It’s amazing how varied my work is becoming just lately. All very challenging, which is exactly how I like it to be.
Recently I travelled over 200 miles to Dunrobin Castle, Golspie in Sutherland where I was to photograph the wedding of Tina and Glenn, a great American couple who asked me to cover their wedding having found me through this website. What a magnificent location the castle is. I met up with the manager of the hotel, Keith Jones, and I have to say that I’ve never had such wonderful co-operation and assistance from anyone. He simply could not do enough to find the exact locations in and around the castle, spending several hours of his own time to make things just perfect. All this for a wedding with just the bride and groom. No guests - just the two of them. Keith and Scott, another manager, even took on the role of witnesses. I spent a few days with them and recorded Glenn’s (other) lifetime dream - playing golf at Royal Dornoch. Wonderful wedding! The minister was Susan Brown, who is best known for being a wonderfully warm and friendly person – oh! and for marrying another American, Madonna & Mr. Ritchie!
Some days later, I was at very different "stately home" where the conditions were completely the opposite. Totally inflexible rules were the order of the day, to the extent that I was even asked to park some distance away in the public car park, and then had to sign a document agreeing that I would not take any photographs which featured works of art in the background. In other words, I was told, I should only shoot towards the windows. I suspect the bride and groom would be less than happy at paying a very large fee to be married in such a fantastic location – but, officially, not have photographs to illustrate this - as it happens they’ll be fine!! A great wedding which could have had a lot more wonderful images.
In complete contrast to both these weddings, I was at another beautiful location for another wedding, but this time there was no fairy tale castle, just a fisherman’s hut by a remote bay in Wester Ross. Again, the couple chose me as a result of this website, but in this case it was because of my landscape work. The groom is a mountain guide and they both have a great love of wilderness places. I hope that the resulting photographs will reflect their spirit of being in the outdoors.
I spent another day with Sally Magnusson covering a feature for the Sunday Express colour supplement about her choice of clothes and jewellery. Hopefully, this should be published in the next week or so. It is very easy to make great portraits of Sally – she is very photogenic, despite her insistence that she hates to be photographed.
Another recent commission was to take the official photographs at the AGM of the RNLI in Perth, along with presentations of Awards for Gallantry to two crews who had both been in action in the most extreme circumstances on the same day. These both involved hazardous rescues in force 10 gales in the notorious Pentland Firth off the north coast of Scotland. They really are dedicated and very brave men.
An assignment with a difference came up just lately. An Indian Dance Drama group (The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company) who were on tour around Britain made an additional performance in the village where I live. This gave me the very great opportunity to become involved with all the preparations and performance of this world renowned company. Kathakali is classical dance drama from South India in which characters from the great Hindu epics emerge into the present through the powerful theatre of Kathakali. The public were invited to view the elaborate make-up procedure where carefully cut paper called chutti is applied to the actors face using a rice paste. Kalamandalam Barbara Kumar became the first female chutti artist ever trained at the Kalamandalam school in Kerala 1974 and together with actor Kalamandalam Vijay Kumar started the Kala Chethena Theatre Company bringing Kathakali to the world.
The hall was hot and the aroma of incense wafted through the building as one of the oldest classical female dances in the world was performed - Barathanatayam. The audience sat transfixed as they watched the superb interaction between dancer and musicians before showing their appreciation at the end with loud applause.
It was a most colourful and spectacular occasion and whilst taking photographs during a performance is not easy - not least so as not to disrupt the performance - the careful use of digital cameras without flash makes this much more possible.
The minister at our local church is most understanding with regards to the taking of photographs and encourages full coverage of the wedding for the benefit of the couple. I have encountered some ministers who categorically will not allow photography in the church - even on the understanding that I would be especially sensitive during the most significant parts of the service, but most of the local ministers now know how I work and are most co-operative.
The weather was just perfect for a wedding last week and the bride was every photographers dream. She smiled and looked lovingly at the groom throughout the entire service - and for the rest of the day for that matter. Hot sunshine (not that frequent in Argyll!) was the catalyst to keep everyone outside, making my reportage style photography so much easier. There's nothing worse than 150 people crammed together in a small room for a photographer trying to get informal, natural looking portraits. A warm day takes everyone outside and this particular venue has the most spectacular views as a backdrop. A very long day with me finishing at 1 a.m. after taking over 300 photographs on 35mm and 500 digital images. It was very gratifying the next day to hear one of the guests on seeing the digital images that it was just like having a video of the day - but better!
Update to June 25th
The item for the Sunday Express colour supplement on Sally Magnusson's choice of clothes and jewellery I mentioned earlier has now made print.
It's always interesting to see the choices which art directors make from the selection of photographs I submit from a photo shoot. I always have my own ideas as to which are the best but that doesn't often coincide with the art director's choice. On this occasion I took a very quick test shot, without too much care, of some of Sally's clothes piled on a chair merely to assess the natural light in the room. All the clothes were then arranged in suitable groups along with shoes, jewellery and accessories and were photographed with great care and attention to detail. The inside shots were taken under quite difficult natural light (or lack thereof!) and so lots more were taken outside to benefit from much better light.
It's a wonderfully satisfying feeling to see my work in print - but just a little disconcerting to see the editors choice having included the quick test shot taken with no great care!!! Maybe I should be less careful in future, it obviously pays dividends - or maybe my carefully composed shots were just rubbish!
Another a couple of weddings in the past week have both come up with their own special events.
The first was a typical lovely wedding in the historic church at Cairndow. The reception followed in nearby Inveraray, but the groom had arranged a special surprise for his new bride. As the dance was getting into full swing, everyone was asked to assemble outside (the bride's mother thought this was my doing and didn't seem too amused - not so - definitely not my style!) The groom had arranged for a pipe band made up entirely of young pipers all of school age to play, and they gave a superb display of their skills much to the delight of all present, especially the bride. As the guests tried to cross the road to see the band, a great procession of Mini Cooper cars on a rally passed by - all hooting horns and flashing lights which added to the gathering of high powered motor bikes which arrived during the family shots earlier. It's good to get a few unusual shots to add special memories and these can lift the wedding photos on to a different level!
The second wedding was also a bit different. This time it was the location that made it so interesting. As you'll see above, a few weeks ago I was at weddings in two stately homes and a fishermen's hut by a beautiful beach. This time it was in a tree house! Not a simple home made affair but a designer built log cabin high in a beautiful old pine costing, I understand, about as much as a small house. A wonderful place to get married with magnificent views over the loch and surrounding mountains - but only if you have less than 20 guests or so. Because of the restricted space, you'd also need a photographer with a very wide angle lens - I've got one if it's of interest!
A few years ago most of my living was made from giving Audio Visual Slide presentations (posh slide shows) and these were based on the landscape, history and wildlife of Scotland. A recent day out with our two grandchildren took us to a safari park where the opportunity to get some wildlife shots was irresistible (yes, I know it's not quite the same, but it's still a great photo opportunity). I'm not a great fan of animals being kept in captivity, even in the open environment of safari parks, but this meercat did seem to be very alert and healthy as did these otters.