Simon Remark Photography in conversation about Shani and Romin’s 1871 Berkeley Church wedding. “They are a FUN couple, and I was glad that I got to capture that, along with all of the beautiful Sri Lankan rituals, dancers, and colours.”
You had a “first look” shoot with Shani and Romin. You talk about the fun energy of the shoot carrying through to the rest of the day. Can you talk about this?
I think the fun energy with Shani and Romin started at the engagement session. They are FUN people. I loved that at the “first look” Romin was so emotional when he first felt Shani’s hand on his shoulder, but when he turned around they were both so full of joy and laughter. There was this moment where he tried to kiss her, and she was like, “Uh un, you’ll ruin my lipstick.” And he responded, “Story of my life…” They find the humour in every situation. I loved that they could so effortlessly vacillate between these tender, romantic moments, and big, funny moments. And because we had this instant rapport at the engagement session they trusted my decisions on the wedding day. This partnering and comfort is what carried us through the day. Nothing felt unnatural.
How did you establish your vision for the wedding with Shani and Romin?
The vision began during their engagement session a couple months prior at Hart House. Again, we had an instant rapport. They were so comfortable in front of the camera and needed very little direction from me. I knew going into the wedding that I could just put them in different environments and let them be themselves and we would get great images. I approached it more like a film director putting them in situations that allowed for spontaneity, as opposed to “posing” them. Most of the people I work with hire me for this reason… I’m always looking to tell a great story as opposed to creating unnatural looking posed pictures. I want people to feel free to be themselves. This is when pictures look best. When you’ve captured someone exactly as they are. I love this authenticity, and believe that the viewer can more easily relate to what they are seeing in the captured moment.
You created different moods and set scenes throughout the Berkeley Church that were so varied and beautiful. What was your process for creating these different sets of pictures?
Wow! Thank you! The Berkeley Church is one of those venues that becomes an important living, breathing character in a wedding story. The dramatic light, the beautiful architecture, the stunning windows, and the wonderfully textured walls all tell an interesting story. You can create so many different looks and moods with lens selection, overexposing images, or underexposing images. For example in the mezzanine I used a wide angle lens to get as much of the wall as possible, and I used an optimal exposure to capture the moody light; during the ceremony I overexposed in front of the large windows to capture the expressions of the bride and groom and the details in their clothing, and then I switched to an optimal exposure in front of the same windows to silhouette them.
What was the most exciting part of this wedding for you as a photographer?
The most exciting part of the wedding was the processional. I’ve never photographed one like it before. I loved the lively drumming, the exuberant dancing, the bold colours, and the Sri Lankan traditions. It was incredible. I could point my camera in any direction and photograph something interesting and beautiful. Most of my favourite frames from the wedding that are not of Shani and Romin are from the processional.
There is such a beautiful soft lens look in the photographs in the Mezzanine. Was this planned?
Yes, definitely planned. I was looking forward to photographing Romin and Shani in the Mezzanine from the moment they told me their wedding would be at Berkeley Church. I love the light, and the textured wall, and the way the light falls on the wall. It’s so beautiful and dramatic and romantic. I was using my TS-E 24mm Lens firstly to capture as much of the environment as possible in such a small space; the lens also allows me to “tilt and shift” which makes the top and bottom of the frame blurry, creating that “beautiful soft lens look”. Using tilt-shift can also draw your attention to a specific part of the frame. It can accentuate a kiss, an embrace, or create a dreamlike feel to the photograph.
The photograph of the woman taking a picture of the couple in the Mezzanine is unique in that it shows the process of the shoot. How did this photo come about?
The woman taking the picture is my amazing second photographer Valery Gore. We were both photographing Romin and Shani in the Mezzanine and I had just stopped for a couple minutes to have a look at my images to make sure I was getting the look that I wanted. I asked her to take over while I was doing this, and when I looked up saw her squeezing into the corner to get the shot she wanted, and thought it would be a great addition to the story we were telling of their wedding day. I also thought it would be great for the blog post in showing how one of the images came about. And her shoes looked awesome, right?!
The picture of the lovely bride in the Mezzanine with the dark frame and the bride illuminated in the right of the frame is so unique and stunning. How would you describe this photograph?
I’m always looking for dramatic light and loved what I was seeing in that window. I wanted to create an image that was mostly dark with her illuminated to accentuate her beautiful gold Saree, stunning bouquet, and just create this quiet moment of a bride enjoying solitude on her busy wedding day.
You captured the beautiful Sri Lankan rituals, dancers, and colours brilliantly. You can literally hear the joy in your pictures. How did you prepare to make sure you got all the special ceremonial aspects of the wedding?
First of all, thank you! That’s a lovely compliment. Honestly, the most important preparation was to have Shani and Romin agree to a second photographer, which I always recommend. As a client you get a wider variation of images, and you get another artistic voice. The great thing about a second photographer is they don’t have to worry about getting “safe” shots. I always encourage my second photographers to just be free, and be creative. Before the ceremony I had a quick conversation with Valery to figure out where I wanted to position her to capture all of the ceremonial aspects of the wedding, and decided it would be best if she was on the upper level of the Church and I was on the lower level during the processional, and then during the ceremony I made sure she was using a different lens than me to create a different feel. We also position ourselves during the ceremony to ensure that one of us is always capturing the bride while the other captures the groom. It was also important that we capture all the little details and nuances of the wedding, so it was paramount to always be paying attention to the little things that were going on to best tell the story of their wedding.
The photographer’s gaze is varied in these images – at times very direct and face on and in other pictures more meandering and observational. How do you work with these varied styles and make decisions?
During Shani and Romin’s ceremony I used two cameras. One had a 24mm lens, the other had an 85mm lens. This allowed me to get big environmental portraits and scenes (with the 24), and close, intimate portraits (with the 85). Everything for me is about telling a great story, and to tell a great story I believe you need to capture as many perspectives as possible… I love all the little details, the nuances, the expressions, the body language, the space. All of these things work together to tell the story.
There are many lovely decor touches at this Berkeley Church Wedding. How important was it to get all these over the course of the shooting day?
Very important. Again, all of the lovely decor touches are a part of the story. The Berkeley Church is a wonderful character in that story. The details at a wedding also communicate a lot about the bride and groom and gives a picture of who these people are, and what is important to them.
Was there a guiding set of references that you worked from for this wedding?
Hmm. There was no specific guiding set of references. I think every wedding has its own feel, and I always stay within the feel and mood of each moment.
The photographs have a beautiful tone and hue with lots of depth and texture. What are your considerations for achieving this?
Thank you! Again, such a lovely compliment. I’m very drawn to light and texture, so when I’m in a space I’m always looking for the most dramatic light and interesting textures. The Berkeley Church is so rich, and so varied. Because I’ve shot their before I had an idea of where I wanted to photograph Romin and Shani. My primary considerations in achieving a specific look are always What will tell the most interesting story? What will make the most striking, beautiful images?
It is apparent that you have a great understanding of how to work with different lighting scenarios, sometimes making bold choices to saturate the picture with light or let the darker tones of the lighting take form. What are your thoughts on playing with light?
I LOVE light. Light is one of the most important factors in the storytelling. Whenever possible I use natural light, or available light. I only use a flash when I absolutely have to. I work with the light to create the mood of an image, or to accentuate important details. During the ceremony I loved having the option to overexpose in front of the large windows, accentuating the bride and groom, and then shooting at an optimal exposure to create a moodier silhouetted image. I love using light to create different looks, and moods. I think old black and white films like On The Waterfront have been influential for me because light and shadows were such an integral part of the filmmaking. This influences a lot of my work.
What was a pivotal moment for you at the wedding?
The processional. There was so much joy. The exuberant dancing, the bold and lively colours, the expressions, and the traditions. It was almost like a parade. It was so celebratory, and there were so many incredible images and moments to capture.
You capture the historic beauty of the Berkeley Church. How did the location inform choices you made during the day?
The Berkeley Church is one of my very favourite venues. Again, I’m always looking for dramatic light, and the light at the Berkeley is incomparable. I love the architecture and the lines, the way the hard wood floors converge, the tall, dramatic windows, the beautifully textured walls of the mezzanine and stage, being able to photograph the upper level from the lower level and vice versa, the purple lights. Everything about the Berkeley is dramatic. It becomes an important character in a wedding story. I grew up in a home filled with antique film cameras that were passed from generation to generation in my dad’s family, so I’m very drawn to historic architecture and beauty. Also, just prior to Romin and Shani’s wedding I had taken my four-year-old son to England to meet my family there in Oxford and Scarborough and photographed a lot of historic beauty, which hugely inspired my choices at The Berkeley.
The wedding party is such an important part of a wedding in that they are the people who generally support the whole day. You captured the wedding party so beautifully in distinct moments. How did you make sure you got these beautiful pictures?
I find the wedding parties give you so much to photograph. A lot of the humour throughout the day is a result of the banter amongst the wedding parties. I love joking around with, and building a rapport with the wedding parties, and I love to capture laughter. One of the reasons I love photographing weddings is there are so many different emotions to capture throughout the day. Much of the humour comes from the wedding parties, but you also get these heartfelt, beautiful moments between close friends. I love the interactions, and always make sure I’m paying attention to the little shared moments.
If this wedding was a movie what would would the brief synopsis be?
Ha! My photography has been so influenced by the films that I love. This question should be easier to answer. 🙂
Big laughs, bold colours, exuberant dancing, tender moments, rich traditions, impeccable style, Shani and Romin’s wedding had it all. A long day’s journey into night filled with beautiful moments shared between people who love one another. The story takes place at a breathtaking venue that provides the dramatic light, and beautiful architecture needed to best tell the story; the venue becomes an integral character in the story of Shani and Romin’s wedding.
Venue: Berkeley Church
Photography: Simon Remark Photography
Caterer: Berkeley Catering