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Image of the Week - Castle Steps

I’ve been meaning for some time to start an ‘image of the week’ feature focusing on some of my favourite images. The idea is fairly straightforward, spotlight an interesting image and discuss it. That’s pretty much the gist of it, nothing too labourious or long-winded. Hopefully it’ll be of interest to both prospective couples and photographers alike. I’m sure the frequency will vary somewhat, sometimes becoming fortnightly or monthly and at other times being every few days. Nonetheless, I’ll call it image of the week for simplicity’s sake. To get us underway, I thought we’d start with the image below:

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This was one of my favourite images from 2011 and is from Lucy & Ollie’s wedding at Gorey Castle in Jersey. Mont Orgueil, to give the castle its formal title, is a vast coastal fortress and the walk from bottom to top is considerable. Wedding day or not, the only way up is via the steps. I’d flown out to Jersey the day before the wedding to recce the locations and I’d really liked the look of the winding steps that linked the higher Grand Battery to the lower areas of the castle. On the day itself the majority of the guests made their way up to the Grand Battery for the drinks reception fairly promptly while Lucy & Ollie remained at the bottom for a few minutes.

This not only allowed me to race to the top but also allowed the stairway to clear of people. I positioned myself towards the landward edge of the Battery, which looks down onto the steps, and while keeping one eye on the stairway photographed the guests mingling and the band entertaining. When I spotted the Bride and Groom approaching I turned round and made sure they weren’t looking. The shot I had in mind was observational rather than interactional and what I envisaged was a birds-eye view without direct eye contact. The edge of the Grand Battery overlooking the steps has a low wall. I’m quite tall, but it was certainly beneath waist height for me. I’d pre-framed the image and found that I wanted as wide an angle as possible to include as much of the sweeping, curving steps as possible. However, to get the angle just so and to include as little of the wall closest to me as possible at the bottom of the frame I found I had to lean out a fair bit! With the low wall and the issues with framing, I found myself adopting a rather unusual, somewhat hilarious, semi squatting, semi spread-eagle position as I effectively gripped (read ‘humped’) the curved wall in front of me with my legs and knees. Thankfully guests were too absorbed in having a good time to notice…

The frame was shot on the Canon 5DII with a 17-40L at 17mm. I wanted to include a reasonable amount of detail in the rising walls so I shot the image at f/5.6. Although they didn’t spot me, Lucy & Ollie had the good form to walk hand in hand, in a perfectly centred spot midway between the two walls. As I saw the Bridesmaids following on behind I chose to wait until they entered the frame. The distance between the two pairs was simply good fortune but made for a nice balance to the frame. The final timing of the shot came down to two things, firstly gait - timing the shot such that the Bride & Groom were in a nice spot in their step pattern - and the unknown quality that may or may not appear. As luck had it, just as I pressed the shutter, Lucy held her bouquet out the side as she linked arms with Ollie. It’d have been a nice shot without this, but the action adds a certain quality, both in isolating the bouquet and emphasising the couple.

I’m predominantly a fan of this shot for its composition. I love the snaking line of the steps, the separation of Bride & Groom and the bridesmaids, their central placement on the walkway and the texture of the stone. It’s always satisfying to see an image ahead of time and then for it to come together in the camera. Planning played a part, but luck was a massive factor too, both in terms of the timing and in the placement of the subjects. I could have staged it, but that’d have run counter to both my nature and detrimental to the ‘truth’ of the image.

If you’d like to see a larger version of the image it’s currently featured in the initial slideshow that visitors can find on my website homepage.

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