Last wedding scout of the year at Plas Maenan, Conwy

Looking forward to filming Sarah and Craig’s wedding at Plas Maenan in the Conwy Valley this weekend!

It’s my last wedding of 2011 – then I’m moving house (from Bethesda to Rachub – not far), and then it’s Christmas 🙂

Plas Maenan has just been awarded the best accommodation in Wales and has the feel of a well kept country manor. This, coupled with it’s location overlooking the Conwy Valley, means it should be great for photos and film.

Incidentally, the photographer for the day will be Sacha Miller, who has an attractive documentary style.

Plas Maenan, Conwy Valley

The drive up is lined with tall trees, which will make for a good tracking shot of the car arriving.

The rooms inside are small compared to a church,  so I think I’ll make a lot of use of the wide angle lens on my dslr. I’ll do more handheld shots and use the tripod less.

We’ll have to arrive early to figure out the best position for the camera in the room where the service is to be held, as it is not clear how much room there will be at the front.

Staircase at Plas Maenan, Conwy Valley

I thought the stairs were particularly attractive and, when I visited, had appealing natural light on them.

The room in which the wedding breakfast will be held is reasonably large and light enough when the lights are on. If the lights are dimmed it may be necessary to use a video light.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns pre-Wedding Film & Photography scouting

When I was asked to make a wedding day film at Llechwedd slate caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales, I jumped at the chance.

From their site:

“Llechwedd Slate Caverns of Blaenau Ffestiniog is part of a living, working slate mine that has been active since 1836.

“We have 2 spectacular underground tours to explore the underground world of the Victorian Slate Miner. The temperature in the mines is about 54F throughout the year, making the caverns ideal for your family day out come rain or shine.”

I visited the director there, a man called Dave, who showed me the cavern where the wedding will take place and helped me figure out the logistics of filming there.

We took a tram down a few-hundred feet underground, and not surprisingly it’s quite dark and wet!

However, when the tours go round the caverns are lit up and they look spectacular. We went to the main cavern, where there is an underground lake, and I checked out the lighting.

The lighting is actually not too bad, especially during the ceremony itself, when the bride and groom will be lit by a couple of large lights, as well as candles and smaller lights.

I shot this short clip to see how it would come out:

[pro-player]http://tomsimoneweddings.co.uk/videos/slate%20caverns%20test%20footage_.flv[/pro-player]

There is then the opportunity to take some photos and footage near the lake, which is lit by coloured lights which reflect in the water.

I also plan to film the guests doing some of the tour. Because the ground is uneven the easiest thing to do will be handhold the videocamera and shoot it documentary style (usually I’d use a tripod).

The acoustics are good and I don’t foresee any difficulties recording sound. There is a water feature next the lake, so I may use a wireless mic here, although it might not be necessary to get a good audio feed here anyway.

One concern is it might be quite a bit wetter in December, when the couple are getting married, and this could damage my camera. However, either an umbrella (hi-tech!) or a casing should be sufficient to protect it.

The couple are also hiring a red double-decker bus to ferry guests to and from the caverns, another great feature that’s a bit quirky and different – I can’t wait to edit the film!

Portemierion pre-Wedding Film & Photography scouting

I’ve got two weddings at Portmeirion coming up – one where I’m a photographer and one where I’m filming – so I decided to take a visit.

In case you don’t already know, Portmeirion is an Italianate resort village in Gwynedd, on the coast of Snowdonia in North Wales (thank you Wikipedia!)

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and constructed the village between 1925 and 1975. He incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other architects. Portmeirion’s architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late 20th century.

Okay, time to stop copying and pasting from wikipedia…

Basically, Portmeirion is a beautiful little village with lots of interesting architecture and pastel colours. And it’s next to a beach/estuary.

Weddings at Portmeirion - Hercules Hall

Weddings at Portmeirion - Hercules Hall

I spoke to one of the Delyths  – the sales manager – and apparently they have about 100 weddings a year there. This is no surprise, Portmeirion is a kind of fairy tale place to get married and also about as good as it gets from a photographer’s point of view.

Hercules Hall, the Tudor Room and Mirror Room hold Civil Wedding licences for large and small ceremonies – I’ll be working in Hercules Hall.

The couple are facing the large window when they get married, which means they will be lit very nicely without using flash. This is a big help when it comes to filming/photographing.

The dark wood paneling means the light falls off very quickly, so the guests will be relatively dark in photographs. I think that’s fine, it helps highlight the bride and groom.

For filming the wood has less of an effect because my video camera has a higher dynamic range, i.e. more of what is being captured has a normalised exposure.

The ceiling is much lighter and has some incredible carvings on it. I think this could be incorporated into photos of the bride and groom by taking a low POV and looking upwards.

The floor is made of varnished floorboards, which will reflect the bride’s white dress and should look very nice. The reflection can be helped with a little flick of downwards flash.

Weddings at Portmeirion - backdrops for photography

Weddings at Portmeirion - backdrops for photography

I did notice a couple of large air-con units in Hercules Hall, which I was a bit wary of

because they could cause white noise on video footage.

However, I was told they’re turned off during the ceremony, so that’s ok.

As any wedding photographer knows, doorways are our bread and butter.

The light from the front and the darker background make them perfect for highlighting the bride and groom, so long as it’s not too bright and sunny.

Doorways also make great frames and can give photographs a symmetry that is aesthetically pleasing.

Not surprisingly, Portmeirion has so many that it’s hard to know where to start.

There is a doorway as you exit the building where Hercules Hall is, but this archway caught my eye.

I like the symmetry of the pillars, the pastel pink, and I think the bride would look gorgeous photographed here.

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Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

The best place for the groups shots is probably the lawn in the centre of Portmeirion village.

It’s on an incline, which makes it easier to get rows of people on different levels (so we can see everyone’s face).

That roman-esque looking building, with all the pillars, would make a good place for a groups shot of the men. The pillars can be used to frame them.

The tower in the background is the dominant piece of architecture at Portmeirion (in my opinion) and there are nice shots of the bride and groom to be had as you walk up the steps towards it.

The bride and groom I’ve been booked to photograph are very different heights, which can sometimes pose a challenge.

However, because there are so many different levels at Portmeirion it should be straightforward to position them to best effect.

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Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

Wedding photography at Portmeirion

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The wedding breakfast and speeches are held in the restaurant down near the beach.

The top table is in front of this wood paneling, which is ideal.

This photo might not look like much, but it’s actually a great backdrop for photographing/filming the speeches and the people on the top table.

The building also has a couple of stairways which make good locations for shots of the bride from above.

The evening entertainment and first dance are back at the top in Hecules Hall.

Why do I write up notes on these pre-wedding photos scouts?

The main reason is for me to know exactly what I’m doing on clients’ wedding days – I like to be uber-organised and prepared, it makes a massive difference on the wedding day.

Secondly, it gives my clients the opportunity to see exactly what I’ll be doing on their wedding day, which is always a good thing.

Hopefully these note may also be of use to other photographers who shoot at the same location.

Pre-wedding photography/film scout at St Cedol Church, Pentir, Gwynedd

Wedding photography scouting at St Cedol Chuchr, Pentir, Gwynedd

Wedding photography scouting at St Cedol Chuchr, Pentir, Gwynedd

I went to meet up with Vicky and Ross at St Cedol church in Pentir, where they’re getting married in September, to work out how best to photograph and film their wedding day.

I also met the vicar and a couple of people from the church council, who were all colourful characters.

The church itself is old and is as full of character as the people I met there; it’s a beautiful setting for weddings and photos.

It was the hottest day of the year when I went there, with the sun shining very brightly, probably a bit different to how the conditions will be in September.

There is not a great deal of room outside the church because it is surrounded by the graveyard, so it’s not a suitable location for larger group shots.

However, there is a narrow path leading up to the church door which I think will make a great lead in line for photographs of Vicky and Ross, as well as a shot of a line of guests walking to/from the church.

The church doorway, like most churches, makes an ideal spot for photographing the bride and groom – it makes a nice frame with a darkened background.

Inside the church, at the back, there are stairs leading to a another floor/balcony(? – can’t think of the right word) which overlooks the rest of the church. This will make a great spot for a second shooter (I’ll get an assistant).

The church is quite narrow so will require use of a wide angle lens and squashing up against the walls.

There is just enough room at the front of the church for the video man and myself, one of us on each side, without getting in the way.

View from back of St Cedol Church, Pentir, Gwynedd

View from back of St Cedol Church, Pentir, Gwynedd

It was actually very light in the church – it has big windows and it was very sunny – but there was a high dynamic range in the light levels, which presents its own challenges.

However, there will be a smaller dynamic range in September, so that will make things easier.

There are overhead heaters, but these are colourless so don’t pose a problem.

Not sure where we’ll do ‘location photographs’ yet, but the bridge at Brynrefail is a good spot where I’ve taken photos before.

I’ve also photographed and filmed at Seiont Manor on a couple of occasions, so already know the best spots for photos and the magic numbers to key into my cameras and video camera. Bonus.

We will do the group shots at Seiont Manor, there’s lots of space and I can get elevation by looking out of a bedroom window down onto the forecourt.

View from front of St Cedol church, Pentir, Gwynedd

View from front of St Cedol church, Pentir, Gwynedd

Why do I write up notes on these pre-wedding photos scouts?

The main reason is for me to know exactly what I’m doing on clients’ wedding days – I like to be uber-organised and prepared, it makes a massive difference on the wedding day.

Secondly, it gives my clients the opportunity to see exactly what I’ll be doing on their wedding day, which is always a good thing.

Hopefully these note may also be of use to other photographers who shoot at the same location.

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