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