Venue : Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne, Switzerland https://www.brp.ch/accueil/
Hair and Makeup: Botias http://www.botias.co.uk/
Lighting Equipment : Elinchrom http://elinchrom.com/
Italian Handmade Album : Graphistudio https://www.graphistudio.com/en_GB/home
You can’t buy experience we are always told, and how so very true. When it comes to wedding photography, I have done them all and at every level! As a photography student back from college at the weekends and through a local photographer that I helped out, I sometimes did TWO on a Saturday.
But this was the ‘old style’ approach to shooting someone’s special day and consisted mostly of impatiently waiting at the back of the church while making sure silence was observed as another set of vows, that hopefully would be kept to some degree, were duly exchanged, and then it was outside to line up the participants like they were about to be shot at dawn and all according to a sacred, unwritten but unbreakable holy order that as far as I know, was passed down to Moses along with his tablets. When eagerly assembled and the woman in the oversized hat caught hiding at the back was promptly relocated, the list would be enthusiastically adhered to and one by one they were shot by the church door until the order written at the dawning of time on hallowed parchment, was duly finished. Then on to the two main players captured forever full length, half and of course the Cecil B Demille close up, swiftly off to the reception to beat the guests and get a car space and all to simply rest the chefs best bit of mock antique cutlery on the icing sugar that everybody always says is such a shame to cut...and on to the next gladiatorial encounter in the afternoon!
Well I was in my twenties then and as a student, I needed every penny to keep a car on the road and to keep body and soul together, plus of course and as every student will testify to, enough for a few beverages with my mates.
Then there was the wedding where I realised that all my efforts to get the very best out of even this limited and limiting scenario was not exactly appreciated, when I heard the bride whisper to the groom to get rid off me because they wanted to get drunk, although she did say it rather differently to that!
So wedding photography for me was always a means to and end, rather than a career choice. Formulaic and intransigent and while it helped me through my college education, for which I will always be eternally grateful, it offered little to feed the soul.
Instead I wanted to unfurl the main sail, set course on intrepid adventures in uncharted waters, explore, discover.
Second star to the right and straight on til morning.
And I pretty much did this for a good few years and at the time and unbeknown to me, this career choice forced me to develop a set of skills that were highly specialised and now I am very pleased to say, pretty sought after. I say unbeknown, because learning these skills to a point where I do not even have to think about a lot of the technical aspects of an image that is at that point still only resides inside my head, which then releases me to concentrate on style and hopefully creativity, simply all had to be learned to this degree in order for me to shoot at the level that I achieved, or someone else got the job next time. It really was as simple as that.
Then like a benediction, came the first whispers of something different in wedding photography.
A new religion was arising from the mystical East, or to be more precise the Antipodes and over the horizon came such charming, talented traveling minstrels of this new order such as Yervant and Jerry Ghionis.
And what I saw from these Demi-Gods took my breath away and stirred something within me. I had never seen anything quite like this!
Like a revolution that had long been yearned for, this unstoppable Sirocco immediately swept away all the old ways. Gone with this Jasmin scented summer breeze was the staid, rigid, unemotional THANKFULLY and FINALLY replaced by simply divine, free, natural images of joy, love and unbridled emotion that surely a wedding should be all about.
I did not simply want to shoot photography like this, from very deep inside of me I NEEDED to!
What I already had under my belt was years of shooting people very quickly for national magazines and tv, but regardless of the lack of time that always goes hand in hand with this type of work, I still managed to get the best out of them. Simply out of necessity and to actually secure the shoots that I wanted, this approach had to include not only connecting with those people quickly, but a knack of spotting detail that unseen could jeopardise the success of the picture was always needed. Along with these traits was thrown in an advanced knowledge of lighting and posing including lighting men and women differently and to use whatever location I was presented with. Sometimes I was given some God forsaken places in which to shoot the pictures, but because the brief stated that it would be for the cover of a major magazine, meant that the client wanted images that fulfilled their requests rather than excuses.
Again unbeknown to me at the, the perfect training to shoot the new style of weddings and at the luxury end of the market.
And so I decided to ‘revisit’ my wedding experience and aim as high as I possibly could and after working hard to adapt my photography to suit the new approach, I started to get noticed. I began speaking for my good friends at Graphistudio at major trade shows and to show my work, while all the time getting the bigger weddings. I found talking for Graphistudio pretty easy considering I had long since only used their fabulous products anyway, so I only had to endorse something that I truly believed in.
I have since shot the weddings of the children of knights of the realm and billionaires and they ALL have adored my pictures printed in Graphistudio albums and appreciated the finished product.
This Easter saw me fly off to Lausanne in Switzerland to shoot the wedding image featured here. A suite at the 5 star deluxe Beau Rivage Palace, one of the most magnificent hotels in Europe and where the wedding was taking place, went down very nicely too, even though we fully understood that we would be working extremely hard in exchange.
Buy hey, ain’t that’s the fun part anyway?
My groom, who’s sister’s wedding I had already shot at the fabulous flagship Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square in London, came up to me and asked me to do my best for him, because he had seen already what I could do.
After that, there was no way in this world or the next, that we were not going to give a 100% and after faithfully promising him that I would give him everything that I possibly could, I turned to my son Alan, who is one of my fully trained assistants and told him to strap in tight for a hell of a ride!
Now life as we know, does not run smoothly all of the time!
I had arranged through my sponsors Elinchrom, to have one of their new ELB1200 location lights kindly delivered to the hotel and save me dragging my Ranger over Europe once again and the ever increasing problems of clearing airport security. Elinchrom is based right near to the hotel anyway, so it would be a simple matter of dropping off this eagerly anticipated new piece of kit. A few minutes to familiarise myself with the advancements and new features and it would be all up and running and ready for action. So, after confirmation from the hotel that they would keep it all safe for me until I arrived, a message came from my good folks at Elinchrom saying that all the kit had been delivered safely and the problem was solved.
No need at all to worry then!
We arrived at the hotel, checked in and asked for the equipment. Problem was that no one knew anything about it! After checking again, and then again...and then again, the hotel informed us that nothing had been delivered and nothing was being kept for us. Now you have to understand that this is Good Friday evening and everyone is on holiday. As bad as I felt in doing this, I contacted Chris back in Blighty and Thomas in Switzerland whom both confirmed again that it had all been delivered and to the right hotel.
But the wedding was the next day!
After two hours of a steadily rising panic from me and professional concern and help from Chris and Thomas, whom were both on holiday, (ouch! So sorry again guys!) the offending articles were duly discovered and the hotel reception staff laughed as I merely hugged the man who found them for what seemed minutes as I explained to him that I really did not care what had happened, now I had my location light!
In the end he gave in and simply hugged me back!
Chris and Thomas and for their service above and beyond the call of duty.
Bless you both.
Walking around the hotel and it’s grounds, I came upon this magnificent window that looked in to the hotel ballroom and immediately saw the possibilities. Even though we had had such a long day, it’s always good to leave a little gas in the tank to secure a very special evening image and to show the location at night. While positioning myself outside and sending up the odd prayer every time I felt a few rain spots and the promised downpour that thankfully never actually arrived actually threatened, I placed Alan in the ballroom to backlight the couple with the Elinchrom while using our make up lady Boe as their ‘stand in’. Via WhatsApp phone, we communicated both the perfect place for the light and Alan was able to direct Boe to stand and pose exactly as I wanted. Alan kneeled down to avoid getting in the picture and we concentrated on getting the power of the light just right so that it lit her perfectly while still at exactly the right output to work flawlessly with the ambient light from both inside the ballroom and on the outside of the building.
Before we call the couple for the actual picture, I always try and have the image ready for them to walk on to, so that they spend the minimum amount of time with me and maximum with the people that they want to share their wedding with and I also try my best to already have any potential banana skins well and truly sorted before the ‘real’ pictures are underway and yet here in front of me was one heck of a whopper that threatened everything!
Now I have always found that if you treat people correctly and ask nicely, you can get pretty much anything as long as what you are actually asking for is not too unreasonable or unbelievable. And so it proved here, because despite lining up the camera for the best possible symmetry, there were some dreadful reflections right where the couples faces would be placed and all from a large ball headed street light lamppost placed as usual, just ‘perfectly’ on the main hotel drive. So I had no choice but to approach the hotel management via the reception to explain my predicament and very kindly ask if the street lighting could be killed for ten minutes. The hotel engineer was quickly despatched and there was my window of opportunity to get the couple into position and run through our pre-rehearsed plan. As per usual, it all needed the odd ‘tweak’ once the real couple were in place, but they were swiftly implemented and we could now concentrate on getting our ‘killer’ image.
And I think we got that!
I have to say that the Elinchrom EB1200 unit was phenomenal! The range of power at my disposal, which was perfect for matching the ambient light, plus the incredible recycling speed when even at full power, made my wonderful and trusty Ranger look like it was from the Ark and believe me I have grown to love that particular faithful and dependable hound! Not only that, we used it over two days and despite having a spare battery, we never needed it.
After shooting the happy couple leaving in a vintage Rolls Royce, the groom hugged me for our efforts and we called it a wrap.
Back to the suite for a hot life-giving shower and in our matching white towelling hotel dressing gowns and despite being hardly able to walk we were so exhausted, plus having missed dinner because we had been SO busy, Alan and I ordered room service and somehow managed to find Match of the Day on our widescreen TV while we lay spent on our beds as we ate 5 star deluxe cheeseburgers with fries and coke, followed by chocolate mousse!
A very particular kind of heaven!
Pure nectar of the Gods themselves and not a bad way to end a very long day, knowing we had most certainly fulfilled our promise.
(With VERY special thanks to Chris and Thomas at Elinchrom and the lovely, understanding staff of the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel)