I could not sleep, which is unusual for me the night before a wedding day.
I had prepped all my photography gear; camera batteries were charging, flash batteries were ready, I had even purchased 16 new batteries in anticipation for any power issues.
Everything was ready, but I could not sleep. But I knew why I was restless
This was my first Wedding of 2020, that is strange in itself, but this wedding had the extra complexity of COVID 19, the safety of everyone at the wedding (including myself), some tricky environments to shoot on and to top it all off a complex photo requirement on Marlow Bridge.
The Wedding Morning
I arrived at High Wycombe super early. I used that time to go over my notes I had printed out, double checked the various locations I needed to be at, and just enjoyed the moment.
I was at Helen’s father’s house. A very scenic place overlooking a farmer’s field. The vista was of a wide valley. The fields had already been cropped which made them look very tidy. It would be easy to get lost in that very English scenery and remember how fast time has past, and plan the future to come. The parallel of the day was not lost on me. Seeing Helen and the other ladies get ready was relaxing. But as it turned out, someone had been a very busy bee that morning…!
During the natural flow of a wedding morning conversation, the subject of sleep often pops up. I find it to be a good conversation started. It turns out Helen had been awake since 5am, walked the dog, made some tomato soup and bake some muffins! Everybody was impressed.
The mood was very calm. The conversations varied from make-up techniques to weather; the elephant in the room was the subject of COVID. I promised everybody after 9 am I would not bring up the subject of the pandemic on this wedding day.
The dress and shoes need to be photographed so I busied myself photographing those. I must say, I did like the design of the dress. The symmetrical patters embodied the top half of the dress, but the intricate design tapered off from the waist to the bottom. Simple, classic, timeless.
After requesting the shoes and vail, I wondered outside to find some better light, howeve the wind was so strong I was too worried about letting the vail hang somewhere; I secured it to a tree and fired off some shots.
The wedding shoes were easier to photograph as they were unlikely to do a Dorothy and fly off! The landscape was very pretty so incorporated the view into the shoe shots.
A special mention about the father of the Bride, Gary. A very personable and entertaining gentleman. He regaled us all with quick quips, stories about sheep, encased £10 notes from a lost bet, a classic red telephone box in his garden and how the house needed much work which he restored. He’s the type of person who is always happy to see you, and look after you if you ever needed help.
Meeting up with the lads
After a couple of hours, I made my way a few miles up the road to photograph Elliot and his entourage. When I arrived I was greeting by a beaming Groom. I have met Elliot twice before and spoken to him a few times over Zoom and Facebook. Everytime he is very humbling; he’s super attentive and disarming.
As I entered the very impressive heavy oak door, I was stood at the bottom of the stairs talking to Elliot. As we were talking there was a crisscross of traffic as users, best man, dads and partners were busy doing last minute things.
When entering a new location for the first time, I check out the lighting. I saw there was a dining room with a large window; a useful spot for the portrait shots I had planned.
Portrait shoots are always fun; I can isolate a single person from the party and focus on that person with the best light available. I work fast, my settings are always correct, I know my camera well and I know how to control that setting so the subject has confidence in my directing.
I was shooting with my favourite Sigma 105mm. A fantastic portrait prime lens; but because it is a prime lens I cannot zoom, it is fixed at 105mm. The spot I had chosen for my quick portrait photos was very tight behind me. I could not move any further back, nor could I manoeuvre my subject to any great degree. I quickly compensated by adjusting the subject’s should positions and their eye line.
Of course, while I am making all these very last minute adjustments I was communicating with the subject, always reassuring him to trust me. That’s why I do love portrait photography. Given more time, I could have work miracles, but alas time is a quantifiable luxury unafforded to a wedding photographer… but I like the thrill and buzz of it 🙂
Reservoir Dogs and Boy Bands!
Next I need to get the two shots I always enjoy coordinating with the men; first the Reservoir Dogs shot from the Quentin Tarantino film. I gathered the men around to tell them my plan; normally the lads get it straight away, however non of them had seen the iconic crime film. Mr Google helped at that point.
The easy option would be to shoot in the garden, but who likes easy? I asked the guys to head towards the road; the 2 ladies who were with us assisted in stopping traffic (a fore shadowing of what was to come).
I demonstrated the walk I needed, I had given the users their roles to play, that of the bodyguards of their main man Elliot. The guys took the instructions very well. They looked very “gansta” as I like to call it.
Inbetween the oncoming traffic, the mild drizzly rain and, given non of the ushers knew me 15 minutes ago, I think Mr Tarantino would be proud of this gang 🙂
The boys were so good at that I quickly lined them up for the Boy Band shot; you know, the one where they stand around looking like they had just sung a Power Ballad!
Even with all this happening, reassuring them, giving clear decisive instructions, lining up my shot, verifying my Canons was set correcting, I had almost forgotten we were in the shadow of Covid. I had to move their shoulder around abit and make fine tuned adjustments, but I got the shot done, quickly, efficiently and of course masterfully (this is not a job for an amateur)
Once I had those photos in the bag, I concentrated on the conversations between the group. These are moments the party won’t necessarily remember so capturing that time is always fruitful.
Of the many things this wedding photographer is good at is being adaptable and keeping an eye on the schedule. Uknown to me, the boys were going to a local pub about 200 metres down the road. I was not aware of this plan so I did a quick check of the time, asked a few questions and drove down to the pub. I could have let this moment go, but I wanted to give the couple 100%. The pub photos may not matter to them, but it matters to me.
By this time (3 hours into the wedding) I could feel my Plantar Fasciitis kicking in. I had strapped up my feet with Kinesiology Tape but it wasn’t enough to dull the pain, but I pushed that pain aside, I could not be distracted by that discomfort.
I waited for the lads to arrive at the pub. There was seating outside but the short sporadic shows made the chairs wait, it was funny seeing Elliot order the guys around wiping down the seats!
I got the shot I wanted (the boys with a pint in their hand) and made my way back to Helen.
Back with the Bridal party
Just after midday, with less than an hour to go, I think everyone was conscious of the time but nobody was worried. Because of the extra precautions taken by the make up lady, it took longer to complete.
One by one the bridesmaids were ready so I took that opportunity to get some portrait shots as well. Time was not on my side, the light in the living room was not ideal for a portrait photo but I considered the time, space and day that was ahead of me.
In the time it took for a passing shower to be over, Helen was ready to get into her dress. It was a fiddly process, each bridesmaid took it in turns to get the little hooks together. Even young Megan had a go. It was all good-natured and was nice to see everyone get involved.
Arriving at the Church, a little late.
By now I had to get to the church, I was sure most of the guests had already arrived and I know from experience there were some crucial photos I had get before Helen arrived. The plan was to allow me to get there 5 minutes before the wedding car would, but they had beat me there by a matter of minutes. I hobbled straight into the and had to photograph the guests rapidly.
I went into autopilot, I instinctive was on the charm offensive; these people didn’t know who I was and yet I was photographing them; with confidence and bravado I quickly photographed all the guests, most of them responded very positvely which was fantastic.
As Helen and her father entered the Church, there were smiles everywhere; even under the facemasks, I could see the delight in people’s eyes. All that hard work was to get to this bit.
What is lovely was all Helen wanted to do was to see Elliot. She spoke of him throughout the morning. She did express concern about the flowers, the guests, the weather, the photographer (oh wait, that’s me). She was very chilled and relaxed. All she wanted was to see her husband.
Jenny, the Vicar, was very easy going. All she wanted from me was to be invisible. Luckily I went to Ninja school so I’m very good at hiding in the shadows, and sometimes in plain sight!
Once the ceremony was over, I was already in a position to photograph their exit and arrange the confetti shot.
The wind was strong. I had to work fast because some of the ladies were holding onto their hats for dear life!
In this situation I am in my element; I know what shots to do, I know how to balance getting the shot yet not seem flustered. I remained in complete control as I whipped through all the group shots. Even one guest said “That was quick!”, I allowed myself a smile.
To be continued… at the Macdonald Compleat Angler
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