The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London, built between the late 17th and early 18th centuries, is often cited as the “finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble” in Britain. Used time and again as a backdrop in movies, it was also the setting of this wedding between Vi and Alistair, and Alex Beckett had the good fortune of being chosen as their photographer.
“I used to live close to it, walked the dog in the grounds regularly and always wanted to shoot a wedding there, because there is no more stunning location for a couple to start their married adventure together,” Beckett says. “So in many ways it was daunting to get the chance. And yet because Vi and Al were so friendly—I felt like one of the family, which always helps—I was also really able to enjoy the human story at the heart of all the grandeur.”
As expected, a famed setting for a wedding comes with some logistical challenges. The Old Royal Naval College is open to the public until 6:00 p.m., meaning Vi and Alistair’s nuptials couldn’t begin until late, Beckett says, and group photos and portraits were going to have to be done even later.
“Fortunately, Vi and Al aren’t superstitious,” he says, “and were happy to get ready early and meet with me for photos. I was there to capture a really sweet first-look moment.”
They got the group shots with the bridesmaids and groomsmen out of the way then, too, which “actually worked really well,” Beckett says, “because it meant after the ceremony Vi and Al could really relax and greet their friends, without the ‘standing in line’ formalities interrupting.”
The wedding party just rolled with the timing, and their good attitudes were repaid in an unexpected treat: The fresco on the back wall of their reception area, painted by Sir James Thornhill, had just been restored, and they were the first wedding party to enjoy it. Obviously, Beckett felt compelled to feature this piece, and one of his shots (below) wound up placing in the “Wedding Reception” category of Rangefinder‘s Wedding Photography Contest.
“I ‘saw’ the shot right at the beginning of the day,” he remembers. “I knew I wanted to capture the best moment in the speeches in front of that painting—the moment that gets the big reaction from the guests. However, I couldn’t wait for the shot because I’d be missing other reportage shots. What I did to get round this was set a camera up on a tripod and rig it to a PocketWizard. I was happily wandering around the room, capturing everything else on my other camera—and when the moment came, the reaction was there, and I set off the remote!”
Beckett relied on natural light for the majority of the day, but whipped out his flashes when it came time for dancing and after-ceremony portraits. The day darkened fairly early, but luckily he knew the wedding would be taking place later in the day anyway so he came prepared.
Alex Beckett’s Gear
Cameras: Nikon D4 and D800
Lenses: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Lighting: Hotshoe Flashes: Nikon SB900’s hotshoe flashes, Elinchrom Ranger/Ranger Quadra, Elinchrom 100cm Octabox, Chimera X-Small Softbox, grids, gels
Triggers: PocketWizard Flex TT5