Travel Photography – Cluj Napoca, Romania

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I’ve just returned from a group trip i organised exploring a little corner of Romania that has been on my bucket list for some time.  Cluj Napoca, the unofficial capital of Transylvania is steeped in history dating back to the Roman Empire and offers a multitude of photographic opportunities.

I’d researched what to expect, areas i’d like to visit in the city, and also a little further afield, with the wealth if information already available on the internet.   One day was used to visit Corvin Castle which had association with Vlad the impaler but the other days were spent exploring the streets and mostly the old part of the city which did not disappoint.

Street photography has always been one of my favourite genres but, make no bones about it, it’s hard work.  Trying to capture spontaneous candid moment or qwerky compositions is no easy task but it gave me the opportunity to work on my zone focusing techniques and also a little shooting from the hip.  Using the Fuji x camera app also got used too.  The light was harsh throughout the day with clear blue skies compounding the difficulties but it was great to be put under pressure and work hard to produce what i think are some worthy images.  Take a look at these and let me know what you think.

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The city of Cluj has a colourful history from the many ruling factions dating back to the middle ages and the Roman Empire to most recently the last Romanian Revolution of 1989 which saw the end of authoritarian communist rule and the ousting of Nicolae Ceausescu after nationwide demonstrations.

The ‘old city’ offers plentiful medieval gothic architecture interspersed with neo gothic and renaissance architecture all within a small area.  With a bountiful assortment of cafes and restaurants you could spend more than a couple of days exploring this part of the city.   The city has a busy bustling feel about it with many cafes and bars in the main square but be a little brave and explore some of the side streets and you will find some amazing hidden gems.  One such place is Roata restaurant which offers local traditional cuisine at an amazingly affordable price.  Again, here are a selection of images from that area.

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Day two saw us heading out on a road trip to Corvin castle briefly venturing off the beaten track for a short distance to the abandoned fortress of Coltesti and then a short walk through the village of Rimetea with its Germanic inspired architecture at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains.

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Corvin Castle was one place I’ve wanted to visit for some time.  It’s association with the story of Bram Stokers Dracula is often misplaced.  The real association is that Vlad III, commonly known as Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned there for many years and whilst held prisoner the Hungarian military leader who ruled the area, John Hunyadi, executed his father.  On his release Vlad III entered into a political alliance initially but then sought his revenge for his fathers death and went on a killing spree using impalement as his favoured method of execution.

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Photographically the castle is best viewed from the northern side, either at dawn or dusk, but to get a clear view you have to be relatively close so a wide angle lens would definitely be required.  My xf14mm on my Fuji X-T1 was at the very limit of what i could fit in view.  That said i did attempt a few multiple image panoramic shots which turned out ok.  A wide angle tilt-shift lens would have been ideal.

Throughout the trip i was thankful for my lightweight Fuji X gear.  We were out from early in the morning returning to our accommodation late in the evening and much of that time was spent on our feet exploring, apart from the frequent stops at many of the local cafes.  All of the images were taken on my Fuji X-T1 with the XF14mm & 35mm primes and the 18-55 & 55-140mm Zoom lens’ and, when required, supported with the Lee Seven5 Filter system.

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So, that wraps up this little blog please feel free to share this and to leave me any comments or questions.  There is much much more to explore and find in this wonderful city so i’ll be organising another small group trip soon.  If you’d like to join me then please do get in touch.  You can take a look at my website for more from this trip and details of any future tours when they are planned or catch up with me on social media on twitter, Facebook or instagram @robferrolphoto

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Travel Photography – Ukraine & Chernobyl

Ukraine is a country steeped in history and there is much going on in the country today that will be read about in history books in years to come.  Many of us will recall  an event in Ukraine’s history that had a wider impact on much of what was then the USSR and also Europe, that was the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant disaster.

Having been involved with the Chernobyl Childrens Lifeline Charity, you can read more about this here, for a number of years a few of us decided we would like to experience their side of the story, learn more about their every day lives & struggles and to also visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

Travel photography is something I’m aiming to do a lot more of as having spent much of my earlier working years traveling the world, sadly the photography bug had not yet bit.  Its now time to put that right. So, what more of an excuse could one want, to do a little travel photography, and explore somewhere were there is a personal connection?

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t do much research before heading over to Ukraine and was somewhat unsure if there were any constraints with regards to photography etc.  I suppose that a little bit of me still thought of it as being very much a controlled state.  As a youngster growing up in the eighties i felt somewhat intrigued and mystified by the old Soviet cold war era and some of that mystery still lives with me today.  In reality though i couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Ukraine is a bustling country eager to have its own unique identity, with symbols of patriotism almost on every corner, and many a stranger happy to say hello and chat, with the obvious language barrier though.

For the trip i had a reasonable luggage allowance so took a full compliment of gear including my two Fuji XT-1’s, the xf18-55mm & xf55-140mm zoom lens’ and also the xf14mm, xf35mm & xf56mm primes.  I’ve got to say though, that i found myself mainly using the 18-55mm which is totally opposite to the way i normally work when shooting weddings etc where the primes are the only lens’ i use.  The 18-55mm, with its image stabilisation, is such a versatile lens and coped well with the many situations i found myself.   There is one thing i will add though and that is that the airport security was a nightmare.  Every item of photographic & electronic gear had to be taken out of my rucksack and placed in a separate tray for the x-ray scanner.  It was a lengthy process and chaos of re-packing everything while you have the constant stream of other peoples stuff pushing you along was a bit of a nightmare.

Anyway, gear aside, i wanted to experience, or at least see, the Ukrainian way of life.  In particular that of the more rural setting where many of our visiting children come from.  We were lucky to see many aspects of their lives from the hustle and bustle of the town markets to the self reliant lifestyle many lead with their own small holdings.  People from all walks of life, complete strangers, were happy to welcome us with open arms as if we were family, an experience that was overwhelmingly humbling.

The trip would not have been complete without a visit to the infamous Nuclear Power plant of Chernobyl.  Reactor number four catastrophically exploded on 26th April 1986 and immediately changed the lives of thousands of people and sadly, to this very day, still affects the lives of many more thousands.

The exclusion zone can only be visited by prior booking a guided tour.  There are a number of companies on the internet selling tickets but its only once you arrive at the first 30km check point that you realise just how much of a tourist attraction this place has become.  With the mystery of the many abandoned villages and the stories they hold to the somewhat imposing steel structure that now covers the reactor, who wouldn’t want to visit the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster?  I know, its not for everyone, but it was a very emotional experience thinking of the time when many people gave their lives to avoid an even greater explosion and thus saving the lives of many and even the existence of the European continent.

So below is a pictorial collection of my visit, from the humbling family encounters, the emotional visit to a local orphanage and to the poignant visit to Chernobyl & the abandoned city of Prypiat.  If you’d like to know a little  more about my visit please do leave me a comment or get in touch.  You can also find a Youtube travel blog i made here.  Finally, more of my work can be found on my website which you can find here.  I’ll look forward to sharing images of my future travels with you soon….Rob

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Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Soviet symbols celebrating WWII victory

Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Kerosene rail station

Korosten, an important rail hub in the Zhytomyr region. Fire crews from here were some of the first to attend the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster.

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Busy markets in Korosten with Salo (cured fat) in abundance.

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There were wild dogs everywhere, some quite placid while others harassed the busy shoppers.

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Children in a local school were intrigued by their foreign visitors.

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Typical rural houses in Ukraine.

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Chernobyl and the queues of tourists waiting for their guides.

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Items discarded in a village that was hastily abandoned shortly after the nuclear disaster.

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Nature rapidly reclaiming what it once owned.

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The city of Chernobyl.

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Our guide showed us how the background radiation levels fluctuated within relatively short distances.

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Childhood toys lay abandoned in a village near Chernobyl.

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The infamous reactor 4 at Chernobyl, now with its new steel confinement.

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The road to Prypiat. The city that offered a new beginning, and new hope and a new life to many. A city that only had a life of 16 years.

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This amusement park was never used. It was due to be opened on 1st May 1986, just a week after the nuclear disaster.

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The Soviet Duga 3 ‘over the horizon’ radar close to the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant.

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Soviet military wall painting.

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An abandoned Soviet missile bunker.

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Soviet era newspapers pasted to the wall of an abandoned missile base.

 

Aurora Cancer Charity Fashion Show

I’ve been photographing an amazing bunch of people now for the past couple of years and what these people do is nothing short of astonishing.

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The Aurora Cancer Charity exists to help and support people and their families who are affected by and living with cancer.  Anyone with a diagnosis receives a free package of support, wellbeing programmes and holistic & beauty treatments to help raise their self-esteem and confidence at one of their local wellbeing centres.

The charity relies on much needed donations and part of it’s fundraising efforts, amongst many other events, is the annual Aurora Fashion Show and the stars of the show are all affected by cancer.  The spectacle is a culmination of months of hard work and dedication, not only from the models, but also the amazing team behind them who put the show together.  From the choreography and the amazing audio visual performance to the individual stories of people going above and beyond, it’s one truly emotive evening.

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The show runs for two nights at the Doncaster Dome and this years guests were entertained by the highly acclaimed Rob McVeigh and their regular host and patron Caroline Hodgson.  If you’d like to find out more about the charity please do head over to  their website here.

If you’d like to find out more about my commercial photographic services then you can find my website here, or why not follow me on social media via the links below.  If you like this blog post please feel free to post a comment and please do share it with your family & friends.

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London and a mixed bag of Photography

Last week I ventured off on a day trip to London.  It had been a while since my last visit and I was long overdue a day of ‘me’ photography.  I had no real agenda and no expectations of what i would find or photograph, but, as London is place where you can find and photograph anything and everything, i was more than confident of getting something ‘in the bag’.

With that in mind it did make me take a little more kit that I really should have, but, with the light weight of the Fuji XT1 and its complement of amazing lens’ it wasn’t a real issue.  I did however make a return trip to the car shortly after parking at the rain station to dump my tripod as a last minute decision to leave this behind.

Monday morning in London was manic, it’s manic every morning to be honest, but this particular Monday was the day after the London Marathon.  The cleanup process was still in full swing and there were stacks upon stacks of those meal barriers everywhere, but, the cleanup team must have been very hard at work all night restoring the city to its normal self ready for there Monday morning onslaught.

I love the huge diversity London offers and it’s great to see all the tourists taking in the sights but i’d wish they would leave those blooming selfie sticks at home.  Having nearly had my eye taken out on a couple of occasions was beginning to wear a little thin as they waved them around with little or no regard to those around them.

All-in-all though it was a great day where i photographed ‘that’ anything & everything, from some of the iconic buildings, life on the street, life under the street and even those blooming tourists with their selfie sticks, lol.  The weather was very changeable with some heavy rain showers but it certainly did not stop play, moreover, it helped create a winning image, more about that a little further on.

Again, the Xt1 was a dream to work with, occasionally shooting from the hip and zone focusing for the street shots – but i must admit that i still need a little more practice at this technique.  As for that tripod i left behind, i didn’t even miss it.  I photographed a few long exposure images, some in excess of 75 seconds, all helped with the Lee Seven5 filter system, and just used what was available such as walls and even the pavement.  It helped me compose some great images with a low perspective and the freedom of working without a tripod was very liberating.

The week ended on a high by me submitting an image into the Fujifilm_UK #fujifridaychallenge, with the weeks theme being reflections, and having my entry chosen by renowned Fuji X Photographer Paul Sanders as the winning image.  As mentioned above, the image was taken just after a heavy rain shower and i was in an area of high-rise office blocks, with a view of the Shard in-between, and the wet pavement in combination with the glass sided buildings created an amazing reflective scene.

Anyway, I hope you like the images i’ve added below.  Please do feel free to share the blog and leave me a comment and if you missed my last blog post on why i moved to the Fujifilm X system you can read that here.  Thanks, Rob.

London Photography by Rob Ferrol

There’s more to London you know.

News reader on the streets of London by Rob Ferrol

News reader ready for action

Tourists in London posing with selfie stick

Grrr, the curse of the selfie sticks.

Padlocks left by lovers

Lovers locks

A newly married couple on Westminster bridge, london

Just married

big ben London with blurred London bus and jogger

Lunchtime rush hour at Westminster bridge

stormy clouds over westminster by rob ferrol photography

Stormy clouds over Westminster

London bus blurred with motion as it passes red london phone box by rob ferrol

elderly females taking a cigarette break

Fag break

two males outside bookshop in london by rob ferrol

Another fag break

lonely female in cafe by rob ferrol

Deep in thought

 

london city skyline in black and white by rob ferrol

London city skyline

long exposure of tower bridge by rob ferrol

Tower Bridge long exposure

st pals cathedral by rob ferrol

St Paul’s from Millennium bridge

statue of fire fighters and st pals cathedral by rob ferrol

Firefighter statue near St Pauls

shard reflections on a rainy day in london by rob ferrol

The winning shot

Why i moved to the Fujifilm X system

Ok, i can hear you all moaning already “not another i’ve moved to Fuji blog” well yes, sorry, but it is.  It’s a poignant post for me as i’ve been integrating Fuji x cameras into my workflow for some time and now the move is now complete.  Yes, i’ve sold all my DSLR gear and am now a ‘fully Fuji’ X system photographer.  So, this is a little blog of why ‘I’ personally have made the move.

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The Fujifilm x100

Some years ago, and a year or so after its initial launch, i purchased the original Fuji x100 which I was drawn to after seeing a full page add on the back of a camera mag.  I though “WOW that looks awesome” the design was amazing, it had so much character and it just called out to me – I wanted one so much!!  Yes, i can be a bit of an impulsive buyer but I mused over the idea for sometime on whether to purchase one.  Anyway i did and made my purchase almost a year after it’s initial launch.  Sods law though, not long after my purchase, Fuji released the X100s with many improvements – lesson learned do some more thorough research.  But not perturbed i persevered with the x100 and I remember being in awe of the first few initial test images.  Below is my first portrait of my daughter with the x100, about the 5th frame i made since taking it out of the box.  Simple window light on a dull day with a not so willing model.  Her expression was ‘hurry up, i want to go out’ – she didn’t share my excitement over my new toy.

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First image out of the x100 – 

My kids had been my test subject on many occasions and somehow this little camera made grabbing images of them somewhat easier.  It was far less intimidating than my big DSLR with equally big lens, easier to grab and pop it my my pocket at a moments notice and it quickly became my ‘go to’ camera for family outings etc but thats as far as it went.  For some bizarre reason i never considered it a tool for my professional work.

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X100 | f/4 | 1/250 |iso200

For my professional photography i stuck with the DSLR gear and continued to do so for a couple more years but as a Wedding and Commercial Photographer, along with some other random assignments & commissions, 2 full frame DSLR’s and an accompaniment of lens’ was quickly taking it’s toll, and my back was beginning to groan.  I’m a small chap at 5′ 5″ and i felt like the weight was compressing my spine reducing those valuable inches even further.

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Street photography with the x100

 

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Street Photography with the X-T1 | 1/4sec Handheld

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X-T1 | Ramada Hotel, Leicester

In a bid to ease my back woes i researched and tried many options for carrying the DSLR’s, waist holsters, double harnesses, roller bags, the lot, and none seemed to suit me.  I’d used the ThinkTank belt pouch system for a number of years but sold my set during my quest to find a suitable alternative but i ended up buying another as it proved to be the best of what i’d tried.  But, at the end of a busy wedding at the end of the 2014 season, i could take no more and i decided to look at alternative camera systems.

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X-T1 | xf35mm | f/1.4 | 1/125th | iso200

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X-T1 | xf35mm | f/4.5 | 1/30th | iso400

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X-T1 | xf35mm | f/1.4 | 1/420th | iso200

Over the Christmas break of 2014/15 i looked around at the alternatives.  I loved my X100 and the X100T, a successor to the x100s, had just been released but i wanted a system that offered interchangeable lens’ and being left eye dominant i wanted a central viewfinder DSLR style design.  I was drawn by the Fuji lure to the X-T1.  I can’t remember where i first saw this camera but i had heard wonderful things about it.  It had been on the market for almost a year and a few other photographers that i know were already using it in a professional capacity and raving about it.  So, my Christmas holidays were spent between my family and frenzied research for more info about this camera in eager anticipation of an early new year purchase.

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Fujifilm X-T1

I purchased my first Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver edition with a couple of lens’ and, just like the impact the X100 had one me, i was blown away with the image quality.  It was on par, if not surpassing, what i was getting from my Canon DSLR.  The instant image preview with live exposure simulation in the large EVF was a dream to use and the camera instantly felt much more comfortable in my smallish hands compared to my DSLR.  The tactile controls, reminiscent of a bygone age, were very different to my DSLR but took me back to my days with the Canon AE1, oh the irony!!

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X-T1 | xf35mm | f/1.4 | 1/4000th | iso200

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X-T1 | xf35.. | f/1.4 | 1/2300th | iso200

From the outset of 2015 it worked amazingly alongside my Canon gear, using it to shoot weddings and commercial commissions, but it lacked a vital element that was crucial to a particular genre of photography that i also undertook, corporate events with onsite sales, which required me to shoot tethered.  At The Photography Show last year i spoke to the Fuji team who said the software was coming and had already been given out to a select few for testing.  In fact, i recalled Bert Stephani seamlessly shooting tethered during his presentation at the show,  it gave me hope that it wasn’t far away. By the way, i’ve followed Bert’s work for a few years with his early YouTube ‘Confessions of a Photographer‘ and ‘Motivational Light’ video series and it’s well worth checking out.  Here’s a few commercial jobs undertaken with the X-T1.

One of the biggest factors forcing my move was weight and during my weddings of 2015 i found i was using the X-T1 more and more.  The X-T1 and a selection of lens’ was a massive weight saving.  I felt a sense of liberation from the heavy ‘bricks’ that were weighing me down during long wedding shoots, sometimes in excess of ten hours.  The image preview in the EVF allowed me to see what i was getting before the shot was taken so i was shooting less but ending up with many more ‘keepers’, thus speeding up my post processing workflow.  Here’s a bunch of wedding related images shot on my X-T1’s, nothing overly fancy, im still building on my X-T1 wedding portfolio but you can find more of my wedding photography here.

Very soon the DSLR never made it out of the bag and after just a few months with my initial X-T1 i purchased another, this time a black model, and further lens’ to compliment what i already had.  Additionally, i found that i was favouring prime lens’ having always used zoom’s on my DSLR and the quality of the Fuji glass is equally as good and my Canon L series lens’.  Once the tethering issue was sorted with the software patch for Adobe Lightroom being made available it was full steam ahead with my complete move to the Fuji platform.

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Derwent Reservoir | X-T1 | xf14mm | f/11 | 1/30th |iso200

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Saltburn Pier | X-T1 | xf18-55 @20mm | f/14 | 14secs | iso200 | Lee Filters

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Ladybower Reservoir | X-T1 | xf14mm | f/11 | 1/30th | iso200 | Lee Filters

I’ve used the Fuji X-T1’s extensively now across my compliment of services covering weddings, landscapes, commercial & charity events and also a little travel photography where i took them to Morocco, North Africa.  Shooting from the city to the edge of the Sahara where the temperatures often exceeded 45 degrees celsius and the camera never faltered.  Moreover, the massive weight reduction compared to my much heavier DSLR gear made working thought the day in the blistering heat bearable.  Below are a few images from that trip but you can find my blog post with more images from that trip here and a clip on YouTube here.

This by no means a technical evaluation or reasoning for my move, i’ve purposefully avoided going down that route on this blog post for the sake of simplicity, many of the factors are just personal preference for me.  The system has proven to be a worthy workhorse across all the genres that i cover and not once have i regretted my decision to move away from DSLR’s.   I’m not saying its a camera system that will suit everyone and i’m not ruling out a further change somewhere down the line myself, the recently released X-Pro-2 looks sublime and is receiving much hype on social media and i’m eagerly awaiting to hear more of the much anticipated X-T2, but for now its a tool that i am more than happy with and would happily recommend to others.  The journey, and the story continues………

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x100 | Oban, Argyll

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x100 | St Pancras, London

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x100 | St Pancras, London

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X-T1 | St Pancras, London

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X-T1 | London

Nottinghamshire Wedding Photography – Thoresby Courtyard – Joanne & Craig

Last weekend saw me photographing the wedding of Joanne & Craig with weather in complete contrast to their pre-wedding photoshoot.  If you missed that blog post you can find it here.  However, although challenging, the weather did not spoil the fun, emotion and love that these two quite clearly shared.

Their ceremony was held at St John’s Church in the small hamlet of Perlethorpe followed by an evening reception at the Thoresby Courtyard set in the grounds of Thoresby Hall, a grade 1 listed house on the edge of Sherwood forrest.  They were transported between the venues in a pristine  Austin Sixteen supplied by Wedding Classics

With beautiful twinkling fairy lights and amazing Christmas themed table dressings by Dan Ross at Individual by Design and sumptuous catering by Summersby Catering it truly was an evening of high spirits and happiness.

If you’d like to find out more about our wedding photography please do get in touch or drop by our website for more details.  Here’s a selection from Joanne & Craig’s big day.

Nottinghamshire wedding venues, Thoresby Hall and Perlethorpe ChurchHandmade wedding bouquetWedding day shoesThe bridal party dressesFinal bridal preparations with mother of the brideChief bridesmaid making final adjustments to the wedding dressBridal preparationsBridesmaids waiting at the churchGroom prep with best manGroom helping son get readyGroom getting ready for a weddingJo&Craig_Blog-26The bride arriving outside the church in classic carThe wedding ceremony at churchThe wedding ceremonyThe wedding kissClassic wedding car Austin sixteenBride & groom posing by a classic Austin sixteenWedding cakeJo&Craig_Blog-67The first wedding dance of the bride & groomThe bride & groom posing for stunning evening imagesBride & groom posing for photos

 

Pre-Wedding Photoshoots by Nottingham Photographer

As a Nottingham Wedding Photographer a pre-wedding photoshoot is an inclusive element of our “all day wedding photography package”, but what are they? and do you need one?

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One of the most common things people say to me during wedding consultations is that they “hate having their photo taken”.  To be honest who could blame them?  I for one wouldn’t feel comfortable, on a big day that has cost me thousands and have it a photographed by a complete stranger.

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That, in essence, is one of the biggest reasons i like to include a pre-wedding shoot.  Its an opportunity for you, the happy couple and me as your wedding photographer to get to know each other a little better.  It’s a way of helping you to feel relaxed and comfortable having your photographs taken and to help banish those nerves.

It’s an ideal opportunity for you to see how i work to create the natural looking images you see on my website, a way to show you what can be created with the minimal amount of direction.  If ‘you’ are relaxed it will show through in your images.

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We try, where possible, to hold your pre-wedding photoshoots at your chosen wedding venue, this allows us to explore the venue together to scout out the best of what it can offer.  Again, this will make it familiar territory on your big day.  It may be that some locations at the venue don’t lend themselves to your wedding attire etc and if little challenges like these are addressed beforehand it can only help in making your day run smoothly.

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Other reasons to have a pre-wedding photoshoot could be to create something unique for your big day such as personalised invitations, a photo guestbook or a guest signature frame.  It could also be possible to have your pre-wedding photos playing on a slideshow during your reception.

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All this said, the pre-wedding photoshoot is not for everyone or every wedding.  The choice is completely up to the clients.  Some may already feel completely relaxed in front of the camera, other just want to save it all for the big day.  For others it may not be possible, for example, if you are flying in from overseas just for your wedding etc.

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If you’d like to find out more about our wedding photography services or have any questions about pre-wedding photoshoots, or any other aspect of our wedding photography, please do not hesitate to get in touch, we would love to hear from you.  You could also visit our wedding photography website.