MICHELLE & NIGEL AT MOUNTAINS COUNTRY HOUSE

On one of the hottest weekends of the year a couple of weeks back, I photographed the wedding of Michelle and Nigel’s Mountains Country House wedding in Hildenborough.

The day started off with with a few getting ready pictures at Hotel du Vin – a real favourite with brides in the Tunbridge Wells area. Various members of the family and bridal party congregated here, each leaving the room a little more glamorous than when they entered. I did my best to stay out of the way and get on with the photography, but did come to the rescue when nobody was brave enough to open the champagne bottle (a little tip – grip the cork and turn the bottle).

It was one of those blue sky days which can make some pictures look lovely, but photographing people in such harsh light in the middle of the day can be a little tricky. The outside gazebo used for the ceremony, looked lovely all dressed up, but under the canopy where Michelle & Nigel stood to exchange their vows, the light was about four or five stops darker than the outside space where the guests sat. There’s a few options for me, photographically, with this sort of scenario but my choice is always go with the couple and leave the background to burn out. Secondly you could play around afterwards in Photoshop and sandwich two versions of the file together (makes for a more balanced picture, but isn’t in the spirit of documentary style photography) or lastly (and in the this instance a complete no-no), use some fill-in flash. Who would use fill-in flash during a wedding ceremony? I often get asked by vicars not to use flash during the ceremony and I tell them there is no chance of me doing that. But why ask in the first place? I can only imagine there are some photographers out there doing this week in, week out, being a complete pain. Why else would the vicar bring it up? As the years go on, my flash gets used less and less. I still have one on one of the camera bodies I carry, but only ever seem to use it at the end of the day when the first dance is under way. And then, I still shoot with an 85mm lens on my other camera, wide open, using the available light. When it works, it just looks fantastic and has a completely different feel to flashed pictures.

The Swinging Little Big Band did a paired down acoustic set in the afternoon. Speaking to Steve, the band’s lead singer (and my old mate from school), he told me that Nigel had been at the same school as us a couple of years above. Ah yes, the penny dropped and I did recall his name. In fact, both Michelle and Nigel were lovely on the day but I was a little troubled later when, during the speeches, I found out Nigel was a massive Arsenal fan. Now I’ve had this before – most frighteningly, when I walked into the wedding breakfast room of a wedding years ago and found that all the tables had been named after Arsenal legends, including a Tony Adams top table (with all the cutlery lined up in a nice, flat line) . Hmm I thought to myself, rise above it, you’re a grown man. If only I had known before the booking had been made, because I usually charge double for Gooners.

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