Trip to Paris

I recently took a trip to Paris with my girlfriend – and monsieur camera. The trip was timed to coincide with the final stage of the 100th Tour de France, specially scheduled for a dusk finish to add drama to the occasion. The last stage of every modern Tour de France has taken the cyclists from a suburb of Paris – Versailles in the 2013 edition – to the centre of Paris where they perform ten circuits up and down the Champs Elysees before ending with a sprint finish.

We took up a great position near the Arc de Triomphe and awaited the arrival of the cyclists.  I’d been avidly following the race for the preceding three weeks so I was particularly excited to catch my first glimpse of the peloton. After several hours of various sponsors’ floats and vehicles going past the arrival of the competitors onto the Champs Elysees was greeted with a flypast from the Patrouille de France (their version of the Red Arrows). It was a great way to signal the start of the main event.  
Patrouille de France perform a flypast as the peloton approach the Champs Elysees

About 10 minutes later we caught our first glimpse of the peloton – Chris Froome in the leader’s yellow jersey was at the front with his Team Sky cohorts. A couple more circuits went by and a breakaway was beginning to establish itself led by the Scottish cyclist David Millar.  These breakaways are almost always in vain and serve mainly to give the team’s sponsor some airtime on the TV coverage.  Occasionally they manage to keep clear of the main field and throw up a surprise winner, sadly not the case in this instance.Scottish cyclist David Millar tried to make a breakaway from the peloton 

The peloton passes the Arc de Triomphe The peloton passes the Arc de Triomphe 
At the final sprint Cavendish was well beated by the new sprint phenomenon Marcel Kittel and then Froome rolled in, yellow jersey still intact, with his team mates, the overall winner of the Tour.

An almost interminably long presentation ceremony followed featuring a light show where the Arc de Triomphe was illuminated to reflect the various jersey being awarded.An illuminated Arc de Triomphe during the presentation of the King of the Mountains jersey to Nairo Qunitana 
We eventually slunk off to a bar to give our feet a rest.  My appetite for the Tour was well sated and I’m already looking forward to next year when it’s due to start in Yorkshire and pass through London. Wonderful stuff.

The remainder of our 2-night, 3-day stay in the city was taken up with the regular touristy sightseeing activities. We popped to Pere Lachaise cemetery… Trip to Pere Lachaise cemetery

…and went to see the Eiffel Tower.  It looked fantastic at night…
The Eiffel Tower at night    The Eiffel Tower at night

We made our way back to London on the Eurostar with weary legs, tanned skin and the taste of some particularly potent cheeses still on our tastebuds.

Alli & Dan

With the UK resplendent in some lovely sunshine, the time seems ripe to post some photos from the gorgeous summery wedding of my friends Alli and Dan.  

Alli and I lived together in a big house share in Clapham, South London and I bore witness to the burgeoning romance that was to end up with their marriage, so it was a particular thrill when she and Dan asked me to photograph their wedding. 

The wedding took place in the gorgeous village of Stisted in Essex. I have always been quite ‘patriotic’ with regards to the natural beauty that exists in my homeland of Sussex, but Stisted and its surrounding areas were very much the equal of the best that Sussex has to offer.  Really a very gorgeous place, and great for cycling (I incorporated a bit of a bike ride with the recce a couple of months before the big day).

My first stop on the wedding day was Alli’s parents’ house where she was getting ready.

The make-up artist’s brushes

Make-up artist's brushes during bridal preparations

Great selection of flowers by the Traditional Vintage Flower Company

Buttonhole by the Traditional Vintage Flower Company

Bouquet by Traditional Vintage Flower Company  Bouquet by Traditional Vintage Flower Company

Bouquet by Traditional Vintage Flower Company

Alli having her make-up applied

Bride having make-up applied

I set up a studio light in the lounge to get some slightly more ‘stylised’ photos of Alli with her parents and bridal party

Portrait of the bride with the mother of the bride and the father of the bride

I couldn’t resist requesting an arm’s-length ‘selfie’ with the bride 🙂

Bride with the wedding photographer

We then made our way to the church for the ceremony

Groom and bride meet in the church

Bride and groom in the church

Groom places ring on bride's hand

Bride and groom celebrate

Bride with priest  Groom's shoes

The formals took place immediately after the ceremony

Photograph of entire wedding party in front of the church

We moved on to the reception venue where took Alli and Dan away from some newlywed shots

Bride and groom pose as newlyweds  Bride and groom pose as newlyweds

Bride and groom pose with their rings

This is a stance I frequently use myself….

Wedding guests having their picture taken

I absolutely loved this wedding cake – very innovative use of Lego

Wedding cake with lego

This conga really caught hold…

Conga at wedding reception

A view from the outside of the marquee

Marquee with wedding band

Ruth and Robert

In early June I photographed the wedding of Ruth and Robert at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London. 

Entrance to the venue is gained via a relatively unremarkable door in a relatively unremarkable wall near the Bank of England.

Merchant Taylor's Hall exterior

It’s an exterior that belies what is to be found inside.  The heart of the venue is the Hall itself – it’s almost unimaginably spacious.  When I went there for the recce I was in awe of the place, and spent a while trying to quantify its scale.  I figured that you could probably get a small terrace of three-storey town houses within the hall’s space.  Thankfully it backs up this vastness with a lovely interior of wood panelling, stained glass and a very handsome organ.

Merchant Taylor's Hall

On the big day itself Ruth got ready in one of the many gorgeous rooms that formed part of the complex.

Merchant Taylor's Hall interior

Ruth getting ready

Merchant Taylor's Hall

Ruth getting into her dress

Ruth straightening guest's hair

Meanwhile in the library… Robert was getting ready with his brother, who was also his best man.

Robert getting ready

Ruth’s mother before the ceremony in the Hall

Ruth's mum

Reading during the ceremony

Ruth and Rob making their vows

The first kiss

Leaving the ceremony as husband and wife

Formals took place in the courtyard.

All guests

Confetti shot

The wedding breakfast started with this dish – it looked delicious!

The starter

Speeches followed the meal. Robert’s brother brought the house down with a brilliant speech.

Rob's brother giving his best man's speech

Robert and Ruth had a change of outfits for the dancing period of the wedding.  They had hired a Blues Brothers tribute act and they were wonderful.  Not only musically ‘tight’ but also excellent at getting the guests to join in on the dancefloor. 

First Dance

Bride and groom dancing

Bride and groom dancing

New camera, new benchmark

I’ll start this post with a horse…
Horse on the gallops in Findon Valley, near Worthing, West Sussex

A few days ago I upgraded my main camera.  

My previous main camera (and now my new back-up) – a Nikon D700 – had given me over 4 years and 120,000 photos of fine service and it probably could have lasted me a few more years, however last year Nikon really pulled out all the technical stops and have been dangling a tantalising magnesium-bodied carrot in front of my eyes for several months in the shape of their new-ish D800.

To say that the D800 has reviewed well would be an understatement.  It is universally acclaimed as having the best image sensor in a DSLR right now. This is mostly thanks to the unprecedented level of definition it can capture with its 36.3 megapixel sensor.  It was also said to have a build quality to match that of the D700 and – crucially for me – dual memory card slots, meaning that at a high-pressured job such as a wedding it’s possible to have back-ups of all images right from the moment they are shot.  Quite a boon.

So, with the above in mind, I found myself at Park Cameras in Sussex last Friday purchasing a brand new D800 body.  My early impressions of the camera have been hugely favourable. It captures more detail than my D700 does in any situation: it is noticeably better in low light, it is hugely better in high-contrast scenes (e.g. bride in a white dress standing next to a groom in a dark suit), and of course it hoovers up a truly extraordinary amount of detail with all those pixels.

On top of that it can do something that wasn’t even attempted on the D700 – video capture.  It’s not something I have delved into much in the past – I have dabbled with it on my Nikon D5100 and my Olympus e-p1 but the results haven’t really bowled me over all that much. Judging by my early tinkerings I think video is something that will now really beg to be explored with the D800.

To finish, here’s an alternative crop of the top photo (I almost imagine it as an album cover…).  It’s really quite a tight crop from the original yet is still has over 13 megapixels!

Horse on the Gallops in Findon Valley, near Worthing, West Sussex

Second shooting at Preema and Claudio’s wedding

August 2012, Botleys Mansion, Chertsey, Surrey

I was hired by another photographer to work as a ‘second shooter’ for a Hindu wedding at the gorgeous Botleys Mansion last August.

Second shooting is frequently a junior/assistant role, however on occasion there is a requirement to have two top-notch photographers at one event and in that case the main photographer will hire a peer who they consider to be of similar ability and who shoot in a similar style to their own.  Such was the case with this wedding and it was a rare thrill to be able to work with another photographer for the day.

Our day started at a hotel not too far away from Botleys Mansion where I covered Claudio’s preparations whilst the other photographer was with Preema.  Claudio is from New York so he had hired a classic New York taxi cab to transport himself, his brother and me to the ceremony:

New York cab transporting Claudio to Botleys Mansion

New york cab transporting groom and best man to wedding venue

Once we arrived we all went through to the main ceremony area and Claudio was hidden behind a sort of veil as he and Preema were ‘officially’ meeting for the first time at that moment and there was to be a big reveal.

Claudio behind a veil

Preema arrived and the reveal took place. Both parties seemed to get what they were expecting!  

Bride, groom and mother of the bride joining hands

Bride, groom and mother of the bride joining hands

Bride looking at groom

Groom looking at bride

After the ceremony the other photographer took on the task of shooting the formal photos whilst I roamed and took some candids.

Bride shortly after getting married


Giant jenga game at the wedding reception

(see this one larger!)

After a couple of hours Preema and Claudio were to have a ceremonial departure during which the groom’s side was expected to dispense some cash to the bride’s family.  There was some pretty hard bargaining from Preema’s family’s side…

Bride's family in front of groom's car

Eventually, once enough money had changed hands, the newly-weds’  vehicle had to run over a coconut and they made the short drive around the corner to the residential part of the mansion where they were to get changed for the evening event.

Mother of the bride placing coconut under the wheels of the newlyweds' car

Bride and groom being driven away from Botleys Mansion

The remains of the coconut

The evening event was a black-tie dinner. Dinner is often a time for a quick break for photographers and this wedding was no different.  After shooting Preema and Claudio’s arrival the two of us – along with three videographers! – went and grabbed some food of our own until the time of the speeches.

Guest spontaneously playing the piano

Bride and groom waiting to be welcomed to their meal by their guests

Guests dining at Botleys Mansion

The speeches were hugely touching and all the speakers (I think all the siblings had at least a brief word) paid respect to both families.

Brother of the bride giving a speech

Claudio, the groom, giving a speech

Brother of the groom giving a speech

The first dance segued into a flashmob from some of the younger family members from both sides.

Bride and groom dancing

Bride and groom dancing at the end of their wedding day at Botleys mansion

At the end of the day I was left to reflect on a fantastic wedding. The overwhelming sentiment was that everyone was having an incredibly fun time and that Preema and Claudio had truly ‘knocked it out of the park’, as Claudio’s countrymen might say.

Back to Vinopolis

On the first Saturday of January 2013 I found myself returning to Vinopolis to photograph the wedding of Jemma and Andy – a mere four weeks after my previous visit there for Claire and Giles’ wedding.  This time the wedding was to have a Parisian/Moulin Rouge theme to it, so bridesmaids in can-can skirts, vintage copies of Paris Match around the drinks area and a Paris-themed table layout.

I arrived at the Novotel London City South to photograph the preparations of the bride and groom with their respective entourages.
Jemma's wedding shoes, designed by one of her bridesmaids

Andy with his best men

Jemma's top hat fascinator

Bridal bouquet

Jemma getting into her dress

The ceremony area of Vinopolis was set up in a more photographer-friendly arrangement compared to the previous month’s wedding.  There was a translucent screen behind the registrar’s table and I was able to position a remote light behind it and illuminate Jemma and Andy’s faces rather nicely.

Here’s Jemma walking up the aisle with her Dad…
Bride and her father walking up the aisle at Vinopolis

Jemma and Andy exchanging vows, rings and a kiss…
Bride and groom exchanging vows

After the ceremony the three of us went out for a stroll around the local area. We came across a couple who were walking their Russian Wolfhound and asked if they’d mind us borrowing it for a few shots…
Bride and Groom with a Russian Wolfhound

Bride and groom with their rings

Here are a couple of the formal shots…
Jemma with her bridesmaids

Andy jumping with his groomsmen

The cutting of the cake
Bride and groom cutting their cake in Vinopolis

Jemma and Andy brought along a box of props for photobooth style shots so I spent much of my time snapping people in feather boas and funny hats…
Bridesmaids in the photobooth experience

Guests posing in the photobooth experience

Guests posing in the photobooth experience

Bride and Groom in the photobooth experience

Bride and Groom in the photobooth experience

Guests in the photobooth experience

Guests in the photobooth experience

Finally, a bit of Gangnam Style on the dancefloor….

Gangnam Style dancing during the wedding reception

Gangnam Style dancing during the wedding reception

Gangnam Style dancing during the wedding reception

Claire and Simon

Now for a wedding from a little further back in the archives.  Claire and Simon got married in Sussex on an extremely hot day in August 2012.   

The ceremony took place at St John’s Church, Uckfield, and the reception was just down the road at the glorious Buxted Park House.

Claire and Simon during the ceremony

Claire and Simon during the ceremony

The newlyweds process out of the church

Confetti shot outside the church

The heat was at is fiercest during the speeches and some guests were kind enough to start fanning me with service sheets and table menus as I moved around the dining hall!

Speeches taking place at Buxted Park

After the speeches we took a walk around the lush grounds and got some lovely newlywed shots.

Simon and Claire, bride and groom at Buxted Park

Bride and groom at Buxted Park

Claire and Giles’ wedding at Vinopolis

I photographed the wedding of Claire and Giles in December 2012.  They went for the full kaboodle in terms of their photography package so my day started with the bridal preparations at the London Bridge Hotel in the shadow of the Shard…

London Bridge hotel in the shadow of the Shard

Claire’s dress was a very pretty calf-length frock which she matched with a pair of ‘make-sure-you-photograph-the’ Jimmy Choos.

Claire's calf-length wedding dress

Jimmy Choo wedding shoes

Bridal bouquet

From the Hotel we all made our way to Vinopolis where the ceremony and reception were to take place.  I had recce’d the venue a few weeks beforehand so felt I knew what to expect in terms of illumination, i.e. a technical challenge!

My preferred option is always to use natural light, it gives the most accurate representation of the events of a day and accuracy is something I strive for.  If it’s simply too dark (usually during the disco) I use bounced flash (flash attached to camera and pointing at a pale ceiling or wall).  Occasionally if there are no pale surfaces against which to bounce flash I have to point the flash directly at the subject, either handheld on the end of a flash cable, or mounted on a stand.

I had to opt for the latter for pretty much the entire day at Vinopolis as it is a complex of rooms with bare brick walls and vaulted ceilings.  Fortunately off-camera flash work is something I’m pretty handy at and, whilst I perhaps wasn’t as spontaneous as I would like to have been, I was able to anticipate where the key events would take place and quickly set up a light in a good spot.

I was particularly happy with this shot of everyone present…
Photo of all wedding guests in Vinopolis

Giles and Claire on their wedding day in Vinopolis

The bridal party at Vinopolis

The wedding breakfast in Vinopolis

Cutting the cake in vinopolis, London

Interior of Vinopolis

We went for a stroll around Borough Market after the meal…..
Claire and Giles in Borough Market

Claire and Giles in Borough Market

Claire and Giles in the shadow of the Shard

Claire and Giles in front of some hoarding

And one last picture of Claire throwing her bouquet. 

Claire throwing her bouquet

A salute to ‘Wiggo’

I wouldn’t describe myself as a sports photographer by any means – my lenses aren’t big enough – but the 2012 Olympics in London provided me with a golden opportunity to train my camera at some elite sports people.

First up came Brad Wiggins’ win in the cycling time trial discipline.  I have been an avid pro cycling fan for a number of years – a fandom that was fostered when the 1994 Tour de France route planner saw fit to plot a path through the village of Ditchling, a short stroll from my parents’ house.  

I travelled to Surbiton, my thinking being that there wouldn’t be too much of a crowd there as opposed to the Hampton Court hub, and I’d therefore be afforded relatively unobstructed views.  To my delight – and as a result of some refreshingly forward-thinking stewarding – I was able to sit cross-legged on the road, in front of the barrier that was supposed to confine the likes of me to the pavement.  Quite a coup.  I arrived at the event arguably a little late – I think I saw about 20 riders go past in total, though I knew that all the big names – Contador, Cancellara, Froome, Martin and Wiggins – were due through towards the end as the highest ranking riders of the field.  I fired off the below snaps before diving into a nearby pub to watch the fabulous conclusion to the event and, upon feeling my eyes welling up, beat a hasty retreat back home.

Taylor Phinney – a vehement spokesperson for clean cycling, claims to ride ‘purer than pure’ eschewing even caffeine pills and painkillers
Taylor Finney

Lieuwe Westra
Lieuwe Westra at the London 2012 Olympics 

Brad Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins at the London 2012 Olympics

I missed out on winning much-coveted tickets to events in the Olympic park in the official ballot however was very fortunate that my girlfriend’s Mum can F5 with the best of them and she was able to get an additional ticket for me to join her and her family at an athletics session during the Paralympics.  I was utterly blown away  by the experience. I will treasure the sights and sounds of the day for the rest of my life. The atmosphere inside the stadium was amazing – I love a football crowd, but the overwhelming support that spectators were giving EVERY athlete was humbling.

Outside the stadium
London 2012 Olympic stadium

Panorama of the Olympic Stadium
Panorama of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium

David Weir claims gold
David Weir claiming gold at the London 2012 Paralympics 

Katie and Paul’s wedding

Here are some photos of Katie and Paul’s wedding in Addington, Buckinghamshire, UK.

Place setting
Place setting in the marquee

Katie’s shoes

Katie getting ready
Hair and make-up

Katie getting ready

Katie getting ready

I want to say that this cat is called 'Jones' but I think I may be getting him confused with 'Alien'
I want to say his name’s Jones but I suspect I’m getting confused with Alien

Horse-drawn carriage
A fine set of wheels. The horse-drawn carriage took Katie from her parents’ house to the church.

Katie walking up the aisle
Katie walking up the aisle

Katie, Paul and bridesmaids
I was not permitted to take photos during the ceremony however we popped back into the church after the formals and mocked up some shots.

Delicious cake
Delicious cake

Paul and Katie in her parents' house
Paul and Katie

Paul and Katie in the garden of her parents' house

Katie's Dad during the speeches
Katie’s Dad receiving some stag do-related acclaim

Katie and Paul with his Mum
With Paul’s Mum

The first dance
The first dance

Paul and his brothers