World Cup Wedding Clash?  Embrace it, don’t fight it.

No doubt, 7th July 2018 sounded like a great date for your summer wedding when you were planning it.  Now there are numerous reports of Brides (and Grooms) in crisis as their wedding day is clashing with a rather big football match: World Cup Quarter-Final between England and Sweden.

Well, the match is scheduled and going ahead whether you like it or not, so there is not really much you can do about it now.  This type of conversation usually centres around the weather: there is not much you can do about that either so there is no point in worrying about it.  My usual advice to couples who are unlucky with the weather on their big day is: don’t fight it, just go with it.  If the weather is going to be lousy on your big day then you may as well make it a feature of it.  Your photographs may include dramatic storm lighting; or heavy weather may give you a dramatic sunset; or if it rains heavily then break out the white or colourful umbrellas and go for a fun shot in the rain – splashing puddles or whatever.  You can’t defeat Mother Nature so just embrace what she throws at you and go with the flow.

For the couples:  The same advice makes sense with a World Cup clash too: don’t fight it, just go with it.  If your wedding ceremony happens to ‘kick-off’ around 2.30 – 3.00ish then you really will have to make use of some very creative thinking, but it can still be done.  In this day and age, no-one is going to ‘miss’ the match – things may be delayed a tad, but you and your guests will still be able to watch it.  Make a No Mobiles / No Social Media ban before and during the game so there are no spoilers. Make arrangements with your reception venue to have the match recorded or make sure you have access to an ‘On Demand’ service where you can watch the match later in the day.

If your ceremony is earlier in the day then the ‘main event’ will still be completed in a match free environment so you definitely are on the winning team there.  You and your guests will no doubt want to watch the match during reception time so just go with it.  Nudge your schedule a bit and enjoy the game.  Make sure there is also a ‘football free’ zone for those who are not interested – yes, there will be some. In my humble opinion, you can’t really lose here.  The game is going to add another element of excitement to your day: if England win then everyone will be hyper and well up for partying all night – you win.  If they lose, then everyone will be in need of a party to lift the mood, so you win again!  One way or another, people will talk about your wedding day and the match and how you successfully brought both elements of an exciting day together for everyone to enjoy.

For the guests: You have been invited to a wedding which now happens to clash with a big football match. Tough. You accepted the wedding invitation and you have to honour that commitment.  With a bit of planning and consideration, you will still get to see the match but whether you like it or not, it HAS to take second place to the wedding.  If you go along with the wishes of the couple, and accept whatever arrangements they have put in place, then everyone wins.  If you start getting stroppy about it or sit glued to your mobile or tablet, then you risk offending your family / friends and that is quite simply not acceptable.

I heard a report this morning of a couple who have had 9 guests call off attending their wedding becausw of the World Cup clash.  Well in my mind there is an easy way to deal with such friends:  they are now well and truly ex-friends!  Being invited to attend someone’s wedding is (in my possibly very old-fashioned opinion) a huge honour: this is the biggest day in that couple’s life and they consider you close enough family or a good enough friend that they want you to be there to share it with them.  Dumping them for a football match is unforgiveable rudeness so please don’t even think about it.  You may not get to see the match live but you WILL get to see it so don’t spoil a lovely and special day for your family / friends for the sake of 90 minutes of football.  Grow up and live with it.

To all couples and wedding guests – there is no way that the detailed schedule of World Cup matches would be known when you planned the day, but let’s face it, you did plan your wedding or accept an invitation to a wedding that is taking place during the World Cup so there is an element of “Sods Law” here that says there is a reasonable possibility of a clash with a big game.  You took that risk and, on this occasion, you lost the gamble, but don’t let it spoil the day.

Embrace it and enjoy both elements of the day!



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What Makes A Good Wedding:  1. Time of Year


Well then, this ‘Blog Posts That Want To be A Book When They Grow Up’ lark is certainly proving to be an interesting project.   I started drafting a Contents page with possible Chapter headings (can you tell that I am determined this will be a book one day!) and then continued with some bullet points for topics likely to be covered in each chapter.  It quickly became evident that for every bullet point I scribbled down, I seemed to think of at least 3 or 4 other things that I wanted to include – not necessarily in that chapter – and soon had notes all over the place, apparently breeding like crazy!

Pause for breath, have a think, and start again.

Contents page Take 2 then appeared with slightly more coherent notes.  Chapter 1: Location.  Then again, maybe not.  Time of Year can make a big difference to plans, don’t you think?

So, the first in this series of posts will now feature 101 Things to Think About on the Time of Year for your wedding.  Don’t panic – there aren’t really 101 things; well, not yet anyway, but there’s still time!

This ‘Chapter’ (as with many of the others no doubt), may seem like it is a myriad of ‘State the Obvious’ matters, but the one thing I have come to realise in this wedding business is that there really is no such thing as ‘The Obvious’.  What may seem obvious to you or me often hasn’t even briefly passed through the head of someone else.  What I have found most often is that a couple are so focused on a particular element of the wedding that means a lot to them, that they often completely overlook something else impacted by that decision that may indeed seem pretty obvious: but not to them.

One thing to make clear here before we go any further on this journey is that what you will find in this chapter, and those that follow, is not the answer to ‘What Makes A Good Wedding’, but a list of things to consider when making your own decisions on the things that matter to you and are hopefully going to make the wedding YOU are planning a good one, whether you are planning for yourself, or someone else.

Right then, let’s get going…….

The Church

Many churches, especially those in rural locations, are often accessed from small country roads, or even very small lanes.  They can be beautiful in Spring and Summer when lined with wild flowers and newly sprung leaves on the trees etc, but in the Autumn / Winter they can get really messy if you get hit with a spell of rain in the days leading up to the wedding, and may even be completely inaccessible if you get hit with snow!

Question: How will you and your guests get to the church if the weather goes against you?

Another potential issue in a similar vein is parking.  Many churches only have a small grassy area nearby for parking, or the country road or lane itself is often the only available space.  Getting up a muddy lane is made even worse if there are already cars parked on it.

Obviously, if you are hit with bad weather at the last minute you may have to rely on some lateral thinking to overcome the problem you face, but the main reason for these articles existing in the first place is to try to avoid the need for that:  a bit of lateral thinking in advance can make your life (and that of your guests) so much easier.  It is better to have a great plan that never gets used than to suddenly find you need one when there is no time to prepare one.


  • Speak to a local pub or hotel and see if you can get guests to gather there and use their car park and arrange for a mini-bus (or two) to shuttle guests up to the church. You could maybe do a deal with the landlord that you pay him to provide some drinks or snacks for guests in return for use of his car park.  The extra cash in his till from guests may of course be incentive enough!
  • If there is a suitable car park in a village nearby, direct guests there and shuttle them to the church, or get guests to arrange car-shares to reduce the number of cars attempting to get up the muddy lane.
  • Don’t forget to make sure YOUR transport can get to the church or you’ll be swapping those fabulous Jimmy Choos for Wellies!

There is of course always a positive spin here: a Bride in wellies or tractors ferrying guests up a snowly lane can make great, and very unusual, pictures for your album!

The Reception Venue

Reception venues come in all shapes and sizes (and budgets!).  Chances are you already have a reasonable idea of the sort of thing you are looking for: grand (or cosy) hotel; converted barn; country house; stately home; marquee in your own garden; lighthouse; windmill or any other variety of possible options available these days.

Very often venues are chosen for their grounds and gardens, not just the room you that will host your reception.  There is no doubt that having access to nice open spaces can make a huge difference to your day, but just a little ‘state the obvious’ thought can ensure that you are able to take full advantage of the space available and make sure that it works for you to help create your perfect day.

Assuming you have set the date for your wedding by this stage (or at least know roughly when you want it to be), try and visit your potential venues around the same time of year if you can as this is the only way you will get a true reflection of what they might look like when your big day arrives.  If this is not possible for whatever reason, then try and see them out of season e.g. if you are planning a Spring / Summer wedding, visit in the winter: if you love the venue in the winter, it is going to be even more beautiful when the sun is shining and the garden is in full bloom.  If you do this the other way around – visit in Spring for a planned Winter wedding – you could be in for a disappointment as the venue will definitely look very different on your big day, and probably not for the better.

One advantage of the digital age we are living in is that you can also search for images on the internet which show your venue at different times of the year.  Also make sure you speak to the Wedding Co-ordinator about how the venue is likely to look in your chosen month: it is part of their job to sell the venue to you so a venue with a large garden that may not look its best in Winter will more than likely have other features that will still be great and provide good locations for your photographs, or you may be given access to beautiful grand rooms inside the venue for your photographs that are not available in the summer months.

And don’t forget access here too: you may encounter the same sort of problems described in the previous section about churches when you get to (or try to get to) your reception venue on a wet or snowy day.  If your chosen venue is quite remote, make sure you also have a think about how people will get home.  Very often, it is near impossible to get taxis to a remote country venue at midnight on a Saturday!  Again, check with your Wedding Co-ordinator and make sure that information on local taxi companies is available, together with any advice on how early they should be booked; or think about providing a mini-bus service to get your guests back to the local village or town where getting taxis may be easier.

One final note on transport:  make sure your own chosen method of transport suits the time of year too.  An open top carriage may be your dream method of arrival but could be a dodgy choice for a Winter wedding if it doesn’t have a covered option (this applies to any time of year really).  Also bear in mind that vintage cars tend not to have air-conditioning and can turn into portable ovens in Summer!


And finally, things to think about for those all-important photographs that will record your fabulous big day for ever more!  It was ‘thoughts from a photographer’ that inspired these posts in the first place after all.

First things first: although I am about to give another list of potential issues for you, please bear in mind that this is one of the key reasons I urge you to commission the services of a professional photographer as opposed to those of ‘Uncle Bob’.  A pro-photographer has encountered all of these scenarios before and is well versed in avoiding / dealing with / or making the best of them. That’s our job – whatever your day throws at you, good or bad, we’ll deal with it to ensure you have a great set of photographs to remember your day by (even if they maybe aren’t quite what you planned for!).

Each season beings its own set of benefits and challenges; there is no such thing as the perfect time for a wedding (well, not in the UK anyway!).

Summer, not surprisingly, is high season for weddings and rightly so: you have a much greater chance of getting a warm and lovely day for your wedding.  But even Summer brings challenges, the key one being that very sunshine you are no doubt praying for.  Bright, full-on sunshine is the photographer’s nightmare – it brings harsh contrast, dark shadows and burn-out on your beautiful white dress.  Bright sunshine can have a big impact on your Summer wedding photographs.  If your ceremony is around the 12.00 – 1.00 slot in the afternoon, your grand exit from the church / ceremony room can lead you straight into the harshest sunlight of the day (even Harry and Meghan hit this problem!).  It can also be a problem if you have a particular background in mind for your family group shots: if this background is in full sunshine your photographs won’t be as nice as they should be, but fear not – your photographer will always guide you through this, but don’t be surprised if on your bright sunny wedding day your photographer is constantly guiding you to shady areas:  your photographs will be so much better if you follow their advice.  Soft shady light is much more flattering, trust me.

One of the main benefits of a Summer wedding is that there is considerably more daylight available to you.  This can be a life-saver on the photography front as even if that pesky bright sunshine throws a spanner at your schedule for the day, there will be more opportunities for a Plan B to revisit your chosen area later in the day when the light is softer.  Summer evenings are also great for photographs – low warm evening sunshine can make for some very romantic shots.  If you want your romantic shots to include one at sunset however, please remember that this comes much later in the day and you will have to be dragged away from your party to get that shot as it won’t happen until around 09.00 in the evening on average.

Winter brings its own, and very different, challenges but as with summer, there are good points as well as not so good.  Apart from the obvious issue of the greater chance of poor weather, you have considerably less daylight to work with, which also means fewer opportunities for a Plan B later in the day.  The whole schedule for the day requires much tighter planning in Winter.  However, a bright Winter’s day can make for a beautiful wedding as the light will be lower and softer, but don’t forget that even on a bright day the chances are it will still be chilly (bring a nice wrap or cloak for your photographs to avoid freezing!).  Although the shorter daylight hours can make scheduling your photographs more of a challenge, this does work in your favour for that romantic sunset shot as the sun goes down much earlier at this time of year.  This is also a plus if you are planning to have fireworks or sparklers, as darkness falling earlier makes this kind of shot much easier to achieve.

Just so they don’t feel left out: Spring and Autumn are just softer versions of their Summer and Winter cousins as far as timing of your wedding is concerned.

So there we go then – your first set of 101 Things to Think About when choosing the Time of Year for your big day!  Each season brings pros and cons to the day, and don’t forget that the weather is one of the very few things you have absolutely no control over on your Wedding Day so there is no point in worrying about it – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least have a think about it.  Be ready for it – good or bad – and there will be no need for any worries when the day arrives.

The next topic covered will be “Location” so if you haven’t already done so, please click on the ‘Follow’ link below to make sure you are notified when it’s available for you.

Thank you.








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Know someone planning a wedding?

Following on from my previous post about my great plans for a best-selling book, and my more realistic approach of testing the waters via some blog posts first, I started to draft some notes to see how things might take shape.  My original thought was to write articles about the various stages and components of a wedding as seen through a photographer’s eyes, but as I started to jot down ideas, it became clear that my thoughts were actually fairly general opinions and observations.  Although I have attended my 80+ weddings with my Photographer’s Hat on so to speak, the simple truth of the matter is that my observations are just that – observations of someone who has attended a lot of weddings!

One thing to bear in mind here before you read on: there are a lot of people involved in planning and delivering ‘The Wedding Day’.  At the risk of sounding like I am pitching a biased opinion here; the photographer does have a fairly unique position from which to observe the day.  The hair & make up team will appear in the morning to make everyone look their best, and then they leave; the florist will deliver the bouquets and decorate the church and venue, and then they leave; the chauffeur will deliver you safely to your venues, then he (she) leaves; the caterers will feed you, then they leave; and the entertainment turns up in the evening and misses most of the day.  I think you have probably guessed where I am going here:  your photographer is, in most cases, the only person who follows the proceedings of the day in its entirety from Bucks Fizz for breakfast in your PJ’s through to party-time in the evening – and we miss nothing!  Even your Wedding Planner, if you have one, may make their first appearance when you arrive at the Reception venue (missing all morning activity), or they will come and go through the day – your photographer follows ALL key stages of the day: that is why you commission us to be there after all.

As well as observing all the different stages and components of ‘The Wedding Day’, I feel that photography has given me a very unique and privileged view of the events of the day, not only in isolation, but also how they link together and flow throughout the day.  Not even the couple themselves have this view:  the Groom sees nothing of the Bridal preparations (nor the Bride the Groom’s preparations); the Bride doesn’t see the arrival of her guests; the Groom doesn’t see the arrival of the Bride; and neither of them see most of the moments that make up the ‘documentary’ style photographs taken throughout the day.  So, based on this, I feel I now have a pretty good idea of ‘What Makes A Good Wedding’ and that is the working title now underway for the next couple of blogs.  I say ‘couple’ as it is already obvious from my early scribbles that there is clearly too much material for just one – I knew this had book potential!

Having made these early scribbles, it is now time to start getting into the nitty-gritty to see just how this idea will pan out, so I shall leave you now with a request please:  if you are currently planning a wedding (or are about to start soon) then please click on the ‘Follow’ button below to ensure that you are notified when these marvellous volumes of invaluable information make it to print; or if you know of a family member or friend in Wedding Planning mode, please fire a link of this article over to them and get them to Follow too.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on every detail of wedding planning, but having attended a large variety of weddings of all shapes, sizes and budgets, I have certainly gained a lot of knowledge and I hope that by sharing this knowledge I can at least give couples about to Tie the Knot some food for thought if nothing else.  Only the couple themselves know what really matters to them and how they want their Wedding Day to look, but I really hope that reading my observations will help them see things in perhaps a slightly different light and maybe help them pause a moment before making those all-important final decisions.  After that, you just have to go for it and make sure that you enjoy your ‘Big Day’ your way!

170708 Wallis_185

Stick around.  I’ll see you again soon………………


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Thank You to New Followers


Well then, this is a post I never anticipated writing.  Those of you who have been around here a while will know that my attempts at becoming a regular blogger have had mixed success: somehow I never seem to be able to get into a pattern of regular posts, despite the fact that I love writing them and it is something that I really want to do more of.

Earlier this year, I posted a series of photographs on my Social Media accounts  ( feel free to join me on Facebook or Twitter ) of photographs taken in Norfolk during the winter months.  They seemed to be well received with many ‘Likes’ and complimentary comments added.  Spurred on by this positive interaction, I decided that it was time to delve back into the Blog account again and I managed to sit down long enough to complete an article giving some background information on how I approached these photographs and some of the problems I encountered, with tips on how to avoid or deal with them: Mother Nature may be wonderful but she doesn’t always play ball with us photographers!

If you haven’t read it then you’ll find it here > Winter Photography – Worth The Effort?

It was great to finally get another Blog Post out into the big bad world, and being a relative newcomer to this game, I had no real expectations of what would happen next.  As always, I hope that people enjoy reading my posts but my main concern of course is whether those not already following me on Social Media will ever come across the post in the first place.  Well somehow, many of you have managed to find it.  And more importantly, many of you also clearly enjoyed reading it.  In the first few days after posting, it was encouraging to see a mail in my Inbox advising me that someone else in the WordPress community had become a ‘Follower’ of my Blog.  That’s nice isn’t it.  Then I got a couple more – very encouraging.  Over these last few weeks I have been really surprised (and absolutely delighted) that these mails seem to keep coming, now a couple of months after the original posting.

To have anyone following my Blog is very exciting, and encouraging indeed, but to keep seeing these numbers steadily grow is really quite amazing, so the simple reason for this post today is just to say a massive Thank You to everyone who has joined my little community lately ( and to those of you who have stuck with me of course ): I have no idea how you managed to find me but rest assured I am thrilled that you did, and very humbled that you also chose to hit the ‘Follow’ button after reading – that really means a lot.

So, what next?  Well, I don’t want to be rushing in with promises of a constant stream of engaging posts for you, but I will of course do my best to improve my past productivity rate – that shouldn’t be too much if a challenge really, should it!

For the last few years I have been working with a friend of mine as an Assistant / Second Shooter on his wedding photography business.  I have now covered over 80 weddings so I hope I am getting the hang of that game!  One of the most common pieces of advice I see for aspiring writers is ‘write about what you know about”, so with that in mind, I am currently scribbling notes on potential articles on the trials and tribulations of a Wedding Photographer’s Assistant.  In my crazy fantasy world, this is going to be a wildly successful book one day, but before I get too carried away on my future as a best-selling author, I think it may be wise to dip my toe in slowly and see if I can prepare some Blog posts on the subject first, and then maybe, with some luck, a prevailing wind, and some hard work, these posts may one day grow up to be that book.

You have been warned……….. I hope you will stick around to read them!

Thank You everyone.





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Winter Photography – worth the effort?

When the temperature drops in winter, and the darkness feels like it lasts all day, it’s all too easy to go into hibernation mode and watch the camera gear slowly gather dust: and before you think I’m aboout to go all self-righteous on you, I can assure you that I do precisely that on a regular basis.  However, every so often I do successfully manage to give myself the much needed kick up the rear-end to snap out of it, and whilst there have been many occasions I wish I had simply ignored myself; there have been many other occasions to prove that sometimes making the effort really does bring special rewards.

Although the cold and dark are usually more than enough to kill incentive, there is one slight benefit to winter photography and that is that my (and most other photographers’) favourite time of day to shoot the countryside, sunrise, does at least come around at a slightly more civilised hour than it does in the summertime!

The race for the sunrise

As I’m sure many of you already know, photographers are obsessed with light, and especially that legendary ‘Golden Hour’ which occurs just after the sun comes up, and again, just before it disappears.   Although sunsets are not exactly easy targets (which I’ll come to a bit later), sunrises tend to be even trickier, primarily because they are a lot less predictable.  The key to good sunrise photography is getting into position well BEFORE the sun makes its appearance; this means planning where you want to be in advance of the shoot and stumbling around in the dark when the chosen day arrives.  And don’t forget of course that it is invariably pretty darn cold as well as dark – such fun!  However, in order to maintain the ‘glass half-full’ slant here (I am supposed to be convincing you that winter photography is worth it after all), let’s not forget that one of the usual benefits of sunrise photography – getting your chosen location to yourself – is generally multiplied in the winter precisely as a result of these factors.

So – you’ve given yourself the required kick up the rear end; you’ve planned where you need to be, and you’ve managed to get yourself there on time:  now all you need is for the sun to ‘play ball’ with you.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees here.  When it’s pitch black as you leave the house, it is near impossible to see what the sky is doing and the level of cloud cover in place: ideally you want some cloud but not too much.  What Mother Nature is going to provide you with only starts to become apparent as the moment of truth draws closer.  Sometimes things will go against you and the sun will just creep up under heavy cloud and daylight slowly but steadily appears – that is the nature of the game here.  Go home, warm up, and try again another day.  That is also a ‘half-empty’ outlook: remember, even if you don’tget the shot you want, you will have had the opportunity to check out your ideal position for when you come back to try again another day; and you might still be able to get some nice detail shots even without the glow of a Golden Hour. However, when Mother Nature does decide to play ball, you can find yourself rewarded with a sunrise that often comes with much softer and gentler colours than at other times of the year.

Turf Fen Mill

Winter Sunrise at Turf Fen Mill, Norfolk

On the day I shot this image at Turf Fen it was bitterly cold, as can be seen in the level of frost in the foreground of the picture, but the air was incredibly crisp and clear, and the often bold red and gold of sunrise materialised as a delicate soft pink which was really quite beautiful. On a cold and crispy morning such as this one, the ‘Golden Hour’ that comes along after the sun has come up also has a wonderful crispness and clarity to it that just seems to make everything stand out from its surroundings.

Turf Fen Mill and river

Turf Fen Mill with river reflection

A good sunrise is always rewarding, no matter what time of year it appears.

Take advantage of low light

As already mentioned, photographers will regularly rave about the joys of the ‘Golden Hour’, and winter brings an added benefit here in that the sun tends to stay very low in the sky much longer at this time of year (as you will know if you are a driver) meaning that opportunities for  some nice back or soft lighting of subjects become greater.   If your winter’s morning outing is taking place on a day cold enough for some frost, you may be able to combine this benefit (it may not seem like a benefit when you think your fingers are going to fall off with frost-bite) with some low sunlight to highlight frosted details.

Frosty reeds

Frost crystals on riverband reeds

Frosty reed

Riverbed reed covered in a winter frost

Waiting for sunset

I started this post talking about the unpredictability of sunrises.  Now, I’m not going to try to convince you that sunsets ARE predictable, but they are certainly slightly more predictable in as much as you have the benefit of monitoring the weather during the day and watching how the sky is looking as you head to mid-afternoon: this can often give an indication that there is at least a reasonable chance of some sunset colour, or if the sky is covered in heavy cloud and rain, you can be pretty sure you won’t get much.  If you are a ‘storm chaser’ of course you may have a different view, but we’ll leave that for another day.

As with sunrise, the key rule for sunsets is exactly the same: you need to get yourself into position long BEFORE the sun starts to go down.  And then it is a waiting game……… but don’t get complacent, as when things start to happen, they tend to happen very quickly.  In addition to getting to the right spot at the right time, one skill that is absolutely essential here is a thorough understanding of your camera’s controls around exposure settings.  Most photographers would recommend shooting on ‘Manual’ here as it gives you the full flexibility you need to capture the scene in the way you want, but it is absolutely essential that you know your camera’s controls inside out here: ideally you should be able to change settings without looking at them.  The peak colours during sunset often only appear for a couple of minutes before they start to fade so you need to be able to move fast to adjust settings to follow the dropping light.

Sunset sky at Marston Marshes, Norwich

Dramatic winter sunset sky at Marston Marshes, Norwich

Marston Marshes sunset

Winter sunset on Marston Marshes, Norwich

And don’t be too quick to pack up your gear when the sun disappears as depending on conditions, the best colours can sometimes appear after the sun drops below the horizon, particularly if you are shooting at the coast.

Going for the double

So, are you convinced to give it a go yet?  I do hope so.

One final thought for you here: I’ve already mentioned the benefit of winter sunrises being at a more civilised time due to the sun rising later in the morning, and at the other end of the day, it sets earlier too, so if you’re really adventurous, why not go for the double and get both!

A few years ago, my wife and I spent a long weekend in the Scottish Highlands at a hotel on the shores of Loch Linnhe.   After much persuasion, I managed to convince my wife to join me for a sunrise shoot one morning (the loch side was only across the road from the hotel so not too far to walk!).  Thankfully, we were rewarded with a lovely crisp morning and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  After a lovely day exploring the area, we were heading back to the hotel late afternoon when the weather was still being good to us, so I decided to push my luck and suggested that we head for the loch side again to watch the sunset.  I’m so glad we did as we were rewarded with what I still consider to be the most spectacular sunset I have ever witnessed.

Loch Linne at sunrise

Sunrise on Loch Linnhe

Dramatic sunset colours on Loch Linnhe

Another lesson I learned on this particular occasion was not to be complacent on picking your spot.  From our morning outing, we already had a good idea where the sun would go down so knew that we needed to head back to a similar spot on the edge of the water to that used in the morning if we were to get the best of the sunset.  When we returned to the hotel after watching every last drop of colour disappear from the sky, we met another couple staying at the hotel who had watched the event unfold from the hotel’s large panoramic windows which overlooked the loch.  “Oh, did you see that beautiful sunset?” the lady asked us. “Yes, we certainly did” I replied.  “I have some lovely pictures” the lady continued, “Can I show you some?”  She duly invited us to join her and showed us some of the shots she had taken.  She certainly did have some lovely shots taken looking onto the loch across the hotel lawn.  “Yes, they are lovely”, I commented, “We walked across the road to the water’s edge to get our shots”.  When I showed her some of the shots I had captured she was astonished at just how different they were.  Her very comfortable view from the sofa over-looking the garden still showed the spectacular colours, but by simply walking across the road in order to get a view looking down the loch to where the sun was setting behind the hills, my views were very different, and considerably more dramatic.  All achieved from a 60 second walk for a different perspective.

Enjoy winter:  yes, it can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding.

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Do you look, or do you see?

When you are out and about, do you look at what’s around you, or do you see what’s around you?  Strange question maybe, but let me explain what I mean by it.

On a fine winter’s morning late last year, I was out doing one of my favourite “dawn patrol” photography trips, the location for this one was the beautiful Felbrigg Hall; a National Trust property in North Norfolk.  One of the benefits of shooting at dawn is that I usually get a good couple of hours to myself before setting eyes on anyone else; dog walkers are usually the first encounters.  As this morning was particularly beautiful, clear blue skies and crisp frost, and as there are miles of footpaths to explore on this estate, I stayed much longer than I usually do on these early morning outings.  By the time I decided I had had enough and starting heading back to the car, the estate was getting busy with lots of dog walkers, couples and families all enjoying a Sunday morning walk in the winter sunshine.

Crisp winter morning at Felbrigg Hall

Crisp winter morning at Felbrigg Hall

One thing I often find when out with the camera is that as soon as I decide it is time to head home, and put the camera back in the bag, that is when I see something else that just has to be captured; many, many times, my best shot of the day comes after the initial decision to put the camera away !  When the ‘time to go home’ moment arrived this time, I was on the far side of a small lake on the estate, I was in fairly dense woodland and because it was so shady, it was also a bit chilly – a fact that helped make up my mind it was time to go.  So the camera was duly put back into the bag and I started to make my way back towards the car park.  There were quite a lot of swans on the lake that morning and they had been teasing me by constantly being on the opposite side of the lake to wherever I was, and yes, you’ve guessed it, as soon as the camera went back into the bag, they all came flying over to my side of the lake.  Unfortunately, they didn’t hang around long as a highly excitable dog also found the spectacle exciting and duly scared them all away again.  Sods Law.

Anyway, in the brief couple of minutes the swans were on my side, and I was trying to find a suitable gap by the lake’s edge to get a decent shot, I noticed a lovely spot where the sun was peeking through the dense covering of trees and shining on the undergrowth near the water.  The deep green foliage seemed so rich in the sunlight, that the camera just had to come back out again.  So there I am, crawling around in the undergrowth trying to get my shot, and as I emerge again, not very gracefully, a young woman is walking on the path towards me looking somewhat puzzled.

I offer a friendly “Good Morning” as she approaches.

“Good Morning to you too” she replies, swiftly followed by, “what exactly did you find in there worth photographing?”

I explained that the sunlight coming through the trees into the undergrowth was really lovely and highlighted the deep green of the foliage.  Her eyes were saying “Yeah, whatever”, but she then asked if she could see the shot, so I showed her the image on the camera’s viewing screen.

Sunlit undergrowth

Sunlit undergrowth

“Oh that’s lovely” she says, “how on earth did you manage to see that buried in there?”

“Just knowing what to look for, I guess” I replied.

As I continued my walk back to the car, quietly contented with a lovely compliment from a stranger, I remembered a quote I had read in a magazine a few years back in an interview with a landscape photographer who had had a similar encounter:  “Most people just look at what’s around them; a good photographer sees what’s around him.”  I know that could be dangerously close to a pretentious statement but it is not meant to be.  I have always felt I had a good eye for detail, but that statement really hit a cord with me and changed my outlook when out with the camera; just taking that extra minute to look closer; maybe approaching the subject from another direction; maybe changing the angle of view by shooting higher or lower; all of these can either make a shot that others may miss, or turn an ordinary shot into a really good one.

Hence my original question; do you look, or do you see?  Try seeing next time, you never know what you may find.

On the other hand……………………..

As with all good things, there is a danger of over-doing it or getting lost in detail.  An experience I had only yesterday reminded me of how easy it is to get lost in detail.

Photographing at a wedding is often regarded as one of the most stressful jobs in photography; it is the ultimate “one shot deal”.  Last year I was lucky enough to be asked to work as a second-shooter / assistant with good friend of mine John Harris on a few of his weddings.  This year, I will be his ‘wing-man’ for the full season of weddings which is going to be an incredibly invaluable experience for me.  Our first outing of the season was earlier this month and yesterday I received the cards from John containing the images shot by myself throughout the day (John has kindly agreed to let me keep copies of the photos I take so that I can review and learn from them).  As I reviewed the photographs properly for the first time ( all 1,000 of them ) I was amazed at just how much is covered in a day.  I often comment to couples and their families that although there are lots of different people brought in to make a wedding day complete, the only one there from start to finish is the photographer.  We first see the bride in the morning for hair and make-up preparations , usually dressed in pyjamas or a dressing gown, and we follow her through the day until she takes to the dance-floor with her new husband for the first time as the evening reception gets underway.

At each stage of the day there are key things to watch our for: fun and giggles getting hair done; fitting the headdress for the first time; first sight of the flowers; dad’s first sight of the bride in her dress; nervous groom and best man at the church; arrival of the bride; exchange of vows, first kiss, etc etc – you get the picture (no pun intended).  The day passes so quickly as there is always something to be done; in any gaps when you are not scanning for the shot you want, you are thinking ahead to what is coming next and what may be required to get the best shot in that phase of the day.  Before you know it, the first dance is over and it’s time for us to go home. Before we leave, John always makes a point of not only saying goodbye to the newly married couple, but wherever possible, he always tracks down their parents too, especially the bride’s parents, as we have been with them too since morning and you start to get to know them as the day progresses.

As I was reviewing the photographs from this particular wedding I was going through each part of the day looking at the shots I managed to get and reviewing which ones I liked and which ones maybe didn’t work so well, and thinking about what I could do differently next time.  The couple’s whole day suddenly unfolds before you – from bridal prep to first dance and everything in between.  Even although most of the key stages of the day occur every time, every wedding is different, because every wedding is the biggest day in one couple’s life.  Looking through the 1,000+ shots I had taken, it dawned on me that sometimes it is easy to get so engrossed in making sure that you get the shot that best captures the part of the day in question, and will make the best memory for the couple in the years to come, it is easy to forget what is actually going on:  you may be busy doing your job, but you are also a key part in a couple’s wedding day, the biggest day of their lives, and you have seen more of the day than any of the guests have:  that, as they say, is the “big picture”, and sometimes it is easy to miss that until after the event.  We are being asked to be part of a couple’s wedding day and to record it for them to look back on for all their life together.

From the job point of view, seeing the detail will always be important, but this made me realise that sometimes you have to remember to look at the big picture too and to remember just how important that big picture can be: photographing a wedding is not just a job, it is a privilege, and I am looking forward to many more privileges throughout the summer.

As John is the principal photographer at these weddings, it is not appropriate for me to post any of my photographs on this blog as copyright belongs to John, but if you click here, you will be taken to John’s blog where he has a slideshow of some of the highlights of the day – A wedding at Voewood – John and Georgie’s Sneak Preview .  Please have a look.

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It’s not about the money

I read a story in the newspaper last week about David Beckham and his latest move to a new football club in Paris.  The article featured a photograph of him with his wife and three sons; what a handsome family they are.  Mr B will earn around £3 million from this latest venture and most of the news coverage around this event has focused on the fact that he is donating all of his salary to an as yet un-named childrens’ charity based in Paris.

I can’t claim to be a great fan of the “celebrity culture” so abundant in this country, and there is no doubt that The Beckhams are masters of manipulating this culture to suit their needs, but I have to admit that I did find this particular news article quite refreshing in a number of ways.

David Beckham and family in Paris

David Beckham and family in Paris. Photograph published in The Guardian.

Mr and Mrs B are no strangers to the press and they were, as always, well turned out for the cameras.  On this particular occasion, their three sons were with them and what well turned out young men they were too, all looking very smart in suits.  It was clear that David is very proud of his family as he gathered his boys in front of him for the photo.

During the press conference on the signing, David was asked about why he had decided not to take any salary from the football club but to donate the money to charity instead; he told reporters that “it’s not about the money“.  He knows he is in the final stages of his football playing career and expressed delight in having received so many offers from clubs around the world, despite his age.  “It’s not about the money“, he said “I just want to play football“.   He went on to explain that he is very fortunate to have had tremendous success in his chosen career, and that he has been extremely well paid for it over the years.  He has made an awful lot of money (estimated personal worth of around £140 million or so), so for this particular contract he has decided that playing football is more important than another £3 million in the kitty, hence the donation to charity.

Now I am quite sure that in the coming days and weeks there will be plenty press comment on how this is all just a big publicity stunt; press coverage for Victoria’s fashion business in one of the top fashion centres of the world; heightening of “St David’s” status in the eyes of potential new sponsors for ‘Brand Beckham’ etc etc.  No doubt also there may well be an element of truth in there somewhere; but so what.  What if it is just a grand publicity stunt ; he can afford to throw away £3 million.  Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I find very refreshing to see a footballing celebrity happily posing for photographs with his lovely family and stating that his latest move “is not about the money”, it’s about being able to continue to play football, the thing he is good at and the thing that he loves doing.  He is a very fortunate man to have gained considerable wealth dong something he loves and although he has done many things for charity over the years, he has now made s very public statement that he is just happy to still be playing football, his first true love.  Publicity seeking or not, corny or not, I personally am very pleased to see someone seen as a role model for the younger generation making a statement like this; I wish more of his over-paid and over-pampered colleagues in the game would take a leaf out of this book.

Now then, in no way, shape or form can I claim to have much in common with said Mr Beckham, however, I do (try to) share his ‘it’s not about the money’ philosophy.  When I left the corporate world a few years back, I had a variety of options to move into other organisations in a similar management role to the one I was leaving, and also had many options to move into management in a ‘contracting’ basis for which I could earn considerably more money than I had been making previously, but I was determined that my impending redundancy was not to be viewed merely as a chance to move onto another organisation, but it had to be seen as a (probably last chance) opportunity to really do something different.  I didn’t just want a new job, I wanted a new lifestyle and new opportunities.  Now I know that can be a very cliched and idealistic statement to make but somehow it just felt that it really could be true this time – if I really put my mind to it.  I used to often joke with my colleagues that I would be happier getting a job in a coffee shop than I would getting another management position, but it wasn’t really a joke.  As part of our redundancy package, we were put in touch with a consultancy company to help us work through our thoughts for moving on, and it was during one of these meetings that I made the “now or never” decision that I was going to set up my freelance photography business.  Many people pointed out the difficulties ahead, reminding me that it was not going to be an easy journey, but I was – and still am – well aware of that.  When my team and I had managed to overcome project issues in the corporate world, I often used to say to them “It would be no fun if it was easy” – and that philosophy was about to move with me into my new world too.

Turning a hobby and passion into a business is rarely easy and I can now vouch from hands-on experience that it most definitely isn’t.  Photography is a very difficult business to get into; digital photography is just so easily available these days that almost everyone has access to it in one shape or another, and decent quality kit is becoming more affordable too.  You only have to do a simple search for photographers in your area to see many hundreds, if not thousands of results appear.  So why did I make the move, and why am I still slogging on with the quest?  Well, to return to the title of this post- “It’s not about the money”.  I get a satisfaction from my photography that I find quite unique, whether it is being out there on my own with the camera and tripod watching the sunrise at the coast, or capturing a fleeting smile or tear at a wedding; when you realise that you have successfully captured a very special moment that will never be repeated, that’s a very special feeling.  Over Christmas, I was trying to get a photograph of my two nephews who are at that age where they just don’t want to be seen sitting with one another ( in a brotherly love kinda way ): to try and coax them into it, I appealed to their techie nature by telling them that they would only have to sit together and smile for 1/125th of a second for me to get what I wanted.  This did indeed appeal to them and eventually, I got my photograph.  And that’s just it – for 1/125th of a second, the boys sat together and smiled, and it was captured forever.  That’s what it is all about for me.

Interestingly enough, since I started drafting this post, two very special things have happened which really sum up how lovely and special it is when you capture a moment really well, and realise that it is not only giving you great satisfaction, but it is bringing pleasure to other people too.

The cover photo on my business Facebook page was sorely out of date – lovely autumn colour – and I finally managed to get around to updating it.  Although I was glad to see the back of the recent snowy weather, I decided to use a photograph I had taken during a recent walk in snow covered woodland near to where I live.

Winter Sunset at Marston Woods

Winter Sunset at Marston Woods

To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about my choice of image; I liked it but didn’t have the same confidence in it as I had had with previous cover shots.  The following morning I was notified that a friend and former colleague of mine, and now highly regarded photographer in the area, had commented on the photograph “WOW, that’s a stunner“.  Well that was a lovely start to the day I can tell you – getting praise for your work is always lovely, but praise from someone whose work you admire, is very special.  Less than an hour later, whilst still feeling quite pleased with myself, another comment was posted, this time from someone I do not know personally – ” Nice oil painting coming up inspired by that beautiful pic“.  Maybe it was a good choice after all !

One area of photography I am trying to develop is in the field of sports and journalism.  I regularly visit a local rugby club on a Saturday afternoon to photograph the match and try to get the club a photo in the local and regional newspapers.  I have been fairly successful with getting photographs published but the thing I always enjoy is seeing the comments left by the players and their friends and families, when I post photographs onto the club’s Facebook page.

The weather for last weekend’s match was pretty awful, and by the end of the game the players were covered in mud.  As they left the pitch at the end of the game, I noticed that some of the wives / girlfriends were excitedly cheering and applauding their partners on their hard earned victory.  Unusually at a rugby match,  I found myself switching into ‘wedding mode’ as I got that feeling that there could be an interesting picture about to unfold.  A split second later, there it was – and thankfully – it was caught.

"Love is........"

“Love is……..”

This was very much a snatched shot, but it has received some lovely comments and more “likes” than any previously published rugby shot !  David, the player, commented:  “Hahaha, this is brilliant”, and Claire, his girlfriend commented: “I love this so much. Kept me smiling all day.”  The following day, Claire sent me a message saying: “Hi, I’m the one in your “Love is..” picture, and I absolutely love it, it has had me smiling all day.  But the best thing has been the messages from friends as far away as Singapore asking who this new man is in my life !   He he, Thanks xx

I sincerely hope that I will soon make a comfortable living from my photography, and maybe one day I too will be able to donate some job fees to charity, but in the meantime I will just keep slogging on trying to get the magical shots that not only make me smile, but more importantly, make other people smile too.

It’s not about the money, it’s about moments like this.

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Blogs and Gyms: same pleasure, same pain.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that blogs and gyms have a lot in common.  When you initially sign up you are full of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead and anxious to get started as soon as possible.  The early days are very exciting and the activity rapidly becomes addictive.  You feel great every time you stop by and as you leave, you are admiring the result of your efforts and eagerly planning your next visit.  Each time you visit your confidence grows and you feel more and more determined to improve on your last your performance.

You know it is good for you to keep it going and you are loving it, so you make a point of planning the other activities in your life to make room for it; it starts to become a habit and that is exactly what you wanted when you signed up.  Sometimes other people notice what you have been up to and the positive feedback brings a smile to your face – so nice when people take time to comment.  And so the love affair begins.

Things tick along fairly well for a while; sometimes the plan for your visit falls into place easily, other times it maybe need a bit more thought, but generally speaking, you get there in the end.  Much as you are enjoying it, sometimes the activity becomes a bit more of a strain.  Getting started feels more of a challenge than it has been before and fresh ideas seem harder to find.  Before you know it, your visits start to become less frequent, and the gaps between them gradually get longer and longer.  You’re in trouble now; the slippery slope is in front of you and you are already quite far down it, and falling faster and faster.

All too soon, it is game over. The habit has been broken. All the hard work up till this point becomes a distant memory and as with all broken relationships, the more time passes, the harder it is to patch things up and get onto a good footing again.  You know it makes sense to get back into action, but finding that initial incentive to get through the door again is not easy; excuses come much easier.

Then you wake up one morning and announce to yourself, “today is the day” – one way or another, I am going to get started again, and you make an appointment with yourself to set aside an hour and just get on with it.  How easy was that then?  Very easy is the answer. So why didn’t you just do that ages ago?  The answer to that one is not so easy, but who cares, you have taken the initial steps and you’re off !

Well I have to be honest, it is still a few months since I have passed through the doors of my gym, but hopefully I will make it back there soon.  It has been just as long since I have written anything on here, but we’ve made it now – a new post at last!  Now I just have to hope that I am back in the early day enthusiasm phase again and visits start to become more frequent.

When I first started this blog I was determined not just to write any old stuff, there had to be something interesting to write about.  So next time there seems to be a larger than wanted gap between postings I will not be asking myself why I haven’t visited my blog lately; I will be asking myself why I haven’t done anything interesting lately !

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Little things really do matter

Now I am no football fan, as anyone who knows me will testify.  I do however come from a football mad family, and my two youngest nephews are most definitely keeping that tradition alive.  Despite being true Scots boys in every other sense, when it comes to football for some reason they both follow English Premier league clubs; Chelsea for the youngest and Manchester United for his older brother.  This is where non-footie uncle has an advantage; I live in a premier football team city, that Fine City of Norwich !

Towards the end of January, Chelsea made a trip to Carrow Road to play Norwich City so I decided that I would try and get some “cool uncle” points by going down to the stadium to get some shots of the Chelsea team arriving.  To cut a long story short, a combination of chaotic crowd control and un-cooperative players made for a fairly unsuccessful outing. I did manage to redeem myself by getting some general pre-match shots and a goodie bag of match programme, Chelsea ‘fanzine’ and local newspaper coverage so all was not lost.

Move forward one month now to end February and it was the turn of Manchester United to pay a visit; time to see if lessons had been learned from failed outing number one. Parking was a disaster first time so a new parking spot was identified and utilised – check; timing was borderline first time so get there earlier – check; position at the front didn’t work so aim for position near door of players entrance – check.  All looking good so far.  There were only a dozen or so other fans around when I got there, (well, they didn’t know I wasn’t a fan ), but numbers grew quickly so full marks on the timing front.  I knew from last time that getting close to the pavement was no good, so despite growing numbers I stood my ground right outside the players entrance so that I could get clear shots looking down towards where the team would get off their bus, sorry Luxury Executive Coach.  I also knew that crowd control barriers would appear shortly before the anticipated arrival time, but again I knew to stand my ground on my door spot as people would crowd towards the front where the coach would stop – which they did.  Still looking good.

Now then, these guys may be premier league footballers at the top of their game, but let’s face it, they are just footballers.  As security started to take shape I began to wonder – as did many of the others who had gathered by now.  Crowd control barriers appeared, as expected, but unlike the arrival of Chelsea where the barriers simply created a clear walkway either side of the players entrance door, the Man Utd guys seemed to need a bit more space; this time the barriers pushed the crowd back several yards either side of the entrance putting an unreasonable distance between the soon to arrive players and the fans, many of whom had now been waiting a couple of hours to see them.  Undeterred I stood my ground ensuring that no matter how far back that barrier went, I would still be right at the front of it for my uninterrupted view of the players.  Another two sets of barriers now appeared making sure that no-one was getting anywhere near these footballers.

Here they come…….

Doors opening……

Numbers of “stewards” also started to increase as arrival time grew closer. “This is just a football team isn’t it?”, I started to think to myself. I had been Royalty spotting previously with less security.  Bear in mind also that the crowd we are talking about here are fans of this team, not hired assassins, and most of said crowd were youngsters ( with a reasonable number of dads in tow) eagerly clutching autograph books and pens ready for that long awaited close encounter with their heroes.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ryan Giggs

So, three layers of barriers were in place and an un-necessary number of stewards were also in place, backed up by some police – just in case – and soon we heard the cry “here they come now”.  Despite being a little further back than I had anticipated, I had the camera at the ready waiting for the door to open, and then they came…….one by one, top premier league footballers ( and team officials ) emerged from the bus, sorry, Luxury Executive Coach.  Despite being a non-footie fan, even I recognised some of the faces; Giggs, Ferdinand, and not forgetting Sir Alex.  Off they came, all smartly turned out in their team suits and team ties, clutching their designer wash-bags (Vuiton, Versace, Fendi among others) – what’s that all about !  And in the space of a couple of minutes, it was all over.

Whilst some were better than others, I did manage to get a shot of every person who emerged from the team coach, so I was very pleased that lessons had indeed been learned from my unsuccessful first attempt at Premier League photography, so I got my copy of the match programme and headed home happy.  Or fairly happy anyway.

Why the title of “Little things really do matter”, you may be wondering?  Well as mentioned at the start, I have two fabulous football mad young nephews, and they have a photographer uncle with no interest in football whatsoever.  But there was an opportunity to do something a bit special, and I wanted to take advantage of it.  It was no big deal to hang around a football stadium for a couple of hours; it didn’t cost me much to buy a match programme and other goodies; and it didn’t take much time or effort to pull together my “match report” and bundle it all off to my young football fanatics – but oh boy did it generate some excitement !

Both boys have been thrilled with their goodie bags.  The youngest had his Chelsea “fanzine” read to him as a bedtime story; his older brother was engrossed in his match programme during his lunch break at school; and both were really excited to have at least a little bit of the action of a premier league football match captured just for them.  I got a lovely e-mail from my sister saying how excited the boys were just to have the postman bring a parcel addressed to them – “you tend to forget the excitement the mail can bring” she said.  So all of these little things really did matter to two very excited young boys.

So why did I leave the stadium only fairly happy? – there is another side to this story.

Go back a couple of paragraphs for a minute – crowds of young autograph hunters waiting patiently for hours – their football heroes arriving in their Luxury Executive Coach – the emergence of the team one by one in their matching suits and designer wash-bags.  How exciting. Even non-footie fan me was getting a bit of a buzz from it all.  But – when that coach door opened, the “stars” of the Premier League exited that coach and headed for the players entrance as if they were under sniper attack.  Not one single player acknowledged any of the fans waiting with cameras to get a picture; not one single player waved or spoke to any of their fans; not one single player stopped to chat with anyone; and not one single player signed an autograph for any of the youngsters who had been patiently waiting for their big moment.

Rio Ferdinand

Danny Welbeck

Ashley Young

Phil Jones

















How much time – or effort – would it have taken any of these “stars” to do any of these things?  Not much really, would it?  I’m quite sure that most, if not all, of that team had dreamt of being a football player since they were of a similar age to that crowd of autograph hunters.  Maybe they have forgotten how exciting it was to get the opportunity to meet your hero – even just for a minute.  They didn’t see the disappointment on those young faces – I did.

It wouldn’t have taken much to stop for a few minutes, say hello (and thank you ) and sign a few autographs.   Little things really do matter – how sad, that so many who should know better seem to have forgotten that.

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The wonders of local wildlife

I’m not really sure why I was so surprised, and agitated, when my head bounced off the car window as I was thrown around like a teddy in a washing machine: the website info I had read the day before clearly stated that the approach road to the beach was “a bit narrow and bumpy”.  I can confirm that the author was not kidding !  With a missed turning and a fellow driver developing an un-natural attraction to my exhaust pipe hampering attempts at a u-turn on the way up , and now this ‘dodge the pothole’ (impossible) challenge to finish the journey, I found myself uttering those words so often heard on my early morning outings; “this had better be worth it !”

Despite my many years living in Norfolk and the knowledge that there are numerous places offering boat trips to see the seals off the North Norfolk Coast, I somehow have managed to remain oblivious to the fact that in December and January each year, a colony of Grey Seals make their way onto the beaches to give birth to their pups.  Having now been made aware of this natural spectacle, it seemed an obvious candidate for a photo-opportunity visit, hence my (eventful) journey to the beach last week.

Being well used to early morning starts for my ‘dawn patrol’ outings, I decided to head off at first light to see if I could manage some time to enjoy this spectacle in a crowd free environment.  It certainly looked promising as there was only one other car in the car park when I eventually made it – shock absorbers still miraculously intact.   The area was well sign-posted, clearly indicating a walk of approximately one mile to the “designated viewing area”. So off I went.  There is something wonderfully pleasing about a walk on the coast around dawn; clean fresh air, light of a new day, and generally no-one else around to steal any of it away from you.  As I headed along the pathway below the sand dunes, it was noticeable that said dunes were getting higher and higher; the sound of the waves in the sea beyond often disappearing behind their shelter.  Eventually I reached what was normally the main entrance way onto the beach, but at this time of year there is a “Voluntary Beach Closure” to ensure that the many visitors do not disturb the animals.  More sign-posts ensured that I kept on walking just a little bit more until I eventually reached a very steep set of wooden stairs which would take me up over the dunes and onto the designated pathway for viewing the seals.

The level of shelter offered by the dunes became apparent when I reached the top of the stairs only to find myself almost blown back down again by the strength of the wind; just a tad breezy then !  I could immediately see 2 or 3 seals down on the beach but even with the telephoto lens at full stretch, there wasn’t going to be much of a photo opportunity there.  Best keep walking mate.   Within a few minutes things improved considerably as I came across a group of around 10 seals sheltering behind some rocks.

Time for a quick dip boys !

I was concerned that I had startled them, despite still being some distance away, as they all seemed to head into the sea as soon as I spotted them, but maybe it was just time for a quick dust off as they certainly didn’t go too far and just enjoyed a splash around in the shallows.  Whilst watching them enjoy their early morning dip, I was aware of some strange sounds which seemed to be coming from the other side of the rocks.  I walked over to the other side to find another group also enjoying a splash around, and right at the water’s edge was the source of the sound; a mother and her pup enjoying the feel of the waves hitting against them.  I’m not quite sure exactly what was going on, maybe it was mum getting the youngster used to the water ( they only learn to swim when around three weeks old ), but whatever it was, the bond between mum and baby was very obvious and very touching to watch.

Mum and pup in the waves

I had heard that the pups often manage to find their way up into the dunes – can’t say I blame them with the way the wind was blowing that morning anyway – so I was keeping an eye open for any unexpected visitors.  The beach is roped off all the way along this stretch of the dunes and there are numerous signs reminding visitors not to go down onto the beach, no matter how tempting the views.  This is all sound advice and common sense, but when you do suddenly come across a seal pup right on the designated dunes pathway, the problem changes from visitors getting too close, to how to avoid NOT getting too close !  I could see a grey blob a few yards in front of me, and thankfully the dunes were wide enough that I could climb higher and walk around the area where the little chap was sheltering.  He seemed to scarper as I approached, but as I sat quietly in the high grass at the back of the dunes for a few minutes, his curiosity brought him back for a look.  What a thrill to see this beautiful young animal just a matter of feet away from me – I’m not sure who was the watcher and who the watched, perhaps a bit of both !

Who's watching who here !

Difficult as it was to tear myself away from my new pal, (I found him again on the way back) I kept on going to see what else I could find.  Another batch of rocks, another batch of seals.  I think this lot must have been up a bit earlier in the morning as they seemed to be having a bit of a lark around.

How's this for a pose matey ?

This bunch were quite amusing as there was a good mix of playing around, combined with some great chill out expressions !

So, eventually it was time to start heading back.  My little friend was sound asleep in the dunes, and after I passed him I was met with another beautiful sight of a very young pup suckling with mum.  No matter how many times you see this sort of thing on television, it is incredibly touching when you see it happening before your eyes.

Mum's milk is definately the best

By the time I was getting back towards the starting point of my dunes walk, a few more visitors were starting to appear – what a nerve !  Their presence did however alert me to one final joy which I may otherwise have missed, as tucked into the lower dunes just below the walking area, was another little pup.  I think he must have been trying to shed some of his white baby fur as he was having a good roll around in the sand for quite a while.  Eventually it proved too much effort and he went back to chill out mode to enjoy the early morning sunshine.

I'll let Mother Nature shift the rest !

So then, back to “this had better be worth it” – I hope you will have gathered by now that it most definately was.  When I first started this blog, I wrote a post about my dream job being a photographer with the BBC Natural History Unit.  My morning walk along the North Norfolk coast in January may not have been quite as glamorous, adventurous or dramatic as a journey to the Serengeti or Antartica, but I like to think it gave me just a hint of the thrill these guys must get when filming the documentaries that have us all glued to our TV screens on a regular basis.  Mother Nature really does give us such a lot to enjoy.

A wider selection of photographs from this outing are available on my website – Seals and pups on the Norfolk coast.

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