I’ve done a lot of different types of photography. Followers will know that my favourite type of photography is landscape photography, although you might not know that I do dabble in event and portraiture from time to time – I love to catch friends and loved ones in special moments, or in a way they want to be caught.
Like this shot of Jess from earlier in the year, preparing to leave the States for a prolonged voyage themed around the Grand Tour, taking us from the United States to Italy by boat and train.
One type of photography I’ve not attempted though is wedding photography. Largely because it looks like very hard work, and I’d hate to mess up someone’s vision of their big day. Seems like a lot of stress.
Still, you’ve got to try everything once, right? So it was that I found myself nominated by Jess as the official photographer for our two (!) weddings this year. No pressure.
The first wedding we had was a wonderful private ceremony in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on board the Cunard ship the RMS Queen Mary 2, roughly half way between the USA and the UK, which seemed fitting given that I’m from the UK and Jess is from the USA.
It was also about 30 miles from where the Titanic sank, so maybe I shouldn’t fixate on location omens too much.
The second time was surrounded by friends, family and pigeons in the dawn light over San Marco Square, Venice.
Both were quite lovely locations, I hope you’ll agree. Each with their own challenges.
The logistics of the first wedding meant that hiring a wedding photographer of our choice was going to be a bit of a problem (“Hi, can you fly to the mid-Atlantic for a quick shoot? No? Oh…”).
The good news was that the Queen Mary 2 was a rather stunning venue for a wedding. A luxury transatlantic cruise liner comes with all kinds of epic photography opportunities, from ballrooms to bars to grand staircases. I wasn’t going to have a problem with locations. The only challenge was getting the shots of the two of us together.
Obviously, I pondered using a selfie-stick and a mobile phone.
So, how does one go about shooting one’s own wedding? Well, to start with, I’m not the most photogenic person in the world. There’s a reason I like to be on the button side of the camera. So, shots of the bride were easy enough to manage.
Still, you do have to be in the odd shot of your own wedding I’m told.
The actual solution was much more obvious – the use of my tripod. And some patience on the part of my lovely bride. With the tripod I could set up the shot and use the timed release to set it off when I was in position. And, since I’m a Vanguard ambassador, I have no shortage of tripods to my name. In the case of this shoot I used two – their lovely travel focused VEO 265CB, which has been accompanying me on a variety of shoots across the world, and the slightly weightier Alta Pro 254CT.
Now, you might be wondering, with 2,000 other people on the boat, why not recruit one of them to do the button mashing? Well, my Canon camera’s aren’t exactly set up to be user friendly. I have back button focus set up, to start with, which means that focusing happens separately to pressing the shutter button. I also often use the centre focus point, and then recompose the shot afterwards. Long story short, when I give my camera to non-photography minded folks, I get a lot of blurry shots back.
Plus, I’m not sure anyone on a cruise ship really wants to give up a day of their life to take pictures of a couple.
This isn’t always the case, as my Venice story below will illustrate. But on the Queen Mary, the tripod was the easiest solution.
Towards the end of the day, we also happened upon a wedding photographer who was on board, who kindly grabbed the below shot of us with my Canon. Sure, we could have done this with the tripod as well, but since he was there, well, why not?
So that was the Queen Mary. Our second wedding was in Venice, my favourite city in Europe.
In this case, we had actual guests in attendance. Sure, on the Queen Mary, the other 2,000 passengers felt somewhat like honorary guests, but in Venice we had people with us that we actually knew! So I had a cunning plan to rope them all in as wedding photographers, in partnership with my tripod.
We held the ceremony in St. Mark’s Square, right in the centre of Venice, then wandered around some of the more interesting sights.
If you’ve been to Venice, you’ll know that this square can get a bit crowded.
To overcome this problem, and get the best light, we decided to hold the ceremony at sunrise, which in October is around 7.30am. It says something about my friends that they were willing to get up at an ungodly hour to share our day with us. And, at the last minute, find a violin player to serenade us as we arrived.
The plan worked though. The light was jolly nice, and the square almost deserted.
It turned out that some of my guests were pretty decent with a camera, and concepts such as back button focusing and composition weren’t lost on them. So we got some great shots thanks to them.
For the group shots, it was back to the tripod, which I set up, both on a remote release, and also with the help of the violin player who came along for the morning, who was excellent at pressing the button on an already composed shot.
The towel on the floor in that last shot, incidentally, was a gift to Jess from my wonderful best man, in a reference to my favourite novel.
Anyway, Venice was just magnificent, and we had an amazing day, one that we’re unlikely to forget. Here are a few more moments we got.
Finally, one can’t discount passers by, and their enthusiasm for taking pictures of a lovely bride. As the day progressed, we started to get more people talking photos of us, including a lovely gentleman from Taiwan, who set up and grabbed this shot of us, and then kindly e-mailed it to us afterwards.
I’m not sure I’d generally advise crowd-sourcing your wedding shoot, but if you do decide to go down that route, Venice is a great option to do so! If you do, take along some business cards or something, so people can send you the photos.
And that was it! Thanks for reading this rather inward focusing post! Do let me know if you think I should keep on with wedding photography in the comments 😉
If you’re interested, these shots were taken on a pair of Canon 6D’s in combination with a 17-40mm f/4 lens and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, in conjunction with those Vanguard tripods. I was also using my newest addition to our camera family, the Panasonic Lumix GX8 paired up with an incredible f/2.8 24-70 equivalent lens. You can read more about the gear we use for our photography, right here.
Finally, if you’re looking to plan a wedding like this, check out Jess’s incredibly detailed post on planning a cruise wedding. If you’re planning a themed or destination based wedding, take a look at this post for destination themed travel wedding inspiration!
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Mike M says
Hello Jessica and Laurence.
A stunning Bride indeed you were Jessica.
Laurence you are more photogenic than you lead us to believe. Such a joy to see you celebrate your special occasion on the QE.
Then again celebrating over in Venice.
Seeing you both (and your friends) strolling around Venice reminds me to visit again.
I stumbled upon your “findingtheuniverse” site while reading about Oulu, Finland.
A tad late to the party am I though never too late to wish you a happy marriage. Congratulations and continued success in your careers. I am now an official FTU follower.
New Jersey USA
Laurence Norah says
Well, thanks very much! We’re always happy to have you here, whenever you show up. We hope you find our content useful and we’re always happy to answer any questions 🙂
This digital age we live in now means everyone is a photographer of a kind, and when looking for a wedding photographer those around you may catch the best photos of the day. You, Laurence, have proved that you did a great job and I would say for a lot less.
Laurence Norah says
Thanks very much John 😀
Lola Akinmade Åkerström says
Congratulations!! Beautiful photos!
Andi Perullo de Ledesma says
Amazing how you took your own photographs! I’m totally blown away!!! Awesome work and super congrats!
Thanks Andi! Jess was happy with them, as was I, so it all worked out 😀
Thomas Fotherby says
Awwwww, sweet! Looks like you guys had fun. So happy for you.
Thanks man, we did!