Winter nuptial challenges

A winter wedding comes with many challenges.

Challenge #1 - it's bloody cold

Meet Claire and Russ, blissfully happy (and rightly so), but on this occasion most of the laughter was goosebump-related. Between shots, Claire hurriedly and repeatedly grappled with the zip of her Parka and tried not to look blue. A veritable trooper, I must say, who never once complained when I told her to 'lose the coat' again and again.

Are those goose pimples or are you just pleased to see me?

Are those goose pimples or are you just pleased to see me?

Ha! Brainwave! Let's warm up my couple, thought I, and asked if they were up for an impromptu visit to the posh wedding gown shop next door. I had in mind a quirky shot of them standing in the shop window, mannequin-like, dressed as, well a bride and groom, obviously. The rather officious lady in the shop, however, failed to see the funny side, and politely declined. Parka reassembled (admittedly with more than a touch of 'up yours' on my part), and back to the great outdoors we went, tails between our legs.

Claire braving the cold

Claire braving the cold

Challenge #2 - it gets dark early

The scheduled time for the wedding ceremony on this occasion was 3pm. Having consulted the sun gods in advance, I was armed with the knowledge that sunset was scheduled for around 4pm. Now, it doesn't take a maths genius to calculate that by the time Russ & Claire had actually signed their marital contract, it would be too dark for the photos which they were paying me to deliver. Awkward in the extreme.

Hurriedly shooting between Parka moments

Hurriedly shooting between Parka moments

It is thanks both to the excellent natures of my sporting and awesome bride and groom, and to the relaxed mood of their nuptials that we were able to negotiate meeting up an hour before the ceremony, in order to get some portraits 'in the can'. This was only possible because they were unconcerned about seeing each other before their wedding, and really underpins why my favourite weddings are just like this one, where both parties are super-chilled and entirely without pomp or formality. 

Fading light for a confetti shower

Fading light for a confetti shower

Challenge #3 - shooting at a register office

Register Offices are perfectly fine places to get married, but generally offer up a stinker of a challenge for photographers. 

In this particular case, the windows are curtained and let in little natural light, the walls are beige (they suck up the light and are highly unflattering for skin tone) and there are ill-placed 1970s light fittings bracketed around the walls. The latter provide a cherry-on-the-cake type of challenge, which requires the person holding the camera to attempt to capture the deep emotion of the moment without the bride appearing as though she has well-lit metal antlers growing out of her head.

Letting someone else do the hard work

Letting someone else do the hard work

There are other obvious limitations to an urban Register Office, of course. Whilst the car park is a godsend for a photographer with a heavy bag of equipment, it is generally not my location of choice for newlywed portraits. 

Scouting for interesting nook and cranny opportunities ahead of time has become essential. They must be within a few yards, as brides wear high heels. They must be free from mud and dog kak, as brides wear pretty, long dresses. It must be aesthetically pleasing. Trees are good. Gravel is bad. Bright sunshine is bad. Shade is good.

A helpful log, randomly but conveniently placed next to the car park

A helpful log, randomly but conveniently placed next to the car park

When the bridal shop failed, we hot-footed it to a small courtyard which served a handful of apartments. No-one seemed to mind that we didn't belong there, and we had enough peace and quiet to relax into a few shots.

Handsome Russ in a quiet moment before the ceremony

Handsome Russ in a quiet moment before the ceremony

Harrogate also managed to offer up the Stray. Whoever once said "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink" was bang on here. Acres of grass (= mud = no go), thousands of trees (= no leaves = mud = no go), parked cars (= ugly = no go). Thank goodness for the odd path.

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Challenge #4 - cozy indoor spaces 

When the sun is gone, it's cold with a capital C, and the Reception has yet to begin, there is an inevitable retreat indoors. 

Claire & Russ held their delightfully informal and cozy reception at the gorgeous General Tarleton at Ferrensby. In addition to champagne, open fires, candles and fairy lights welcomed their guests into the low-beamed room filled with sofas and snacks. 

Time to reach for the flash. 

Rearranging the accessories to capture the mood

Rearranging the accessories to capture the mood

Whilst natural light produces a romantic and dreamy air to wedding photos, indoor flash can be the polar opposite. I was keen to ensure that Claire and Russ's story remained true to events, and that the mood wasn't ruined by an over-zealous light bulb.

Someone needs to remind her to never upstage the bride

Someone needs to remind her to never upstage the bride

An upstairs room was laid out with a long table, set for dinner for about 30 people. It was pitch dark, apart from the twinkle of a few fairy lights and some tea lights, which the kids were (if I were paranoid, I might say sadistically) enjoying blowing out as they ran rings around the table. All's fair in love and wedding photography.

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The atmosphere was loving, congenial and perfect for a winter party.

Mum and dad

Mum and dad

So, whilst shooting a winter wedding throws up a veritable minefield of obstacles for whoever's in charge of the camera, all is not lost. Challenges aside, this was a totally beautiful day from start to end. I was thrilled to be asked, and lucky to be part of it. 

My fondest and best wishes go out to Claire, Russ and family, for the future.

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Is Autumn the perfect time of year for family portraits?

When the light is perfect and so are the family, then heck, yes.

We chose a day in early October for this family portrait session and headed off to the glorious gardens of RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate. Resolutely ignoring the cakes in the window of Betty's tearoom, I made my way through the crowds (note to self: check that I have not booked a photo shoot in the middle of a BEER festival next time) to find mum & dad, Helen & Paul, wrapped up for a leisurely stroll with their two cheeky boys in tow.

The joy of finding a leaf and catching the wee man's expression just before he actually eats it! Little O is only just starting to walk unassisted, but with the help of a handy tree he managed to stabilise himself for this portrait. The light was just beautiful on this early autumn Sunday, and the gorgeous gardens of Harlow Carr in Harrogate was our chosen location

The first thing you notice about this family is their special affection for each other. There is something about their interactions which is so deeply gentle and loving, which I'm struggling to put my finger on as I write this, but which is not present in every family, and which is quite moving to witness.

Plane spotting amongst the silvery trees. The boys were enjoying a game of 'where is the thing that's making all of the noise?' and searched the sky for the aeroplanes, which were clearly out in force in the blue autumn skies. I love how they are so totally wrapped up in this activity that they ignore the camera and concentrate on their game, which helped me capture a few happy, candid family portraits

The silvery trees in which we found ourselves here still had a lovely light canopy of feathery leaves, which were so delicate in the late morning sunshine. The boys got totally wrapped up in a game of 'where's the aeroplane?' which relaxed them in to a perfect state of ignoring my camera and allowed me to capture some happy, candid family shots.

Okay, so we had to stuff a banana in baby O's hand to get a sitting still moment here, but big bro A helpfully assumed a nonchalant pose against a nearby tree.

Hoping for a shot of littlest bro, O, we stuffed a banana in his hand and managed to get a sitting still moment. Big brother A decided to get in on the act by helpfully assuming a nonchalant 'leaning' pose against a nearby tree, and so this became a 'two brothers' family portrait instead! Why not? The more, the merrier, say I!

Big boy A assumes the pixie on a fence pose for me, amongst the moss and the greenery of the woodland at Harlow Carr in Harrogate. I love this portrait. He looks so funny with his cheeky grin

Pixie? Gnome? Whatever it is that hides amongst the moss and greenery in the darkest corner of the Harlow Carr gardens, we found one. This one was particularly cute, with a mischievous grin and a half-wink. Definitely up to no good, but enjoying the attention more and more as the shoot went on.

Another aeroplane causes mummy and her youngest charge to look aloft at the same time. I love the one-ness of this image, mother and son together in a simple moment

As another aeroplane passed overhead, mum and littlest son, O both leaned back and looked skyward for a moment. I love how their tiny moment of accidentally coordinated movement was somehow harmonised, mum and son in perfect unity.

An impromptu game of football in the autumn leaves for dad and eldest son, A. Their faces were joyful and full of affection whilst they played, and therefore easy to photograph here

Do you see what I mean? Such a loving family, wrestling over the football in amongst the fallen leaves, gave us some rough and tumble moments, and expressions of pure joy on the faces of dad and his big boy. Bear hugs and chasing, followed by willful kicking of the ball down a (very) steep hill for dad to retrieve, followed by a bit of cheating and a lot of laughing. Lovely.

This is how loving this family were. I took control of the boys for a moment whilst mum and dad cosied up on the bench for a snuggle. Man, they look so happy in this shot!

I'd love to tell you that I planned for the word LOVING to be centre shot when I made this photo, but it was merely serendipitous. A very happy accident. I asked Helen & Paul for a shot, so as I took this image I was balancing baby O against my knees (he has only JUST learned to stand up & walk on his own) and coaxing big bro A in to holding his brother from behind. Movement was impossible,  for fear of unbalancing the wee man, who was gamely gripping my knees for dear life. Accidents were, thankfully averted, and the two boys were returned to the fold, unharmed. Phew!

It ought to be illegal to be this cute, to be honest. But since it's not, let's just savour the moment and keep it forever for mum and dad to enjoy when he's not so cuddly any more. That's the beauty of a family photo shoot!

That face. Frankly, being this cute ought to be illegal, but since it's not, let's capture it for mum and dad, forever. 

Gorgeous light and the phenomenal surroundings of Harrogate's RHS gardens at Harlow Carr. The perfect combination for this family to create moments to remember on film forever. Turned out A was just as good a backwards walker as a forewards walker, and I made him prove it to me to slow him down for this shot!!

It turned out that A was an excellent backwards walker, as well as being an expert in the traditional forwards method. I know this as I asked him to prove it to me for these shots, in an effort to slow down his pace a little!

This was no hardship - a beautiful day, an adorable foursome, and a leisurely stroll doing what I love. Epic.

For more family portrait stuff, go here, or visit my Pinterest page.

Love, reprised in these super sweet wedding images from Hipping Hall, Lake District

Andy & Becky are sweethearts. Any fool can see that.  They sealed their devotion in a wedding ceremony on the idyllic Greek island of Corfu in August of this year. Now home, with the nuptials all complete, they decided to dust off their marital outfits for one final time with a post-wedding photo shoot.

Enjoying the moment, newlyweds Andy & Becky see the funny side of sitting on a bridge with no shoes on for wedding portraits
 

favourite bridal portrait

Thanks to the artistry of local hair and makeup genius Lucy Pearson, bride Becky looked as pretty and youthful as the day she met her beau, with loose blonde curls and a sweet, natural look to her makeup. To complement her understated floral arrangement, Katie at Made in Flowers had created a stunning hair adornment for gorgeous Becky, who wore it with class and elegance. I adore how Becky's bluer-than-blue eyes stand out here against the dark brown wood pile in the background. Wowsers, Andy's a lucky guy!

Bride, Becky, made (even more) beautiful by make-up artist Lucy

venue highlight

Although not quite competing with Corfu, the English weather played nice on this super joyful day and bathed our newlyweds in glorious early autumn sunshine. We took to the fields and gardens around lush Hipping Hall near Kirkby Lonsdale in the southern Lake District, where the grass was long and the sun was helpfully low in the sky, adding an unsolicited breath of romance to our bridal portraits.

A relaxed and cheerful couple took to the fields on a hazy summer day for portraits

the best moments

Pretty much the final shot of the day, when Becky reached up her face and looked at her new husband, moments before a kiss, there was pure, unchecked adulation in her eyes. Marriage is a seriously intense experience, but the joy of re-enacting it purely for photographic pleasure allows a couple the chance to REALLY savour the time in front of the lens and relish in each other's affection. Just look at that smoulder!

The way Becky looks at her new husband here is just heart-wrenchingly gorgeous. This shoot was a reprisal of the wedding vows of this delicious couple who had already been married TWICE, firstly in Corfu then at home with larger friends and family in Blighty. This occasion was an opportunity to take a more relaxed approach to getting some wedding images, a chance to really savour their time together and to compose themselves in to the portraits they wanted to create without the stress of a large audience, or the pressure of a timeline to adhere to. As a result, the truly emotive moments which they created were authentic and unsolicited, meaning naturally tranquil moments and unforced poses. The location for the shoot was lovely Hipping Hall in the Lake District, and the early autumn sun paid us tremendous respect, low in the sky, enabling sun-drenched mementoes for posterity
The late summer sun was just falling behind the trees in Hipping Hall's beautiful gardens as this shot was taken

Little details

Nervous grooms may not always show their apprehension in their faces, but if you know where to look there is inevitably some sign that they are jittery in other body language. Even though Andy had already been married to his gorgeous soulmate twice (yes, TWICE - once in Corfu, once in Blighty!) there was little doubt that he was still feeling daunted by the prospect of reliving the experience for a third time. His hands, never still, were in a constant state of agitation, undermining the calm expression on his handsome face.

A nervous groom, Andy's hands were not still for a moment whilst he waited for his girl
An apprehensive groom recalls how the real wedding day felt as he waits beside his wife's wedding gown for her to be readied

Hand in hand all the way for this adoring couple, who barely lost contact with each other's fingers the entire time we were shooting, across two different locations. Lingering for a while to chat, the bride removed her silvery shoes and dangled her bare feet over the edge of the stream next to what looked like a former mill. Details such as this show the degree of comfort that the newlyweds feel in each other's company, as well as giving off an unceremonious air. This is a couple whose life together will be unpretentious and honest, surely a winning combination with which to begin a marriage.

A peaceful moment as the newlyweds chat and hold hands on the bridge above the stream
The dress falls casually on to the cobbles and Becky clutches her bouquet nervously. The crossed feet say it all about how she is feeling at thsi moment

If you enjoy wedding posts, try some of these. You can find the wedding 'details' which went with this photo shoot by following this link, as well as lots of other lovely stuff.

This shoot was made possible by Aspire Photography Training, who run marvellous courses for professional photographers.

 

Details, details, details, my love.

Wedding breakfast place settings with a slightly rustic twist

A marriage will survive any storm if lovers pay attention to the details. It is always a great sign, in my opinion then, when the wedding day itself is a display of the couple's attention to the small details. Those perfect peripheral items which enhance the wedding and capture the guests' interest.

A declaration of love, framed, bearing the words "I have completely fallen for you"

Whether it's the matching stationery, the flowers, the bride's choice of footwear, or the table settings, it is the job of the photographer to freeze these items in a moment of time so that they will always be remembered. I still have in my possession the original box from my parents' wedding day in 1957 which contains the traditional black cat and silver horse shoe with which my mum was presented for good luck. Her luck endured for 50 years before she was separated from my dad by the only thing which they had pledged would ever render them asunder, her death.

The 'just married' bunting which adorned this barn was made from hessian and string and could not have been more perfect

In these modern times, wedding breakfasts are increasingly adorned with (P)interesting touches; decorative items which add to the ambience of the event and make bridal dreams come to life. It is small wonder then that wedding budgets have to stretch further than Elastigirl's knickers these days. 

His and hers vintage champagne glasses awaited the happy couple

For me, the best details are those which come from the heart, not necessarily a wealthy pocket. A hand crafted bunting display says more about the soul of the bride who requested (or indeed crafted) it than a gob-smacking chandelier. Even if they both give us clues about the brides who bought them, I know which one I'd rather have as my BFF.

A mossy spot proved perfect placement for the wedding rings
The bridal footwear is often one of the big expense ticket items of the day and should definitely be captured in a pretty setting

It's not about the DIY necessarily, it's about the romance. A great deal of effort goes in to sourcing the items that replicate the look that a bride desires in any situation, but a great deal more passion goes in to creating something that reflects who you are and what you believe in. It is a manifestation of your personality.

A gilded birdcage just for fun was a funky focal point for a table setting
A simple platter of drinking straws for guests' children to use, in a matching colour to the wedding palette

Details, my love, are therefore paramount. I will always do my absolute best to do yours justice. 

The all important dress details. Simply unmissable

For more wedding type stuff, try these blog posts. If family is your thing, here are some others