Landscape Photographer Of The Year Exhibition

You may recall that I was recently awarded commendations for two images at the Landscape Photographer Of The Year 2011 competition. You can see the two images on display at the exhibition at The National Theatre on London’s South Bank until 28th January. It’s an amazing collection of photographs, the best photographs from tens of thousands of entries each year; it’s well worth a visit if you like this sort of photography as there are images from some of the most talented landscape photographers in the UK. Of my two images, the mushroom image “Under The Shelter” has received the most publicity, and here’s me grinning in front of it at the private view last week.

Tom Nicholls at the Landscape Photographer Of The Year 2011 Exhibition

The private view was a great opportunity for me to meet some of the other winning photographers from the competition. The images are all shown at an appropriately large scale so many of them are more impressive than when viewed in the book. In particular, this image by Damian Shields has far greater impact at exhibition size and I was able to congratulate him on this.

The exhibition has generated quite a bit of interest in the national press. Here is the mushroom pic on the centre spread of The Guardian as part of their selection from the exhibition last week:

The Guardian selection from the Landscape Photographer Of The Year

… and here it is in Amateur Photographer magazine:

Amateur Photographer magazine selection from the Landscape Photographer Of The Year

But the most exciting appearance, of course, was in an article in the Crewe Guardian:

Crewe Guardian article from the Landscape Photographer Of The Year

It’s also been chosen by Time Out for their selection and, less importantly, here in The Daily Mail.

Here’s more from the exhibition, including one showing a slideshow of images projected onto the side of the National Theatre:

Landscape Photographer Of The Year Outdoor Slideshow at the National Theatre

Viewing the Landscape Photographer Of The Year Exhibition

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, there’s always the book:

The Book From the 2011 Landscape Photographer Of The Year

Mushroom image in the Landscape Photographer Of The Year book

Gormley image in the Landscape Photographer Of The Year book

The mushroom image was also selected as one of the ten images for the postcard pack of the exhibition.

Postcard Pack from the Landscape Photographer Of The Year Competition

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Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 Winning Images

Although this has become predominantly a wedding blog, today I’m celebrating a double success at the 2011 “Take a View” UK Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. Both these images were successful at the final stages, and consequently will feature at the exhibition starting on December 5th at the National Theatre in London. They will also be included in the popular book of the competition winners (available next week). The mushroom image (from Harrop Tarn in the Lake District) was voted by the judges as a runner-up in its category, and will feature in the postcard pack that is sold from the exhibition. Both these images are available as 40x30cm mounted and framed limited edition prints (contact me for details).

It’s become an ambition of mine to make the exhibition, and I’m elated as it’s the only serious national landscape photography competition, open to both professionals and amateurs.

UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 - Fungi from the Lake District

UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 - Gormley statue at Crosby Beach

The above image also featured in yesterday’s (23rd October) iPad edition of the Sunday Times (thanks to @ColinSBell for supplying this):

UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 - Sunday Times Selection

Colin has also kindly uploaded part of the full size version of the iPad edition.

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Sandbach Wedding Photography – Vintage Wedding in Cheshire

This was one of those weddings that I’d been very much looking forward to since we booked it in the spring. Laura and Kevin are a great couple, and despite living just a stone’s throw away from me in Sandbach in Cheshire, found me via the internet. It was clear that they embraced the documentary style from the outset, and I’ve very much enjoyed having the opportunity to photograph their wedding.

It’s obvious that Laura and Kevin put a lot of effort into designing their own take on a post-war vintage style wedding reception, and the hall at St Mary’s Church in Sandbach was decked with beautifully assembled tributes to this period in history.

Bridal preparations were at The Chimney House in Sandbach, and ceremony was in main church building at St Mary’s.

A bridesmaid reaches for the dress

Fastening the Dress

Inspecting the Dress

Pre-wedding nerves!

Pre Wedding Nerves

Bride and Son Before the Wedding

Groom and Best Man

Walking Down the Aisle

Wedding Ceremony in Sandbach

In The Vestry

Wedding Kiss


Vintage Tea Party

Here’s a typewriter intended for messages of goodwill to the bride and groom, and which was rather monopolised by children.


Girl Types Message to Bride And Groom With Typewriter

Childhood Photographs of Groom

Childhood Photographs of Bride

Who Ate All The Pies

The Best Man's Speech

Groom Laughing

Boy Dances in Front of Stage

The wedding singer is Heather Marie, who gave us a great 50s-style performance.


Heather Marie Wedding Singer

Boy Stares at Wedding Singer

Bride and Groom Dancing

Bride And Groom With Son

Consall Hall Gardens – Wedding Photography

Staffordshire Wedding – Laurie and Sid

Consall Hall Gardens is a remarkable venue. Amazingly, its grounds extend for 70 acres and contain six lakes. It’s a bit of a hidden gem lying in the Staffordshire Moorlands countryside, just a stone’s throw from the Peak District, and it was enormously satisfying to photograph Laurie and Sid’s wedding here.

The ceremony was outdoors, and the weather just about held up, with merely a few spots of rain as the bride was arriving. Unusually for me, the bride and groom requested a series of group and posed photographs, which was a huge amount of fun (even for a documentary photographer like myself!) as we were driven by Justin, the venue manager, around the site on a golf buggy.

As with most of my weddings, the day began for me at the bride’s family home for wedding preparations.

Bridesmaid With Dress

Bridesmaid Dancing

Bride Having Makeup Applied With Flowers in The Foreground

Bridal Makeup

It’s often the case that putting on and fastening a wedding dress can take a long while on the day itself, but Laurie took it all in her stride.

Putting On The Dress

Fastening The Dress

Dressing The Bride

… and we’re just about there now…

The Dress

Consall Hall Gardens Wedding Venue

The ceremony took place in a courtyard surrounding a small pond.

Bride Arrives at the Ceremony

Exchange of Wedding Rings

Bride and Groom Kissing

Wedding Confetti

Boy Eats a Sausage During the Wedding Reception

The food at Consall Hall is superb, and after dinner the evening’s events got underway with the speeches:

The Groom gives his Wedding Speech

As well as the familiar cutting-the-cake ritual, the families were invited to light an oil lamp, a Sri Lankan tradition, I believe.

Lighting the Oil Lamp

Wedding Cake

Laurie and Sid can be seen here showing off their considerable talent for latin dancing during the first dance.

First Dance at Consall Hall Gardens

Latin Dancing from the Bride and Groom

First Wedding Dance

Finally, I’d like to thank the bride, groom and their families for the warm welcome that I was given, and also to Justin and the staff at Consall Hall Gardens for being so helpful and accommodating.

Vinopolis Documentary Wedding Photography – Emma and Jamie Get Married in London

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to photograph the wedding of good friends Jamie and Emma at Vinopolis, just south of the Thames in central London.

Vinopolis’s Great Halls (where the reception took place) form an impressive venue for a wedding – two enormous caverns with 50 foot high brick walls built under a nineteenth-centry railway viaduct.

Any city centre wedding with minimal car access is a challenge, but this was doubly so as it was on the weekend of the Royal Wedding and also the local area was subject to road closures as a giant viaduct was being airlifted into place above Borough High Street! So I packed a small selection of lenses and a couple of light stands for the dancing shots into my ThinkTank bag and trekked off to the first location at the couple’s house. These are some of my favourite images from the day. Incidentally, all photographs shown here were taken with just two wide lenses – the 24mm prime and the 16-35mm zoom.

vinopolis wedding photography bride at home before the ceremony
(has the groom’s suit shrunk or does it by any chance belong to the bride’s nephew?)

vinopolis wedding photography bridal preparations

I often like to include details of what the makeup artist uses as tools of the trade:

vinopolis wedding photography makeup artist

The shape of the dress and the dark colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses certainly presented me with some great graphic compositions for black and white:

vinopolis wedding photography dressing the bride

vinopolis wedding photography bridesmaids dress the bride

vinopolis wedding photography tying the dress

How else to arrive in London but in a black cab?:

vinopolis wedding photography bride arrives by taxi

vinopolis wedding photography bridesmaids carry the train of the dress

I love the fact that modern cameras make it possible to obtain images at all in this level of light, especially with such low noise characteristics:

vinopolis wedding photography bride walks down the aisle

vinopolis wedding photography putting on the ring

vinopolis wedding photography bride and groom leave the ceremony

Applause for the newly married couple, and we start to see how magnificent the venue is:

vinopolis wedding photography bride and groom arrive for the breakfast

The speeches presented me with a problem, as it was fairly difficult to get any kind of view with a long lens from the back of the hall, so I crouched in front of the top table to avoid getting in anyone’s way, and poked my lens up over the table from time to time.

vinopolis wedding photography father of the bride speech

vinopolis wedding photography groom speech

vinopolis wedding photography best man speech

vinopolis wedding photography toasting the bride

Generally, I’m an available-light kind of photographer, and pretty much the only time I use flash at a wedding is for the first dance (off-camera of course), just to add some atmosphere:

vinopolis wedding photography first dance wide angle

vinopolis wedding photography first dance

The reception continued on into the evening with a céilidh. I managed to grab a few shots before the whole venue descended into organised chaos!

vinopolis wedding photography céilidh dancing

There’s something rather wonderful about photographing a good friend’s wedding, and in this case it was doubly true. I also had the advantage that comes with a friend’s wedding of having that little bit extra rapport with the couple, and therefore a better understanding on their part of how the documentary photography process works.

Peak District Commercial Photography: Blacksmith At Work

This is Darren Ainsworth. He works as a blacksmith near Buxton in the Peak District.

Blacksmith at Work in the Peak District

I had the privilege of photographing Darren in his workshop and I have to say that I had no idea how intricate the skill is and how much is involved in producing the finished product. I think I had in the back of my mind the childhood memory that a blacksmith makes horses’ shoes, but I am now educated that this is the skill of a farrier, which is a similar skill to that of a blacksmith. In fact, Darren tells me that he is a Farrier, Blacksmith and Wheelwright.

Blacksmith cools a molten horseshoe in water

Darren works entirely with his hands, in the traditional sense, which is unusual as most pieces are manufactured by machine these days. It does mean that he can produce bespoke pieces of metal and that everything he makes is unique.

The following photograph demonstrates just how dangerous the job of a documentary photographer (er, I mean blacksmith) can be. Darren had earlier explained that the process of fire welding tends to make the sparks fly (as the flux and impurities are squashed out when hit by the hammer), so I hid behind a four-inch wide pole. Unfortunately, I am not four inches wide. Notice that Darren is, sensibly, wearing goggles.

Sparks fly as a Blacksmith draws out molten metal

Here’s a small selection of images to demonstrate some of the skills involved.

Composite Image showing the skills of a blacksmith

And here’s the finished product:

The finished product of a blacksmith's work

Darren has, apparently, made his own wheels for a Penny Farthing bicycle, and I’m hoping to get the chance to photograph his skills as a wheelwright at some stage in the future.

Contact me to discuss my commercial documentary photography or to get in touch with Darren Ainsworth.

Kingscote Barn Wedding Photography – Chris and Em

A week or so before Christmas, I returned to Kingscote Barn, a now familiar location on the edge of the Cotswolds. Chris and Em’s wedding took place in that short space of time between the two recent cold snaps. This was a real blessing in so far as all the guests (and the photographer!) were able to travel with no problems.

The lights were dimmed, and the ceremony took place via candlelight, which presented its own challenge for the photography, but does add to the ethereal nature of the images. The photographs may make it look light daylight, but it was twilight, and very dark indeed. The reception was a laid-back affair, and I think the friendly nature of the wedding couple and their celebration comes across in the photographs.

Here is a selection of my favourite images from the day. My thanks go to Chris and Em for allowing me to photograph their wedding.

Kingscote Barn Wedding Venue in the Cotswolds

Wedding Photography: Photograph of Wedding Dress with bridesmaids behind

Wedding Photography: Make-up artist gets the bride ready for her wedding at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Bridesmaid pours champagne while the other bridesmaid looks on

Wedding Photography: Bridesmaids carry the champagne to the bride

Wedding Photography: The Bride celebrates with her bridesmaids before her wedding at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Bridesmaids prepare the dress for the bride

Wedding Photography: The bride tries on the dress before her wedding

Wedding Photography: Candlelit Wedding At Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: A small child before the ceremony at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The bride appears at the door of the venue at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The best man shakes the groom's hand before the ceremony at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The bride walks down the aisle at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The wedding ceremony at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The exchange of the rings at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The signing of the register at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The bride and groom leave the ceremony at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The bride and groom after the ceremony at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: A bridesmaid celebrates with a drink at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Canapes at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Wedding cake at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Before the wedding breakfast at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The guests sit at the tables at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Confetti is thrown during the first dance at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The first dance at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: The Moon Loungers play at Kingscote Barn

Wedding Photography: Wedding dancing taken from the gallery at Kingscote Barn

See more wedding photography from Kingscote Barn.

Capturing the Decisive Moment in Wedding Photography

Documentary photography is the art of capturing the events of the day without interfering in those events, to tell a story without becoming part of that story. It is well known that Henri Cartier-Bresson described the concept of the “decisive moment”, that moment in time that can convey so much more than the material sum of the elements in the image. As he also says, “Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

It is this decisive moment that documentary wedding photographers crave, and I can tell you that there’s a feeling of euphoria when you do manage to capture it. The image below is a fairly well known type of shot – the groom turns to see his bride-to-be for the first time, walking down the aisle. But what really makes this image is the hand on the arm from the best man, that conveys all sorts of meaning, an act of intimacy between two friends.

wedding photography bride walking down the aisle with groom and best man watching

And here’s a close-up of the bride’s big moment – all eyes are on her:

wedding photography here comes the bride

UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010

OK, I admit, it wasn’t me, but I did entertain a distant hope of becoming the Take A View Landscape Photographer of the Year as my mushroom image, below, was shortlisted by the judges for this year’s award.

shortlisted image for UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010

But, as I found out tonight, it wasn’t to be, as the winners were informed today, and will be announced in tomorrow’s Sunday Times magazine.

It’s worth pointing out that the above image was taken with the cheapest digital SLR that I have owned, with one of the cheapest lenses that I have owned. It just goes to prove what I’ve always believed that you don’t need incredibly expensive kit to take a good landscape image. You simply need a good grasp of composition, understanding of how lighting will affect the subject, plus a little imagination as to what will work and what won’t. On top of that, it’s vitally important to be able to master usage of the particular camera and any other equipment that you are using.

In case you are wondering, the above image was taken at Harrop Tarn in the Lake District with a Canon 20D DSLR and Sigma 10-20mm lens set to the extreme wideangle focal length of 10mm. It was taken with the camera lying on the wet autumn leaves and with me lying flat on my front. I don’t take many images of fungi, or fauna in general, but the fact that each of the mushrooms was in a different state of decay appealed to me. Added to that, I think that the unusual viewpoint for this kind of subject gives the image impact. The photographer who was accompanying me remarked at the time that the picture reminded her of being at home with the fairies.

Lake District Photographs – Days 5 & 6 – from Buttermere, Honister Pass, Castlerigg Stone Circle and Loughrigg Tarn

Here’s my post for the final two days of photography in the Lake District, last Thursday and Friday. As you’ll be able to see, I had a chance to go to town with my Infrared-converted Canon 20D for the first time on the trip. As infrared digital photography produces false (meaningless) colours, I use my own actions in Photoshop to try to recreate (approximately) realistic colours in sky, water and foliage.

As usual, these are very rough edits. See the previous days’ images here and here.

The first five images are from that most classic of Lake District locations – Buttermere.

The Honister Pass is situated between Buttermere and Derwent Water, and is the site of an active slate mine. There was a bit of a storm brewing that day.


Castlerigg Stone circle is one of the most beautiful ancient monuments in the UK, and it’s certainly hard to find a time with no other visitors in the scene. Here, it almost looks like winter in Infrared.

The final six photographs are from Loughrigg Tarn, where early-autumn colours and strong tree shapes were the order of the day.

Lilies in water are a subject that I’ve wanted to tackle since getting my camera converted to infrared earlier this summer.