Rangefinder Rising Stars 2024

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Wow. This is huge for me.

Becoming one of Rangefinder Magazine’s 30 Rising Stars of wedding photography in the world is as big as it gets. It is perhaps the pinnacle of accolades for a wedding photographer, if you manage to make the list in one year, it is an accolade for life. And one that carries a huge amount of honour within the wedding photography industry. To join a small but very highly coveted exclusive list of past winners who represent the best of the best in wedding photography.

Look back through the alumni, and you see many photographers who have gone on to incredible things, the best in the business. As I worked forwards as a photographer, I have always looked at the Rising Star list each year with eager anticipation, there are those who’s work I have always looked up to and admired, so it is humbling to find myself now on the list also.

It still hasn’t sunk in.

“These emerging photographers show promise in taking the aesthetics of wedding photography to new places. Visionaries today, they are the educators and mentors of the future. We recognise the exciting time it is to be a wedding photographer, and Rangefinder is honoured to be part of highlighting and celebrating the talent, diversity and remarkable creativity in the industry.”

RANGEFINDER MAGAZINE

You can’t apply to The Rising Stars. It is a process shrouded in much secrecy, and is perhaps the most sought after award in the industry. Rangefinder Rising Stars is by nomination only, and every year, the editors of the prestigious New York based Rangefinder Magazine collect these nominations from leading photographers in the wedding industry around the world. Then the photographers of the year chosen are those who have not only showcased exceptional technical skill but also possess a distinct artistic vision that sets them apart in the world of wedding photography, with a unique voice and creative direction.

The nominated photographers are invited to submit a very carefully curated portfolio of just 30 images which are cohesive and tell the narrative of who you are as a photographer. The judges are looking for images that are fresh, new, industry defining, with originality of vision. This has to be supported with clearly written statements which outline your purpose and vision as a photographer. Then, applications are pored over and judged carefully by the world’s leading photographers over a 6 month period, before the chosen best 30 photographers for that year are announced. 

 

What does it mean going forward?

Unlike other careers, my photography has always been totally self taught, picking up learning and inspiration along the way. There is no qualification that says you are officially a wedding photographer. In an industry driven by quality, you can be just a wedding photographer and be happy with that, or you can aspire to be the best you can be. 

This gives me a huge boost in confidence, and confirmation that I am on the right path, one which is forging my own identity as a photographer, with my own style which i am incredibly proud of. In a super saturated market, being able to stand out from the crowd is increasingly hard to achieve.

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How did I choose my portfolio?

Curating my portfolio of 30 images in a specific flowing order was one of the hardest things I have had to do, with every single image having to absolutely earn its place in the sequence. So many favourites had to be left out. It took me months to reach the final 30 for the portfolio, then to tie it all together with words to describe my motivation, and my story.  Each image had to absolutely earn it’s place, and all images had to cohesively fit together, and support the statements I was making in my application to describe my vision as a photographer.


Essentially, it is my background as a landscape photographer which has fuelled my inspiration with weddings. Landscape photography is an art form, crafting just one image with incredible attention to detail. Drawing on reflections, patterns int he landscape and the core photography fundamentals of light and composition is what drives me as a wedding photography.

I have always been drawn to low sunlight and backlight like a moth to a flame, and I love to seek the glow, and shadows painted with low sunlight. I constantly seek subtle and hidden reflections, and use these and shadows as best possible to double or emphasise the narrative. To me these are all influences that have evolved from landscape photography more than anything else, and it allows me to feel I am on my own path. I also believe in the power of composition, regularly seeking frames, symmetry, mirroring and golden spirals in my vision, and using the landscape principles of foreground, mid and background, all subtle details that make a huge difference to the overall feel of my images.

Then it is about the synergy with a documentary and observational approach. and I am a firm believe that you don’t have to be either documentary or creative, the two can combine perfectly together with natural storytelling.

My Rangefinder 30 Portfolio


The 30 images I chose for my Rangefinder 30 Rising Stars portfolio, and the the stories behind them.

The first image was key in grabbing attention, and setting the narrative for the rest of the portfolio. This is one of my all time favourites, encompassing my love of golden light, sunset, layers and depth, and adventure.

Lucy and Johann had a small elopement wedding in the Lake District, and a big part of my ethos is to add a ’sense of place’ to my images, it’s a fusion of my love for landscape photography, and weddings. I know the mountains well, and how weather patterns can change in minutes. So whilst it was a cloudy day, I knew there was a glimmer of a chance for a sunset, and only one place we could go, out of the valley and up high into the mountains. 

Lucy and Johann were really into their ballroom dancing, and had done their incredible first dance a little earlier. I suggested we head out quickly and drove up into the hills to a point where I knew we could access the hills easily. The stars began to align, and as I thought, the sun would eventually drop below the band of cloud above, and bathed us in some incredible light. I asked them to head across to a point, and to simply go through their moves from their first dance again, knowing communication would be difficult because of the distance, and the wind. I love the fact that I wasn’t asking them to pose, I asked them to do what they loved and was natural to them, to dance, knowing the photo was something they would recognise as true to themselves. This was my favourite moment. For me it’s the layers that make it – the intersecting lines of distant mountains, each one more faint than the next, which gives a sense of depth and perspective. The Langdale Pike mountains in the background are iconic, which gives that sense of place I look for, and to tell the story of who they are with their free spirits, love of dance and a ‘let’s do it’ approach, combined with where they chose to get married because it was so important to them. 

A moment is everything, a split second captured for eternity, and this moment still gives me goosebumps, and a lump in my throat.

Lee, the groom, was a decorated RAF pilot who a year before had piloted this very helicopter over the stricken ferry Riverdance, which ran aground in a heavy storm in Morecambe Bay. In atrocious conditions, with the ferry listing and swaying heavily on the verge of capsize, Lee and his crew saved the lives of 23 people. 

Lee didn’t know the RAF Sea King was due to fly past on his wedding day, but his wife Maggie did. The unforgettable sound echoed louder around the mountains, then there she was, hovering above the previously still waters of Talyllyn. The door opened, the winchman and crew saluted, then the Sea King performed a bow, before turning and roaring back up the valley, with the downdraft lifting and spraying droplets of the lake like rain.

Then silence. 

There is of course another connection and unbreakable bond here, with the unrelenting support of Lee’s wife Maggie, alongside the crew with whom he risked so much. So for me, this moment is everything, and to this day I am immensely proud to have been there to share it.

First dances usually take place indoors, on a dark dance floor, but they don’t have to. Incorporating a sense of place is a big part of my philosophy, so I suggested to Lucy and Steve that they could dance outside at sunset, and with the DJ onside, they were totally up for it. To me this tells the story of where they got married so much better than an indoor photo.

Details are important, especially flowers, the craft of the most incredible florists we work with. The flowers fade within hours on the day, so in some ways portraits of them are just as important too, to celebrate their beauty. I love to find interesting patches of light, and the strong winter sunlight falling on this polished concrete floor with shadow behind was just perfect for this bouquet. Framing the shadow of the flowers themselves was equally important too, providing the replication I love in photography.

I always try to capture a photo of the dress hanging if it is out on display, (though a wedding dress always looks so much better with a bride in it!) as it is part of the story, the dress eagerly awaiting the bride. One of the bridesmaids had hung this long dress from a skylight in the stairwell, as it was the only place it would hang freely, and then it was steamed in situ. As I passed on the stairs, I knew this was a part of the story, and above all a totally unique angle of one of the mundane but essential preparation tasks.

Highlights, and shadow. It’s a classic for me, using light in the best possible way to provide contrast between two subjects. The window light catches Melissa’s face with shadow in the background, while Olga the make up artist is backlit by the window light, so she is in shadow. then all it needed was the moment, the spray travelling through the air and the hand to protect the face, to tie it together.

I love mirrors, the best way to bring together multiple layers within an image. Natalie is the subject, checking the details in her hair, while a bridesmaid adjusts the back. Moments like these are always fast moving, especially when shooting through multiple arms. The stars just aligned for me here, and what ties it together for me is the way the image is broken down with multiple triangles and leading lines. This was one of the reasons I chose black and white, as without the distraction of colour, the eye can focus on the form, and the layers lead you to the ultimate subject.

Moving on from a mirror, another reflection in bridal preparations, this time with a painting. This was in the bride’s bedroom, so the painting I know was important, and signifies a previous generation looking on. Each wedding has a unique story, and only a few months prior, Army captain Amy had the honour of riding the horse which lead the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II down the Mall in London. Once the details were finished here, she went downstairs, and climbed aboard her horse to ride it to church for her own wedding.

I love symmetry, both in form and replication, to bring balance to an image in many ways. St Giles House is such in incredible place steeped in history, with the painting of Lady Shaftesbury of the house from many generations ago hanging in pride of place on the stairs. I wanted to capture a simple and effortless portrait of Hannah as she left bridal preparation which also tells the story of the history of St Giles. With the doorframe there was this perfect symmetry, another frame which leant itself to being filled. Incredibly, even the chair matched too. I wanted this to be a surprise for Hannah though, so rather than asking her to replicate Lady Shaftesbury, I just asked her to stand in the doorway, and be herself. She naturally put her hand on the rail, the flowers dropped to the side, and a moment of laughter shared with a bridesmaid completed the moment.

For me storytelling is about telling as much of the story as possible in just one image, which is why I love mirrors so much. Here is Sally walking downstairs, and her mums reaction to seeing her for the first time. Only with mirrors can you see both faces as two people look at each other.

Rebecca travelled to the church in a cart pulled by two magnificent working New Forest ponies. I wanted to get her leaving for church, but also incorporate the horses, and the best way was down on the floor, where the frame between the horses legs created the composition, as well as highlighting the size of these magnificent beasts.

This frame leads on from the previous in terms of time of day and also the frame, so it sits well in the sequence for me. Abigail’s daughter and future husband await her as she walks down the aisle. The moment of anticipation from both sides.

Another reflection, Ana and Richard share a moment during the hymns, in the organists mirror in church.

A rare portrait orientation image for me, but there was a reason. With my landscape background I have always loved bringing in the sky, and the magnificent ceiling at The Mount Without in Bristol was almost otherworldly, and just had to be incorporated in this view as Emily and Jordan tied the knot.

Hampton Court House is an incredible venue, built by the Earl of Sandwich, who also invented the world famous bread dish in this very room. The door leads out onto the wilds of Bushy Park, and having been for portraits with the deer, I’d left Kate and Huw alone for a few quiet moments together. Once inside I looked back and saw the perfect frame almost like a painting, the wild outdoors set against perfect indoor symmetry.

Caitlin and Danny got married on their own farm, and wanted some photos in their wild flower meadow which they created and walk through every day, it is an important place. I wanted to capture them in a different way, and from above the density of the flowers is really apparent, and how they are very much a part of it.

Rebecca and Jack wanted to wander the wilds of the New Forest on their day, and the ponies are an iconic part of the place. I wanted to include them somehow as part of the story, but wild ponies are unpredictable, and definitely don’t do what they are asked to! So I had to work around them, constantly moving to keep this pony in the frame, while the couple wandered in the background. 

A reflection in shadows, with the shadows being the subject themselves. Laura and James were just wandering down a path on their way to the group photos, but I’m always observing, and love the inbetween. I also love how James has left the label on his shoes….

Tunnels Beaches is an iconic venue in Devon, with a long tunnel being the only way to get to the venue. I didn’t want to stage this, I wanted a natural moment. Megan and Ryan headed off to their accommodation to fetch a few things for the party, so I knew there was an opportunity, and wanted to capture them silhouetted at the end of the tunnel, walking for movement. I wanted a 16:9 composition to us the walls of the tunnel to create a golden spiral composition. Megan looked to Ryan, the wind caught her dress, and that completed the image.  I love to capture images like this without the couple knowing too, as it is always a surprise. I love it when I’ve spotted something I just know you are going to love seeing later.

Kat and Gareth wanted to run in the sea on their wedding day, which is a must if you get married on a beach. I also wanted to incorporate the splashing waves, so moved away from them, and left them to themselves. As they ran across the beach they realised just how cold the water was, and with a splash of water, the concept was complete. 

The Covid pandemic wreaked havoc for the plans of many couples, including Roisin and Adam. They changed their plans to a quick elopement to Cornwall, which is how we ended up on an almost deserted beach in summer. I love the crystal clear turquoise water in Cornwall, coupled with the golden sands, and the only way to really appreciate this is from above. I knew the sun would create shadows, and I wanted the shadows to be the subject, telling the story of their wedding day on a perfect and quiet Cornish beach.

Golden backlight is amongst my favourite, I love shooting towards the sun at this time of day, coupled with just allowing the couple to be themselves, and observing from a distance, as the authentic chemistry completes the moment.

Quite often, after we complete a couple shoot, I will leave the couple for a moment together alone. it’s a rare peaceful moment for them, and there is no longer the pressure for me to deliver, I can explore bringing in the surroundings, and give a real sense of place to the images. I wanted to shoot through the waves, and managed to use a well paced rock to keep my feet dry as the water surged in between me and the couple.

Tim and James had their reception in the magnificent grand hall at Magdalen College in Oxford. The head table had grandeur about it, with the wood panelling behind, and almost had a ‘last supper’ feel to it, so I wanted to shoot it straight on, with flash to light Tim. It was an emotional speech, as the couple recalled the difficulty they had sharing their love with the world, and it is right that times have changed. I wanted to photograph this respectfully and quietly, from a distance.

This mirror at Tunnels Beaches provides the perfect picture frame for the start of Michelle and Dan’s first dance, and allowed me to bring in the faces and shadows of their guests, for extra layered interest.

One thing I have really been pushing to develop over the last year has been projecting shadows on to walls and ceilings using a low directionally held flash, for shadow painting. For me adding repetition in silhouette is a a means of amplifying the form of the subject, but with fast moving dancing it is a tricky technique to master, so all the more rewarding when it comes together.

The picture gallery at Somerley House is simply magnificent, and with the venue being important to Becky and Matt, it deserved to be celebrated. The shape and form leant itself perfectly to a symmetrical shot, so I asked the couple to stand by the lights and used these to light them as they looked away. A simple pose, but quite regal.

Sunset on a stormy beach, one of my favourite places to shoot. With silhouettes likely against the still bright sun, I needed to lie down for separation, but to me that gives such a more interesting angle, I also wanted the light to flow through Lauren’s dress, to really highlight the detail.

I love the tidal path at Tunnels Beaches, and it is the most perfect place when the tide and light are right, but tricky to shoot also, as the couple are always out of earshot when they walk. So I gave clear and Luke clear instruction to walk and lead, and to keep looking towards each other, with Claire carrying her dress for interest. I knew as they got closer to the flock of birds happily floating in the lagoon, they would take flight, so had to time the capture perfectly.

The last image in my portfolio, and how I often like to finish a wedding day, with a night time shot under the stars, something which will form the final double page spread in the album. Thew statue of Eros is a big feature at St Giles House, and as the ancestral home of the Earl of Shaftesbury, it is one of a pair, the other being the better known one at the head of Shaftesbury Avenue in Piccadilly Circus, London. Here are Jenni and Alex and a flash back lit moment to finish the day.

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