The clocks have changed and apparently it’s officially Springtime here. The days are beginning to stretch and the light lingers little longer in the evenings. We closed out last years weddings in the company of Michelle and Stephen whose celebrations carried them through midnight and into a New Year and a new phase in their life together. Hair and Makeup expertly managed by “Powder ‘n’ Pout” from Carndonagh, in a Maggie Sottero gown from “Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage” in Greysteel, County Derry, Michelle set off to St Michael’s in Urris as the grey skies filled with rain over Mamore Gap. Over the years, we’ve photographed a lot of weddings here, in fair weather and foul. Urris, as anyone who knows the area will tell you, sees some fairly severe conditions at times and this day was no exception. Still the guests laughed and joked with us as they rushed from their cars through the downpour to the shelter of this remote church, dismissive of the wild and windy day. Roof beams creaking in the wind did nothing to distract from the musical accompaniment to the ceremony by Maeve Ward with the service conducted with his usual warmth and humour by Fr. Brady. The service over, we set off to visit the home of Stephen’s Grandmother which lies at the foot of the road leading thought the Gap of Mamore.Later, despite the weather and, specifically at the request of Michelle, we headed up to The Gap. The strip fields below are a well known landmark in this area but more importantly this is where Stephen and his family are from, this is their place and part of who they are. It’s an appropriate background, but not just photographically. As dusk fell we moved on to The Ballyliffin Hotel, the wedding formalities all but over aside from the speeches, the wedding celebrations continued as the New Year rolled around.
The basic requirements for making a photograph are light and time. Those two elements, coupled with some sort sensitive surface be it digital or film based and you’re pretty much sorted. If however, as Shane & Kerry did, you set the date for December 30th, you can be pretty certain that light and time are going to be in fairly short supply here in Donegal. It has often been said, in the world of wedding planning, that the one element you can’t book in advance is the weather. Nonetheless, while the weather could have been kinder, it could certainly have been much worse, and Shane & Kerry seemed pretty unconcerned. The low, cool, blue winter light contrasted sharply with the warmth of St. Mary’s Church. Venturing into the cold once more even as dusk fell, Shane and Kerry were still determined to see through their plans to have their wedding photographs include at least some outdoor settings. So with the last faint rays after the sun had set, with a little help from a video light, the floodlights on the Castle Bridge and maybe just a hint of the wedding car headlights we made one last quick stop before the reception.
Gary & Claire’s wedding, the first wedding in the newly refurbished Plaza Ballroom in the heart of the Main Street in Buncrana.Over the years The Plaza Ballroom witnessed its share of romance. Saturday night dances probably saw the beginning of many relationships with young couples who would go on to marry after a first meeting under the ballroom lights. The small hall opened in 1944, the Main Ballroom on July 12th 1958 and throughout the 60’s and 70’s The Plaza was at its peak. Later years saw the Dance Halls up and down the country wane in their popularity, and lights of The Plaza grew dim. Saturday night dancing was replaced by Sunday night Bingo until that too came to and end in the 90’s. Over the years the building had fallen into disrepair, and the black & white pictures of the dance goers in their Saturday night outfits which lined the walls faded into memory. The Sunday morning display of pictures in the little shop across the street, where couples or friends could buy a copy of their photographs from the night before, ended too. A community led effort in recent years has seen The Plaza come to life again and once more the crowds are drawn in on the weekend for bands, plays and dancing. The celebration of Gary & Claire’s marriage, with catering by The Lily Rose, was the first wedding reception to be held here in maybe 40 years. The couple themselves painstakingly crafted the table favours and the decorations.A new era of Saturday night dancers, as we pay our little homage to the tradition of ‘having your picture taken’ at The Plaza. Gary & Claire with Ursula, who helps manage The Plaza today as it comes back to life.So, the lights have come back on and once again the dance floor in the Plaza fills with people.
Mary & Leo recently made the long trip back home from Australia to Donegal for their wedding in the spectacular setting of Letterkenny CathedralUsually separated from their families by twelve thousand miles or more, their day started from the place they still think of as homeSet on a hill, high above the hustle and bustle of the town, The Cathedral offers a calm, quiet haven from the world outsideWhile weddings are undeniably serious ceremonies, there should always be a place for a little levity and humour to calm any frayed nervesPhotographers seem to get younger every dayCeremony and formalities almost all done the wedding moved on to Castlegrove House, just a few miles from the townWinding down the laneway, far from any road, family and friends take their ease in the tranquility and privacy that Castlegrove offersWeddings like this one are not easily organised from the other side of the world, the logistics are challenging to say the least. They are too, for us, a reminder of how happy we are when we are given the opportunity to share in them and contribute what we can to making them memorable
We recently had the privilege of photographing a particularly lovely wedding day. One with only a select number of guests, held in one of Ireland’s finest hotels. It rained a bit, but not too much, the sun came out, but not for long, it was a little bit special.
But we won’t be sharing photographs of the bride getting her hair styled, or her father getting a first glimpse of the bride in her finery, or the groom nervously checking his speech, or their first kiss as husband and wife…….Because we understand that sometimes our clients want to keep these intimate moments within their intimate sphere.
This couple were very particular about every detail of their wedding day (not picky, not control freaky just particular), and in particular they knew that they wanted to share this day only with their nearest and dearest.
So their request that their photographs remain private was entirely in keeping with the tone of the day
Over the years we’ve photographed a lot of weddings and, every so often we’ll meet the couples we’ve worked with in the past again, as their families grow. It doesn’t seem so long ago that photographed Jo & Michael’s wedding in London, but here they are again. This time their family has grown more quickly than is usually the case, and they came in to the studio the other day with Sarah, Sylvia and a very happy Granny.
It’s obvious that a great deal of planning goes into organising a wedding. Like many of our clients, Laura & Sean had to do much of their planning at a distance from home in England before arriving here for their big day. Most of the practical and logistical issues can, these days at least, be managed online or by way of email, but whether from home or abroad the one thing we know we can’t arrange in advance, especially here in Donegal is the weather. On the morning of the wedding, we arrived to met up with Sean and his family at the house they were leaving from. Can we just say the weather was clearly going to be, well, challenging?
From the house, set up on a hill overlooking Trawbreaga Bay, the weather changes could be seen rushing in off the Atlantic. Waves of rain, high wind and intermittent spells of dazzling sunlight. Laura was getting ready in a slightly more sheltered location, but there was still no likelihood of doing much out of doors. With a bridal party of seven bridesmaids, there was plenty of help on hand for Laura to prepare. No, we were not going to risk any hair or dress mishaps outdoors in the constantly changing conditions. As luck would have it, a break in the rain saw Laura and the girls make it to the church without any weather related mishaps. The Church of The Sacred Heart in Carndonagh sits high on a hill overlooking the surrounding area, and it’s a pretty exposed location on the finest of days. Ceremony over, Laura & Sean weren’t going to let a little ‘weather’ stop them heading to the beach on the Isle of Doagh. They’d come a long way to get married here, they weren’t giving up on their wish to have the wild Donegal landscape feature as the setting for at least some of their wedding photographs. There is something wonderful about the character of the light here, at almost the most northerly point in the country, with little between here and Newfoundland. With a few brief spells between some fairly dramatic showers, Laura and Sean got the pictures they had hoped for. That part of the day over, we all set off to Redcastle on the east, and happily more sheltered side of the Inishowen Peninsula. Still just a bit breezy even here! So, the day moves on. Indoors with no thoughts or cares about the weather any longer. Sean, sporting his new wedding ring and look completely unruffled by the elements.
Over the years that we’ve been photographing weddings, we’ve often been asked if we can suggest a “good place” for taking photographs. It’s a reasonable enough question, obviously. It’s also a trickier question than it might first appear, since it brings into play a number of factors that have little if anything to do with photography. Travel time, accessibilty, conditions underfoot, peoples comfort, the weather (obviously), all sorts of elements have to be taken into account.
The driving force behind the question is pretty clear, most people have in mind an idea of a ‘picturesque’ setting as being needed, while from our perspective we’re as concerned with the practical issues as we are with the visual ones.More than once in the past, we’ve had requests to take pictures in particularly remote or dramatic settings – well given where we are in the world, the drama of the landscape can really add to the work we produce. Sometimes though, it pays to take a step back and remember that we’re there to photograph a wedding after all, and that all the other parts of the day have a significance too.Our first sight of the Bride-to-be on the day, Alison. Yes, she just moved the tractor so we could park up beside the house. It’s pretty clear from the start that ‘The Land’ is more to Alison and Graham than a pretty backdrop for pictures. It’s an integral part of who and what they are, it’s not just scenery. For a late Autumn wedding, the weather was kinder than we might have hoped for or expected. There’s a clarity about that low, angled light that picks out detail and texture like at no other time of the year. The wedding took place in the cool, dark of the Church. Then, back into the clear wintry light. Oh, yes, that’s where this blog started . . . We were talking about locations, weren’t we?Well, we could have gone to the woods by the river in Rathmelton, The Town Park in Letterkenny or maybe we could have found a spectacular garden someplace. Or, we could just go home. This isn’t just a ‘place for pictures’ This is their place, their life, their wedding day.
It feels right, it feels like home.
Long before we even moved to Ireland and opened the studio here at The Memory Factory we’ve been behind a camera, documenting family, friends and all sorts of subjects, including a rather self-conscious three year old Roisin “The Poet” McLaughlin seen here. Fast forward 20+ years and find ourselves photographing Roisin & Barry’s wedding on a wild October day in Lagg and at The Malin Hotel.
1: An informal photograph taken quickly, typically with a small hand-held camera.
2: A shot taken quickly by a hunter.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “snapshot” was first used in 1808 (some twenty-one years before the commonly accepted date considered to mark the invention of photography) by Sir Henry Hawker. He noted in his diary that almost every bird he shot that day was takenby snapshot, meaning a hurried shot, taken without deliberate aim. Snapshot then, was originally a hunting term, and not one which implied carelessness or a lack of skill. I suppose as photographers we like to align ourselves with the latter definition, rather than the former. As we have said elsewhere, ‘formality’ has become (rightly or wrongly) synonymous with ‘boring’, and we are exhorted to ‘snap away’. Fine. We will. The trick is to marry the two definitions, and to blend them into something worth remembering. Millions of photographs are taken every day by people with no aspirations to be considered photographers or artists, but they are made with common intent. To commemorate, to celebrate, and above all, to remember. That face. That moment. That they were there. That they existed for that time. Many of them may be technically flawed, the equipment may have been poorly chosen, the circumstances less than ideal. Yet there may be value in them just the same.
As strangers, brought in from somewhere outside that group of people, we are entrusted with the responsibility of making images which will connect with our clients and help them mark and remember some of the most profound moments of their lives. Usually, we would hope to get all the technical mumbo-jumbo sorted too. Usually.