Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Wed-Fest: Ready For The Afterglow?

Sun is in short supply this summer, so I thought I'd revisit a wedding from earlier this year.  Even with the most meticulous forward planning,  no one can control the weather gods and that's perhaps one of the few things that is left completely to chance on such a momentous day, but fortune favoured Matt and Laura on their April wedding day.  

That said, don't let our temperamental climate compromise your plans.  If you want to get married in the open air, go for it!  There are some incredible all weather wedding venues in the UK that will have you covered, metaphorically and literally.  Tipi wedding venues are often family run with the nicest of wedding co-ordinators and they usually offer a choice of locations to tie the knot; from woodland glades to characterful barns, with the party continuing late into the night under cover of canvas beneath the stars.

Back in April, I was fortunate enough to capture this incredible festival wedding at The Firs Wedding Venue near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire.

As is my way, my booking confirmation was accompanied by a questionnaire designed to get to know my couples better.  I always offer to meet couples in person or at least have an initial conversation on the phone, but I also like to allow couples the time to absorb and consider my questionnaire.  It's nothing scary I hasten to add, but in addition to the sensible questions about colour schemes and family politics, I might as them a few randoms.  An example might include which actor they would choose to play them in a film.  It's an ever-evolving document, but intended to be fun.  No one wants to work their way through reams of paperwork.  However, I'm a genuinely curious person and love to get to know my clients, whilst respecting the fact that we're in a business relationship, so the questions are designed to give me a clearer picture of clients' style and taste.

With Laura and Matt, it was established early on that their wedding was going to be unique and deeply personal; a festival style wedding or "wedfest" with celebrations stretching over a full weekend.  Guests stayed in bell tents erected on site and feaster on pizza and noodles.

By the time of their wedding, I was familiar with some of their favourite music/bands (drum and bass in this instance), had a good idea of their personal style, was in possession of the day's itinerary (not carved in stone but still handy) and knew that we gelled - in terms of their expectations of me and my preferred way of working - e.g. documentary style photography.  Plus, I was chuffed to discover that they are cat people, but more on that later.

After abysmal weather leading up to the wedding, the day itself dawned bright and beautiful.

I arrived early and set about capturing the guests arriving and milling about.

Laura and Matt's chosen colour scheme (blues, greens, teal and a hint of burgundy) was accentuated by the bluebell carpeted woodland glade setting chosen for their handfasting ceremony.  Whatever the weather, nature always delivers.

Their ancient handfasting ceremony was personalised to perfection with the assistance of Stourbridge based SJW Celebrant.  I have no idea what had just passed between the three of them here, but it made for a great photo!

Check out Laura's braids and black lace cloak!  Matt was also on point, bringing the burgundy.

Another useful skill for any photographer is to have eyes in the back of your head.  If you can't live up to that expectation, make sure you do the odd 180 degree rotation to capture guests' reactions.

In such beautiful natural surroundings, or anywhere for that matter, eco friendly confetti is a must.  Laura and Matt had created their own from dried flower petals.

It's actually extremely common for couples to confess to being uncomfortable in front of the camera.  An important part of the job is addressing that specific issue.  There are various ways of doing this.  Pre wedding shoots are always an option, to enable couples of get used to being photographed.  Whilst I'm rubbish at remembering jokes, I do to try to engage couples with humour and there's nothing more disarming than seeing your photographer lying down on the ground to get a better angle, as I've been known to do.  I also avoid labouring over photographs and try read the room.  The trick here is to instinctively know when to shoot from the side lines and when to gently orchestrate a particular shot that reveals itself to me.

After the ceremony and a relaxed couples' portrait session,

Matt and Laura took some time for themselves.  Then it was time for speeches and cake cutting...

...which moved seamlessly into music and partying.  Becky Hill's Afterglow kickstarted the party.

I loved that Laura and Matt's personalities were stamped all over this wedding, from the individual wedding attire, to ribbon twirling, festival food, drum and bass silent discos and giant bubbles.

This attention to detail was by far, my biggest takeaway.  It was a totally inclusive wedding and that extended to those who couldn't make it, namely the couple's five cats.

As for the weather, well despite being on the cool side, we had uninterrupted blue sky, which made for the most incredible golden hour portrait session, including the photo at the top of this post.  Matt and Laura immediately recognised their luck in this regard and - nerves melted away - were happy to take a short walk with me in order that I could capture the happiness they were both radiating, in the most magical light...

Subtle rim lighting.

Sunkissed; golden hour light flatters all skin tones.

Silhouette bridal portrait.

If you're inspired to plan something similar, let's talk!

If you're struggling to see the light through all of this incessant rain, keep the faith.  I have it on good authority that there's a heatwave on the way.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

No Potcheen, but Pucci - a Titanic Find!

Apologies for the absence.  Life and work have been hectic in recent weeks, so I'll keep the last part of the Ireland travelogue brief in order to share more of the latter in my next post.  These photos pretty much speak for themselves, but we made sure to visit Ireland's two capital cities during our stay.

Mid week ushered in a spell of wet and windy weather; a good excuse - if one were needed - to head to Belfast and take cover beneath the crazy angled roof of the Titanic Exhibition's iconic building.

At just shy of £30.00, the entry fee isn't cheap, but what can I say?  If you find yourself in Belfast and have even a passing interest in the terrible fate of the "unsinkable" Titanic and her 1,500 passengers, then go.  It's a huge and comprehensive exhibition charting the history of the vessel and you will also get to hear the voices of the survivors which packs an emotional punch.

But first, another iconic sight in Belfast; Samson and Goliath, the twin ship building gantry cranes situated in the Harland & Wolff shipyard at Queen's Island.  Goliath was erected in 1969 by German engineering firm Krupp and stands at 96 metres tall.  Samson came along in 1974 and is taller in stature, standing at 106 metres.

Whilst we were keen to see the exhibition, we weren't in a hurry to pay through the nose for lunch in the building's cafe.  Instead, we opted for The Dock Cafe, an excellent innovation.  A selection of teas, cakes and coffee were served by the cafe's friendly staff in return for a donation of your choice, deposited in a box on the counter.  

The welcome was warm, with cosy sofas, a prayer corner and local artists' work adorning the walls.

Given that we were hoping for something more substantial, the staff explained that if we opted to grab food from any of the neighbouring local supermarkets or takeaways, we were more than welcome to eat it in the cafe.   We took them up on their offer and obviously ordered tea and cakes from The Dock Cafe for afters.  

None of us were in the mood to battle the elements and roam further than the Titanic Quarter.  Plus, time wasn't on our side.  This was the scene from inside.  The sun would make a brief appearance, but the wind was a constant and the rain horizontal when it came.  I've always wanted to nail that rainy window shot and Belfast, you gave me an interesting backdrop!

Onwards to the heart of the Titanic Quarter.  I didn't linger to take photos...although this scene from Game of Thrones, immortalised in stained glass, caught my eye.

Highlights from inside.

A lift designed to emulate the enormous rigging and a sedate theme park-style ride, designed to take passengers on a journey down through the rigging, whilst providing an overview of the various jobs undertaken during the ship's construction.  A soundtrack of workers' memories (voiced by actors) from their time on the build accompanied the trip...

...culminating in an expression of workers' desire to let loose in the pub after a hard day's work, with projected figures moving in a celebratory fashion behind the pub doors.  

The menu.  Could this have been the last meal for those poor passengers?

The launch point viewing room.

For me, the photographs and the stories behind them, were by far the most moving and evocative.  This was the last photo taken of the Titanic.

The little boy in the photograph below might seem privileged, but his story is tragic.  Robert Douglas Spedden was born into a wealthy New York family.  He was on board with his Nanny, Margaret, who he called Muddie.  Muddie woke the little boy from his sleep when the ship hit the iceberg, telling him they were going on a journey "to look at the stars."  Muddie and Robert made it onto a lifeboat and Robert slept through the night, holding his beloved teddy bear, Polar.  When he woke up, surrounded by icebergs, he said: "Oh Muddie, look at the beautiful North Pole, with no Santa Claus on it!"  They survived, but just two years later, whilst playing football, Robert was hit and killed by a car driving on the wrong side of the road close to the family's summer holiday home in Maine.  

One of only six remaining life jackets.

Just one section of the wall bearing the illuminated names of the dead.

A pocket watch retrieved at the time.

The day the wreck was discovered.

There was much more to this exhibition, utilising some very impressive technology, but no spoilers here for anyone who might wish to visit.

We headed south of the border to Dublin's fair city later in the week and headed to our old haunt Temple Bar, the city's cultural quarter on the South Bank of the River Liffey.  I didn't take my camera; only a few mobile snaps.

The gorgeous Blooms Hotel.

The Irish have a natural affinity for the underdog, but then who doesn't in this case?

An exquisite door!

Luke Kelly, founding member of The Dubliners, who have influenced many others from The Pogues to Fontaines DC.

We frequented a few pubs in Dublin on our previous visit - back in the early 2000s when we saw an incredible line up at Slane Castle:  Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Foo Fighters, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age.  However much of a tourist trap Temple Bar might be (and at almost £10.00 a pint, that much is undisputable), the atmosphere is always lively - even on a Thursday lunchtime.  With its labyrinth layout, live Irish music and decor encompassing everything from Guinness memorabilia to Irish folklore, it really is a must. 

On the last night of our trip, we holed up in Quinn's Bar in Newcastle, a characterful pub celebrating its 30th birthday.  

As with many drinking establishments in Ireland, the pub evolved from its origins as a grocer's shop.  After receiving a warm welcome on our first night, we decided to pop back for dinner to finish of our holiday.  

There was a real buzz about the place and the staff were excited that "Paddy" the boss, was in that night.  I chatted to a waitress about their forthcoming celebrations and she insisted on sending the boss over to say hello.  In the event, Paddy had just left, but instead his son was sent over.  We were treated like VIPs, given three t-shirts and a hoody proudly bearing the pub's name and told to make ourselves known if we were ever in town again.  What lovely folks!

In case you're wondering about the title of this post, we didn't sample the island notorious tipple, Potcheen (or Holy Water or Irish Moonshine), said to be the strongest drink in the world - at anywhere between 40-90% and traditionally made from whatever its maker's small, rural smallholding had to hand, from barley to crabapples.  We stuck to - you guessed it - the black stuff!

In an act of pure genius/laziness (depending on your view), I shoe-horned Potcheen into the title because it worked nicely with a certain Italian brand known for its kaleidoscopic colours and geometric patterns.  

Back at home, I set about preparing for a flurry of weddings, but still found time to pop into the local charity shop whilst out posting.  With pretty low expectations, I was riffling through the rails when I spotted a particularly vibrant print.  Within minutes the garment was mine.  The woman in the queue commented on how gorgeous the maxi dress was and the staff confirmed they had only just hung it on the rail.  There was something very familiar about the colour combination, but without my reading glasses, I was unable to identify the tiny signatures scattered here and there across the silky fabric.

When I got it home, I checked the labels.  The first was partially removed, so I could only decipher that it was Made in Italy.  So far, so promising.  Next, I examined the fabric label which confirmed that the dress was 100% silk jersey.  Grabbing my reading specs, I couldn't quite make out the signature but it looked for all the world like "Emilio."  I then used Google lens on the print and caught my breath when an identical dress was thrown up in my search, listed as Pucci, with a price tag of £358.00.  Finally, I consulted my fashion oracle - aka Vix - and she reached the same conclusion.  A piece from Pucci!  Here it is in all its glory (reverse view only :-)).  Be still my beating heart!

Obviously the weather has taken a nose dive since, but I when I can catch my breath, I'll be figuring out what works with it come rain or shine.  Judging by this week's offerings, I'll be assuming mostly rain!  Hope the sun is shining where you are!  Until next time!

Wed-Fest: Ready For The Afterglow?

Sun is in short supply this summer, so I thought I'd revisit a wedding from earlier this year.  Even with the most meticulous forward pl...