French Bride & Children. [Alamy image ref. BR8T72]

Until this summer I had never done a wedding – as a “paid job” – since I left my first, last and only salaried job in 1974 to become a freelance photographer… a period of 37 years continually cocking my nose at such type of work as being uninteresting, uncreative and unworthy of my way of seeing. In reality, I was probably scared stiff at the thought of cocking-up that one-and-only unrepeatable day of bliss for each happy couple, their extended family and lifelong friends during those decades when film was de rigeur and had to be processed and printed a day or two later when everyone had long gone from the event and, in many cases, never to meet up again until the next funeral… such are many families!

However, I had engaged in taking a few casual snaps whenever the bells of the ancient abbey church opposite rang out announcing the arrival of a married couple. Yes, that’s right, only married couples arrive at church in France to be married because by law only a civil marriage in a town hall is considered legal… which seems rather strange in such a strong Roman Catholic nation.

Amongst the occasional weddings I have mingled amongst outside my church was the above scene of the bride in white having her train sorted by children and their fussing mothers. The background was not pretty, and the strong backlighting problematical. I’ve not been a studio or flash user for many years, so have to be desperate to resort to the built-in pop-up flash of my Nikon D300. But, it does seem to work if turned down to half-power… so that the dreaded shadows created by the flash are not apparent in competition with natural shadows.

So although not in any respects being a wedding photographer I was pleased at how this image came out… after some careful “fill-in” performed in Adobe Lightroom. I was even more surprised when it was used shortly after I uploaded it to Alamy.

Since then, I have actually accepted and completed a wedding for money… and enjoyed the whole affair from first ceremony in the Mairie to the traditional white wedding in the church followed by the knees-up in a mini-manor house and garden afterwards. From the 330 shots I took during the four hours of proceedings, 220 were saved as large jpegs for the happy couple. My largest number of off-shots were taken inside the large church where on-camera flash was woefully underpowered and my old hand-held Braun 400M Logic – purchased new around 30 years ago – blasted out light in an unsubtle way (I don’t have a dedicated SCA flash adaptor for my current Nikon) for dignified proceedings in church. I did salvage some good shots from oblivion by using a medium-heavy white vignette – again in Lightroom – which lifted the distant dark walls, columns and corners into an airy veil… not unlike what the bride was wearing!

Licensed by Alamy under my “a la France” pseudo for World-wide, editorial textbook (print and e-book) use, unlimited print-run, inside double-page spread… for 10 years. Ahh well, nice to know my image has a timeless quality even though the average marriage lasts somewhat shorter.

Citroen 2CV and scarecrow [Alamy image ref: AGBHJN]

The slightly frantic sound of a Citroen 2CV accelerating leaves you with enough time to grab a camera, change a lens maybe, check the settings, focus and frame, then fire off a series of shots before the subject disappears from view… such is the pace of the French voiture affectionally known to Brits as the “Tin Snail”.

The design brief for the “deux chevaux” (literally ‘two horse power’) was basically for a cheap mode of motorised transport that would have robust enough for a typical peasant farmer to drive to market with his wife and a pig in the back and a basket of eggs on the front seat… the kicker being that as he would probably drive across a ploughed field to get there, the basket of eggs had to survive the journey without breaking! Which they would have done… when you get a puncture with a 2CV, the suspension is so soft and saggy you can jack the side of the car two feet off the ground but the flat tire will still be touching the tarmac.

This red and green 2CV was carrying a scarecrow to a wedding… no need to ask the gender, but it seems to be a French tradition to depict the bride-to-be in this manner – perhaps an unkind warning to the groom after the previous evening’s stag-night celebrations and commiserations. But is presented a jolly scene passing under my hotel window decked out in sunflowers, straw and the scary figure propped up on the back seat… all that was missing was a pink pig!

From memory it was shot at around 20mm with my 14~24mm f/2.8 Nikkor wide-angle zoom at 1/60th and f/5.6… and sold soon afterward to a consumer magazine in Germany with a 10,000 print run.

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