Intimate Weddings at The Savoy, London

Wedding photography. One tends to think of a big ceremony and late night party attended by lots of family and friends, sometimes upwards of 200 people, and all of that to be documented on camera. But occasionally I am asked to photograph a wedding for just the bride and groom, or perhaps the bride, groom and their best friends as witnesses.

These commissions come to me from couples who are choosing an intimate wedding at The Savoy in London, preferring a lovely romantic weekend away to marry quietly without the inevitable stress and planning involved in a large bash. The Savoy offers the perfect setting for this – beautiful suites to marry in, and only a lift ride away from the fabulous American Bar and Kaspars for dinner.

These weddings are very special commissions. My natural wedding photography style is documentary anyway, and this really lends itself to photography at a wedding where there are only a handful of people in the room. Being discreet is essential.

Below I have selected three such weddings, two were just the bride and groom, the third comprise the bride, groom and their best friends with a service in the Savoy Chapel nearby. I start in the same way – observing – noticing and photographing the small details that are always different as each suite is different. It’s always relaxed – the Savoy just does that so well – once inside the comfy quiet rooms, it’s impossible not to unwind into a different world. I photograph the couples getting ready, often with a make-up artist. The registrars arrive, there’s a bit of formalities to do before the ceremony followed by the ceremony itself then a walk about with the couples to shoot some portraits. Two or three hours and the visual story is complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second wedding starts with preparations in the couple’s suite Claude Monet before a ceremony at the nearby Savoy Chapel.

 

The third wedding was a romantic escape to London for the couple before the birth of their third child.  Family heard of the marriage when we took a photograph of the couple holding a ‘just married’ sign.  They wanted a special weekend away together where they could take time to simply be together.  They got ready in their suite and had the ceremony in The Gondoliers Room.

 

Re images 7 & 8 from the bottom….any wedding photographer will probably agree that getting the group and family shots at a large wedding done in a timely way can be a real challenge. With the best planning in the world there’s usually always someone who goes astray – Uncle Whoever who found the champagne and disappeared off somewhere forgetting he was meant to be around at the crucial time. That sort of headache. With an intimate wedding like this – no group shots! Or so I thought. Until one bride and groom were bombarded on the Embankment by 50 Canon enthusiasts. So we did a group shot for them anyway, even if the result is slightly random.

 

I am one of only a handful of preferred photographers for The Savoy Hotel in London and get to work with Bruce Russell and the Fairmont team in a beautiful iconic Savoy Hotel – special commissions indeed.

 

If you are looking for something similar please do get in touch chloe@chloehall.co.uk or you can contact Tamara.Pfaumann@Fairmont.com direct at The Savoy.

 

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A Quiet Place – Yoga in the City

For a while I’ve wanted to try to use photography to convey some of the aspects of yoga that I find really powerful. Not just how it can transform the physical body, but yoga (whether physical postures, or a seated meditation) can be a way of carving out an internal quiet space amidst the busyness and noise of our everyday lives. Whether it’s a repetitive mental dialogue or the external noise of traffic, sirens, construction in London, life can get really noisy. Underneath all that narrative and external noise there is in us all a quiet space. It just doesn’t seem very accessible much of the time.

When we move on a yoga mat, focused on our breath, concentrated on holding a posture, the mental noise can quiet down, and the external sounds often drop away from our focus too. Photography has the same effect for me. I wanted to do a yoga shoot in the heart of the City on a weekday afternoon when it’s busy.

I collaborated with Vanessa who I met via Facebook when I was struggling to get a yoga class covered and she stepped in to help. Her yoga background is very different to mine. As a child I refused to do ballet, had flat feet and came to yoga in my late 20s initially to try to regain some degree of flexibility from cycling. Vanessa is a dance artist – lithe, strong, flexible and incredibly graceful.

And while it’s not helpful to encourage the idea that you need to be really flexible and look like a ‘perfect’ yogi in order to do yoga – you don’t – it is inspiring to see, and beautiful to watch, someone who can hold and move between really challenging physical postures with ease.

Prior to meeting I made a list of a load of postures I thought would look great for the camera, quite a controlled and safe way of approaching a shoot. But as I cycled to the meet her I decided to abandon that list and treat the shoot a little like yoga i.e be a bit more open to what unfolds in the moment. I had a couple of locations in mind I wanted to try but then why not just wander and see what happens. Likewise with the postures, as a starting point I asked Vanessa to begin by standing on some steps outside and just start with a yoga flow – to move as she wanted instead of being directed, holding a posture then flowing into another in a sequence. She started to move using the steps and the handrail – responding to the landscape and echoing their form. So we started using the buildings and landscape around her to inform the postures.

Going through the images afterwards there are two quite different sets of photographs – the quiet moments where it’s about Vanessa’s posture in the urban landscape and some more street photography style photographs where the unexpected collided with us.

What was remarkable (although perhaps not unsurprising coming back to the original point of London being chaotic and everyone rushing about so absorbed by their mobile phone that they don’t see anything else) was the sheer number of people who just walked by without seeming to notice this incredible figure holding herself still on one leg.

It’s often hard to choose a favourite image from a shoot. It’s often luck that gives you a great street photography shot being in the right place when an interesting set of events collide and quick enough to capture the image. It’s very satisfying to get a strong documentary shot and that kind of observational, slightly distant photographer style of photography is what I’m comfortable with. But the image I’m most pleased with is the quietly held paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) shot from above down onto the staircase. Why? Because every image I’ve ever seen of this posture it’s either shot side on, or from in front of the feet, and this feels quite different. And because the idea came to me when we were there. It evolved out of that moment – I saw the treads and asked Vanessa to take the posture in the same form as the stair tread. The softness of her pose contrasts all the sharp lines and shapes around her, and the stairs and brass, her skin and clothing all echo each other.

The photographs are roughly divided into the two categories mentioned above.

If you would like to arrange a shoot out around London please get in touch. To see more of Vanessa’s work and find out where she teaches please visit: https://www.vanessamichielon.com

 

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Justfitwear – fitness brand shoot

A friend of mine, Cece who is big into fitness and is Europe’s #1 female referee at Touch Rugby, has set up her own clothing brand justfitwear.com.  She asked me to join her and a collection of outstanding women from sport – Team GB athletics, touch rugby, and other just plain strong and sassy ladies for a morning in a crossfit studio shooting material for her new website.   I had a couple of aims for the shoot 1. to show the strength and athleticism of these ladies and 2. to show the brand.  We used natural light and the low key tones of the studio and then they just did their thing, making it all look effortless.

Below are some of the images I liked from the shoot, and a couple at the bottom show them in use as on the justfitwear.com website.  The fabric and fit are fantastic.  Anyone into fitness check out the product www.justfitwear.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yoga for Cyclists Article for Virgin Active

Teaching group exercise in gyms has for the last 11 years been a regular part of my weeks in London.  I have permanent group indoor cycle classes (‘spinning’), Body Balance (a Les Mills Programme) and Yoga classes for various London gyms.  It is a great complement to photography which can be quite solitary – behind the camera at a wedding, followed by days in front of the computer editing.

I first became a fitness instructor because I fell in love with spinning – the combination of high energy, dance music and cycling had me hooked from my first class.  My interest in yoga came later, but now is an essential part of my life.  At some point I’ll write more about my fitness journey, but for now I just want to post an article that is on the Virgin Active blog that I co-wrote on the benefits of yoga for cyclists.

Here is the link, and beneath that the text in case the link doesn’t work:

https://www.virginactive.co.uk/active-matters/articles/yoga-for-cycling

Yoga instructor and avid cyclist Chloe hall shares her expertise on why practising yoga is helping you go faster and further on the bike

07 June 2017
By: Chloe Hall and Joseph Cummins In

Look at the aerodynamic position of any pro cyclist and you’ll see similarities to the steady posture of a seasoned yogi. Carefully position limbs, a rock-solid core and relaxed breathing – the two have more in common than a mutual love of lycra.

That’s what draws so many cyclists to the mat in search of the perfect panacea to bike related tensions. Chloe Hall, group cycle (/classes/group-cycle) instructor, avid cyclist, photographer and yoga instructor at Virgin Active Merchant Square (/clubs/merchant-sq), is the first to admit that she didn’t have the liquid limbs of the archetypal yogi. “I’d done a few sportives and cycled the Alps and Pyrenees,” explains Chloe, “Naturally I was not particularly flexible anyway, but I noticed how increasingly tight and inflexible I was getting.”

It was because of this she turned to yoga. As you cycle your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and glutes are under constant stress which causes the muscles to shorten over time. Tight, unforgiving muscles work to pull your body out of alignment and significantly increase the risk of injury.

Your yoga fix

Yoga remedies this by lengthening muscles and taking them through a full range of movement – something you rarely get in the saddle – and increasing flexibility. The forward folds, downward dogs, lunges and twists in a yoga class will help promote muscular balance and healthy movement around the joints. Whatever the variant, it’s tough not to feel a little looser.

Any newfound bendiness will help you hold position with far more ease, and reverse some of the other aches and pains that follow you along the road. “Because of the hunched posture on the bike, and compounded by our modern lifestyle of sitting in front of computers (or being behind a camera in my case), many cyclists and spinning enthusiasts will have weak upper bodies and tight chests. Repeating this year after year we risk developing a kyphotic posture or rounded shoulders,” explains Chloe, “yoga can help strengthen the back, stretch the chest muscles and draw the shoulders back into a better posture (/our-difference/discover- classes/mind-and-body/yoga-align).”

Chloe recommends poses that compliment your position on the bike by reversing the movement. As your shoulders are hunched forward, try poses that will bring your shoulders back and stretch across your front such as camel pose, hero pose and upward facing dog.

Beyond bendy

Whilst the initial appeal to cyclists may be improved flexibility and reduced chance of injury, Chloe stresses that there is so much more to yoga, “yoga can help build strength in your key cycling muscles, and holding your entire body weight in yoga balances challenges the whole of your body, plus the steady breathing in a yoga class will help calm the mind.” But yoga is also a mental discipline – holding a posture when it gets physically challenging is no different to a huge hill climb or interval training session where your mind is screaming at you to stop – can you breathe into the discomfort and work with it rather than react to it?

“Yoga improves your core stability on the bike,” says Chloe, “so you’re better able to hold good posture, breathe more fully, and direct energy (and therefore power) into the legs rather than losing it from your upper body flailing about.”

As your body becomes more fatigued, the steady breathing that yoga promotes makes sure you take on enough oxygen. “It’s not good to get in the habit of shallow breathing,” says Chloe, “it pumps cortisol and adrenaline through the body leaving you feeling stressed and anxious. The adrenaline hit might be useful for a hill sprint but not when you’re trying to unwind or sleep.”

One of the biggest impediments to cyclists developing a yoga practice is the common misconception that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga. “So many people have said to me ‘oh I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible’ but yoga encourages us to work with whatever body we have, wherever we are, right now,” Chloe says, “we can only work with the strength and flexibility we bring to the mat today so just let go of this myth that we need to be

able to do gymnastics or touch our toes in order to do yoga – we don’t.” The philosophy is that everybody is different but we can only do our best, today, and that’s absolutely good enough to make the most out of yoga.

That’s why Chloe swears by the benefits of a happy marriage between yoga and cycling. “If I get the chance I will practice a flowing yoga sequence for a warm up and then again after a big ride including more seated postures and longer holds to work on flexibility. But yoga is so much more than stretch work – like cycling it requires discipline and patience, but it’s transformative both physically and mentally.”

Chloe teaches yoga Monday evenings and Wednesday lunchtimes at Virgin Active Merchant Square

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Kerala 2017 Photography Holiday – images from the trip

Kerala has been in the spotlight after the BBC’s recent ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ series set in Cochin in Kerala.  Having returned from running my photography holiday there and then only days later seeing this amazing part of the world feature on the BBC it came as no surprise to see those who took part in the series love their experience there.  As did the clients who came on the trip – Southern India has a particular magic to it.  It’s a special place, and three visits in, I’ll go back again in a heartbeat.

Below are some of the photographs from the trip.  Some are included to give you a sense of the place and others because I’m pleased to have shot them, especially the contrasty street photography images.  As a genre street photography can be frustrating and scary – getting close requires one to be bold, shoot an awful lot, and be prepared to bin a lot of it.  But that’s why spending two weeks practising the discipline, we all ended up bolder and proud of an edited selection of photographs.

Each of the four locations has a very different feel so by the end of the trip we all felt like we’d been away for a month not just a fortnight.  We started in the Backwaters in a beautiful hotel right on the water’s edge and spent 3 days mainly floating around on a variety of boats watching local life, slowing down and soaking up the atmosphere as it unfolded in front of us.  Then on up to the spice area of Periyar where we started to really focus on documentary street photography.  A few days later we headed higher still to the cool green tea plantations around Munnar before dropping back to colonial Cochin.

Enjoy the photographs, and if you’re keen to come on the next trip do get in touch.  Other trips include Rajasthan (guaranteed departure) October 2017 and Puglia is in the pipeline for late spring/early summer 2018.

 

 

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Photography Holiday in Rajasthan & The Pushkar Camel Fair, India – October 2017

Golden sunrises, bustling markets, magnificent palaces, sacred temples, tranquil lakes and the famously photogenic Pushkar camel fair – experience the sights sounds and colours of India all rolled into two incredible weeks of photography in Rajasthan with freelance professional photographer Chloe Hall and specialist UK travel company High Places.

Price: land only £2690

Locations: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Delhi

Dates: Sunday 22 October (departure day UK) – 5th November 2017

Suitable For: all levels of photography. Whether you are a total beginner or fully understand the technical aspects to photography this holiday will both inspire and challenge you to develop your photographic skills.

For more details of the trip click on the pdf or for full information about the trip and how to book please contact: chloe@chloehall.co.uk

indian-photographic-odyssey-rajasthan

 

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Photography Holiday in Kerala, India – February 2017

Having run this photography holiday in Kerala twice for the travel company Authentic Adventures, I’m thrilled to be returning there next February 2017 to run my own trip.   The trip is now confirmed and there is a lovely bunch of people booked on – not only will you see some amazing sights you will be in very good company too.

Dates: depart 4th February 2017 (arrival Cochin 5th) – 18th February (13 nights)

Trip duration: 14 days

VERY LIMITED SPACES REMAINING

Location : this extraordinary two week journey takes you to the very heart of Southern India – the backwaters of Kerala, the spice area of Periyar, the tea plantations of Munnar and historic colonial Cochin.  We stay in some truly special hotels; this will be a holiday to remember.  If you have never travelled to India before, Kerala can be the perfect introduction – Southern India is a little more laid back and relaxed compared to other parts of the country.  Also if you are a solo traveller you will be in great company – we currently have 5 solo travellers booked, and one couple.

Suitable for: all levels – beginners and experienced photographers are welcome.  The atmosphere in always incredibly generous, non competitive and friendly – I encourage sharing of ideas, thoughts, and photographs in an open and relaxed setting.  Everyone has a different way of seeing things and that is something everybody appreciates.

On this holiday we aim to blend culture, landscape, photography, and relaxation so that at the end of the trip you have had an invigorating and restorative experience for both body and soul, and come back with some excellent photographs too.

If you might like to travel to this magical part of the world or for the full itinerary please get in touch.  It will be an amazing trip – come join me!

     

 


 

 

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Party photography at Kew Gardens

There can be few more special locations for a private party than the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Longstanding clients asked me to photograph their daughter’s Parsi Navjote ceremony celebrations at Kew Gardens. Whilst I have not included client photographs for privacy reasons, below are some of the layout images of the party – vibrant flowers, atmospheric lighting, and the wonderful spaciousness of the Nash Conservatory where the drinks party was held and the Kew Orangery where dinner was held and made this quite a location to photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE

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A summer’s day at an almshouse project in Kent

Below are some of the photographs from a summer’s day spent photographing life at Huggens College in Kent. Founded by John Huggens in 1847, a corn merchant of Sittingbourne, the charity provides almshouse accommodation for members of the Church of England who are over 60 and who have limited financial resources. Whilst independent living is also a criteria for living here, I found the sense of community inspiring.

 

The Chapel is at the heart of the community, but the allotment garden, the communal games and activities, all added to the atmosphere of community – something so lacking in so many modern societies, especially for the elderly.

 

The sense of friendship and community was palpable. Working as a professional photographer is varied – the places I go, the people I meet – every shoot is different and this one was particularly memorable for not just the laughter and goodwill shown by everyone who took part, but also the sense that life here was a little slower and perhaps a little richer in some ways.

 

Everyone was willing to take time. Modern life, especially in London, can be crazy in pace. We get so caught up in doing and rushing, we become a bit wired and disconnected so it was a refreshing change to spend a day with people happy to take life a little slower – people who take time to cultivate a garden or allotment patch, to play a game of croquet, to join together in a chapel service, or just sit on a bench having a chat. Simple pleasures that nourish the soul and help us to feel less lonely and disconnected.  I’m sure like any community there are  problems and challenges to deal with but it was a real privilege to spend a day here in the company of those living at Huggens College.

 

 

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A Photographic Bike Journey through the Indian Himalayas

In early August I headed for Delhi to start what would turn out to be the hardest adventure I’ve ever done on a bike. Or rather, the hardest adventure I’ve ever done.

The road from Manali and Leh cuts a path through the Indian Himalayas starting in the green hills of Himachal Pradesh and ending up high on the lunar landscape of the Tibetan Plateau of Ladakh. In winter the road is closed due to snow. In summer cargo trucks, oil tankers, tourist jeeps, Royal Enfield motorbikes, convoys of Indian Army trucks and a few nutty cyclists on mountain bikes travel the official distance of 479 km over 4 mountain passes (heights between 3946m and 5350m).

The trip was extreme. Physical and mental highs and lows, from monsoon rain to scorching 36 degree heat, and air so thin it leaves you breathless just getting out of a tent let alone cycling at 5000meters, but the most incredible landscapes, blue skies and night skies as a reward.

It’s hard to convey the scale of the landscape which is VAST. Many of the photographs contain dots in the distance – cyclists or trucks swallowed up by their epic surroundings, but here are a selection of photographs from the trip starting at Delhi train station, up to Manali where we began our ride, and onwards to Leh in Ladakh.

Delhi train station – train to Chandigarh

 

2 days of driving later, our first acclimatization ride around Manali. Little did we know this would be the first and last time we’d have a dry ride (and dry feet) for 5 days.

 

Starting the ride, leaving Manali for a two day climb of the Rohtang La pass (3946m).

Descending the Rohtang La – the tarmac ran out leaving kilometers of bone shaking rough road and mud. Green and lush Himachal Pradesh.

 

 

One of the things it’s hard to convey was the dust on the rough road sections. I soon learnt that taking a deep breath and holding it while a diesel truck passed belching out fumes and kicking up a dust storm, was a really bad idea. When you can’t get enough breath at 4000m as it is, holding it leaves you close to fainting.

The mess tent

Our camp at night

These guys were also on their way to Leh to see the Dalai Lama who was flying in to Leh in a day or two.

Still raining…but then we weren’t over the pass yet. A long morning climbing the Baralacha pass at 4933m – the main crossing of the Great Himalayan Range.

SUN! Finally!! True to our leader’s word in 20 minutes everything changed – we crossed the pass, the landscape changed, the weather changed.

 

 

 

 

Room with a view – the view from my tent

 

 

The beginning of our longest day – 32km flat(ish) road to the bottom of the Gata Loops then 21 hairpin bends up over 9.4km then another 9.5km to the top of the first pass of the day at 4948m

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing the day with a 17km descent through a canyon.

 

 

The Mori Plains

 

Tsokar Lake

 

 

Walking back towards camp.

 

 

Another room with a view. Camping can be uncomfortable, grubby, and a right old faff packing and unpacking, but there are some beautiful upsides like the sound of the wind, the streams or rivers we camped by, the night skies and the morning light, bed tea and a cheery ‘good morning!’ brought to our tents by Nemo each morning. Simple living makes me very happy.

 

My bike adorned with prayer flags for safe travels.

At the top of the Taglang pass – the highest pass on the road to Leh at 5350m, followed by a fully tarmac smooth beautiful 25km descent

 

 

 

 

Our final day riding into Leh via the Thikse Monastery.

 

 

Around Leh

I first visited Leh 14 years ago and had a chance to reshoot a familiar shot that once made it onto the front cover of a guidebook.

 

 

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