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Image of the Week - Wave!


This is the second instalment in the on-going image of the week series. Zoë & Ben’s wedding was back in June 2011 and was one of my favourites from last year. After getting married in St James’ Church in Elstead, the plan was for Ben and Zoë to lead a convoy of cars the short distance back to Zoë’s parent’s gorgeous home for the wedding reception. The distance was pretty short, so a convoy seemed totally plausible, and they had just the car for the job. Ben’s Mum owns a gorgeous vintage Morris - my research suggests it’s a Model 8 Series II - and thanks to a family friend it had been lovingly restored for their wedding day. Trust me when I say, this car oozed style.

When Zoë first explained the plan for this part of the day, along with thinking how fun it’d be, I really wanted to try and capture it in an evocative, motion filled shot. A convoy is all about movement and Elstead is a lovely picturesque spot. I know it relatively well as we go for the occasional chinese there and I drive through it quite often on the way to my girlfriend’s sister-in-law. There’s a great narrow bridge where the road out of the village crosses the river and it’s surrounded by all manner of rich vegetation and leafy trees. The shot I had in mind included the speeding Morris, an excited couple, a road stretching out behind and a sense of motion.

One of the parts of a wedding day that I worry about most are the logistics. I’m constantly anxious about uncontrollable elements such as traffic jams, parking spots and breakdowns. Thankfully, in Elstead, I didn’t have to worry too much about traffic and I drive a new reliable car. Nonetheless it’s a small village and finding convenient places to leave your car can be tricky. When considering this shot my main concern was getting from the church to the end of the bridge - where I wanted to shoot the picture from - in time. The post ceremony period of a wedding is normally a pretty excited, fast flowing affair and I didn’t want to miss it to get in position for the convoy shot. That said, getting into and out of a car, while carrying two cameras and a bunch of lenses takes a small, but not insignificant period of time. To this end, I figured it’d be quicker to walk from the church to the photo spot rather than get in the car, drive the short distance, park, get out and then walk to the exact spot.

This plan would have been ideal save for one mistake. I seriously underestimated how far it was on foot! What I thought would be a 3 minute walk was more like a 10 minute jog! As I walked and realised that the bridge was further than I’d imagine, I decided that missing this shot was simply not something I was going to let happen. As such I broke into a camera laden jog. Fine over 10 or even 50m but over the 700 odd, that Google Earth informs me it was, distinctly less so. The entire time I feared the sight of a Morris racing past or the sound of a vital piece of camera equipment detaching itself and bouncing loose. Luckily the gods were good and neither occurred. I arrived with no sign of Morris in sight.

I found my spot, which I’d scouted in a previous recce (though not the route march to it!) and selected my 17-40L. I wanted a wide angle to show the road stretching away behind Ben & Zoë and intended to wait till the car was as close to me as possible before pulling the trigger. As my breathing and heart-rate normalised, I stood and waited. And waited. And waited. I begun to worry that in my focussed, head down run I’d missed my targets as they’d gone sailing by. Considering this I came to the conclusion that it was highly improbable and that they were probably behind me. After a few more minutes and following a few false alarms, the distinctive maroon nose of the Morris appeared, horns tooting, bouquets waving.

I love Canon’s 5DII dearly, it is my favourite camera and arguably the best camera body I’ve ever used. I’ve used the layout for such a long time that I find it extremely instinctive. Nonetheless, it has it’s weaknesses and frame rate is one of them. Even at a relatively slow 30mph, through a wide angle lens like the 17-40L the car starts very large and then becomes very big very quick. I didn’t want the Morris too deep in the frame but neither did I want to catch only half of it. With only 3fps or so, I couldn’t afford to machine gun the shutter and so it came down to timing the composition. Thankfully I got lucky and as promised Zoë was whisked past waving like her life depended on it. The delay, it turned out, had been due to the
difficulties assembling a multi-car convoy in the confines of a small village green. Understandable really!

I was pretty pleased with the way the image turned out, it included all the elements I’d hoped for, had been considered but not staged and the fun and excitement of the moment shines through. I shot the image on a 5DII using a 17-40L wide open at f/4 with a shutter speed of 1/320th, ISO 200. I wanted a touch of motion blur, hence the choice of shutter speed and I panned with the Morris as it sped past. The 5DII gets a bad rep as far as AF goes and I’d love to see it improved in a forthcoming replacement (please Canon) but it does a decent job and hung on during this fairly difficult scenario of closing speeds, panning, busy scene and shifting light.

I’ll be back next week with another Image of the Week, if you’d like to see more of my work, then please take a moment to view my portfolio.


Zoë & Ben - St James' Elstead

Zoë & Ben were married a couple of weeks ago in Elstead, Surrey. I seem to book a lot of work by recommendation these days and Zoë's bridesmaid Caroline was also the sister of, and bridesmaid for, Jenny whose wedding to James I photographed back in May.

Zoë & Ben's wedding was all about the fun. Zoë's parents have a gorgeous house in Elstead and having met Zoë & Ben there twice for our consultations I was pretty excited about the day as I saw all the preparations coming together. Zoë spent the morning at her parents house before heading off to St James' Elstead for a stylishly late arrival. We'd been worried all week about the weather but as she arrived at church looking truly stunning the clouds parted and the sun shone!

Wedding days mostly follow the same pattern but it's the small differences and details that really make each one personal and unique. From saying "I do" when you mean "I will" to a set of superb readings and a cameo of tremendous organ freestyling by the Best Man, Zoë & Ben's service flowed between the intimate, joyful and downright funny in all the right ways. I was sporting a massive grin throughout!

Following the service we headed back to the house in a convoy of cars back lead by Zoë & Ben in Ben's mum's recently refurbished, and achingly cool, open top Morris. I had a shot in mind of the Morris whizzing past me on the bridge out of Elstead. I got it, but I didn't bank on how far away the bridge was on foot. I figured it'd be quicker to walk it than load the car, drive down there, jump out and shoot the picture, so like a fool I decided to walk it. With only a couple of minutes headstart and realising it was more like a 10min walk than a 3min walk I decided it was time to break into a fast jog/run for fear of missing the shot. Clearly those days of my youth spent in the cadets saved me. Running while laden with two large cameras, lenses and a belt pack is remarkably similar to a tactical march with rifle and bergen! I apologise Elstead. The sweaty photographer of some weeks ago was I.

The run was worth it. Zoë & Ben came flying past, hooting and waving, the top down and rain nowhere to be seen!

The reception was held in a wonderfully decorated marquee at Zoë's parents. Zoë's mum Gillia did all the floristry - which looked superb - and the combined team effort that went into themeing and decorating the garden was fantastic. Zoë's dad and brother were putting the finishing touches on things when I arrived in the morning, but not a moment of panic or time pressure was evident and we arrived back to a seriously funky reception.

The evening was a complete blast. One of the best receptions I've ever shot. Amazing energy, fun, good times and love shared by all. As for the speeches, everyone killed it. In particular Best Man Dan produced a blinder with a speech so good I think he should start writing for the Queen at Christmas.

I know I've written a mini-essay here, apologies for that. It's really down to the fact that I simply loved this wedding. It's always nice to work with a couple who have a real vision for their pictures. It really helps when you know that you're on the same wavelength as your clients. Thank you to Zoë & Ben for letting me be a part of their day, for being truly welcoming and utterly game when it came to pictures. I immensely enjoyed myself and I hope you did too.

Below is an extended selection of my favourites. Enjoy!