#08 – The Garden Party

When a two-hour train journey takes 7 hours, you hope that the destination will be worth the effort.

IMG_1875This weekend, it was.

I left London Euston on the 19:30 west-coast mainline service direct to Preston, with the intention of arriving in Preston about 21:45 just in time to get a curry from the Northwest’s best curry house, the Lalbagh.

Sadly, events out of almost everyone’s control meant that rather than two and a quarter hours after leaving Euston, over seven, seven hours later, I finally arrived in Preston. By now it was close to 0200. The train journey was horrendous, the bar and café were emptied completely during the journey, and because the over-head cables were isolated, there was no air-con for the duration of the 6-hour delay.

The biggest disappointment was that by 0200, as you might imagine, the Lalbagh was long since closed. Fortunately, Mum and Dad had already bought me a curry earlier in the event, I heated it up and all the frustration of the 7-hour journey was lost.

On with the weekend.

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Myself and Hannah were back for a charity garden party Mum and Dad were hosting in aid of Christie’s cancer hospital. Day revolved around afternoon tea, with more cakes than you can imagine, and a performance from the local choir.

Thankfully, the weather that caused so much discomfort the evening before, on an air-con-less train, stuck around for another day and the whole event was bathed in glorious sunshine; only before the family BBQ in the evening did the rain arrive, typical.

I’m not much of a baker, I did spend university making my own bread rather than buying store-bought loaves, but that’s the extent of my knowledge, and that is not particularly difficult.

With this in mind, baking cakes for 50 people seemed like something better left to those who know how. And what a job they did, the 50+ people that actually turned up hardly made a dent in the hordes of cakes that arrayed the counter in our house. This was the second year Mum and Dad have hosted this event, but my first while helping out.

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What a great day it was, so much effort went into the preparation and planning that it went off without a hitch. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the quality of baking was outstanding, I should know, I bought a whole box of them back with me and tried pretty much every variety. Even next door’s cat settled down on a chair in the garden just to be a part of it.

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I put my skills to better use. The day allowed me to try a different style of photography, the not-quite-wedding style but with similar themes to be portrayed through the lens.

The few weddings I have photographed have taught me a great deal about applying photography to a situation. It’s much less point and shoot than you might think.

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For instance, you take a landscape shot at dawn or dusk, and without trying too hard, you’ll get a better photo than if you were in the same location in the middle of the day with flat light beaming down on the same area, and so you work time into the equation for landscapes.

For parties and weddings, you need to create a feeling of enjoyment and that comes through warmth in the photos – well that’s my style at least.

So, I went into this event knowing what to do: keep the in-photo noise down, and over-expose photos where necessary. By doing this, everything is bright with an air of jollity about it. You capture the warmth of the event, the happiness and enjoyment that people derive from it. Of course, there is room for innovation and to try something different, but if the majority of your photos follow a theme, people will move from one to the next easily and feel the emotions through the lens that you felt in person as a photographer.

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I’m pretty pleased with what I got, I need to work on specific aspects such as – as I call it – professionalisation, that style that pro-photographers manage to produce that makes their photos stand out and gives you, as the viewer, the inclination that it was taken by a pro, but I feel like some of these photos have that to a certain extent. I feel that this professionalisation is hardest to achieve when taking photos of people, but it is definitely something I can work on, and study a little more in detail. Maybe a fixed 50mm lens might help achieve it, allowing me to reach wider apertures? Hmm…

But after hours and hours of preparation, days of baking, erecting tables and gazebos, it was all suddenly over. After three hours in the sun, eating cake and drinking tea, everyone just trickled away. Still, it was definitely worth a 7-hour train.

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