A Winter Wirral Wedding At The Palm House, Sefton Park

My last wedding photography of 2017 couldn't have been at a more beautiful reception venue - The Palm House, Sefton Park, Liverpool. Stunning Victorian ironwork, white paint and beautiful venue dressing ensure that Rebecca and Matt's wedding was great fun for me. Most importantly, however, they were a wonderful couple to work with and their guests were ever so kind.

 Dusty pink and grey against the beautiful greens of The Palm House, Sefton Park

Dusty pink and grey against the beautiful greens of The Palm House, Sefton Park

The biggest challenge in terms of doing the wedding photography was time. With separate hotel, church and reception venues, there was more driving than usual and this meant I had to work very quickly and efficiently. Winter days are of course short and this meant making the most of our time at The Palm House, Sefton, to produce the wedding photos I knew they'd be hoping for.

The Bride and Groom had selected beautifully themed colours and I wanted to ensure that this was felt in the body of images I sent to them. This meant working over groups of images to ensure that the feel was harmonious and the colours and tones played off each other beautifully. Here are a couple of example screen shots showing what I was looking at when I made selections of images to adjust colour and tone. Considering that The Palm House, Sefton, is full of green plants, this presented some additional challenges.

 Signing the register at the church

Signing the register at the church

Rebecca and Matt had an eye for detail and wanted to make sure that their efforts were beautifully recorded for them to look back on many years from now. These paper flowers were hand made, from pages taken from Alice In Wonderland.

 Absolutely beautiful, unique and personal wedding flowers

Absolutely beautiful, unique and personal wedding flowers

As the light faded, I continued shooting the exterior of The Palm House to capture that beautiful moment when the lighting of the interior and structure glows, when set against the last drops of daylight. I shot until well into the night, but that's for another time!

 The Palm House, Sefton Park, at dusk.

The Palm House, Sefton Park, at dusk.

August & September 'Moments'

I'm a documentary photographer and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the creative process is not knowing what will happen. Not exactly, anyway. Naturally, I prepare thoroughly for every wedding and I ensure that I have all the equipment I could possibly need. I also make sure that I have reserve locations ready for private shoots, or groups, should they be needed. However, there is one aspect you simply cannot plan for and its the appearance of fleeting moments that are sent to thrill, challenge, frustrate and amuse wedding photographers.

 Katy & Stuart's Wedding at Peckforton Castle

Katy & Stuart's Wedding at Peckforton Castle

While I may not know what's going to unfold, I do know that I'll encounter unexpected moments at each and every wedding. Truth be told, they're the bits I am most excited about and what gives me a tingle of nervous excitement the moment I start shooting. They're also a huge part of what makes each wedding distinctive, personal and authentic.

 The first victim at Murphy's Bar, near Castlebar, Co. Mayo, with Katie and Tom

The first victim at Murphy's Bar, near Castlebar, Co. Mayo, with Katie and Tom

At the moment I shoot with little Fujifilm cameras, because they're responsive, compact and quick. I can quickly bring them up to my eye and catch a fleeting moment without looking like I am pointing a rocket launcher at people (which I think everyone appreciates). I may take a single frame, or a couple, or I may shoot a burst of a second or more, but here's the thing; I never look at the screen to see whether I 'got the shot' or not. The reason is simple: it has already passed. If I didn't get it, I didn't get it, but if I did, then I did! Either way there will be more wonderful moments to come and I prefer not to spend my time looking at the screen on the back of the camera. I guess this is also a product of beginning my professional documentary work with film cameras, which have no screen, only 36 frames and which require you to always look forward to the next shot, not back at the last!

Not every moment is sent from the heavens to flatter a Bride or Groom, but I shoot anything and everything that touches me. These moments sit at the core of what connects me to the people I am photographing and I perhaps look at them differently to most non-photographers. Real moments are far bigger than 'the most flattering angle' and our relationship with them tends to change with time. This is why I try to provide as many such moments as possible to the Bride and Groom, so that they can decide what's most meaningful to them. Real human moments provide memories that far outlive the best laid plans. Having spent over ten years photographing and working in conflict zones prior to moving into wedding photography in the UK, I can say with real conviction that I will never grow tired of seeing people happy. I think it has made me appreciate what I now do for a living all the more.

Vicky & Ross @ Thornton Manor Waterside Pavillion

I had a fantastic time photographing Vicky & Ross's wedding at Thornton Manor's Waterside Pavilion. Grey blue clouds hung onto the horizon for much of the day, but provided lovely subdued light for our private shoot and group photographs. The lighting on the dance floor provided plenty of challenges, but when you've got a couple this relaxed together, you know the photographs will communicate the same serenity and peace. Brides and Grooms may not realise it and perhaps I am not speaking for all wedding photographers, but there is a definite energy we tap into and work with.

The gardens at Thornton Manor Waterside Pavilion are lovely and provide a wealth of locations to use in the private shoot within a relatively short distance. This is great for the photographer and couple, as it means they're not taken away from their guests for too long. This is something I feel strongly about: it's their wedding and the photographs should reflect that and not something separate.

Vicky & Ross were an a joy to work with and it was a privilege to have been part of their new beginning. As an ex-serviceman myself, I also take great pride in seeing someone in uniform, especially when the values of service are so well reflected in the man or woman wearing it. Stay safe, Ross!

Destination Wedding: West Coast Of Ireland

Katie and Tom booked me early in 2017 to photograph their wedding near Castlebar, Co. Mayo, this September. I have a camper van, I quite like ferry trips and so figured that I would quite enjoy being rained on for a few days (!) in this beautiful part of the world. In fact my girlfriend, Emma, thought she might like to assist me and so off we went.

 A beautiful bride at a location filled with childhood memories

A beautiful bride at a location filled with childhood memories

Every wedding is different. We all know this. The specifics of people, place, weather and the myriad of planned and unplanned details are about as unique as our own DNA. It is always a thrill for me to take my first steps into such a special and unique occasion, knowing there isn't a precise formula and that it's guaranteed to be 'all new' each and every time. Everything about this wedding (apart from my camper van nearly braking down) was an absolute blast and, without a shred of commercial cynicism, truly touching.

 At the local pub, next to the church: generations of family, friends and community

At the local pub, next to the church: generations of family, friends and community

I'd met Katie and Tom a few weeks before the wedding and could see what a wonderful match they were. Both radiated happiness and peace and were so incredibly friendly and generous towards me. I figured that the same relaxed, authentic approach they'd shown me, when applied to their special day, would provide all the creative fuel I would need and I wasn't wrong. Their wedding was absolutely theirs and it was, frankly, brilliant.

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The day before the wedding, we met up and took a tour of the locations that were important. These included the family home, lakeside beaches Katie played at as a child, the village pub (which doubles as a funeral director), the church and the reception venue.  There were significant distances between some of them, which meant that I was going to have to work very quickly indeed if we were to remain on schedule. But this is what I love: the real moments, the real experiences, meaningful connections between people and place. On the big day, we included photographs with Katie's grandfathers postman's motorbike and visited the oldest person in the village, who showered Katie with vast quantities of holy water. That turned out to be the only rain on the day. Despite dark clouds and clear blue skies swapping places repeatedly, it remained fair and dry. Three days of rain followed!

I believe that one of the most important things for the Bride & Groom to plan on their wedding has nothing to do with venues, photography, decorations, music or food. It's their own mindset. We all know that planning and making a wedding happen can result in a lot of pressure and restless minds. This is something I will write about in another short blog post, but I could see very clearly that Katie and Tom were in a great place on their wedding day. Whether they'd had to think about it to clear their minds, or whether it came naturally, I don't know. All I do know is that I could see it in their faces from the moment I saw them until I bade them goodnight! What an absolute pleasure that is for me.

As a wedding photographer I'm not only a 'service provider', but a fellow human being with all the same hopes, dreams, pains and joys as everyone else. I carry this into every wedding I photograph and I can honestly say that seeing people this happy gives me goosebumps. It's magic... magic that is palpable, entirely infectious and lays down deep, unforgettable memories. Incidentally, this is a subject that sits right at the heart of my love of photography. It is well described in this article here. Come to think of it, I think a little post here on PMP about such 'meaningful moments' would be a good idea.....

Until next time!

Wedding Photography At Peckforton Castle

Set in stunning woodland, Peckforton Castle is one of the most beautiful wedding venues I've ever seen. However, the real magic is brought about by people and it was abundantly clear that the Bride and Groom were very much in love. And those are the weddings I love to photograph: weddings characterised by happiness, intimacy and fun.

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I'm going to share a handful of 'moments' from this August wedding at Peckforton Castle. The Bride was very clear that she wanted 'candid' photography, with minimal interruption and posed photos. So these are the photos I'm going to share: real people, real moments and an unforgettable day!

The Unitarian Church, Ullet Rd, Liverpool

Wedding photographers love beautiful wedding venues and the Unitarian Church on Ullet Road is certainly that. But it is also very dark and this is just one of the reasons why I make a point of visiting each and every wedding location well in advance. With flash not permitted, I knew it would be a challenge, but stunning weddings deserve stunning photos, no matter the technical challenges faced by the photographer.

With the ceremony over, the Bride & Groom greeted each and every guest as they exited the church. Moments like these are incredibly brief, but some of the most important of the day. The Happy Couple then stepped outside into a blizzard of confetti!

... and now onto a selection from the dance floor (which I love to photograph), where reputations are made and lost (I am talking about the guests of course)...

And finally, here's an example of the photographs that are one can't plan for, or seek out. You either see them or you don't. The Bride's dress train was lit on the left side by cool blue dusk window light and warm orange light from the wall lanterns on the right.  

Sarah & Robin - Birkenhead Park

There's nothing to say that you can't use a location other than your venue/s for a wedding shoot and this is what we did. Birkenhead Park provided much prettier backdrops, lots more space and (ironically) much more privacy than either the church or the reception venue, so we built 30 minutes into the day's schedule and dropped in en route between the church and the reception. 

 One of the first photos of the day: Sarah & Dad arriving at the church

One of the first photos of the day: Sarah & Dad arriving at the church

 The first photo at Birkenhead Park, at which point I could see just how good the newlyweds 'were' together.

The first photo at Birkenhead Park, at which point I could see just how good the newlyweds 'were' together.

Our park shoot was a  little oasis of calm after the wedding ceremony, where the guests had very little space outside the church and no shade from the strong sun. It gave the couple (and myself a chance to relax in the cool shade.

Robin & Sarah relaxed beautifully into our whistlestop shoot, which made it a real pleasure. We moved on to The Boathouse, where I shot some of my favourite images of the day. Here's a trio of images that would make a beautiful framed triptych!

...and finally, just one from the reception that perhaps says it all: a wonderful day for two wonderful people.

The Deep South @ Southport

Each wedding is a story and sometimes that story has a particular colour, sound, or feeling associated with it. Deep blue skies and a high, piercing sun made Maria & Vic's Southport wedding especially challenging to photograph and when I started to look over the photos, I got a sense of the Deep South... perhaps Tennessee.

Maybe it was the upper balcony at Eighty Eight Bar and Brasserie (reception) that reminded me of a meal in Mississippi many years ago? Perhaps a single photo of a 'gator' skin shoe and a table swung my mind in this direction?

Nonetheless, when editing the photographs, I could not shake off thoughts of Sally Mann and her warm, rich evocative 8x10" images of America's south. This shaped my editing of Maria & Vic's special day, which tells such a clear story of love, warmth and intimacy from start to finish.

Graphic Abstraction

I think all photographers have a long list of inspirations and influences and Ralph Gibson is one of my many. His bold blacks, rich contrast and semi-abstract images can make the simplest object visually arresting.

 A Southport wedding. 

A Southport wedding. 

Having spent many years shooting documentary projects and fine art photography, my eye is always seeking out those rich, human details. Sometimes they just beg for bold B&W treatment, with rich, deep blacks.

 The couple's father writing in the wedding book, at Eighty Eight Bar, Southport

The couple's father writing in the wedding book, at Eighty Eight Bar, Southport

A Wirral Wedding: Eastham and Prenton

I had the pleasure of photographing the marriage of Michele and John last month. The wedding ceremony took place at St Mary The Blessed Virgin, Eastham Village  (Wirral) followed by the reception in Prenton.

Every now and again you meet people who are genuinely kind. Sometimes you meet people whose kindness and consideration takes your breath away and that sums up this wedding: wonderful people sharing a very special day with their nearest and dearest. The guests weren't shy (!) which mean't some pretty wild confetti shots, followed by photos of friends attempting to retrieve the confetti from the brides dress!

It was an emotional day full of character and verve. Some of the kids came into their own, after the ceremony.... and after a good nap in the church....

Here are a couple more natural moments to leave you with:

Wedding Photography & Candid Moments

When I shoot wedding photography, I prepare for everything I can possibly think of, except one: the candid shots. You can't prepare for these and shouldn't, because they're supposed to 'just happen'...  and can't be real candids if they aren't natural! Normally they're single shots, but sometimes they're sequences of action. 

 A Southport Wedding: The Bride's step daughter struck such a beautiful silhouette against the bright frosted glass. No flash, no cues and no clue I was there.

A Southport Wedding: The Bride's step daughter struck such a beautiful silhouette against the bright frosted glass. No flash, no cues and no clue I was there.

I just wanted to share the example below, shot during a wedding at Sheldrakes, West Kirby (Wirral). The young lady was standing on the upper balcony while I was getting some fresh air below and looking for landscape shots across the Mersey. The wind caught her hair and I caught a beautiful sequence. I've included the first frame and then the composition I chose for the rest.

Joe & Mark: A Wirral Wedding

It was a real pleasure to photograph Joe and Mark's 'Wirral wedding' at Sheldrakes Restaurant, West Kirby last month. I'm thankful for the newlyweds' kind hospitality and the many wonderful people I met on the day (and what a great staff at the restaurant)! Dark skies threatened, but unleashed no more than a drop or two. Oh, and those flower girls had a blast - more photos to come>>>

Dramatic Wirral Wedding Weather

What stunning weather! Photographs taken around Sheldrakes Restaurant, West Kirby, Wirral, during Joe & Mark's wedding in May:

The sky threatened to tip it down just as everyone was arriving, but we only saw a few faint drops over the course of the whole day. First, I'm going to share a few landscapes that I shot from the balcony at Sheldrakes restaurant in West Kirby, where the wedding ceremony and reception were held:

A day that began overcast and heading for drizzle provided stunning, atmospheric views across to North Wales, allowing me to include these dramatic images with the Joe and Mark's final images. I may be photographing a wedding, but I'll take any opportunity that's given to make beautiful photos!