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.

North Wales Weddings – meeting couples

Me, Caz and Jac went to see my mum in Crete over Easter and our one week holiday turned into two because of the Icelandic Volcano.

It was great having an extra week in the sunshine, chilling on the beach, going for walks through olive groves, and looking at ants (…I like ants, little odd, I know).

However, I’m now having to work that bit harder to make up for the extra week I spent lazing round.

One of my favourite things about being a wedding photographer is meeting couples for the first time, and I’ve now met three couples in four days.

I met Alun and Ffion, the awesome couple who won my competition, on Thursday. I went round to their house and made a bit of a tit of myself trying to take a photo of all three of us using the timer on my camera – it totally didn’t work.

Nevermind, I got a nice photo of them together which hopefully will go in the paper next week and get me bit more bang for my ad bucks.

Yesterday, I went to Flint to meet Nicky and Chris and their dogs Teo and Jake (did I spell them right?). They’re an ace couple and have got some cool ideas for their wedding day, including getting married at Llechwedd Slate Caverns… I didn’t even know you could do that!

And today I met the lovely Vicky and Ross, who my friend Bev put me in touch with (thanks Bev!). They were the first couple who came to visit me, rather than the other way round, and I was listening to Bruce Springsteen (again!) which was a little embarrassing.

Anyway, it was nice to meet you all!

Since coming back from Crete I’ve also arranged to do some video tuition, run a photography course, started organising a mad-hatter tea party / photo shoot, filmed at Venue Cymru, etc etc

So apologies if you’re waiting for me to get in touch and I haven’t done so yet!

North Wales wedding photography & videography competition update

I’ve dipped my toe into paid for advertising this week.

I decided to go with the North Wales Chronicle to publicise my competition to win wedding photos and film for free (see the post above).

Although I’ve been plugging the competition on Facebook and Twitter for the last couple of weeks the people who have approached me about doing their wedding photos haven’t known anything about it. Not sure what’s going on there.

Here’s the ad which will be appearing in the North Wales Chronicle:

I thought the designers did quite a nice job on it to be fair.

The reason I went for the Chronicle is (1) I want to establish myself locally and a local paper gives me good coverage, (2) I got my first job as a reporter on the Chronicle’s sister paper the Pioneer (which is based in Colwyn Bay).

I also took out a smaller ad in their Wedding Guide 2010 magazine, which is aimed at wedding related businesses in North Wales.

Now it’s a case of waiting to see how effective it is.

Another first for me will be to exhibit at one of the wedding fairs/fayres in North Wales. I’m planning on attending the wedding fayre at Bodidris Hall in Llandudno on Sunday (Feb 21, 12-5pm) and am considering having a stand at the one at Seiont Manor on March 7.

The only thing is I’ve so much commercial work (museums, laptop cases, Tyddyn Mon, kitchens and bathrooms, pantomimes… basically an endless random list of various photographic jobs) that I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to put a stand together.

The other thing I’ve been busy with is sorting out my bookkeeping and accounts. It’s very confusing and a bit of a pain in the arse, but I figure if I get on top of it now, then things will be much easier next January.

Anywhos, that’s quite boring.

More excitingly, please remember to enter my competition to win wedding photos and a film by following the instructions in the post above – It is a great prize and could save you loads of money of your wedding!

Tx, Tom.