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Image of the Week - A Stolen Moment

Our Image of the Week picture this week is one of my favourite two or three images from the past few years. It’s one of those golden moments that played out perfectly.


This photograph was shot last year at Jojo & Tom’s wedding at Cripps Stone Barn in the Cotswolds. The Stone Barn is a fantastic venue but from a light point of view it presents its own unique challenges. In certain areas the light is simply majestic, and then at other times you’ve got to work hard to get the best from it. Where the wedding breakfast is served in the Dutch Barns the photons cascade in, bathing the guests in gorgeous window light, and likewise, the Stone Barn itself, which is used for ceremonies has a fantastic half-wall of windows. However, running down the centre of the venue there is a walkway that extends from one end of the building to the other. It’s fantastic looking but as it’s essentially a tunnel, it tends to create very backlit situations. An opportunity and a challenge.

This image was shot following the speeches in a little bit of downtime before I took the Bride & Groom away for portraits. Despite being mid-June (the summer solstice no less) the weather was doing that distinctly British thing and, for the most part… raining! Jojo & Tom had just heard a truly raucous, hilarious and moving set of speeches and as their guests finished coffee/dessert etc they stepped away for a quiet moment. People often ask me whether this image was posed or staged. In fact, it was 100% organic. I’d been preparing lighting for the first dance and as I walked back into the Dutch Barn I saw them stood near the door. Anyone who remembers from when I blogged their wedding will recall that Jojo & Tom are a sickeningly handsome pair and this, plus the fact that they have the rare quality of being truly comfortable in their own skins goes a fair distance to addressing questions of a staged photograph!

Prior to photographs like this there is often a strange feeling. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost like a sense of foreshadowing. A truly unique, unprompted moment might just be about to happen in front of me! This is the exact reason that clients hire me and it’s always a rush when it starts to play out. It doesn’t always eventuate, but when it does, such as here, it’s deeply satisfying. It sounds odd, but of all the photography I’ve ever done, these moments are most closely comparable to wildlife photography. You’re literally ‘stalking’ the moment. That might sound a touch creepy (trust me, there’s no hiding in bushes involved!) but it’s a similar sensation. As the picture begins to come together, I want to position myself ‘just so’ - ready with the perfect framing, accurate focus and appropriate exposure in anticipation of the decisive moment. However I want to do all this surreptitiously, without drawing attention to myself or interrupting the moment in any way. As soon as the subject becomes aware that they are indeed, the subject, the opportunity is lost.

These many small decisions were made and balanced, quietly, in the few seconds between spotting the possibility and clicking the shutter, about 20m or so from the couple. All the while trying to seem interested in something other than the Bride & Groom. Tom was leaning on the open door, chatting to his new wife, and while that in itself made a great frame, it really crystallised when Jojo closed the space between them and they kissed. That instance is reflected in this image.

There’s so much I love about this photograph. Compositionally it just works. The geometry of the arm around the neck and the arm leaning on the door, the vertical lines mirrored in both the flagstones and the door frames, the isolation of the subjects in the window. From an exposure point of view this shot depended on their proximity to the light. If they’d been set further back then they would have been far more backlit and a silhouette would have been more applicable. That would make for a nice shot, and I got something similar at Steph & Neil’s wedding earlier this year, but the romance in this image is in the closed eyes, the half visible face and the relaxed poses. All subtleties that would have been lost in a backlit image.

For the techies and photo geeks this image was shot on the 5DIII with the EF 135L at f/2.8, 1/320th and ISO 3200. There’s an interesting addendum to those details. The 135L is my favourite lens of all time - the reasons why I’ll explain in another post. This image, possibly my favourite shot of 2012, was shot on the 135L no less than 10mins before it slipped onto the very same flagstones. I’ve had lenses take a tumble before, sometimes you get lucky and other times not so much. This time I wasn’t so fortunate. While the lens was intact, having only fallen 2-3 feet, the autofocus motor was shot and it needed a visit to Canon for repairs. I’m glad to say that it’s now back to full health! I ended up shooting the portrait session that followed without the 135L. I’m not one for superstition, but over the course of a year I shoot tens of thousands of frames with the 135. I see a sort of serendipity in the fact that this lovely frame was created just moments before the same lens knocked itself out! There’s some sort of poetry hiding in there.

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