Victoria Hotel, Menai Bridge, wedding photographer look around

I visited the Vic Hotel in Menai Bridge yesterday, in preparation for Lesley and Nicola’s wedding in May.

These are my notes on taking photos there on the big day.

(I do this mostly for my own benefit as it helps me think through what I’m going to do.  I post these notes on my blog so you can see how I think/work….)

There are steps leading up to the front of the hotel, which are wide enough for a group shot of up to about 80 people. A step ladder will help me get some elevation and improve the shot.

There is a garden area in the back suitable for group photos of families, as well as bridal and groom’s party.

In the garden there is a faux waterfall (which wasn’t switched on when I visited), which will be lit by a ye olde style lamp. Think this will make a nice photo of the couple at dusk, with some ultra-soft fill light from a softbox from camera left… will practice this beforehand because it’ll be a little tricky to get balanced.

The service takes place in a long, narrow room, with the couple facing a window. Les and Nicola will have enough natural light on them, providing there aren’t storm clouds outside, and I”ll have to make sure they don’t stand too close to the window, otherwise I won’t be able to stand far enough away.

The reception room was quite dark when I visited, partly because it was a v rainy day. There are windows along one side, so the natural light could be a lot better on the wedding day.

The ceiling is white (so no colour cast), but it is divided by large beams which could interfere with bounced flash. Best solution will be to have a couple of flash guns on stands to light the room.

The  Victoria Hotel is close to the Menai Strait, and it will definitely be worth taking a walk down to the water front to get some photographs there, best with shallow depth of field I think.

There are views of the Menai Strait from the Vic, but there are fences and houses that would spoil the pic. Also noticed an archway which will look nice if it has flowered.Wedding photography at Victoria Hotel, Menai Bridge

North Wales Wedding Photographer/Videographer – a full plate :-)

As I write this a carpenter is busy downstairs converting our living room into an office-living-room.

I’ve now got so much stuff I’ve outgrown the box-type room I was using upstairs and my attempts to get a studio/office in Bethesda have fallen through for the time being.

Working at home is not ideal, but with our second little boy due in little more than a month the work and expense of taking on a studio has meant I’ve had to put it on hold for a while.

However, if anyone knows of any affordable, light, clean, spacious places for rent in this area – v tall order, I know – please get in touch!

This week I’ve mostly been editing Stephanie and David’s wedding film, which has been great fun because it was an amazing wedding and they’re such a lovely couple.

I’ve also been doing a lot of product photography (an area where a studio would be very useful!) and that’s involved long hours in front of the computer too.

In addition, I’ve got lots of couples to meet and discuss wedding with, which is one of my favourite parts of the job – I’m a socialite through and through.

Not so fun has been trying to get my head round doing my accounts, that really takes a lot of motivation to get done. All worth it though, and I’ve the highly recommended accountant Lynne Savage on my side, so it’s not too bad.

Ok, I’m off to make a coffee and see what my new cupboards and shelves look like…

Wedding film at Portmerion, North Wales, photography at Clandon Park, Guildford, and a little piglet

Well, July was a bit of a crazy month – by far the busiest I’ve had since going fully self-employed about a year ago.

As I type I’m capturing footage from Mair and Iwan’s wedding, which I filmed at Portmeirion on July 2.

It was the first time I’d done a wedding at Portmeirion and it’s a great place to get married from a photo/video point of view. You can see my pics and notes from scouting it out here.

It was a great wedding and the guests certainly knew how to enjoy themselves, so I’m looking forward to the final edit.

I shot it using a canon xha1 (a video camera) and a canon 7d (a stills camera with video capability), and this was another first for me. It will be interesting to see how well the two video sources cut together… I think it’s going to look pretty tasty.

The day after that I was photographing a good friend of mine’s wedding down in Guildford, a five hour drive away.

They got married at Clandon Park, another stunning location. I think my favourite pic of the day is this one, although I’m not sure I was even looking through the viewfinder.

Helen, the bride, looked amazing and I liked this shot through the trees.

Bryn, the groom, scrubbed up pretty well too.

In July I also won a contract to shoot a food directory for Cadwyn Clwyd, an agency working on behalf of Denbighshire and Flintshire councils. This involved driving all over the two counties and visiting producers, farmers, farm shops, markets, and people working out of their kitchens. I was given a very tight deadline so it was pretty intensive, but also a lot of fun.

I do commercial work under the name Golau Media, which I’m in the process of building a site for, a job that keeps getting bumped down the list of things to do.

These piglets were really cute and almost made me consider going back to being a veggie.

In July I also filmed an art/nature event at Gwaith Powdr reserve near Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

It was part of a series of events to promote Discover Gwynedd, a new initiative to promote Gwynedd and the wildlife that can be found here, very worthwhile I think.

Thanks to the talented and super-busy artist Megan Broadmeadow for getting me involved in that one.

July also saw a big increase in inquiries for my wedding photos and film work, so it’s been a very exciting time for me. Caroline, my wife, has started helping with things like album design etc and making sure I’m organised, with efficient workflows and the such like. It’s working out pretty well so far.

Ok, final tape of Mair & Iwan’s wedding has finished capturing, let’s take a look see…

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 scouting at Plas Mawr, Conwy and Sychnant Pass house

Plas Mawr, Conwy

I’d not actually visited Plas Mawr, the Elizabethan house in Conwy which dates back to the 1500’s, before checking it out from a wedding photographer’s point of view.

It’s a very cool place to get married, and definitely something a bit different.

The room where the ceremony will be held is able to fit up to 40 people, and this gives it a very intimate feel.

It is light, with large windows on two sides. A wide angle lens will be required for shots of the bride, groom, and guests during the ceremony. The 24-70 lens will be better for shots of just the bride and groom, so I will use two cameras so as to avoid changing between lenses.

Flash is allowed at Plas Mawr, but the natural light is so good I think it will be best to avoid using it as much as possible.

One point where flash might be needed is  when the bride and groom sign the register. The table is lit by three large windows, behind and to the left and right, which will create good hair highlights when complemented by a little fill flash.

I was then shown the other rooms in the house – it is mostly done out to look as it would have done when it was originally lived in, which makes it a really exciting place to take photos.

There are stairs to the tower (which Plas Mawr is best known for) and to an attic room.

The stairs themselves make an excellent point to take a photograph of the bride from above, with small windows creating areas of light and dark that will really bring the photograph to life.

The attic is Rachel’s, the lady who showed me round, favourite room, but she did point out that it might be difficult to climb the steps up there in a wedding dress.

There are big wooden beams which I think  could be used to create a great frame for a sequence of photos of the bride and groom.

I also liked the room with a four-poster bed and the kitchen, where there is very good light from the windows. There are so many good backdrops and ways to frame the photos that I’ll almost be spoilt for choice.

The courtyard and garden area outside is large enough for group shots. Plas Mawr and its tower make a good backdrop and the doorways make good frames.

Sychnant Pass House

Sychant Pass House is a two minute drive from the town of Conwy and tucked away in the woods on the way up to the Sychnant Pass.

The room where the bride will be getting married has a king size bed with ornate wood carvings. There is a skylight and numerous light sources that will make an atmospheric image.

I liked the chess set (I’m a bit of a chess boffin) and the fact the rooms are named after TS Eliot’s cats. It gives the place a kind of bookish feel that appeals to me.

There is a large lawn and a courtyard, either of which would be suitable for larger group shots.

The drawing room could be used for group shots if some of the furniture is moved around.

There are daisies and bluebells on the lawn, which could be used as for foreground elements in portrait shots of bridesmaids/children.

I’d noticed photos of the swimming pool at Sychnant Pass House on its website and thought the reflections might make for some good photographs, but have ruled it out because the humidity might kill my camera (it’s happened to me twice before) and wouldn’t be great for the bride’s hair.

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