/2400, ISO 400, underexposed by two thirds of a stop

Picture of people eating dessert at Botleys in Surrey

Food glorious food | 365:50

I can’t believe it’s taken me until the eighth week of the year to theme seven days of this 365 feature around the more culinary aspects of a wedding day. This week, food glorious food introduces not so much food photography, but the aspect of how food and those who make, serve and enjoy it are important to these incredible events. We’ll start where it all began for me, in the kitchens at a wedding venue in Berkshire called Wasing Park. I remember in 2008 asking the head chef if I could capture some images of food on the pass. He was an American chef, a strong character, as many in his position are and he eyed me rather suspiciously. “Sure,” he said; “If you want to.” I’m not sure if actually he didn’t suggest; “If you need to.” He was, I remember reasonably cold that day, but quickly I gained his trust. It was and still is a venue I work often at, it’s local to me – a home ground if you will. This chef, Joe, didn’t know it, but he was responsible for a question I would ask at every wedding from that moment on; “Would you mind if I photograph the food being prepared?” I would say I am met with a 50/50 response. I get as many refusals as acceptances – and I thought priests could be tricky to negotiate best photographic positions with. So, I’m publishing this blog post with a picture of Wasing’s current head chef Stu, who fortunately has taken on Joe’s acceptance of inviting a photographer to make pictures while he makes good food. And so begins a newly themed week in this year long visitation of my wedding back catalogue, new and old.

Exif: focal length 24mm, f2.8, 1/125, ISO 100, overexposed by a third of a stop

A black and white photo of a chef at Wasing Park wedding venue in Berkshire preparing the main dish

Bubbles | 365:49

I’d never met a bubble wrangler before this wedding. I kid you not, bubble wrangling. Okay, so it doesn’t hold quite the same danger as a cattle wrangler, but there’s certainly a degree of skill. I’m sharing this as I think it shows the power of going wide, even if your choice of lens presents a little more distortion than you would otherwise usually choose. There’s an immediacy to going wide, an awkwardness perhaps to the composition, but that’s what makes wide angle usage so strong in a final collection of wedding pictures, if used sparingly.

Exif: focal length 16mm, f3.2, 1/400, ISO 100, underexposed by a third of a stop

Colour photo of a couple taken through a large bubble

Haven’t we been here before? | 365:48

I’m always, always aware of what I refer to as the ‘so what’ factor. But a make-up picture is a make-up picture isn’t it? Reflections, shoot throughs, light isolation, it’s all been done before, cue the Canadian alt rock band’s song of the same name. But what I think we photographers sometimes miss, is that for most of the people we work for and get commissioned by, well, for them, it hasn’t all been done before; they’re likely never to have thought about a depth of field or positioning for back light. Our box of compositional tricks is there to be called upon. And whilst we’re busy reinventing wheels, don’t ever underestimate how evergreen ideas are still as relevant today as the first day you tried it. So yes this is a simple shoot through, a glancing photograph through one make-up artist’s arms into a scene that mirrors the foreground subject, but it’s still likely not to be one the MOH recorded, as she sweeps the room with an iPhone X.

Exif: focal length 85mm, f4, 1/125, ISO 250

Black and white picture of make up preparation at a wedding

All hail the small little mirrorless thing | 365:47

Camera systems have been undergoing a fashionable downsizing in recent years, well certainly in my wing of the industry at any rate. It’s not that long ago that a wedding photographer would plant a tripod to claim territorial rights, staking their claim for best photographic angle over any camera wielding guest. They’d arms themselves with huge flash guns, wire themselves to power clips, and carry equipment belts heavier than any crack commando on a tour of duty in the world’s back of beyond. But the wind has changed. There is, in some circles, a race to reverse this trend. I’ll mark my own card for photographers reading this though, as my tent is pitched roughly half way between both camps, admittedly closer to a honey I shrunk the camera bag style of operating. I may not employ the use of tripods or large elaborate flash systems, but I do have and use a more traditionally sized DSLR system alongside a mirrorless bag of bits for when I truly want to limit that ‘photographer look.’ Both systems have their pros and cons, but today’s post is about mirrorless cameras; smaller boxes that weigh a fraction of their traditional counterparts, perfect for hiding your professional presence amongst that sea of smart phone and compact toting wedding guests. Let me share a photograph that demonstrates a working relationship with the smaller mirrorless flavour of camera, then I’d like to share my experience of venturing forth with one particular brand of mirrorless box.

Black and white wedding photograph of guests close up, taken with a Fujifilm X100 camera

In 2011 I bought my first mirrorless camera by Fujifilm; an X100. With a retro styled nod to 35mm film camera design of the 60s, it was lighter than many of the lenses I owned for my regular shooting kit. I took it on holiday before shooting professionally with it and instantly hated it. My first experience of it’s hideous ability to focus in a backlit condition was on the flight deck of an Easyjet aircraft, where it refused to take a picture of my son sat captain’s seat side, up front in a 737. Bathed in Cretan sun, the cockpit had more than enough ‘grit’ for a contrast detection system to devour, but focus it couldn’t or rather wouldn’t and had their been an open window to cast it from, I’d have probably done so. But I persevered with it. It was the only camera I’d taken on holiday and there is an old industry adage about the best camera being the one you have in your hand. Fujifilm developed their range quickly and a successor to the X100 became my ‘fun camera’ of choice at weddings. The weight of it made my compositions seemingly more nimble. I moved around more with it, I was no longer supporting a brick weight. It had a fixed focal length equivalent to traditional 35mm glass which was favoured prime territory for me, so it was a comfortable working lens. Today I use a different mirrorless body, still from the Fujifilm family of cameras, but one where I can attach different lens choices and something that for me, is better suited to movie shooting; the Fujifilm X-T2. Today sees the release of the X-H1 which if you’re a bride or groom reading this will possibly sound shoulder shruggingly dull. For Fujifilm enthusiasts, professional and amateur alike it’s an interesting development, as the camera has grown in size a little from it’s direct system siblings. The system is quite literally growing up! I’m looking forward to trying this out myself and putting the camera through it’s nuptial trials.

Exif: effective focal length 35mm, f4, 1/420, ISO 400, underexposed by a third of a stop

What to choose on a day like this? | 365:46

I hear a lot of sermons in a year. A lot. There is a thread to most addresses made within church of whatever denomination about how to love and that’s one of humility, understanding and humour! And nearly every priest, vicar, rabbi and even curate with the exception of some clergy who undoubtedly repeat on an industrial level even the Dave channel couldn’t emulate, manage to find something original to say on these three subjects. On this, Valentine’s Day, I’m going to single out humour for a special mention. It’s the very fabric of relationship that can guide us from becoming frankly insanely pedestrian, surely? I Googled whether all animals have a sense of humour and it turns out scientists believe that is a possibility yes. As Darwin himself suggested, it’s not about a yes and no, but moreover a matter of degree not of kind, though your average ocean dwelling Portuguese Man-O-War surely wouldn’t have convinced CD there was an old romantic jester within it’s tentacles of paralysis? By the by, I want to share a photograph that shouts frivolity and by extension humour. I want to wish all those who have been struck by Cupid’s arrow a super Valentine’s day and evening. And I’d like to be a little self indulgent in wishing my own wife a special Valentine flavoured love. We’d obviously be heading out tonight for a quiet romantic night sans children, but have you see the price of a three course at the Toby Carvery on a night with 14 in the title on a February evening. Romance isn’t dead. 😉

Exif: focal length 85mm, f1.8, 1/3200, ISO 100, underexposed by a third of a stop

A colour picture of bride and groom laughing on their wedding day

Spontaneity | 365:45

I was looking at some pictures today by a (forgive the pun) fledgling wildlife photographer whose work boasts a maturity I see rarely in shooters so early into their elected genre. He does however harbour equal interests in applying his skills to wedding photography. I posed a question; “And you want to shoot weddings because?” My question wasn’t to denigrate my own genre, but simply to underline just how good his wildlife work is; that time spent on anything other than nature could deprive the photographic community of his developing sublime skills. But I think I can see a parallel in wildlife and weddings and perhaps a reason, if not the reason for his decision to embrace both categories. There is a spontaneity to both that is pictorially delicious. This facet alone certainly drives my own fervor to create imagery and seek photographic stories. So to this picture. In Rye, a near coastal town in East Sussex, there is a tradition at the local town hall that dictates the town crier announce a wedding to all who will listen, guests and public alike. And here is Rex, town crier for many a year in full swing, parodied by our bride behind him. Okay, so it’s not a majestic chase scene across the Serengeti, but the spontaneity to this composition is reward enough in the photographic genre of weddings, for which I’m a paid up member.

Exif: focal length 24mm, f2.8, 1/800, ISO 100

Picture of the town crier at Rye in East Sussex

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