Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Memories of a Sunny, Sunflowery, Barnard Castle Wedding

As I sit here, watching the hailstones gradually turning to floaty snow, then finally to freezing rain, I can't help remembering a beautiful, sunny wedding from last Summer.

Held in the picturesque village of Romaldkirk, not far from Barnard Castle, Paul and Ali had chosen sunflowers to decorate the kirk, their buttonholes, their venue and even their hair.  Fair to say there was a theme going on...  That lovely, sun-filled, colourful day couldn't be further from the view from my window right now!  I needed cheering up, so I looked out the wedding photographs and if you'd like a wee boost too, feel free to scroll down and see the pictures.  Sunshine eh?  Remember that?!

The village was Ali's childhood home and Ali got herself and her bridesmaids ready at the Rose and Crown Hotel.  The couple decided to host the reception at their own, amazing house in Burdon Village.  It's a good reminder that it really doesn't matter where you get married if it means something to you.  And also that it's the people that make the day, not the venue.  I've photographed weddings all over the UK (and beyond), some of them in pretty weird and wonderful places.  The best ones always, always have the best people.  I've shot weddings in jaw-dropping venues, dripping with history and antiquity, only to despair as all the guests proceed to sit down and stare at the walls.

All that said, a wee bit of sunshine always helps :-)

To see more wedding photography from around Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle, do take a second to visit my website, or look at some other blog posts, thank you!

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First dance photography by Jamie Emerson

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Wedding Speeches and Documentary Photography

Or, why reportage photography is easy during speeches.

Over the course of photographing literally hundreds of weddings here in the north east, it's fair to say I've heard an amazing variety of speeches.  From the mundane to the spectacular, the humdrum to the totally unexpected, they have all had one thing in common.  It doesn't really matter too much what is being said, almost everyone in the room will be giving the speaker their undivided attention.

Which makes my job as a documentary photographer that bit easier.  It struck me as I was reviewing some of my images from a recent wedding at The Hotel du Vin in Harrogate ( I was second shooting for my good friend Mandy Charlton ) that it's one of the few times in a wedding day that everyone is sitting still, laughing and smiling and paying absolutely no attention to the camera.  Obviously, I strive to be almost invisible all day - I hope people think I'm one of the guests - but the wedding speeches are a unique opportunity and I always make full use of it.

This goes as much for the guests as for the top table.  Anyone can stand at the back of the room with a long lens and come away with a decent set of photos of the top table but it does take a bit more experience to anticipate where to stand for the guests' reactions to the speeches.  Who is important to the bride and groom?  Who has a characterful face?  Who is sitting in a nice shaft of window light?  Which table is filled with people likely to find everything hilarious (there's always at least one table like this!)?
Almost all the following images have been shot at venues in the north east and include some of my favourites; Hallgarth Hall Hotel, Radison Blu in Durham, Langley Castle near Hexham, The South Causey Inn and Whitworth Hall to name but a few.  But a few are from further afield including a notable wedding on Skye and a lovely wedding at Storrs Hall, Windermere.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a blog wholly dedicated to wedding day speeches before - it's certainly the first time I've put one together.  I'll try and say something about the images as I post them - the thinking behind the composition and the reasons for taking the shot but I'll also try not to bore the pants off you :-)

Reportage photography at Langley Castle, Hexham

Above and below are photos from Langley Castle, Hexham.  You'll notice I move around a fair bit to give different viewpoints.  But I can guarantee no-one noticed me...  I'm using a standard lens rather than a telephoto monster.  This keeps me unobtrusive and allows for these candid shots.

Emerson Photography at Langley Castle wedding, Hexham

Again, getting in close with a wide lens is often the best approach.  It does require a degree of subtlety but also means you don't have lots of other people in the way of the shot, as you would with a long lens.  When I say subtlety, I probably mean ballsiness.  

I did say, "almost everyone" would be listening...  One from a Jesmond wedding in Newcastle.

It's all about timing - catching those fleeting expressions and lingering looks...

North east documentary wedding photographer

It's not all about laughter and embarrassing the groom.  The speeches are an opportunity for highly emotionally charged words dealing with love and loss.

Keeping your reflection out of the mirrors is a skill all by itself!

Strong backlight and candles on the table allow for a good variety of different lighting decisions.  In the image above, I allowed the window light to almost silhouette the subjects - the light from the candles is just enough to show some detail in their faces.

Once again, I'm creeping around with a smallish camera and lens combo and keeping mobile to give a good selection of images.  It's important to capture all the sides of the story, including the guests.

"He did NOT just say that!"  Yes.  Yes, he did.

Very, very strong backlight here.  I used exposure compensation here but the manual setting on the camera would have worked just as well.  Left to its own devices, the camera would have completely silhouetted this wedding guest.

It was emotional!

Compositionally, I'm always looking for bookends.  Objects or people to hold the image together.  In the photo above, the bottles and glasses on the right, and the painting on the left provide this service.  It's not something I actively think about - without getting all arty about it, it's an intuitive thing these days.

So, there we have it.  A whole blog post dedicated solely to documentary photographs of wedding speeches at venues in the north east.  If you'd like to see more of my work, or have a chat about a documentary wedding photographer for your day, please feel free to click through to my website - north east documentary wedding photographer and go to the contact page.