Holt Fleet Weddings
Naomi & Oliver
I first met Naomi and Oliver (Ollie) 2 years before their wedding. One of the first things they mentioned to me was that they really liked my 'big pictures' as I tend to call them (you know, the really dramatic, well lit images that you can hang on your living room wall) and so tasked me with producing this type of photo for them. Their wedding and reception was to take place at the Holt Fleet in Worcester which I hadn't worked at before (but have many times since!)
I wasn't familiar with the venue at the time of our first meeting. Sure, I had driven past it probably a hundred times whilst on my way around Worcestershire but I hadn't been into the venue in years, and I never really considered what it might be like to work there. As soon as an opportunity presented itself, I thought I'd pop over to the venue to have a look around. The first thing that struck me was how little outdoor space there was, and that I might struggle with the big-picture dream that the couple had... but more about that later! As you'll see the Holt Fleet turned out to be an amazing place to get married and sort-of the venue where I've taken one of my most amazing and most popular wedding photos to date.
My day started very bright and relatively early at the Hadley Bowling Green Inn, a delightful 16th-century country inn near Droitwich. This was also a new venue for me, but I was keen to get inside and have a look around after spending some time on the inn's website which presented it as having a bright and well decorated interior space, and in this regard, it certainly didn't disappoint!
I stepped inside and made myself known to the landlord who was serving the parents of the bride their breakfast, of course I wouldn't know who they were until late in the day. Upon leaning of which room the bridal party were getting ready in, I popped upstairs and knocked on the door. I had arrived before hair and make-up, and I learned as the door opened that the bride was in the shower still! Not to worry, I took a seat outside in the hall way and waited for everything to settle down. Before long, the bride was out of the shower, hair and make-up had arrived and it was time to start work!
I made use of the fact that at the moment at least, the room was quite quiet and there wasn't a huge amount going on - this meant I could stand in the middle of the room and photograph the bride's and bridesmaid's dresses and shoes, whilst at the same time not getting in anyone's way. The bride also used this opportunity to have her nails painted by a bridesmaid as you can see happening below.
Now one of the coolest sights of the wedding day came when the hairdresser started applying hairspray to one of the bridesmaid's hair. The room we were in was facing the rising sun, and light was pouring in through the window with a really pronounced appearance, made all the more vivid when the air was thick with hairspray. I had real fun taking these images; the effect is something you're more likely to see at a rock concert than necessarily at a wedding!
That really direct light also came in handy with this image - I was able to expose for the curling iron and the steam coming off the bridesmaid's hair which as a result plunged the majority of the rest of the image into darkness. The result is rather moody!
The image below is in a style that I really enjoy, a wide-angle image showing all that is happening in the same place at the same time. The reason I think that this particular image works so well is the symmetry between the two halves of the image, having two windows and in front of each is a person either having their hair and makeup done. I'm always on the look-out for this type of image and am always so happy when the opportunity presents itself.
As you can see from the images above and below, I really couldn't help but make use of that incredible light that we had! I'm not sure the hairdresser was aware of how much 'awesome' she was adding with the hairspray!
One image from this part of the day that I was really happy with (largely owing to how fast I managed to react at the time) is the one you see below. The hairdresser was asking the bridesmaid how much of her hair she'd like 'up' and in what particular style, and at the very second she paused to look at the bridesmaid's reaction in the mirror, the hair she was holding formed a perfect heart shape.
Now the images directly above and below take a little explaining. In the normal course of a wedding day I'm often asked lots about cameras, camera equipment and photography which I've come to expect. One of the bridesmaids was really into her photography and remarked about how much larger my camera was than hers - I put one of my lenses and a flashgun on her camera so she didn't feel quite so over-shadowed. In my job I'm meant to always be the fly on the wall, documenting things from afar and not really getting involved. That being said, it's easy to see the happiness on the bridesmaids face. Because of this interaction in the morning, it makes it easier for me to get natural photos of people later in the day - the sooner they get used to me, and accept the fact that I'm going to be with them for the next fourteen hours, the better. Another reason that I'm keen to give help and advice to other people who like photography at weddings, is that it's exactly how I started my career 15 years ago. I was at a family wedding with my dad and my sister, and I was admiring the professional photographers camera all day. All of a sudden he asked if I wanted to take some photos for him with his spare body, which I did. A couple of weeks later, I received a phone call asking if I wanted to work alongside him, and some 40 weddings later I was ready to start shooting on my own at the age of 17. Photography has changed my life. Photography has become my life, and I have a wonderful job that I wouldn't change. If I can make the same difference to a single person's life, then I'm going to try my best. Who knows who I might inspire?
We were getting towards the time that the bridesmaids and myself needed to leave for the wedding, and the bride was still in her dressing down, having her hair and makeup finished off. The bridesmaids went next-door to get dressed, leaving just me and the make up artist and hairdressers who were all busily working on the bride. I love the lighting in the image below, where the bride is perfectly picked-out against the dark background.
I had to leave before the bride was in the dress, which is unfortunate but does often happen. I have got to leave in enough time that I can get to the venue, take photos of the venue itself if there's any time, but most importantly, meet with the groom and take some photos of him as well as the guests arriving. I also need to make sure that I give myself enough time that I'm able to leave before the bride, I can't think of anything worse than the bride arriving at the wedding before I do.
Before I even managed to get inside of the Holt Fleet, I found these two characters below, struggling with each other's buttonhole flowers, and stopped to grab a few frames of the couple.
The young boy in the image below is Ray, the son of the bride and groom and he turned out to really be the star of the show as you'll see in the remainder of this article.
Inside the Holt Fleet everything is very fresh and modern, and very well decorated and maintained. It really is a lovely, cosy space and a wonderful place for the guests to meet before the wedding. I took a few candids around the place before turning my attention to the groom.
Ollie was quite clearly a little nervous but he managed a smile, at least for the photo. If you take a look at the photos a little lower on the page, you'll see what a stark difference 10 minutes can make!
Having photographed the groom and best man, I waited at the front of the Holt Fleet for the bridal party to arrive. The bridesmaids arrived first, with the bride following on her own, driven by her father. As the car made it's way down the drive towards the front of the building, I walked alongside the car and grabbed this frame of the bride as she passed. I love the blurred trees in the reflection, the dark patches in the photo contrasting nicely with the light falling on the bride.
I was lucky to get this shot of Ray who was pulling his top-hat down over his face. His stance reminds me of that famous Michael Jackson pose!
With the time that the wedding was due to begin having come and gone, you could really sense the anticipation building within the groom. I always joke when I first meet a couple that there's nothing better for wedding photography than a crying groom, but I felt really sorry for Ollie when his emotions got the better of him.
After ten minutes or so, the bride was ready and the bridal party made their way from the main entrance of the Holt Fleet around the side to where the wedding ceremony was happening in the conservatory room. The bridesmaids walked whilst the bride was driven, keeping her out of the view of the groom.
When Ollie could see that Naomi was at the bottom of the steps and that in literally seconds he'd be marrying the love of his live, he became really emotional again. I almost felt guilty taking these photos but on the other hand, as a story-telling tool they're great as you can see exactly what this wedding meant to him.
The bridesmaids made their way down the aisle first, with a couple of sky-lights in the ceiling providing the best lighting you could ask for! I tried to time my shots with the bridesmaids passing underneath the light source for the most flattering results.
I love the first-look feel of these two photos. You can see how quickly the groom's reaction changes between the two photos above and below.
The change in Ollie was amazing, from all the nerves and anticipation moments before the wedding to the massive cheeky-grin you can see in the image below. You can just tell from the way that these two look at each other that they were really meant to be together.
The lighting in the ceremony room is really pleasing, the sky-lights above projecting a wonderful light over the bride and groom. The light was soft and flattering and so easy to work with. I just love how Naomi and Ollie are picked out by the light, with the rest of the wedding guests in relative darkness in the background.
That same gorgeous light described earlier came into it's own once more when it came to the signing of the register photos too. The black brick wall at the rear of the bride and groom and the contrast it provides really elevates the couple from the background, really helping you focus in on the couple in a natural way.
After the wedding service had finished, the bride and groom made their way back down the aisle, and waited outside to greet their guests as they left the ceremony room. Once again, Ollie's face says it all!
Instead of the more traditional canapés, Naomi and Ollie had hired an ice cream van for an hour. Ray's delight is easy to see in the image below. Faced with the prospect of free ice-cream and an unlimited supply, why not have two at the same time?!
I always like to leave the bride and groom to be with their guests as much as they can be during the wedding day, especially in the bit immediately after the wedding as it's the first real time they've had to talk to anyone. After as long as I can leave it whilst still having time to take photos (around 20 minutes in this case) I'll take the bride and groom to one side and start the more formal part of the day. Whilst there is little in terms of outdoor space at the Holt Fleet, the background was lush and green, and the sun (which would have been behind me) wasn't in the couple's eyes as it was overcast, luckily.
Once the formal group photos were taken, I took a couple of minutes to photograph the bride and groom on their own. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, there isn't a whole lot of outdoor space that's available to you as a photographer. I had met again with the bride and groom about a month before the wedding, and we even went for a walk up some of the dirt paths behind the venue to see if there were any hidden gems of places that we could use on their wedding day: There was not. Most of the paths were over-grown with stinging-nettles, or were simply too narrow or too steep to take a bride along in a wedding dress. It was at this point in the pre-wedding meeting that secretly I started to worry a little. During our first meeting, Ollie, a photographer himself, had stated how much he wanted a really special 'big picture.' It was a month before the wedding, and I still didn't know quite what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it. In the week before the wedding, I paid another visit to the site to have a look around. I walked over the road on which the venue is situated, and discovered a nice walk alongside the river. It was a little dusty and didn't lead very far, but it was enough to take some nice photos. Ultimately we ran out of time to go over the road and down the river at this point, so between us we decided that we'd go there after the speeches were completed.
With both Naomi and Ollie being keen archers, there was no way that they wouldn't have archery as a way of keeping the wedding guests entertained during the reception. (No grooms were injured in the making of these photos.)
The wedding cake and venue decor continued with the archery theme, with arrows being used in the table centrepieces and a miniature Robin Hood and Maid Marian accompanying the cake.
Before the guests were called to dinner, were took the opportunity of having all the guests in on place and took a confetti photo with the bride and groom walking back towards the Holt Fleet. The path that leads to the venue from the river made the ideal place to take this photo, with the couple walking up between two lines of their guests.
I took a big group wedding photo on the steps of the Holt Fleet which was the best place to get a photo with everyone in, just before the bride and groom led everyone off and into the reception room, with a traditional receiving line to personally welcome each guest.
As much as a receiving line can really slow the day down, they tend to be wonderful times to take photos. There's so much emotions and reactions on show, it's a goldmine for wedding photographers.
I captured this lovely moment of the young family as they were waiting to be announced into the reception. This is my favourite way to take wedding photos - in the moment, with everything being completely natural and without the people in the image knowing that they're being photographed.
Unusually, the top table was on a stage, elevating the people there above the guests by a couple of feet. It wasn't an issue, just not something that I had really encountered before. As the venue staff were bringing out the starters and serving drinks, I took some candid wedding photos of the wedding guests enjoying themselves, as well as a few images of the wedding decor.
A bouncy castle provided a lot of fun for all of the guests, both the small kids and the 35 year old bigger kids!
The wedding cake was cut before the speeches were due to start, allowing the venue staff time to divide it up so it could be served earlier in the evening. The groom elected to speak first and received a warm welcome. As odd as it seemed to me at first, having the top table on a stage actually worked pretty well for wedding photography - I was able to capture the faces and reactions of the people on the top table without really blocking the view of any of the guests should I wish to place myself between them and the people speaking.
The groom was incredibly nervous and as emotional as he had been during the wedding. A little Dutch-courage helped him on his way.
Ray, the son of the bride and groom was great fun to photograph throughout the day. During the speeches, he took to hiding under the table and peering out at the wedding guests, many of whom didn't realise he was there. I was able to get pretty close and take this photo of him, with his dad speaking to the wedding party in the background.
After dinner, we decided that we'd head to the other side of the main road, and down the little path alongside the river that I had intended to use earlier on in the day. The only problem was, it was now raining, and quite heavily too. The Holt Fleet had provided several large golf-style umbrellas which were very useful, and I asked for volunteers to help get the bride and groom across the road, safely, and as dry as we could keep them. The father of the bride volunteered, as did one of the bridesmaids. Naomi carried her dress as best she could with the bridesmaid taking the train. I was left to get wet, which is fine by me, and off we headed on the short 40 metre walk.
I really do love this style of documentary wedding photography. These two photos, above and below tell so much of what the wedding day was like. Yes it was raining, but you can see how much fun everyone is having, especially in the second image.
The canopy of the trees above was thick enough that very little rain water was getting through now we were in position, but I didn't want to waste any time in getting these photos taken. It was important for me that I didn't get my clients soaking wet and freezing cold - Sure they might love the images, but I would not want them to enjoy the rest of the day less on my account.
The wet weather didn't bother everyone - the mother of the groom and Ray, the couple's son, took the weather in their stride and found the bubble machine very amusing!
As the afternoon turned to evening, the DJ started the music and a couple of the wedding guests made their way inside to enjoy the warm. Two of my favourite images from this time of the day are the ones above and below - the bride and two of her bridesmaids, dancing like no one is watching, and then the contrast of the image below, where the maid of honour (the bride's sister) is embracing their father in a lovely moment.
Before the couple took to the dance floor, one of the people who had helped set up the venue asked if he minded if he used smoke for the couple's first dance. I said it was ok, but I would like 30 seconds to shoot them without it, as cameras have a hard time focusing in such conditions and the flash I was using would illuminate the smoke, making it impossible for me to capture anything. He agreed to give me 30 seconds, but after only 5 (and having only taken one photo) he put the smoke on anyway. It wasn't ideal, but you have to work with what you get on a wedding day.
I am very happy with the way the photos turned out, despite the smoke being turned on far too early! I had to be really picky with how I shot; shooting from the wrong angle meant that all I could see was brightly illuminated smoke and nothing else.
Above and below - perhaps two of my favourite photos from the whole wedding!
You'll remember earlier in the article, I mentioned that from the very first time I met Naomi and Oliver, they had said how much they wanted a 'big picture' - something that really stood out. You might also remember I said that I was worried for not having found anywhere to do it? A few days before the wedding, I discovered a farmers field, a short distance up the road from the Holt Fleet that contained waist-deep wheat. Bingo! This would be the absolutely perfect place for any kind of photo, especially at sunset. I could picture it there and then, the light streaming in, low over the trees and casting these long shadows in the golden light. I had a bit of a shock when the field was harvested 24 hours before the wedding, and what was left was a harsh stubble. To make matters worst, on their wedding day, there was no sunset at all. Just cloud. And then it started to pour with rain. I waited and waited in the hope that the rain would stop, but it just kept on coming. At around 9pm I asked the bride and groom if they fancied standing in the pouring rain, in the middle of a field that contained pretty much nothing, in the hope that I got the photo they were after. To my utter amazement, they said yes! The trickiest part was finding a sober person to drive us the 200 metres up the road. Eventually a willing volunteer was found, and we made our way the short distance to the field. I didn't want to waste any time with the bride and groom again, so I put a flash in the field with the couple waiting in the car, and tried to guess what camera settings I'd need to use when they were in the image. After a minute I was ready to go, and ran the newlyweds into position. I took one photo and looked at the screen; 'oh my god! It works! quick, kiss each other!!' and that was that. Two photos taken, and an extremely happy if slightly damp bride and groom. I showed them the photo when we got back to the car and they were speechless.