The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall Wedding, York – Tom and Katy
A very popular venue for weddings in York, the Merchant Adventurers Hall is one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the world. Built over 600 years ago by a local fraternity, it is the largest timber framed building still used for its original purpose in the UK. It comprises The Great Hall, where medieval merchants met to do business and socialize. The Undercroft, which was used as a hospital, and The Chapel. Tom and Katy’s fairly large wedding and wedding breakfast was to be held in The Great Hall.
A mid-winter wedding with it’s ceremony start time at 4pm, the main issue at this particular wedding was always going to be low light. Yet Tom and Katy were adamant that they wanted portrait shots taken outside the Hall and the surrounding area, even though by the time the ceremony would be concluded, the light would be almost gone. With the additional factor that mid-January is not a time to be doing a lot of wandering around outside in a wedding dress, time was going to be of the essence for the formal portraiture. With the low light a major consideration, this was another wedding where I decided to make use of an assistant, in this case, a photographer friend of mine, Barry, though not to be a second shooter, but to hold an lighting umbrella for off camera flash. In fact, we did a recce together to work out camera and flash settings about a week out from the wedding, which was crucial prep.
On the day, I started as per usual photographing the arriving guests, while a family member in the know kept me posted as to when Katy would be arriving by car on Fossgate to the rear of the hall. A nice ambience was being created in the hall by a harpist as Tom, family members and other guests began greeting each other on arrival. Finally, I got the word that Katy was arriving and hurried out onto Fossgate. She arrived in a white, ribboned Bentley with her mum and chief bridesmaid and looking radiant in a lacy, white dress and tiara. I got some good shots of her through the car window, seated inside and then getting out. As her small part of the wedding party readied themselves, I hurried inside to make sure I was in position for the processional. In some ways, this was closer to a church wedding as the bride and her father had some way to walk from the back of the hall to the front where the ceremony was held. I used my long lens to capture the happy and expectant Katy making her way slowly forward with her father. It turned out that low light was not just an issue outside, but inside also. I was shooting at my widest lens aperture with the camera sensor at its most sensitive settings. Even then my shutter speeds were hovering around the mark where camera shake could be an issue. Generally the ceremony is a part of the wedding I avoid using flash unless I really have to as it can be a distraction and disrupt the mood of this part of the occasion. Keeping a steady hand I managed to maintain sharp images throughout.
After the ceremony, the couple received their congratulations and then it was time for the formal portraits, which I anticipated as having the most potential for memorable images while at the same time being the most technically challenging. The Hall both inside and out is a fantastic, photogenic, historically interesting setting. I got a stunning posed shot of the newlyweds kissing outside, with the orange, front facade of the hall sloping off into the background and just enough light left in the darkening sky. The couple we lit by off camera flash bounced from an umbrella Barry was holding off camera left. It produced a memorable, almost gothic looking image of this attractive young couple.
Next we moved to the rear of the hall to make use of the coat of arms above the entrance Katy had arrived at in the car. From there on to the bridge over the river Foss that separates Fossgate and Walmgate. It was here I got one of my favourite wedding images ever as well as Tom and Katy’s favourite from the day. As the couple stood facing each other in the middle of the bridge beneath lamp light, a sudden gust of wind dramatically whipped up Katy’s voluminous veil so that it momentarily engulfed Tom. Without time to even check camera setting I quickly lifted the camera to my face and fired off a shot. It turned out to be perfect timing! Another shot I got of the couple posed beneath the Victorian lamp, I later sepia toned in post production and was the shot they wanted me to make into a large canvas print for them.
Now with Katy having braved the freezing January outdoors enough, it was time to head back in for the group shots. Here again, I employed Barry with the off camera flash as by now flash was essential with the light having gone, From then it was time for the Tom and Katy to enjoy their first meal together as a married couple at the wedding breakfast, and after I got sufficient shots to capture the scene, mine and Barry’s time was up.
6th June 2018