Meifod, Caernarfon, & Llanengan Church pre-wedding photographer scout

I visited the church in Llanengan, down the Lleyn Peninsula, and the Meifod hotel near Caernarfon, in preparation for photographing and filming Ffion and Alun’s wedding in June.

I write up these notes so I have a clear idea what I’m doing on the wedding day, and so couples can see the thinking behind what I plan to do on their big day.

The church at Llanengan is located in one of the most beautiful areas of North Wales, a few miles past Abersoch down the Lleyn Peninsula. I got the key from the owners of the Sun Inn, a pub where I’ve often gone for food before, nice place.

There is a path leading up from the back of the church, which could work as a place to photograph Ffion and Alun with the church in the background.

There is window next to the door, so there should be good light for a photograph of the bride entering the church.

The church has a kind of double roof, with arches down the centre inside… this makes it a challenge to photograph/film all the seated guests, but could also make for some interesting compositions.

The natural light isn’t sufficient for photographing in most areas of the church, but there are overhead lights and the Reverend seemed relaxed about taking pics during the service.

There is an impressive stained glass window, under which I assume the couple will receive blessings. One issue here is there is a hanging light which somewhat spoils the shot from behind… could perhaps get round this by taking an extra picture of just the window and blend this with the photo of the couple.

Outside the church, my eye was drawn to the red telephone box. Not really sure why yet, cos I can’t quite picture a picture, but perhaps something will come to me…

Not far down from Llanengan is Hell’s Mouth, a spectacular beach, but perhaps a bit far from the road to get down to take photos on the day.

The Meifod, on the Bontnewydd side of Caernarfon, is prob a bit more than a half hour drive from Llanengan, maybe more considering there will be summer traffic to contend with.

The room where the wedding breakfast will take place is very large and well lit, so will get some nice photos here. Noticed two different backdrops for photos of individuals, the brickwork, which has some interesting lighting from the arched window, and cut logs.

There is an appending marquee where buffets are sometimes held, and as this is white it will make a good spot for candids of guests, with bounced flash.

There are some good locations for photographs of the couple outside, but I struggled a bit figuring out the best way to do a group shot of everyone.. think this will be a step ladder job, v cliche.

k, think that’s about it… looking fwd to the wedding.

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…

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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