To veil or not to veil

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Long ones, short ones, thick ones, thin ones, or no ones at all. To veil, or not to veil on your wedding day? The veil has been around for centuries and historically signified the bride's modesty and virginity. Her unveiling, at the end of the marriage ceremony was said to represent the husband's gaining of paternal permission to enter in to conjugal relations with his new wife. Perhaps this is the reason that modern weddings rarely employ this tradition - after all, how many 21st century couples can say that they have abstained from their conjugals before the day of their wedding?!

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From a photographer's perspective, a veil provides a number of creative opportunities. There is the chance to add texture to an image, whether shot in close-up or to be appreciated in full length. 

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A partially concealed face can be beguiling, and just as appealing as full flesh and make-up. There is a certain mystique about an anticipatory bride-to-be making last minute adjustments to her headwear and moving her fingers beneath the lace of her veil. Poetic, methinks.

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One thing to bear in mind is the location and conditions in which you are expecting to be married. A clifftop, whilst the epitome of romance, is rarely without a breeze; ditto the beach, so watch out for windy days...even a short veil will take off if the conditions are blustery!

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Heavier fabrics and longer, cathedral lengths can give a vintage impression. The almost impenetrable mesh of a classic, old fashioned veil hides the bride's beauty until the second of the great reveal, and the mystery of her virtues remain intact until that moment, helping to create an early 20th Century feel. It is said that a veil was once also designed to actually prevent the bride and groom from seeing each other before they were married, so heavier fabrics were a necessity.

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A well-timed breeze can definitely be a benefit in other ways, however. A half-caught glimpse of a bride's eye beneath her billowing veil can be a very romantic treat. 

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Whether or not you are planning to be veiled on your big day, consider the pros and cons. Yes, they add a certain coquettish charm, but they also require careful handling and need to be matched with your headgear and hairstyle.  Try on several in different styles before settling, and since you've gone to all that trouble, ask your photographer to capture your careful choice on film.  

For wedding photography enquiries, please contact me, Helen on 07957627217, or at eyesomephoto@gmail.com.

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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Summer Holibobs

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When your appetite for plane fares diminishes, as ours did this year with the prospect of hauling our oversized, expensive brood to the continent once again, go Old School.

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The lure of the British seaside was made all the more attractive by the idea that we would be saving thousands of pounds by not 'hiring the sunshine' for a fortnight, and made yet more tolerable with knowing that the kennels bill could also be eluded if we stayed in Blighty. 

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Two cars, two dogs, two suitcases, four body boards, one funeral, four kids and seven hours later (the earlier we gloss over the latter items, the better), North Devon was in our sights.

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Our locations didn't disappoint. Wetsuits went on quickly (and came off much more slowly), dogs drank sea water (yes, they ARE that dumb), sand got in knickers, the badminton kit stayed firmly in the boot, and the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme tune became a distant memory. Bliss.

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And whilst our tans were more due to the burn of the wind than the sun, I could feel my omnipresent tension beginning to subside as the days progressed. Nature had begun to provide her magical therapy and relaxation furtively slipped into our veins like a warm draft of whisky.

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The sound of wood on metal brought the idyl to an abrupt end. Let's just say I wasn't driving and leave it at that. Ahem. 

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Somehow these British based holibobs always stay more firmly in our memory banks than our more exotic ventures. The fondness with which I hold my own childhood rock-pooling, flip-flop filled days is irreplaceable. Nostalgia rocks.

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An Elf-free Christmas Mini Shoot

Dressed for warmth but not as Elves, our two gorgeous models are ready for their Christmas mini shoot. Not a snowman in sight.

This is the most popular time of year for family photo shoots. And I can see why. The foliage, the clean air, the low sunshine and the enticing countryside all make for the most alluring images.

Rocking the Tweed and only missing a shotgun or a brace of pheasant, Freddie is every inch the gentleman. And teddy came too.

Add in to the mix two enchanting children and a not-too-shabby-in-the-looks-department set of parents, and the perfect autumn image ingredients are complete.

This family of four are certainly easy on the eye, but also adorable, loving and the most easy and relaxed of clients for a photographer

Freddie, aged 7 was impressive in Tweed, missing only a brace of pheasant to complete the country gentleman's attire for this shoot (pardon the pun), whilst baby sister Amelie, like a snuggly winter fairy in layers of tulle and fur, was fighting off a chest infection with grit and determination. 

Scrumptious baby Amelie sports the most wintery of accessories, all upstaged by a pink tulle skirt. A veritable winter fairy.

Our location was tree heaven. Birk Crag nestles unobtrusively alongside the RHS's Harlow Carr Gardens, concealing a wondrous 27 acres of deciduous woodland, ripe for a photographer's picking at this time of year. Steep slopes lead visitors down to the waters of Oak Beck, where the shallow lapping stream is benign enough to allow children to wade in their wellies whilst parents can drink in the colourful surroundings.

Birk Crag is an enticing network of steep paths, thick woodland and a babbling stream. Autumn's colour is shown off to its best here, and makes for beautiful family portraits

Fallen trees and giant rocks provide excellent climbing opportunities for a betweeded boy, and the procurement of a crocheted blanket gave little Amelie's bottom a dry, warm resting place for a few snaps.

The perfect location for little boys to explore, this woodland has lots of interest for portrait variety, and enough to keep the children smiling and relaxed.

This was a Mini Shoot. Approximately 30 minutes long, it provides families a low budget way to capture some lasting memories which can be utilised as Christmas presents for loved ones, or simply as a way to capture a moment of this impeccable season, in all its glory. 

A kiss for daddy, who was powerless to resist. The perfect moment.

As you can see, you don't have to dress as an elf for a Christmas Mini Shoot, so if this £99 budget option appeals to your needs, get in touch before the moment is gone. The shoot includes 6 digital image files of your choice.

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.