Blog Archives

Day 185 – The day I forgot

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Day 185 – Sep 18th

Okay, I am human, I completely and utterly forgot to pick up my camera today! Can you blame me after taking around 1000 shots yesterday??

For day 185 we’ll have to make do with a photo that is essentially a day late. The wife doesn’t think it should count and said I should have no photo for that day, like there are some unwritten rules somewhere. I disagree, this is my project and therefore I make the rules, so if a photo a day late is to be included then I am happy with that. This one is a bit of an abstract shot, so as to not represent a significant event on a particular day. I still like it!

One a journal note, I hate rain! Sometimes it sucks not having a car to take to work, traffic drives me mental, but at least you don’t get soaked through to the skin like you do on two wheels!! Grr!

Come on Autumn, don’t you let us down now… summer was an absolute wash out, and we need a bit of sunshine to cheer us up!

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Day 184 – A day in the life of a wedding photographer

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Day 184 – Sep 17th

A lot of people probably have the idea that the life of a wedding photographer is a glamorous and easy one, they just turn up on the morning, take some photos for a couple of hours after bossing everyone around, charge a small fortune and go home. If only it was really like that.

My wedding preparations have started well in advance of the day, meeting the couple to discuss the details of the day, sometimes at the wedding venue, and continue for many weeks after it, editing photos and putting albums together. The price may seem expensive, but when you consider the cost of the equipment I need, the cost of travelling brides house > church > reception venue > home (and don’t forget the meetings with the couple too), buying software, running my website, the cost of the albums, new memory cards and batteries, and then finally making a profit on top, its not quite the money pit people imagine.

On the actual day itself, I often begin with an early start, filling the car up with all my gear once I’m showered and dressed. I have to be pretty strict on leaving the house to ensure I meet the bride on time, as I’ll be starting with the bride and bridesmaids hair and make up photos and can’t miss the bride getting hers done if she’s first. This is generally a fairly relaxed part of the day, with an opportunity to get some lovely shots for the album. 

The stress really begins as soon as the bride is getting ready to leave for the church. I need to be hot footing it over to the church myself well in advance to meet the groom and speak to the vicar about what I’m allowed and not allowed to photograph during to service. Each vicar can have very different views about what is acceptable, some of them are really cool about it and will pretty much let you shoot anything, some of them don’t mind too much  providing you don’t move around, and to the rest… well, you’re pretty much just the devil to them, and they’d just rather you weren’t in there at all, you bloody nuisance!

I’ll need to capture shots of guests arriving at the church, the groom waiting anxiously inside, orders of service being handed out, bridesmaids arriving… then finally it’s time, the brides car has arrived… at this point you hope that you’ve made it to the toilet recently, because the next few hours are going to be chaos, there’s no time for toilet breaks or looking at mobile phones or snacks, as no-one wants to be waiting around for an absent photographer, the service is happening whether I’m ready or not, and if I miss a shot, well, there’s no going back and reshooting it, you have to deal with the consequences. As the bride gets out of the car and heads down the aisle, experience will tell me where I need to be and when so that I can capture everything I need to, for the next hour or so.

Throughout the service there are random moments to grab, people hugging, touching, looks between two people, but essentially there are also a number of key shots that I must grab, the ring exchange, the first kiss, the signing of the register, walking back down the aisle and being in the wrong place will simply mean missing the shot!

After the service there will be a number of photos outside of the church to take, the couple, their parents, the bridesmaids etc, but first you have to remember to let the church empty as there are a lot of people inside waiting to get out, and they will ALL want to speak to the couple. I always give it a few minutes so that people aren’t butting in when I try to take my shots. This part is tricky and needs some direction as people tend to wander around like lost sheep. Once the essential shots are done, I am often the first to leave for the reception venue (my car is often parked tactically so I can get out quickly!) so I can be ready and waiting for the couple to arrive and capture them in the back of the car, and as they get out of it. If they are taking a while to arrive once I am there I will head into the reception room with a few spare minutes to capture some detail shots of the tables, the cake, and decorations.

The next step is group shots and these can really eat into your time if you’re not careful, especially if there isn’t much of a gap between arriving at the venue and everyone sitting down to eat, but once everyone is sat down ready for food, it is a chance for me to slow down and relax for a little while, rest my feet which will be feeling tender by this point, and hopefully grab a bite to eat myself. Most of the time the couple will think to feed me, and this is massively appreciated, as it can be a really long day, 12 hours almost without a break is not unusual. Even when I am sat down I will be reviewing the shots I have taken!

Traditionally speeches will follow either the main course or dessert, and I’ll need to get a good spot, but without blocking the view of people behind me. Typically at least one of these shots will end up in the album, so I need to get a good one of everyone talking.

The cake cutting is often next, although some wait for the evening guests to arrive, but mostly it happens soon after the speeches. Some venues often request a mock cutting of the cake for the sake of a photo, but I rarely do this as I prefer the natural expressions and focus of a couple actually cutting into the most expensive cake they have ever paid for!

The last event I will often stay to capture is the first dance, it can often be resented by the groom (us men aren’t natural dancers!), sometimes even the bride as well, but usually most couples embrace it for what it is… the start of the evenings celebrations and time to party! I need to utilise my lighting skills by using my flash guns, sometimes aiming them at the ceiling, sometimes placing them around the room and firing them remotely, but at least one, sometimes two of these images will always go in the album, these are essential. Its not uncommon for the first dance to end up running late, but my promise is to stay until its done, and so thats what I do. If it is going in the album, then I need to be there to capture it! I certainly don’t want to be remembered as the photographer who couldn’t be bothered to wait.

Todays wedding did run over a bit, but it was a fun day, a very relaxed couple and a lovely family. After getting home later than expected, I decided to treat myself to a glass of red wine or two! Finally, I can put my feet up and relax!

Day 183 – Its the halfway point

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Day 183 – Sep 16th

So this is it, the official half way point of the 365 project. Six months has gone so fast, I’ve produced some lovely photos, and some absolutely duff ones, but it has been fun.

Todays photo was taken in Sandwell Valley Country Park, a venue so close to where we live, yet somewhere that I’ve never been to before. It was a lovely little place, and somewhere we’ll definitely be going to again. We met some friends there in the morning with their two little ones, one of them being Olivia’s best friend at nursery, for a fun few hours. The kids played on the play area for a while, before we took them around the farm to feed the animals, and then finally stopped off for a spot of lunch in the cafe.it wasn’t quite as cheap as you’d hope for a trip to the park, but we enjoyed ourselves.

After we got home I still had time to pop into the city centre for this years Chilli Festival, as I’d sadly missed out on last years due to photographing a wedding on that day. It felt smaller this year than previously, although I’d been assure it as the, and due to the rain it was definitely considerably quieter too. On my own I was pretty much done in half an hour or so, but I had picked up some new chilli sauces. I was tempted to try som of the delicious food on offer, but I’d already had lunch at the park and knew we wouldn’t be eating late tonight. 

Before any films or putting my feet up this evening I had the task of putting all my camera batteries on charge and making sure all my memory cards, cameras and lenses were ready and packed. Early start in the morning. It’s an essential job to make sure I am fully prepared for any eventuality, including a smashed camera or a battery totally failing on me. I still have to get all the shots I need regardless. It can be a stressful day, and there is a lot of pressure, particularly around moments that will only happen just the once and can’t be repeated, and definitely can’t be missed. Once I’m happy everything is ready, I can relax. 

Day 182 – It never rains but it pours

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Day 182 – Sep 15th

Ah Friday, the superhero of the working week! 

I’m looking forward to a bit of a quiet Friday and Saturday as my Sunday is going to be pretty hectic, my first wedding for a while. For one reason or another it has been a bit of a quiet year on the wedding photography front, which is fine as it means more time at home at the weekend with my girls, but Sunday I am back into it, and the wedding weekend starts tonight with the wedding rehearsal. Normally I don’t attend these, but I wanted to make sure I could find the church and check out the parking situation.

The church isn’t too far away, and so I decide to hop on the motorbike, its cheaper to run than the car, and more fun too!

Cue the rain!!

I had to hang around a bit longer with the rehearsal than I wanted to, but it was worth it as I found out I was entitled to a limited spot outside the church, reserved for photographers! This news takes a huge amount of stress out of the wedding day!

So now its time to head home, put my feet up and relax with a film and a drink. On the way home I manage to pull the bike over and grab todays lovely photo… right before it started raining again! I seem to be cursed on two wheels at the moment, every time I climb onto my motorbike or bicycle I get drenched!! Oh well, a few beers and a good comedy film will soon take my mind off that! At least I got home in time to put the girls to bed!

Day 178 – If you don’t try, you’ll never know

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Day 178 – Sep 11th

With hurricane Irma destroying Florida and the Caribbean I find it hard to really complain much about our fairly placid weather, plus it’s doesn’t make for a very exciting blog either, but today was a day of relative extremes for us here in the UK, glorious sunshine followed by torrential downpours, followed by glorious sunshine, followed by torrential downpours… you get the idea. It’s really stating to feel like Autumn has arrived, regardless of what the calendar is telling us it should be. The wind has picked up, a few leaves on the trees have started to turn red, some have even started falling off already. 

The biggest changes have to be the overnight temperature and the sunset times. At the height of summer there was still light in the sky at 10pm, but now it is almost completely black outside by 8pm. We’ve been lucky to have some very mild nights over the summer and haven’t even shut some of the upstairs windows in weeks, but over these last few nights we’ve really started to feel a significant drop in the temperature after the sun goes down, and the outdoor thermometer had recently been telling us that the temperature has dropped down into single figures during the night, (that’s basically below 50°F for our transatlantic friends) and it’s starting to feel a bit chilly at night, we are going to need to get our winter quilt back out of the loft and onto the bed this week, the summer quilt is just too thin to keep us warm at night! A brand new electric blanket to have the bed nice and toasty for when we get in, is already on order from Amazon!

The weather isn’t the only change going on at the moment, I also decide it was finally time to do something about my hair. I can’t even think of the last time that I had it cut, and I was beginning to get worried that if I sat for too long in one spot with a McDonalds cup in my hand that people may start throwing spare change into it! It was desperate!

I’d decided that I was doing something about it tonight, but instead of just buzzing the lot off like I usually do, I’d quite enjoyed having it a little longer on top, and so asked the wife for her help on doing something a little different with it. 

I was very pleased with the results, and considering the wife is no hairdresser, or even had much experience cutting hair, I think she did a cracking job! It seemed the perfect opportunity to try out my new backdrop to grab a photo of it. A single off-camera flash placed off to the side on a stand, and the black £10 backdrop hanging from the curtain rail was pretty much all I needed with my camera set up on a tripod. It turned out just as I’d hoped it would. Nice photo, shame about the subject!

Day 177 – Try to keep up with me

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Day 177 – Sep 10th

Sunday wasn’t supposed to be much busier than Saturday, but we still had a couple of things we wanted to do.

Our first thing was a trip out to the park to meet a friend and her little girl who was the same age as Olivia. They had both recently turned 4 and both of them had new bikes. We’d agreed to head for one of Birminghams most well known parks, Cannon Hill park as its nice and flat for the girls to ride the bikes, and there is plenty of space of the path for bikes and all the people on foot. The other added bonus is the Garden Tea Room.

Cannon Hill Park may be well known for the infamous arts centre, or MAC as its better known, located at the main entrance to the park, with its shiny new appearance, its shows, its sleek cafe and the courses and other things it puts on, but the Garden Tea Room sat on the opposite side of the park gets a little overlooked. It serves good food at a good price and you rarely have to queue or wait for your food for long. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, plenty of room to store buggies inside and they offer high chairs for the little ones. In fact about the only complaint I have about this place is the fact that they don’t accept card payments for any of the food or drink. A bit of an inconvenience, but if you know about this in advance then you won’t go hungry when you get there, as one of the things the entire park, and the MAC centre are missing is a cash point. Luckily we had cash, so when a rain shower appeared on our walk around the park, we took the opportunity to duck inside and grab a bite to eat and a hot drink.

The morning was a lot of fun, the girls had a fantastic time on the bikes, riding in circles, charging through puddles, racing each other, and frequently stopping to jump off and pick up feathers or horse chestnuts, all before we headed for the duck pond to feed the ducks. We chose a smaller pond, away from the main boating lake, as it is literally plagued by geese, and we would have been mobbed within seconds!

After leaving the park it was over to my mothers for a couple of hours. We knew we were going to be pushing Chloe through her nap time a bit, but she’s coping better with waiting now, although we can’t push her too far, no-one wants a meltdown… and when this girl goes, everyone knows about it!

After getting home and Chloe getting a much needed nap on the way back in the car it was time for dinner, and the good old english classic of toad in the hole being cooked up by the wife. What a way to finish a Sunday!

Day 173 – be grateful… there are people who would love to have your bad days

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Day 173 – Sep 6th

Third day of the new Autumn term and the first day of the kids being back in meant a new class and some new faces to get used to. I wanted to feel more switched on, and be more on the ball, but I definitely wasn’t functioning at 100% today. I think a few cold germs, with the cumulative effects of repeated late nights over the holidays, on top of cycling to work again and pushing it hard in the rush hour traffic to keep up (after getting on the scales this morning and feeling truly horrified at the results)… it has all started to take its toll. I need a couple of days to slow down a little, get to bed early and do something about my diet.

This evening I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely couple, plus the mother of the bride who was proving to be a very useful point of contact, to have some final discussions about their wedding which is now less than two weeks away. The church is one that I haven’t photographed a wedding at before, but the reception venue thankfully is, and in fact it also happens to be where the wife and I had our wedding reception too, so it was lovely to head back there five years later. The last time I photographed a wedding there it had rained all day, so I am hoping for a little dry weather this time around. 

As it was an early evening meeting it meant that I missed out on some time at home with the girls, so it was great to get home and have time to see them before they went to bed, and be able to read bedtime stories, as I didn’t think they would still be up when I got back.

Once the girls were in bed, it was time to sit down for dinner, and as usual the TV was on, I wasn’t really paying much attention until the wife flicked on DIY SOS. Now normally I don’t watch a great deal of TV, largely because me and the wife have very different viewing tastes, but also because there is rarely much on that interests me anyway. The wife will sit down with the sole intention of watching something, and will flick through the channels until something grabs her interest, whereas I will generally not watch any TV at all, unless there is something specific I want to see and I will make time to watch it before going back to what I was doing.

I knew that DIY SOS was going to tug at the heart strings though, it always does. For anyone that has never seen it, it is based around a family in need, either a parent or child with a life limiting illness or disability in a house that is totally unsuitable and unliveable, and in just over a week a huge team of local tradesmen and women all give up their time for free to strip the house back to a shell and transform it, and the garden, into something absolutely amazing. The results are often mind blowing and the family are invariably reduced to tears. This particular episode featured a lovely, decent, honest family where the dad, who wasn’t especially old, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and was given just three years to live. Not even long enough to see his young girls finish school. As a father myself, I just found the thought of this absolutely crushing, life can be so unfair… and so to all those who thought the ALS ice bucket challenge was a waste of time and water… screw you, man! The $100 million or £76 million that was raised in a single month as a result, enabled ALS researchers to uncover a major breakthrough in identifying and working towards treating the disease.

Its things like this that make you stop and think about everything you have, and everything you should be grateful for, appreciating every day because you just don’t know how many you have left.

What have you been thankful for today?

Day 172 – Happy birthday little princess

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Day 172 – Sep 5th

Four years ago today life changed. 

It was a monumental change.

In the fourteen days leading up to that particular day, we had been very anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child, baby Vokes. We had absolutely no idea if it would be a baby boy or a baby girl, just the thoughts and opinions of everyone who was suddenly an expert on old wives tales and those just “having a gut feeling”, all we knew was that baby Vokes was two weeks overdue, daddy was impatient and mommy was quite uncomfortable!

Finally after several even more uncomfortable days in hospital for the wife, our beautiful little Olivia finally arrived in the world. The feeling of being massively overwhelmed can never be fully described, as it can’t encapsulate how I actually felt at that moment when this tiny baby was placed in my arms. She was mine… MINE, and it was scary! I felt like I was suddenly carrying a ticking bomb that was about to explode and everyone else had turned and run away! All this still feels like it was only yesterday… honestly. Four years gone in the blink of an eye.

Now here we are on her 4th birthday, and she is turning into a proper little lady, a constant source of amusement. 

We’d already celebrated the occasion, once with our antenatal friends at a group party a few weeks ago, and then Olivia had her actual birthday party with her friends at the weekend, and tonight we were having grandparents and aunts and uncles over for a small buffet style birthday dinner.

Before dinner was served and presents were opened, we actually had to go and collect her from nursery. Only today she wasn’t walking home, being carried on my shoulders or riding back on her scooter… no, today we were turning up with her biggest birthday present, her brand new bike, and it went down a treat! It took a little getting used to, but she is keen to get back on and practise some more.

It was a lovely evening with the family over, and it came as no surprise that by the end of the evening she’d had way too many presents. The main issue being storage in our modest house, and the fact it leaves us short of ideas and things to buy Chloe (no point in buying this stuff twice!) for Christmas!

Definitely a first world problem!

Day 169 – Its my party and I’ll play if I want to

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Day 169 – Sept 2nd

Birthday parties are definitely made easier when you don’t have to do them at home or worry about the weather. Today was Olivia’s 4th birthday party, which we did at Jungle Bugs soft play centre again. She had been very excited about it for a few weeks, and today it was finally here.

Jungle bugs is a good sized play centre, bigger than one we’ve been to for a few parties recently, but not quite as big as others which appeal to slightly bigger kids meaning that the little ones aren’t at risk of being trampled on or knocked over. Hiring it out meant free entry for Olivia’s friends, and they also got to choose their lunch on arrival, which is served up in a private party room as the rest of the play centre is open to the public. As luck would have it on this day, the place was surprisingly almost empty. For the first hour we were there, the majority of kids there were with Olivia’s party, so it almost felt like we had exclusive use of the soft play centre. Due to its location, this soft play centre can get particularly busy, especially during holidays and weekends, more so when its raining, so today definitely felt like a win!

After the kids had arrived and all burnt off a little energy, it was time to sit them down to bring in the cake and sing happy birthday to Olivia before serving lunch. Clare had put a lot of effort into creating a Paw Patrol cake, and used a recipe from a cake baking book I’d bought for her birthday. Her efforts had been rewarded, it was an amazing cake, and consequently all gone in now time. Even the few slices we took home afterwards didn’t last long!

Olivia had a great party and we were very grateful to every one that turned up, wished her a happy birthday a brought a lovely gift with them, and also to those who couldn’t make it due to illness for letting us know.

Day 166 – Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

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Day 166 – Aug 30th

With the six week holiday stretching out before us back in July, there was only one way to make sure we didn’t waste it, and that was to make a list of the things we wanted to do and people we wanted to see. I knew that we’d never tick all of it off, and the poor weather we had at the start of August really didn’t help with any of our outdoor plans, but we didn’t do too badly in the end. There are still a few people I was keen to catch up with, that we’ve simply run out of time to see now, but the one thing I was particularly passionate to tick off the list was a family day at the seaside. A day on the beach doesn’t feel like enough, but its better than not seeing the sea at all! Ideally I’d love to have gone with friends, but in the end, with just a few days of the holiday left, we couldn’t make it happen and were just glad to be going as a family.

We’d been organised enough to prepare lunches the night before, and I’d made a list of things to take so we could pack the car up a bit quicker in the morning. I’d suggested getting out of the house far earlier than the wife had expected, much to her annoyance, so I had to make sure that getting out of the house was fairly uneventful.

The nearest beach to Birmingham is Weston Super Mare, but its not somewhere I particularly enjoy going to, as its always really busy due to its proximity to the Midlands, hence its nickname “Birmingham-on-sea”. Plus, on top of the fact that its always so busy, we never seem to see any sea at all while we’re there, the tide is always out in the middle of the day, and goes so far out that we can’t even see it!

Instead, I had opted to take the family to Barmouth beach, probably the second closest beach to Birmingham. It took longer to get there than Weston, due to the lack of motorways through North Wales, but it was a much nicer drive through countryside and mountains, past quaint country houses and quirky pubs. I arrived at the beach already feeling relaxed!

When we arrived I was especially surprised at how many spaces were left in the car park on such a nice day, as well as how much space there was on the beach. The beach itself is surrounded by mountains, and so wasn’t especially windy, but there was still a nice breeze to cool us down a little. The weather was perfect, slightly warmer than had been forecast, but not too hot though, and beautifully sunny with just a handful of clouds in the blue sky. Its almost as if we’d booked the weather with some kind of online system!

This was Chloe’s first time at the seaside and she loved it, even splashing in the sea, which was a lovely temperature, and warmer than I expected. We’d got our blankets down, enjoyed a little lunch with some music on the side from the ANKER bluetooth speaker I’d taken with us. The girls enjoyed building (and knocking down of course) some sandcastles, with their new buckets and spades.

As we hadn’t expected such lovely sunny weather, both me and Clare had come unprepared for the warm weather and had to roll our jeans up so that we could join the girls splashing about in the sea.

We finished the day with some dinner, a traditional fish and chips, which just has to be done when you’re at the seaside, and the food was amazing. The girls sat and ate well, and did us proud, they were so well behaved. Not surprisingly they were both soon asleep when we set out in the car on the return journey home, so we were able to push through and do it without stopping.

At last, my holiday was complete, our day at the seaside was fantastic and I now felt that I hadn’t been robbed of a decent break because of the miserable Birmingham weather.

Barmouth… we’ll be back soon!

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