In this blog I look back at my recent NineDots award winning image, captured at the Yorkshire Wedding Barn in Richmond. Joanna and Stephen’s wedding is one I keep coming back to. Not only was it a fantastic day full of so many lovely moments, it delivered one of the most awe inspiring sunsets ever. Below you will find the story behind the image. In this blog I look in depth at my love of sunsets and my approach to photographing weddings as a whole. An epic sunset deserves an epic blog and that is what I have delivered! Also, I think I may be the only wedding photographer to link a Patrick Swayze character to his methods. I may be prouder of that than winning the award…
Dreaming about the light
In the days leading up to a wedding you will often find me looking at my In the days leading up to a wedding you will often find me looking at my iPhone. Whilst I am as guilty as the next person of the modern affliction of staring all too often at my black mirror, it is usually with an actual purpose and not just scrolling infinitely through my Instagram thread. OK perhaps that is happening a little! But generally, I am doing one thing – checking the weather. Or perhaps that should be dreaming about the light. I am now a fully-fledged devotee of the Apple weather app (other apps are available) – this simple tool is unerringly accurate(ish). The days of not knowing what the elements might throw at you are happily now a distant memory.
Predicting the weather for the perfect photography
I however remember Michael Fish in 1987 infamously dismissing the possibility of a hurricane (I was only 7, but it’s one of those memories that sticks). Then famously the world awoke to a find quite the opposite had occurred. These days of inaccuracy seem long gone in our metric obsessed and data rich world. Growing up, and for an unreasonable amount of my adult life, I feel we simply didn’t really know what we would face when stepping out of the door. The British climate is not renowned for being spectacularly reliable or kind. However, we can now predict with unerring accuracy when the weather will favour us. Which, as a wedding photographer, comes in very handy. I have unbridled respect for my photography forerunners – shooting on film, having no clue what the weather would hold. We digital natives are truly not worthy!
Golden hour wedding photography
Whilst I am in the mood for praising apps, I also use the free version of SunSurveyor lite, a wonderfully simple, but again indispensable, tool that I spend an inordinate amount of time staring at. This handy tool will track the path of the sun based on your location and give you an illustrated timeline of its path. It will also give you the exact timing for ‘golden hour’. This is a time of day we photographers crave. To ‘normal people’, it’s that hour before sunset when the light looks, well, quite nice. To me, it can be the best part of any day and the time I long for.
One eye on the sunset
On a wedding day, I will be keeping one eye on the sunset, or rather the possibility of a sunset. As sunsets are not reliable beasts. All manner of atmospheric issues can affect the result. Sometimes a gloriously sunny day can change and fade at just the wrong moment, heavy clouds roll in and spoil the sunset only to depart moments later to leave skies clear again. Of course, the tricky part is that you need clouds. Unless it is a glorious expansive sky, I often feel clouds are needed for composition, for a point of interest or scale. For a dramatic sunset, I won’t go into the science here (My grade B GCSE suggests this is perhaps wise), but you need the light to be dispersed through clouds for a truly dramatic sunset. Phenomena such as crepuscular rays, or sunbeams to most of us, are a favourite of mine. This is the effect when the light can be seen breaking through clouds in bold shafts of light. Clouds will also catch the different hues of the sunset, almost acting like a blank canvas to record the beautiful play of the light as it changes and fades.
Discovering the link between Patrick Swayze and wedding photography!
Then there are the colours. All manner of colours created by the light dispersing through the atmosphere and clouds and different angles, Then there are the colours. All manner of colours created by the light dispersing through the atmosphere and clouds and different angles, densities and a load of variables I won’t pretend to understand. Reds, oranges, pinks and purples. A stunning gamut of colours can be captured. And for me the exciting element is the fleeting, ephemeral nature of it. It is a race against time and a search for the perfect sunset. Something like Patrick Swayze’s character Bodhi in the action film Point Break. Bodhi is always seeking the perfect wave – If a Point Break reference is too much, I should point out a guilty love of this admittedly cheesy early 90’s classic. A sunset, like a wave is a brief yet thrilling ride.