The wedding of Susan & James

In May 2016 I had the enormous pleasure and privilege to be asked to photograph the wedding of Susan and James Spray in Sorento, Italy.

The trip was a short 4 day excursion of which two days were travel to and from Italy, but despite the travel the two days I was there was an absolute pleasure. Despite it still being May, the sun was shining all the time and it was about 28 degrees most of the time.

Using photographic film always presents a lot of things that one must consider but that is especially true when travelling abroad. Film is generally considered safe for airport security x-ray scanning, as long as it is slower or equal to ISO800. So, I had to be sure to use film slower than that, but then one must consider the light and how much of it there might be, or not be! I wasn’t certain what the light was going to be like, so I plumbed for Fuji Pro 400H which is my favourite colour film for portraiture anyway, but it also gives a good combination of speed with smooth tones. So whether it was sunny or overcast, I was confident I’d get enough speed. I also took some Fuji Acros 100 which is of course much slower, but if the opportunity arose to use it, I was going to try. That said, given how bright it turned out to be, I would have liked to have had some Fuji Pro 160H for a little extra saturation. On the day, as it turned out, the light was quite hazy and a bit flat, so it made getting punchy colours more of a challenge.

There is also the amount of kit one can take due to weight. So I kept it old school – just two lenses for the Hasselblad (80mm and 150mm) and my 50mm for the Nikon F5. In many ways, keeping your choices to a minimum prevents you getting muddled and wasting time swapping lenses and so on. That said, if you make the wrong choice, it can be a nuisance! The 150mm is a great lens for controlled situations, but its depth of field is so dam restrictive, unless you can shoot at f16 at 1/8th of a second and you tell your subjects to freeze like a statue, it can be difficult to get well focussed shots. That said, in the right setting, you get great results.

So the day started with a few of the girls getting ready, as is traditional. Using natural window light, some white pillows and by pulling the net curtain over the window a little, I managed to get some nice shots of the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready using the 80mm Carl Zeiss on the Hasselblad 501CM.

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Then it was time to capture some of the men. Personality is an important thing to try and capture in photography, and I know the gentleman in this group enjoyed a beer! So I when I saw this very colourful backlit bar in the hotel reception, I figured that a photo of them all sitting at it would make for a nice keepsake. I also wanted to make the most of the vibrant colour, knowing it would look good on the Fuji Pro 400H. This shot would not have worked in black and white but looks pretty good as a colour shot.

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

The lads at the bar

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

The lads!

Then I took them outside for a few photos ensuring the sun was was behind them at an angle. Using the Sekonic light meter, I exposed from their faces across the scene and average out the EV value. A few more with the 80mm on the Hasselblad, and I was done, almost. I couldn’t forget the grooms mother of course so I captured a couple of them together as well.

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Mother of the groom

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Wedding guests

Then it was off to the City Hall for the ceremony, which I had not had the chance to visit in advance and which I also knew we had to move on from quickly after the ceremony to catch a coach that was taking the wedding party to a nearby Italian village. It was a small venue which prevented the traditional wide view shots that you’d typically capture in a church or Cathedral. But I did my best. This was another example of having to think quickly and act dynamically even if it goes against what you’d normally want to do. Often your best laid plans go out the window when working in a non-traditional setup.

In such a small setting, I was aware that my presence and the clicking of my Hasselblad might be a distraction to the guests and the happy couple so I tried to be as discreet as I could and avoided moving around too much.

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

After the ceremony, it was on a coach to a nearby village where the bride had asked me to capture the couple walking through the quaint Italian streets and alleys. Again, walking backwards and manually focusing a Hasslelbad whilst at the same time trying not to fall over or bump into anyone is a massive task. In addition, there was hundreds of other tourists wanting to take pictures and getting in my way, which I had to try and control and move. This was ultimate test of a photographers crowd control skills!

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

That final one I really like because the bride looks beautiful and happy and at the same time I captured the “Wow” look of the shop assistant as she walked by.

After a short and very welcome break at the harbour, it was onto a boat for a trip to the reception. Once again, the movement endured on the sea is a challenge with a Hasselblad! We tried to get a funny “Titanic” moment at the front of the boat, but the bride was worried the wind would blow off her veil, and I was worried that I or my beloved camera might fall in the drink! Nevertheless, I got a few shots of themĀ  :

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Wedding – 2016

Lastly it was the reception area. I got a few more with the Hasselblad before the light got too dark to handhold and by now I had nearly run out of 35mm Fuji Pro 400H for my Nikon and I’d not got my flash sync cord for the Hasselblad, so I had to switch to Fuji Superia 200 for the wedding cake cut and the first dance taken with my Metz flash. Fuji Superia is a good film in natural light (though not to the same standard as Fuji Pro 400H of course) but it doesn’t cope so well in lower light. But, the day had been a long one and some OK photos are better than no photos at this stage. I was confident I’d got a good selection of keepers throughout the day with the Fuji Pro 400H anyway. It was, however, a lesson learned…you can never, ever, have enough of your favourite film!!

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding - 2016

Susan & James Spray Wedding – 2016

All in all, a great experience. The first time I’ve shot a wedding abroad and I hope, not the last.