Weddings

TONY & KATE'S HERTFORDSHIRE WEDDING

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.

CATRIONA & TOBY'S KENT ENGAGEMENT SCOTNEY CASTLE

Or... How You Should Never Say Never Work with Children and Animals.

It's been quite a year for National Trust engagement shoots, which for me, being a Londoner, is quite a treat to get out and about in the countryside.  Catriona and Toby are both avid walkers and even more avid dog-lovers, and this was my first shoot incorporating dogs AND romance.  Despite the "never work with children and animals" maxim, I thought, what fun, what could possibly go wrong.  Of course things might have gone wrong, but in fact on the day, their two spaniels were so lovely and well-behaved I only wish I'd tried some more experimental shots.  As it is, a sweet afternoon of walking and relaxing was had by all at Scotney Castle. 

As a bit of a warm up - although to be honest an engagement shoot is in itself a warm-up - Mum took the dogs for a little walk while I took Catriona and Toby down to the Folly to get used to the camera.  Not everyone likes to indulge in endless selfies and not everyone is comfortable with the idea of a photographer.  But they know they'll need to be when their wedding day comes.  So of course an engagement shoot is a great way to not only get to know each other and what works best, but also to learn to relax a bit in front of the lens. 

And so, enter the pups, and what a cute pair they were.

I know spaniels are pretty easy going, but these two, they were just so cute and laid back.

Despite the glorious sunshine that marked the start of this lovely Kentish autumn day, by the time we had actually arrived at Scotney Castle, the clouds were massing overhead.  Sometimes when this happens, it's hard to resist going a little gothic.

The house which was built to replace the Old Castle in the first half of the 19th Century is known as Scotney New Castle, and is a wonderful example of Tudor Revivalist style.  So not really gothic at all, except perhaps when the dark lowering clouds mass overhead and the photographer's imagination runs a little too far away with itself...

For those wondering if the poor dogs had been left to go feral, I probably should add here the best piece of advice I can offer anyone considering an engagement shoot with their dogs;  bring a friend or a family member along who is happy to take the dogs for a break so the two of you can also relax and pose a little for the camera.  Taking advantage of a small break, we took a quick tour of the gardens. 

We were treated to the most amazing array of autumn colours.  The gardens at Scotney Castle were designed by Capability Brown with rhododendron and azalea competing with Wisteria and old English rose.   Autumn is beautiful, but Spring is an absolute symphony of colour.

We retrieved the little retrievers and took them for a last photo tour of the gardens.  

With the sun determined not to come back out again, and with the gates soon to close on the castle, we took a last tour of the old castle, which dates back to the fourteenth century.  And to lift things a little, I brought out some handy lights, at first as a portrait key light to lift Cat and Toby out of the November gloom.

And then more dramatically - and this is one of my favourite cheats with using a flashgun with radio trigger - I created some fake sunlight behind them.  While in reality we were halfway to darkness, see how the remote flashgun light highlights them and wraps round them, as if it were the dying rays of the sun through the bushes behind and picks out the golden autumn colours in the leaves.  Much prettier than a flat near-dark grey early evening. 

Because every lover's kiss deserves a bit of sun-dappled romance, even if it is courtesy of the hard-working photographer.  Thanks for a great day Toby and Cat, looking forward to the big day next year!

MEERA AND HUSSEIN'S SURPRISE ENGAGEMENT - OR HOW I ALMOST DIED SHOOTING A PROPOSAL

So let's make one thing clear, this was the most fun I've had on a friday lunchtime ever, ever ever!

So my very good friend Holly Poulter at Join the Revelry dropped me a line.  Was I free to shoot a secret surprise proposal in Hyde Park?  Without hesitation, except to double check my diary, I said yes, and here's where the craziness started. 

City banker Hussein had approached Bernadette at Dream Occasions,  together with Holly, to come up with some ideas and help organise a romantic treasure hunt proposal event across London.  The big thing, he said, was to make it a surprise.  

After an excited brainstorm, and finding out all of Meera's favourite things, it was on to the planning.

On the morning of the proposal, Hussein's brother collected Meera from her Mayfair apartment under the pretence of going to a meeting.  Instead, he gave her the first treasure hunt clue scroll - along with a single rose from Phillippa Craddock flowers, and an Artisan Du Chocolate box.

The next surprise stop was at Meera and Hussein's old apartment in Knightsbridge, just behind Harrods, where Bernadette was waiting with the next clue, and another flower. 

So far, so romantic.  And what could be more fun than being dragged away from your work in the sunshine to be taken on a whirlwind treasure hunt mystery?    

But what, I hear you asking, does this have to do with the photographer having a near-death experience?

Because, chasing them across London like a crazy fool, on a motorbike, camera bag swinging from his side, swerving and battling the insane city traffic of Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, was our intrepid photographer, shooting the whole event like a paparazzi, with telephoto lens and ninja stealth skilz.   At least my younger friends might put it that way.  "You're too old for this lunacy", is how my wife put it.  But what fun, what thrills, dodging the insane cab and bus drivers of the capital on a glorious Autumn afternoon, to capture the special moments of two young people in love.

Ooops!  Looks like Meera spotted me, right?  By then, of course, we were at location three and it was pretty clear what would happen next.  Hussein's brother drove her on to Hyde Park, with me just a little ahead of them on my bike, and Holly and Bernadette of course, already way ahead of them, waiting with flowers and message cards. 

As Meera got out of the car at the park, in the glorious October sunshine, Hussein was there to greet her with a bouquet of enormous pink roses and hydrangeas - her favourite colour.   They walked towards the fountain in the dramatic Italian Gardens, where Bernadette and Holly had cleared the space from tourists to create a beautiful backdrop for the proposal. 

Hussein got down on one knee and pulled out the ring to ask the all important question.

.... and though by now it must have been clear what we were all up to, still you could see that somehow it still really WAS a wonderful romantic surprise for Meera!

And of course, it needn't be said, but Meera did say Yes!  Congratulations to you both Meera and Hussein, and congratulations on your forthcoming wedding day!