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The last ten years

The 23rd of December this year marked ten years exactly since I bought the house we’re living in. And the start of a new decade seemed like a good time to look back. As time goes on you compact or compress the details in your memory and only remember the salient events of your life. It leaves the impression that you remember the whole thing. But when you look at some kind of complete record like your personal photos, you realise how much you packed into those years and how much you’ve lived. Honestly this is just the fastest pick of some highlights from 2009 to 2019, but it’s fun to see a few photos.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned and grown over these ten years, as I’m sure I also did over the ones before it. Looking back like this makes me all the more keen to fill our time on earth with wonderful and beautiful moments and relationships. We’ve got exciting plans for 2020 and we hope you’ll be a part of them!

Here’s what I looked like in 2009 with no grey hairs. And a spot.

I remember how proud I was to buy this house. All the rooms looked like this. I hadn’t changed the front door lock cylinder yet so I trudged in and out through the snow-covered back garden and patio door until the locksmiths opened again after Christmas.

In 2010 this was my first wedding at a recently opened venue here in Solihull called Hampton Manor. After moving my business a couple of years previously I was keen to make friends, and I found genuinely lovely people here who cared as much as I did about giving their customers the very best of everything. It’s a relationship that’s lasted a decade and I love going back there. And hey to Ed and Helen, who are still dancing with each other.

Still feeling a little new in town I was looking for a way to get involved in the community and do something useful with my spare time. A friend suggested looking for a scout group. The moment she said it I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it already. I loved my own time in scouts and credit it in large part for helping me become the person I am today.

Most leaders join to give extra help while their own kids are members, so I think it was a bit of a surprise when I just phoned up HQ and said “right, where shall I go?” They sent me to 6th Shirley, a hugely successful group of beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers with a dedicated and skilled team of leaders. I’ve seen multiple years of kids join as teeny scared little dots and leave as hulking great noisy monsters with confidence, friends, skills and an amazing sense of humour. We camp, hike, climb, swim, build, play, shout and laugh our heads off. I can’t recommend being a scout leader highly enough. Ask me more if you’re interested.

2012 was a whopping great year for a lot of us, hey? Diamond jubilee, olympics, LOTS of people getting married. But for me it will always be the year I met my darling Kate.

I was meeting a bunch of photographers who’d set the challenge of taking fast portraits of ten complete strangers in Birmingham city centre. Afterwards we all went to a coffee shop to compare photos and I got chatting to Kate. We kept in touch and she came to photograph some weddings with me, then a big commercial job over two days, and in December we went on our first date. Didn’t take any photos – that would be weird. But here’s us testing the studio out on a Christmas event we were photographing that winter.

2012 was also the year of David and Helen’s glorious wedding in Taormina, Sicily. Being asked to photograph a destination wedding is a big compliment to your work. An exotic location is wonderful for the portfolio, but the thought that someone values you highly enough to fly you out there as well as pay you is very flattering. I want to go back!

For Kate’s birthday in 2013 I bought her a flying lesson. I think after talking about Sicily and holidays she said something about loving to fly (which she does). So I thought, “loves to fly does she…”

November is when Kate moved in and we now celebrate it as our shackingup-iversary. You need a bit more furniture when there’s two of you, so the second polaroid is Kate having to build her own bedside table.

We’ve been to Manchester a few times and we love it there. A cool mixture of old historical buildings and modern, bold architecture. A lot of cities get it wrong by constraining their architects to design things in keeping with the traditional buildings and the result is rubbish. It seems like in Manchester they say, “build whatever the hell you want as long as it’s good.” Good architects always DO consider the surroundings even when designing something revolutionary. The result is eclectic and beautiful. But what do I know about architecture?!

This was a photo from a shoot we had with Rosie Hardy, celebrity photographer and uber-creative, who Kate knew from way back.

In 2014 I started seriously playing around with videography and did my first paid video for a commercial client. It sowed a seed for something brilliant that would come in a couple more years.

And here’s a cheeky little trip to Vienna to visit my globe-trotting parents. What an amazing city – I highly recommend it.

In November of 2014 I proposed to my lovely Kate. Easiest decision I ever made. We’re so alike, and also complementary. She’s smart, funny, beautiful and so courageous, but she doesn’t know it.

I remember noticing once that she was EXACTLY my type on a long walk we took. It lasted a bit longer and the end of it was dark, wet, windy and not altogether wonderful. Then we hit the muddiest field I ever walked in. Honestly, any normal person would have felt a bit sorry for themselves at that point. But we shared a quick look and without a word about it, pointed ourselves towards the car and kept ploughing through the mud. We both knew the only way was forward, complaining about it would do nothing, and this nasty bit would not spoil our enjoyment of a glorious adventure. And we both knew that we knew. That was magic. I love this woman.

Before we got married we thought we’d tackle a bigger outdoor adventure and climb Snowdon in June 2015. We had special T-shirts which we wore to a fun run later (Kate with a white tutu) and we won a prize for fancy dress.

Anyway, being outdoors is just our favourite thing to do. You don’t have to travel all that far to expand the mind. I can show you photos but nothing compares to the immersive experience of turning your head and seeing this vast expanse BELOW you, after having climbed for hours with your best friend. We’ve climbed a couple more mountains since, and got our eye on Ben Nevis next.

In 2015 just after my 35th birthday I got the best gift any man ever got. I thank my lucky stars for this wonderful lady and I’m so glad I found her. We signed the book in a registry office in Ashbourne in a dress Kate’s Mum made for her and my new blue suit. Then on to our real ceremony in a cottage garden in the Peak District led by my best man and old friend Steve. On the engraved hip flash we gave him it says, “What Steve Hath Joined Together – Let No One Put Asunder.”

While saving up for our proper honeymoon we snuck off to the Lake District for a mini-moon camping and exploring. There are so many amazing places in the UK you can’t quite believe are in this country when you get there. If you spend most of your time on planet Earth squashed into a city you’ve got to get out there in what Kate calls the three-dimensional world.

And in October we visited Rome for a glorious honeymoon. It’s a great time to go. Warmer than here, but not scorching as it is in their summer. This view literally took my breath away, from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. As did the thought that I’d snagged the best wife anyone ever found.

2016 and Paris in the Spring. We invented a new word for extreme cold. There’s cold, freezing, baltic, Bolvanger, and then there’s “Eiffel Tower”.

There are cousins and cousins, and Susie is the latter. We’re more like siblings really, and we were so proud and happy to see her marry Paul in 2016. I had Clive come and photograph the wedding with me so I could be in it. I wasn’t expecting the button-hole I got to wear at her house in the morning. I was very touched.

A few days after the wedding, “returning” the photo booth props we must have left behind at the venue!

And then in December 2016 this little creature nudged her way into our lives. Kate had talked about wanting a rabbit, and brought it up again one day. She said “You know I wanted to get a rabbit? Well can we really get one? It’s just… I’ve already found her”. I’ve got to say though, who wouldn’t?

We quickly discovered Betty is a window-licker. Oh Betty.

Took a little longer though to discover Betty is actually a boy. Huh. We still call him Betty because we figure he doesn’t care what he’s called. It’s funny though how many people just can’t wrap their heads round it, even when they know. He’s a boy and he’s called Betty. What could be simpler? Good boy.

As I mentioned before, I’d been playing with video for years and years, but always assumed I needed some special training to do it professionally. Which you don’t. You just need to be good. Then I discovered Casey Neistat on youtube who I love. The biggest take away I got from him is you CAN just grab a camera, film something cool and make a video. So I started doing that, and as you learn in any new field you start to discover what you still need to learn, and before you know it you’re doing quite well.

We took video cameras along to Nick and Rebecca’s beautiful wedding at Prestwold Hall in 2017 and filmed our now popular highlights video alongside their stills. The combination we offer has been very successful. So much so that we’ve decided to double our attendance at national wedding shows and take on a lot more bookings for 2020 and 2021 so far. We’re really excited about it. We also moved into full wedding videography as distinct from stills, so we have two ways to cover weddings and fill up the calendar moving forward.

We’re producing a lot more video now about lots of subjects, and you can find my brand new youtube channel here. Please do subscribe!

Right at the end of 2018 Paul and Susie brought our little Neice into the world and called her Holly. She just turned one this year and we love her. Here she is with Kate, and a few months later hanging out with her great grandma.

2019 has been another exciting year of weddings, as well as a very proud achievement, winning the national wedding awards photographer of the year. I was so proud to be at the glamorous evening dinner with my lovely Kate by my side to accept the award. I always said I was more interested in my clients than in going for awards and things. But it was them that put me up for it!

Thank you to everyone who’s played a part in these wonderful ten years. 2020 will be my 18th year photographing weddings which I can hardly believe. I still love it, and I can’t wait for another season of exciting big days for very special couples. Andy and Beth – you’re next!

A Christmas Wedding at Lemore Manor

How can it be a year ago that we were photographing Cary and Laura’s beautiful Christmas wedding at Lemore Manor in Hereford? Getting the decorations up at home reminded us of their fun and romantic day at such a gorgeous venue. Cary and Laura are truly wonderful people and you could tell from both their kind and welcoming families that they are very loved. After taking photographs of Laura and her bridesmaids throughout the day Kate said she’d never seen a group of ladies take such good care of their bride. #squadgoals I reckon.

Here’s to a very happy Christmas to all of you. I’m in charge of turkey this year at the Shephard house so with me luck. Or wish my family luck.

See you in the new year!

Matt & Laura’s Wedding Video from Moor Hall Hotel

We’re so excited to share Matt and Laura’s wedding video with you. It was a pleasure to shoot exclusively film while our friend Binky Nixon took lovely photos. Their wedding ceremony was at a warm and friendly church in Sutton Coldfield, with the grand reception at the Moor Hall hotel afterwards. Such kind and welcoming families and a sweet couple.

If you’ve already booked your photographer but are looking for a gorgeous wedding film or are thinking of adding a highlights video to your photography package with us, check out some examples here.

Dan & Katy’s handcrafted wedding at the Jinny Ring Centre

I was just thinking back to last Summer, when Dan & Katy celebrated their wedding in a beautiful and personal ceremony at the Jinny Ring centre. When I told Kate and her mum where it was they were pretty excited as it’s a top spot for a bit of craft, shopping, admiring the countryside and enjoying the ducks. It’s a lovely setting for a family wedding and Katy and Dan had clearly made some personal and creative touches to make it their own for the day.

With our beloved Malvern Hills in the background we got some beautiful photos, enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea, then raised the barn roof with a hell of a party in the evening. We met so long ago we had to wait ages for the day to finally come but I’m so glad to have been with you guys for your big day!

What should a photographer wear to a wedding?

Last time I bought a pair of black shoes was 2008. Nickelback wanted to be rockstars, Adele was chasing pavements and Take That ruled the world. As my grandad would say, a really good pair of shoes will last for years. He was in the navy, and grandma was a nurse theatre manager. Both precise people. One time she reported her operating room was one surgical swab short after an operation. The doctors all said no, the nurse must have miscounted. But she insisted. She was right, and you can guess where the swab was found (shudder).

It was at their house before school that we learned to make the best hot chocolate in the world, and how to polish your shoes the old fashioned way. Something I’ve always done since. Baden-Powell (king of the cubs) said you can judge a man by the backs of his shoes. Meaning of course that you can trust a man who doesn’t just take care of the things everyone sees, but does a proper job for it’s own sake. Because he’ll know, if no one else does.

Every now and then a man has to look the part, and weddings are an obvious example. I genuinely feel at my best looking smart, and it’s a nice way to show respect to your hosts. I always assumed everyone felt the same way. But a few times now the registrar has said how nice it is to see a photographer make an effort. I honestly couldn’t believe them when they told me it’s usually jeans and a t shirt. One of my brides last year thanked me for looking smart at her wedding. And a lovely vicar I know told me a photographer once stood right up at the front with her, wearing a hoodie with a big skull on the back. Now I don’t want to judge – if you couldn’t care less what your photographer wears then cool cool cool cool. But surely even if we’re not IN your wedding photos, we’re still AT your wedding. People will see us. You know, people…with eyes?

So my excellent pair of dress shoes finally gave it up this summer. They’ve had plenty of new soles and heels but it was at last time to replace them. I looked in all the shops in Solihull (yes including monkeyshu) and was on the train to Brum for more shops when I realised this was getting serious. That’s when one of my most fine and distinguished grooms came to the rescue (thanks Iain!) by recommending Loake.

As I walked into their store on Cathedral Square it felt like a world of difference. I couldn’t help thinking that this is exactly how I want my customers to see me when I meet them. Not pushy, not bored, but pleasant and genuinely helpful. This actually doesn’t take any special training or even much effort when you truly like getting to know and helping the people you work for. Christopher in the store was very knowledgeable and explained things about the leather to me. Didn’t explain things I obviously already knew. And basically made sure I left with the right pair of shoes.

Good shoes seem expensive as hell, until you discover they last five to ten times as long as bad ones which makes them a bargain. They also take a bit of wearing in (ouch!) but it’s worth it to have something good you’re proud of.

Loake wedding shoes

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