Camilla and Edward
Your equipment is only as good as your eye.
You must learn all you can about technique and then forget it. You should use the minimum amount that enables you to express yourself.
This is so utterly true and photography and film making so heavily relies on equipment to help translate the vision and ideas of the creator. I have spent much time on film sets and watched teams of grips, runners, assistants and camera operators lug huge and cumbersome equipment across challenging locations to set up for a take that although may take 4 hours to shoot will last just a minute on screen. Photographers are certainly more free and mobile and a result can be produced independently and faster but we are still subject to relying on computers and machines to tell our story, express our creative vision and be productive. There are of course photographers that are known for being not very technical but incredibly creative and those that are incredibly technically minded but perhaps lack vision and any individual creativity. Finding that balance is essential and not always easy.
I used to work with two fun photographers that worked as a team and would shoot fashion under one name. One was technically gifted and knew lights, how to expose correctly and the workings of cameras. The other photographer in the team was flamboyant, creative, unpredictable and obsessed with fashion. But he sadly couldn’t point to the lens of a camera if you asked him. Together they teamed up and shot fashion here in London. I'm not sure how long this creative endeavour lasted but I assisted them on the odd occasion and it appeared a harmonious arrangement. But for sure the technical demands of our medium loom large and it can be a total struggle to deal with it much of the time.
One of the most famous and talented photographers that I used to assist once called me from the penthouse suite of his hotel and demanded that I come and change the battery in his camera. I was in Oxford and he was in Mayfair London. I jumped on a bus and came to London to change the battery in his Mamiya. Insane I know but I was I awe of him and wanted to be his assistant and perhaps he was simply testing me. But perhaps he really didn’t know how to change the battery in his camera.
I know many photographers who just talk about lenses, cameras, computer programmes, retouching, kit, kit and more kit. In fact some have never ever discussed photographs, art and ideas. I'm sure they would be quite happy spending a weekend learning how to dismantle a camera and then rebuilding it. I on the other hand am way more interested in the pictures I will take and pondering expression, narrative, creativity and vision.
For all of us professional photographers the switch to digital has thrown this in to even sharper focus (got to love those photography puns). The switch to digital has been incredibly hard for me to deal with and for a time I even packed in photography. Angry that it was not delivering and rewarding me for all the hard work that I had put in. I felt how is it possible that my true love could be so cruel to me (yes sensitive aren’t I) How could it not allow me to express myself and realise childhood dreams and turn its back on me in the cruel name of pixels, processing and Photoshop. I have been obsessed with photography my entire life and its for sure my life calling. But to reach a point where I felt I could go no further based on the impact of digital for some may be hard to understand. But if you were at the top of your game during the transition and if you are not a computer, machine person it can be easily explained. It’s not that I’m not technical as such. I obviously shoot digitally now, work a few very complicated cameras that are essentially computers with lenses and now process in software that make early NASA space ships look like go-carts. But for sure I’m not a tech head. I'm not into computers; my eyes glaze over when people discuss a new camera and its capabilities. If someone asks me the details of inner workings of a Photoshop I am more likely to rapidly change the subject. A camera club enthusiast approaching me and asking me my thoughts on the workings of the latest camera will see me make a speedy exit. Naturally I need to know as much as I can but only to the point that it enables me to capture, record and translate my vision. Sadly this is not actually enough in our industry and you cannot simply get away with the bare minimum. This challenges me often and it’s frustrating. I ponder that a director does not need to know how the editing machine works but he/she does know exactly what he wants from the scene and how it should play out and be cut to bring forth the message and mood of the scene.
I can think of numerous successful photographers who have only managed to survive and manage through the confusion switch to digital by relying on a support network of digital experts who have assisted them navigate the changes. Naturally there needs to be a budget for this and a realistic income stream. That is not always possibly for all photographers and any amount of confusion, loss of regular customers and a reliable client base can kill a freelancers business. I am however continually amazed at how despite the advances we have all made now in working out our methods of shooting, digital workflow and output, clients have still not on the whole managed to truly understand how photographers work. I split my time between both non-industry private clients such as brides and party, portrait subjects and then of course the industry based clients within the editorial, design and advertising world. In all areas clients are frequently struggle to commission properly, comprehend how we work, understand the demands of our industry and so forth. It’s a learning curve for all of us but I’m thankful I’m still here and hope to continue shooting as long as I can.
On this occasion I relied heavily on my complicated digital equipment to thoroughly behave and get me through the massive task of shooting a traditional English country wedding. I have undertaken countless such weddings and never tire of the enjoyment, excitement and joy of being part of such a wonderful celebration. I headed of to West Sussex on a rather glum and wet day to photograph the wedding of Camilla and Edward. Sadly the elements were against us but as usual this never stops the true enjoyment of a wedding. It just adds a few challenges along the way. Camilla’s family were so welcoming and helpful throughout the day making my day flow wonderfully and at every opportunity were there to make sure I had everything I needed. The church was truly spectacular and provided many opportunities to capture the ceremony. Family and guests enjoyed some hilarious speeches, a very talented magician and a pretty impressive first dance from the happy couple.
I would like to extend and massive thank you to my second shooter Bruce Harber who braved the torrential rain to snap the arrivals and did a sterling job. And the reaction shots of guests at the tables are the responses to the very talented magician Etienne Pradier. Guests faces show utter delight and disbelief.
I did my best to not let the digital challenges and technical demands get in the way of freely capturing all the goings on as they happened uninterrupted (does a wedding photographer ever not interrupt the happenings on a wedding?)
Please see an edit of images from the day and enjoy.