Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Channelling The Pre-Raphaelites

Its been quite a while since I have posted. Things have been a little too crazy at work and I have been very busy with the London Strobist meetup group, so the blog has taken a bit of a backseat while I deal with my commitments. But life is calming down now that Christmas is coming and I hope I'll have more time to post and shoot.

Back in September I travelled with my wife to Lake Vyrnwy in deepest darkest Wales to shoot a very special wedding. Jonathan and Charlotte were getting hitched in the family home in the woods by the edge of the lake. It was a fabulous setting. The humanist ceremony took place in a clearing in the woods with a fast running stream right next to it. The weather for the ceremony was touch and go, but the rain held off and there was even a glorious shaft of sunlight that came down and lit just the Bride and Groom at exactly the right moment in the ceremony.

Jonathan & Charlotte

Immediately after the ceremony we went up the hill to take a formal picture of the couple in front of the waterfall. We were quite lucky it didn't turn into a trash the dress session especially as the reception was still to come. The hill was very steep the trees kept grabbing at the dress, not only that but the leaf litter was deep and the ground moist, so one slip and it would have been a disaster. But we got to the waterfall without incident and got down to taking the shot.

The aim was to get a picture of them in front of the waterfall and use a slow shutter to capture the water in flow rather then freezing it. I wanted to have everything in focus, so I didn't go for a wide aperture I started at f5.6 and a shutter of 1/12s. This meant I had to push the ISO up to 1000. It wasn't ideal and Jonathan and Charlotte were pretty dark. Fortunately I had brought along a voice acivated light stand, my wife, and she held a SB28 flash in a white shoot-through umbrella above them with the power fairly low so as not to completely overpower the ambient. From this starting point I adjusted the shutter and aperture to tune the balance between the ambient and flash and eventually settled on f6.3 at 1/6s. With hindsight I could probably have increased the aperture and reduced the ISO, but I'm very happy with the end result.

I took a few shots with the bride and groom looking at the camera, but caught this image just as they stole a kiss. I prefer it to the more formal shots. The slow shutter and flash gives the image a bit of painterly look, and I knew that the image was in some way familiar to me. Having done a little research I realized that I had been channeling pre-raphaelite medieval fantasy paintings. In particular the paintings of Edmund Blair Leighton who wasn't actually a pre-raphaelite but is often associated with them. By pure coincidence I pass the birthplace of the pre-rephaelite brotherhood on my way to work everyday.

I asked some of my my flickr buddies for comments on the photo, and they did make a number of observations about various things they would remove from the picture twigs and the like, but remembering the day, Charlotte and her family wouldn't remove any low hanging branches from the trees along the procession route even when they presented a risk to the wedding dress, so in many ways I think it would have been wrong of me to do any pruning in the photograph.

It was a fabulous wedding in a beautiful setting and though this image isn't really representative of the day, in a way I think it captures the magic of it in a way that the reportage photos don't really show. Its all about the couple in this special environment.


  1. Great image. Feels like a fairy tale and we all love those.

  2. Jonathan (the Groom)10 March 2010 at 19:59

    It really was a fairy tale! And Paulo is a talented, wonderful photographer!