Sometimes you meet a young couple and there is something so generous about their spirit, and so serendipitous about the day, that everything just falls into place. I won't ever forget how Tony's simple and humble recommendation "I think there's a field just up here with quite a nice view when the sun goes down" would result in a red gold glory of poppies and the sunlight. Possibly the most dramatic and beautiful sunset of the summer of 2016 and we were right there. But enough about us, this is about them. Tony and Kate, and the story of their day.
Which started off in brisk and elegant fashion at the Sun Inn in Hitchin, a beautifully, tastefully restored 16th century coaching inn located in the heart of one of Hertfordshire's many charming market towns.
While you can arrange to have your whole wedding ceremony and reception at The Sun, Tony had opted for reception only. And a little groom prep.
One of my favourite ring shots ever, achieved in a couple of minutes with the help of some optics behind, and a purple shot glass to balance the bands on. Look close enough and you can make out a ring-reflection selfie.
But enough about me, meet the boys.
Tony and his best man, looking suave, dapper and handsome, as they tog up for the big day ahead
with of course, the help of a stiff drink, a good pair of cufflinks...
...and...er... a couple of goes on the roundabout in the market square!
Meanwhile, down the road at Kate's house, the mood was surprisingly calm and serene
with ample time for me to capture some of the lovely bridal details
Dad's garden had been carefully and lovingly tended, with a bit of extra attention, knowing that we might well have time to grab a few shots out there.
Beautiful Kate, elegant and modest as a true English Rose, was the perfect model, allowing me to experiment a little with the light and grab these portraits, which, because we had that little extra bit of time, I could make look a little like paintings.
It's a curious irony of wedding photography that often has to be explained - most weddings are summer weddings when the sun is bright and high, and yet us photographers take to the shade. These shots show why a little. See how the light reflects back onto the girls, so that even though they are shaded, their skin seems to have this lovely glow.
A nervous moment for Tony when a car identical to the one driven by his father-in-law-to-be turned up twenty minutes early. When he'd finally recovered from a close encounter with a near heart attack, it turned out of course to be the bridesmaids arriving just on time.
St Mary's Church in Hitchin is the largest parish church in Hertfordshire and is remarkably large for a town of the size of Hitchin. This has been cited as evidence of how Hitchin prospered from the wool trade. The present church stands on the site of two previous churches and dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, with its tower dating from around 1190. As well as being generously proportioned and impeccably restored, it is also wonderfully light inside. No gothic gloom here.
As Tony's expression testifies. The vicar, by way of a bonus, it should be said is a lovely, warm, generous and good humoured priest, welcoming all with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
While every photographer will strive to capture the bride arriving...
... I think we all treasure those delicious candid moments of apprehension as the groom waits inside
Owner of the highly successful production company HitchinTV, Tony has a keen eye himself, and was eager to try all kinds of different portrait shots. I think I may have gone a little over-gothic with this one, but it was the one overcast moment of the day, so I like to think at least we were being in some way true to the day.
Back at the Sun Inn, meticulous preparations had seen the reception room beautifully decorated with restrained good taste.
While the party got started, Tony was keen to see if we could grab the sunset shot we had talked about. We jumped in his car and he showed his true Italian heritage by racing across town with all the speed and dexterity of a Formula 1 driver keen to get home for his champagne dinner. And boy was it worth the pedal to the metal.
When we arrived at the chosen location, we were greeted by this stunning field of poppies. Capturing a sunset is always a matter of luck - will cloud cover ruin it? Will there be too little cloud to make it truly dramatic.?
On this occasion we were blessed with one of the loveliest and most dramatic summer sunsets.
And as dusk quickly settled in we even had a go at a Gone With the Wind moment.