Honeymoons and holidays – les Pearsons en vacances

We’ve just returned from our holidays on the Ile de Re just off the coast from La Rochelle in France.  Our days were mainly made up of beach, blue skies, sipping the occasional demi at a harbourside bar and wondering what morsel we were going to sample for our tea that evening.

The view from our bedroom window in St. Martin de Re

The view from our bedroom window in St. Martin de Re

We booked the cottage last year using an Alastair Sawday guide, but sadly Elspeth Charlton’s lovely little fisherman’s cottage is not  included in this year’s version.  If you’re interested I could let you have Elspeth’s email address or you could google ‘Fisherman’s Cottage, St. Martin de Re’ and find the details there – it won’t be on the first page of googling, be warned. 

We woke up every morning to the sound of the church bells which was lovely, and the cottage was tucked away down a little sidestreet which wasn’t even big enough to appear on a map.  This meant it was incredibly peaceful despite being in the middle of a yatching resort.

What were the highlights?  Well, for me a jazz concert on our last night in St. Martin intelligently and beautifully delivered, the notes weaving in and around each other against a backdrop of the harbour with its twinkling lights in the darkness of a summer night.

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The markets of St. Martin and Le Bois with their mounds of pink crevettes, knarled oysters and starey-eyed sardines.  Sweet luscious nectarines and perfumed charentais melons stacked up next to big bunches of basil and parsley on the vegetable stalls.  The smiling lady at the boulangerie, tucking in an extra little beignet into the bag for the children along with the sticks of baguette we collected in the morning for breakfast.

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The miles of  shimmering beaches at Le Bois du Plage, with a million miniature Anthony Gormleys (or Lowrey stick figures) half submerged in the sea – the french on holiday.  And despite vast numbers of impossibly brown bodies,  there was still room on the beach!  Who else other than the french manage to look stylish on the beach?  You could tell the English a mile off!

Barnaby about to navigate the surf at Le Bois Plage

Barnaby about to navigate the surf at Le Bois Plage

Playing boules in the big dusty treelined square at the back of St. Martin.  Hunting crevettes in the rock pools on the beach at low tide.  The endless, endless walking along sunbaked paths accompanied by the everpresent sound of the cicada chorus.  Lizards darting  from one  hiding place to another.  Tiny snail shells clinging, clustering to the strands of a wire fence at the side of a field like a lady’s choker encrusted with jewels.

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The sun coming down at the end of the day making the dusty walls of the town golden for a little while, lighting up the flowers on the hollyhocks which lined every street, catching tops of chimney stacks and setting on fire the highest windows of the buildings lining St. Martin harbour.

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So St. Martin de Re is a great place for a honeymoon – romantic, chic and perhaps, even nicer slightly out of season, when all the Parisians witht their money have returned to their city, and the locals are pleased to see tourist spending money in their shops.  

A couple of bits of advice though – avoid St. Martin if you use a wheelchair.  We chose to stay in the only town on the island where the streets were predominantly paved with uneven cobbles (a bone shaking nightmare after a couple of journeys) and the streets snaked back from the harbour front up a fairly steep gradient.  The combination makes for a wearying holiday.  La Flotte or Ars en Re (great name) are equally as lovely places,  much more accessible and a tad friendlier too.

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Secondly, I was stunned at how expensive France has become for tourists – but it is a while ago since I visited for any period of time.  The Ile de Re in particular is breathtakingly dear to exist even on a basic level.  So make sure that you allow for plenty of spending money – and then double the sum you have in mind.  That would be about right.   Avoid drinking coke and stick to beer instead – a ‘demi’ costs less than a ‘coca’.  You definitely won’t turn into a lager lout – at least not before you’ve gone bankrupt! 

Building in La Flotte

Building in La Flotte

To be fair the Ile de Re is, obviously, an island which means everthing has to be transported there, and the toll fees on the bridge are no small sum either.  As I mentioned it is also a very popular place with wealthy Parisians which perhaps pushes up the price of everthing slightly more than you would expect.  It also means that you won’t get hundreds of beer swilling, litter dropping tourists messing up the place and spoiling the view.  There was very little grafitti or litter and the place was kept immaculately clean and pretty.  There were no beggars (which we saw in La Rochelle) and even the buskers looked well-washed and wholesome! 

The bridge taken from Rivedoux Plage

The bridge taken from Rivedoux Plage

We followed a fortnight on the Ile de Re with four days in Nieul sur Mer, just outside La Rochelle.  This time we stayed in a Chambre D’Hote called Le Bord du Go owned by Christine and Pierre Barcellini and their three lovely, wholesome children.   I’m so glad we did too because our boys got an opportunity to meet some real French people and understand why I like them so much!  I will write more about Le Bord du Go in another blog because I’d like to show you some photos of their lovely property – if you read more below you’ll find out why I can’t post those photos now!  But for your information if you look up www.leborddugo.fr you’ll find out more from their own website.

To be honest, even in the less touristy areas of the town we didn’t find La Rochelle much cheaper than the Ile de Re – I think that France in general has become much more expensive over the last few years.  Probably since the introduction of the euro.

However, on our last day we had the best meal of all at a restaurant called La Villette in a street that bordered the market.  We had a simple meal of  pork with green beans and haricot beans served by a friendly, pretty funky waitress.  We ate at lunchtime, which was a shock to our stomachs being used to eating in the evening, but it was delicious and served with much French charm too.

Sadly, we left our adapter in the cottage in St. Martin and my lovely little Lumix camera ran out of power so I couldn’t take any more pictures whilst I was in La Rochelle – for the majority of the time anyway.  So Martyn has taken a few pictures on his film camera for his forthcoming exhibition at the Sides Gallery in Lytham this October.

The Lumix is a fab little camera for holiday pictures – it has a Leica lens so the quality is pretty good for a point-and-shoot camera.  Check it out anyhow. 

Must go now and get on with some work but will post more pictures over the next few weeks when I have time.

Confetti throwing at weddings – again

Lamont Williamson 050709The posts that get the most traffic on this blog are about confetti and the throwing of it.  So it must be something about which you are interested and which is an important element of your wedding celebrations.

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So it never fails to amaze me that some hotels and venues that market themselves specifically at the wedding market won’t let wedding guests throw confetti.

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Even worse are those that won’t let you throw confetti …. unless you are paying them in one form or another.    Its so cynical it makes me wince!

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I recently shot a wedding at a well-known venue where the guests were not allowed to throw their own confetti.  Its a little mean spirited but, OK, if those are the rules that is up to the venue.  However, guests were allowed to throw the confetti (a measley 6 cones which hardly makes any impact and only allows for one ‘throw’) approved and supplied by the venue.  

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Now I can understand venue-approved confetti – its a good idea and it stops that nasty shiny plastic stuff that birds eat and suffer from.   The best confetti is bio-degradable though, so really it shouldn’t be an issue.  Truth be told I’ve never, in nine years of professional wedding photography, ever seen a flock of birds anxiously waiting and ready to swoop down on  a freshly thrown carpet of confetti after the guests have gone inside for the reception – so I guess its not particularly attractive to birds anyhow.  But, for the sake of argument, I’ll accept that their own brand is preferable for the environment.

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What I do find sticks in my throat, like an unwelcome diet of confetti in a bird’s gullet, is that the venue is happy to supply a more generous and appropriate amount of confetti for a fee.    That just smacks of exploitation of a captive audience.

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Neither do I think its particularly good form to discourage couples from a confetti shot with the threat of a ‘cleaning-up’ fee.  Especially not when you are selling your venue on the strength of its suitability for weddings.  Bit naughty, that one.

My advice to couples is this – check it out beforehand.  Throwing confetti is an age-old wedding tradition and a fun thing to do at your wedding.    If you are told it is ‘prohibited’ (nasty word to use when you’re talking about weddings) before you’ve booked I think its quite an indicator of their attitude to you as a whole, so be warned. 

If you’re told after you’ve paid the deposit – well…….frankly……..how are you supposed to stop your guests from, at a certain pre-arranged moment, whipping out a box each of their own bio-degradable version?  Not your fault, is it?

Those pesky wedding guests……..will they ever tow the (wedding) party line??!!!!

Good friends

We spent some time with our friends a few weeks ago and I haven’t got round to sorting out the pictures yet.  Michael and Janet, who are also photographers but based over in Manchester, are our photography soulmates.  We met them a little while ago, as opposed to decades ago, but it seems like we have known them forever – in a good way!  Even better they like talking about photography and business a lot and they have a mad dog called Tara that bosses our dog, Oscar, around when she visits – but is a pussycat when he is her guest.  Isn’t that odd?   

They don’t have children of their own, but they never seem to mind ours tagging along.  In fact, they’re quite nice to them and remember their birthdays and such like – which is astounding to me, as I’m useless at remembering birthdays and always think its quite fascinating when other people do!  In fact, Debbie, another friend (I know – its bizarre that some people just stick to you like glue. Ha!) is always reminding me when I need to buy birthday cards and suchlike.  Perhaps that’s not so strange if you knew me even vaguely!  But you’ll be relieved to know that I generally remember the birthday’s of my own children….and sometimes even my husband’s.Photographers en masse

Me, Michael, Martyn, Janet and er……Janet again!  We’re just being silly…..

We saw them quite a while ago, but being the good photographer that I am, I hadn’t got round to downloading the images from our little Lumix camera that I carry in my bag for family snaps.  It’s a bit like the cobbler’s children thing…….I’m a photographer but don’t have any pictures of my children, apart from the ones Martyn takes which are lovely but more a work of art than a family snap – as you’d expect really.  I’m highly organised with client’s work but sadly, not my own family archive.  I’m definitely going to put that right this summer.

Anyhow……….here are some pictures of us and the boys on a recent visit.

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You can just see Myles behind the Peroni bottles and Barnaby, above, obscured by some plantlife in Pizza Express.

It was a jolly weekend and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the of August, you guys!

Le Voyage……in more ways than one

We are very excitedly looking forward to our holiday on the Ile de Re, and with this in mind we spent today in Manchester in search of some suitable footwear for the three men in my life.

One of my most favourite shops is Jigsaw, especially as they now have a Kew concession (if you don’t know what I’m talking about go and check it out) and obviously, no trip to Manchester would be complete with out a little pootle around some Women’s Dress Shops, as they are known in my male dominated family.  For goodness, sake even the dog is a boy and a girl has got to have a little girl-time or she’d go mad!

As we were wandering we came across a couple of galleries in the Triangle – one housed in what used to be the old Ocean store, Revolve Gallery,  and another being a temporary exhibition in another empty shop in that complex.  Sophia Butler is the gallery director at Revolve and she had some particularly nice paintings by a guy called David Stanley.  It is worth having a look at.

We only just noticed Le Voyage tucked away in the corner of what used to be Zinc Bar (I think)  as we were about to leave and were invited in by Adnan Khaled Bayyat to have a look at his exhibition of sculptures and installations based around the concepts of recycling and the damage that mankind does to the environment and religion.  We were particularly interested in the installations he had sewn and crocheted together using the pages of books, ring pulls and string.  There was something very delicate and considered about his work.  Adnan is self taught and is prolific – it took him about a month to put together all the pieces for his show.

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This is Adnan above – we thought his stuff was great and it would be well worth checking out before the exhibition closes on 10th August.

Happy Birthday George

Just a short note to say happy birthday to a very special member (by proxy) of our family.

George is best mates with Barnaby and together they are a formidable force.  Barnaby has already made enquiries as to the possibility of adopting a brother but, sadly, we’ve had to tell him that it is no-go.  Then he asked if he could be adopted by Debbie, George’s Mum, so that he could be George’s brother that way.  But we had to disabuse him of that notion too….we quite like having him as a son.

So, just to ensure that they have a memory of a very special time and friendship in their lives I put this together for George for his special day.

George and Barn Two children postcard

Hope you had a great day, George!

How much is too much for wedding photography?

Every so often, even with our very competitive prices, I get the odd comment from clients about the cost of our aftersales.  I’m sure I am not alone as a photographer in this – it is a common conversation topic when photographers get together and compare experiences.

I always send out a questionnaire to my clients after their wedding, to ask whether they have been happy with our service and what they think of various aspects of it – pricing included.  Over the past couple of years I have had a small number of customers come back and say that they think Fotoamour’s aftersales prices are expensive.  I am not picking out anyone in particular and I know that they have been really happy with every other aspect of our service – its just that the print prices come as a bit of a shock, when you’ve been whammied with a massive wedding expense!  So forgive me, those who have commented, but it is something that I really feel the need to talk about on my blog for the benefit of people who may be intending booking me in the future.  And for other photographers too who have the same difficulties.

I suppose the honest question that occurs to me in response is ‘expensive compared to what?’  

Nowadays, the inclusion of a printable DVD in the wedding package has given everyone the ability to get their pictures printed at their local Boots or Jessops for a few pence a print.  At one time this facility didn’t exist and if you wanted a copy of a print you had to pay the going rate to the photographer.  And you probably wouldn’t have had a clue how much that print cost the photographer himself.  Nowadays, with digital cameras the customer knows that they can make a copy of their own photo for a few pence – so it might seem odd for your photographer to be charging £10 for the same thing.

Why is this?  Well, firstly as an amateur photographer when you print off your own image you don’t charge yourself a fee for taking the picture.  Effectively all you’re paying for is the paper on which the image is printed – because the image belongs to you (more about copyright in a later post).  If you hire a photographer to do the job you are also paying for his/her experience and expertise.  And the use of his/her images (yes, his images!). 

Secondly, you are also paying for the service and the work that goes into producing that image after it has been taken.  This is work that is not ever seen by the customer but which has to happen in order to produce a saleable print.  You are also paying commercial lab prices which are substantially higher than those on the high street.  Or you are paying for the cost to the photographer for printing it himself on incredibly expensive machinery which requires stocking and maintaining.  Add to that the cost of a very basic mount, basic rate of pay and £10 doesn’t seem like such a huge amount all of a sudden. 

Look at it another way….I’m just about to employ a very good plumber to refit my shower.  I know that I can buy all the bits and pieces at B&Q for a fraction of the cost he will charge me to do the job.  I could even buy a DIY book which tells  me how to do it.  But that is just the point – I’m not a plumber, I don’t want to spend my spare time learning how to be one and I also don’t think I could do as good a job as a professional.  Neither am I prepared to take a chance on it – its too important a job and I need to make sure I get the result I am looking for.

So I will pay my money.  A large amount of money too…. because I know this plumber is reputable, he’ll turn up when he says he’s going to turn up and he won’t leave my house looking like a bombsite.  And he was recommended by someone I trust so if he messes up, he’ll have scuppered his reputation with them too.  So he’ll perhaps charge me a little bit more than most because he has spent a long time building that reptuation and, if I want to buy into that assurance of quality I’ll  be prepared to pay a little bit more – which I am. 

A little while ago I employed another plumber who did a completely abysmal job.  They never turned up when they said they would, they installed the shower incorrectly and which now leaks (causing us more expense later on) and they didn’t finish the job they were paid to do.  On reflection I realise now that they didn’t charge a huge amount of money for the amount of work we were expecting them to do.  But the reality is that two years on we’ve had to get in another plumber at more expense – it would have been cheaper to have employed them in the first place.  We didn’t save money with that first plumber – we squandered it.

I also appreciate that if I want a reputable plumber chances are that they pay tax, have insurance, have qualifications, employ people, invest in technology and training… and they don’t do the job just because they like plumbing.  They need to earn a wage too.  

It is a similar principle with wedding photography – if you want a photographer who has spent several years building their reputation, who gives a great service that everyone talks about in a good way after the wedding and who creates fabulous pictures that you’ll be pleased with and you get years worth of pleasure looking at….. well you might need to pay what seems like quite a lot of money.   

What I don’t want to do here is plead a case for Fotoamour.  I think that what I have to say about photography fees applies to all photographers in general.  However, by comparison to many other professional photography companies out there we are very inexpensive.  Compare it to taking the photograph and printing it yourself, or getting your uncle to do the job for you, or by relying on a lot of merrymaking relatives and friends with disposable cameras – then yes, we’re expensive.  I can’t compete on cost with someone doing it for free and printing at Boots!

But what I can tell you is that by employing a professional and paying that bit more….you’ll get someone who turns up on time, with a spare camera and battery if the main camera goes wonky, who knows how to arrange groups (and all this despite being slagged off by the guests who don’t want to move away from the bar to get the shots that you, the customer want in your album), who knows what to do it it rains, or if the venue room is really dark, or how to get the best confetti shots.  And who won’t decide they’ve had enough taking photos half way through the day.   

And who’ll go away at the end of the day and spend hours getting the photos ready for you to see, and then design an album which looks brilliant and which stands the test of time.  And which you spend the next twenty/forty years of married life looking through and thinking back to what a brilliant day it was.  

And then, only then, will you realise that you spent your money well.

I once encountered a man who was an accountant and who was astonished that I would charge £50 for a print on which there were three images of his son.  “But its just a piece of paper!”  he cried in outrage.  My question – would he have prepared a set of accounts for the cost of the typing paper that they were printed on?  Mmmmm …. I thought not!

PS.  The plumber – JG Pickup in Blackpool.  Telephone 01253 401828.  Excellent.  Tell ’em Jo sentcha!