Aileen & Karol - Glounthaune Church & Radisson, Little Island, Cork

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Picture the scene.

The neighbours from all along the road have gathered outside the bride’s family home in eager anticipation of a first glimpse at her dress as she departs for the church. It’s one of those neighbourhoods where people know each other, and you can sense the buzz of excitement as they chatter on the road. They’ve been there for close to an hour, which is 50 minutes longer than they needed to be, but no one wants to miss the first view of bride and she makes her way to the wedding car parked outside the house. It’s getting close to the ceremony time. She’ll be out any minute now.

The next door neighbours pop out to say that she was having some photos taken out in the back garden and looks stunning. That just serves to heighten the levels of anticipation even further. Suddenly there’s movement. The front door opens a crack, and then, slowly, a little more. All eyes turn to the person who’s just stepped out the door. And there’s a barely audible, but still detectable, sense of… what? Admiration? No. Excitement? No not that either. Something more like… disappointment. It’s a tense moment. And then, breaking the tension, one of the neighbours pipes up: “You’re only gorgeous, love” in a Cork accent lifted straight from those ads that find Cork accents funny.

”Thanks”, I say, as I scarper, embarrassed, to my car to get to the church before the bride does, the laughter of the neighbours drowned out only when I close the car door. I get my revenge though – I turn and snap a quick photo before I go. And they’re right – I do look good. So went one of the many moments of laughter on Aileen and Karol’s wedding day, and that comment from that unidentified neighbour kept me laughing to myself all the way to the beautiful church in Glounthane a few miles from Cork city where they were to be married.

But before all of that, there were some preparations to be done.

Inside, as well as outside, there was plenty of excitement on the morning and Aileen, her sisters, her mum and her aunt were suitably decked out in matching dressing gowns acquired especially for the big day while upstairs the beautiful dress was waiting to be put on.

I’m a big fan of mirrors, and am always looking out for reflection shots and on this occasion the house didn’t disappoint.

As Aileen got dressed upstairs, her parents put the finishing touches to their outfits downstairs. They looked well, but the bride looked amazing.

The photo that I captured through her fathers arm as he admired his daughter at the top of the stairs as she posed with her sisters for a photo would prove to be one of my favourites from the day. 

The bridesmaids Laura and Emma looked fabulous also, and not only were they a delight to photography, but they were good fun too which is always a bonus.

The neighbours eventually got their sneak peek as Aileen headed to the church. Unfortunately the rain came just at the wrong moment, but it didn’t faze the bride and a couple of umbrellas got her (and the last few guests) safely (and dryly) in the door.

A lovely touch was the placards being carried by flowergirls Kayla and Mia, who did a brilliant job bringing them up the aisle to carry the message to their Uncle Karol that his bride was on the way.

Karol, meanwhile, was looking a tad nervous at the top of the aisle but I think those nerves melted away when he turned to catch sight of his bride.  And with that, the guests settled back, the priest made everyone laugh, and the ceremony got underway in beautiful surroundings.

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Aileen and Karol had asked me to stay to photograph their speeches and first dance, and if I am staying at a wedding till that point I do like, if circumstances allow for it, to offer the couple the opportunity to have a night time portrait taken, typically outside their venue, as something a little different from the rest of the wedding photos. By “if circumstances allow for it”, I mean a couple of things – primarily that the couple themselves aren’t sick of being photographed by that point, which is something, as photographer, you have to continually judge and react to (usually by shooting something else, and there’s always something else to shoot at a wedding); but also the venue having a suitable place for the shot, the weather being accommodating, and there being downtime during which the shot can be taken. That last one is usually the least of my concerns. I have yet to meet a wedding band that can set up their gear faster than I can set up a flash-lit outdoor portrait and a first dance off-camera lighting setup.

When I’ve done this type of photo in the past I’ve played it safe. One light for the couple, ambient via control of shutter speed for the venue. If I’ve been feeling adventurous I might double up and use two reflective umbrellas for the couple, cross lighting them for even (and safe) light. For Aileen and Karol’s wedding I pushed myself further for the shot. For the photographers amongst you, I’ll break that down further in an upcoming post (though feel free to knock yourself out figuring out the lighting from the shot). For the rest of you, I think you’ll agree the shot worked well – I know it was one of Aileen and Karol’s absolute favourites, and it is one of my favourite wedding shots too. There were other favourites from the second half of the day though, for both them and me.

I try to keep the posed photography to an absolute minimum, so a successful wedding for me is one where my favourite photo of the bride is an unposed shot, especially when she looks stunning, happy and relaxed all at the same time in that photo. Personally, as long as I can get a shot like the one of Aileen looking on as her husband signs the register, I’ll be a happy photographer.

The church in Glounthaune is quite photogenic inside, but one of those that has quite limited options for photographs outside. As I usually say to couples all you need at the church is small patch of land that isn’t a car park and isn’t a grave yard. That patch was hard to come by on this occasion, and the patch that does exist there was particularly windswept on the day, so we had to retire to the doorway. But I didn’t mind – it was a particulary photogenic front door that made for a great background.

The same location proved useful for a quick photo of the guys.

From the church we drove the short spin across the main road to the Radisson Blu, Little Island, where the sun was shining and guests were enjoying every minute of the drinks reception.

Having been scuppered a little by wind and the grounds at the church, we took the time for a few bridal party photos at the hotel not long after we arrived. I had scouted that morning, having not photographed at that hotel before, and knew that if time allowed the area down by the spa would make for a nice photo. Despite the bright (and harsh) light outside, the way the light fell in the corridor at the right moment was relatively kind to me.

I have a love-hate relationship with group photos. I don’t really want to be the photographer that people remember as annoying them during his attempts to get a group shot, and if I am doing it I don’t want to move people or hassle people until they are about to be moved anyway.

That’s why I almost always take it, if it’s requested, just before the call for dinner. The hotel will usually facilitate this as it means that I end up doing their call for them, and the guests don’t mind a quick stop off en route to the dining room. Add to that the fact that I don’t try to pose everyone just so, and try to keep the total time taking it to about 2 minutes, a minute and a half of which is waiting for the stragglers.

All went to plan in that respect for this wedding too, except that my perfect vantage point, from a first floor window in the old house, had to be abandoned at the last minute as there was just too much glare back off the house into guests’ faces. I established this with the help of the videographer before ever asking a guest to step outside for the shot. Without elevation I had to resort to plan B – even if I couldn’t get elevated, the camera could.

So I stood on a garden chair, with my camera on a monopod held high over me, and used the self timer (in the absence of a remote release which I’d left in the car) and manual focus, manual exposure and a pretty swift movement, to raise the camera and pray that I was getting everyone in the frame. 6 shots and I was done, though the extremely bright sun meant I had to push this quite a bit in post-processing to bring back shadow detail while trying to retain highlight detail. The shot, really, was crying out for off-camera flash again, but having had to move to Plan B with very little notice, and with a misunderstanding on the hotel’s part meaning they were trying to direct guests straight to the function room rather than out to the garden, there just was no time for that. Still, the result worked out ok I think.

As the guests sat, Aileen and Karol took a moment to themselves and I left them be, but seeing them sitting in that pool of light, I couldn’t help but take a shot from a distance.

Finally, after a well-received meal and a chance for everyone to relax, it was time for the speeches. I do like photographing speeches – the range of expressions you get is just great, and emotions can run in one direction and then another in quick succession. It’s all about being prepared with all the technical aspects of the photography so that you can watch, listen and react to the punch lines, the emotion, the heckles, and the quick glances.

Not only did I get the full range of emotions during Karol's speech, but the best man's speech offered up what I consider a classic (and priceless) "Best Man Speech Photo". Gotta love those embarassing stories!

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