I have to admit I can’t believe how lucky I was for Max and Pip’s wedding. After weeks of almost constant rain the clouds lifted and the sun came out at Tylney Hall all day. By Sunday morning it was raining again, but by Sunday morning it was done and dusted, so who cares?
Not only was I lucky enough to have great weather, but a beautiful venue at Tylney Hall hotel and couple too. To a wedding photographer the holy trinity is beautiful weather, venue and couple. It’s not often the stars align like that, but when they do, wow!
I was also lucky to have a very special wedding guest to photograph, Ernest the horse. I think that is the first time I have photographed an equine guest. I’ve had plenty of doggy guests before, but never a horse! He was very well behaved to be fair, even pricking his ears forward for me without direction. I’m sure a career in modelling is there should he decide to try his hand, or rather hoof. I probably took way more images than I needed to of Ernest, but its always better to have them and let the couple edit them out than the other way around.
Over the last few weddings I have been moving away from zoom lenses and shooting more and more on prime for their additional sharpness and shallow depth of field. I think the results confirm that is the right direction to go. It does mean I have to carry two cameras loaded with two different focal lengths rather than one with a single zoom that covers all but the images are worth the weight. I have also been working a lot more with off camera flash. On days like Saturday with a cloudless sky and harsh light at times that is also absolutely the way to go. The flash lifts the shadows and allow me to take back control of lighting from the sun. A big thanks to Gareth for assisting on the day as my lighting rigger.
Here is a selection of some of the images and my thought processes from the day.
I arrived about 15 minutes early in the hopes the daffodils would be out. The first shot is a classic I have taken before at Tylney. I prefer it when there is a little more cloud to reduce the contrast in the scene, but it still works here. From here I went up to the room but having been given an incorrect room number there was a little bit of confusion over where Pip, the bride was. I used the time to shoot some establishing shots and some background images of the grounds. These can look very effective in a digital album as a faded background image with smaller images inlaid over the top.
After locating Pip I went up to the room to catch some of the story here. There were large windows in her room with lots of gorgeous light but open to the front of the hotel. Pip was worried about being seen and so confined herself to a windowless bedroom area. The light in here was rubbish and so I quickly setup an umbrella with a flash to create some directional light. I made sure I got some close-up images with my 85mm prime in order to throw the background out of focus.
Back in the room there was a lot of people with 6 bridesmaids and other family members. I mostly shot on my 35mm prime here with a shallow depth of field to try and create that first person perspective. I think a lot of the images work better in monochrome here because it simplifies to larger outlines and de-emphasises detail clutter. Especially so when used with a shallow depth of field to draw attention to the subject and away from the background.
My two favourite shots from this section where the images of Pip talking to her father and on of a bridesmaid using a mirror to get ready. The first because its a lovely natural moment and Pip had stepped just far enough into the room to get some natural light on her. I also love the perspective of the 35mm lens here, it just works in that documentary / storytelling mode. The second because I was able to combine the light falling on to the mirror against a dark background combined with an extreme shallow depth of field to draw attention to the bridesmaids face. It’s a classic shot, but very well executed. I am also very fond of the bridesmaid laughing because its a natural moment that tells a story. I’m always looking for images like that.
Getting ready to talk to the registrar I waited at the bottom of the stairs ready to capture Pip coming down. Things got a little stressful for me here as suddenly my camera didn’t behave as it should! Despite being on autofocus, my viewfinder showed a blurry image. It turned out I must have knocked the dioptre adjustment which controls the eye relief on the optical viewfinder. Its sort of like a variable pair of spectacles. I used the screen to check sharpness but it took a stressful minute to figure out what had happened!
Waiting for Pip to talk to the registrar I headed over to the Tylney Suite to see Max the groom. Outside the Tylney suite is another room with two wide doors which were both open. These create beautiful directional light and I used this to capture the guys taking selfies of themselves. These are documentary gold, completely unposed so a great bit of story telling. I also managed to capture Max who happened to be relaxing against the railing. Its always a bonus when you can capture somebody in a relaxed state that happens to look great.
During the service I used the 35mm F1.8, 85mm F1.8 and the 70-200 F4 for some of the closer up shots from the back of the room. With the room flooded with spring light I was able handhold rather than use the tripod. This gives me the ability to play a little with different viewing angles and move a little.
The plan was to shoot Ernest the horse immediately after the ceremony but he was a little late arriving. We were already 30 minutes behind schedule at the start of the after ceremony photos and so with no time to lose I suggested we start the couple shots. This is always a delicate balancing act, as its the most time pressured part of the day. The couple just want to talk to and see their families who also want to wish them well but unless I move things along, there is a real chance we wont get their photos done in time!
We did the first few photos and then news arrived that Ernest, Pippa’s beloved horse had arrived. She was off in a flash to meet him and we got some great images of Ernest with them. I had checked with Pippa beforehand and been advised it may be best to not use flash. His location in the shade was great as that lowered the contrast perfectly allowing me to capture him and the detail in Pippa’s dress without burning out the highlights.
From there we explored the bottom of the garden for a little while using locations that are well known to me. I shot the images using my 35mm and 85mm prime lenses to give a variety of perspective but the same consistent sharpness and shallow depth of field. The majority where also lit using an external flash from my Godox AD200. I still love the difference that bit of kit makes giving me a look that is impossible to match any other way.
Next we were on to the groups. This is always the most stressful part of the day for me as there are lots of people to organise in very short time. Everybody was very good however and came when called, mercifully nobody had gone to the bar or up to their room which is sometimes the case!
For groups I always use my 50mm F1.8 prime. I just feel it is the perfect perspective allowing me to shoot full length and three quarter length groups. I do love the flatter compression the 85mm gives but for a wedding group situation it is just impractical. This owing to the longer working distance required. I have to remember I’m not the only photographer and guests with their phone cameras and compacts do not have the same reach. As a result they want to stand a lot closer than I do and so get in my way. A 50mm is workable with a bit of polite asking people to move, but an 85mm would be a bit of a battle against the tide!
The sun position dictated that the steps would be the best place for groups as it quite often is here. The sun back lights the group which creates a beautiful ring light around their hair and outline. Probably more importantly, it also means they are not squinting as they would if they were facing the sun! Even with soft light, diffused by cloud the steps are a great area, not only is it natural staging, the walls and steps crate interesting geometric patterns and leading lines that lead off into the distance. Magic!
I did look at switching positions for some variety but even standing in the shade at the bottom of the garden lookup back up towards the house I was starting to squint it was so bright.
Next it was speeches. The chestnut suite does not have even natural lighting all the way through and its too big to light evenly with a single camera mounted flash. I placed two flash units either side of the top table in preparation and controlled exposure via a radio based trigger. This allowed me to bring the 35mm lense into play to get some of the wider group shots. Otherwise with a single camera mounted flash I am limited to close-ups of the speaker. Its nice to capture the room, action and reaction. I feel it gives a fuller picture of the story because it includes context.
Finally on to the first dance and here the 35mm F1.8 prime came into its own as it was quite low light. I did use a spot of off camera flash, set 1.7 stops below ambient just to fill some of the shadows. That allowed me to capture the ambient disco lights and with a large aperture and image stabilised lens, keep the couple sharp.
From there I had to jump in my taxi which was waiting and head home to backup my images and start processing them. This is where most of the work is these days, for every hour shooting there are four to five more in front of a computer screen! Although there are roughly 80 images here, the full set contains just over 700!