The sound of drilling as our builder concentrates on demolishing the back wall of our house. It is a photographer's DIY period of the year.
Another expletive but a chuckle at how hard our bricks are. The full throttle of his work vibrating the laptop screen so much to give a whole new meaning to camera shake whilst I summarise through last year's pictures.
In a way January is always stressful, scheduling hopeful work for the months ahead after the heavy recuperation of New Year celebrations.
This time the added burden of builder Bob (he could be Phil, John, Ron) and the task of deciding bathroom and kitchen layouts with my other half. My job as a photographer has taken a backseat until that correct bathroom shade of colour is agreed.
So please do invite me away for a cup of tea even if you don't require my photographic services right this minute..
As a form of meditation and escapism digging a vegetable patch in the back garden has taken precedence in these mixed weather days we are having. A chance for my thoughts to meander, and my shooting finger to recuperate from those gruelling 1500 picture weddings.
Through the quieter times a reason to look back and update the website (see weddings 2019). Possibly the most hardest issue as a photographer is to be your own critic. Hence why my selection from this year of so-called 'best of' may not be everybody's 'best of'.
When I look back on a wedding picture selection I hope to see a collection, it's the way I mostly shoot. I don't want a single individual brilliance, although it might help to have that flare occasionally. But instead I try to portray a storyline with stills, generally I get it.
That's what makes it harder to pick out the highlights, the day was the highlight, the memories were as well. The single frame is for the artist, what you learn from and work with from the masters in the field of photography.
Currently I am being bombarded with entry requests for wedding photograph of the year style competitions. How do you judge? They were not at the wedding. How would they know the picture reflects any truth, where's the honesty in some super-duper back lit spectacular image? They aren't going to except my picture of a groom smashing a defensively clearance in an impromptu football match during a wedding reception.
Rant over, one more plot to dig.
Mustn't grumble, the summer season wasn't all that bad. Through wind, rain and occasionally very hot sun I explored new corners of the East of England with a bit of London thrown in. Different smily faces, laughs and tumbles. The occasional drunken lurch towards my camera but mostly I was an un-noticed observer, an artist waiting for the second to record.
And not a single "I don't" at the alter, no hairy moments apart from the odd gust of seaside air in Southend (is it always windy there!?).
The fright of thinking I was attending the wrong church on one wedding, only to realise I was an hour early. A battery death on a precious cake cutting moment, resolved with a minute's delay and a fresh set of power for the flashgun. I'm only human.
Recommendation though; If avoidable don't try to move home during a week of four weddings and a party, because there is only seven days in a week.. I apologise if anyone attending those weddings heard my creaking bones.
Only now have the thousands of images taken all been processed and presented. My square eyes staring at a computer screen are having a breather, resting with some outdoor Suffolk air whilst digging in our new garden.
I fell victim to the 'smartphone arm' at the last wedding photographed. This protruded body part with gadget attached intent to photograph a 'selfie' whilst inview of an all important bride and groom picture. Even five years ago this irritable phenomenon would never have occurred.
If these demon hands were recording something that is likely to be seen for prosperity and fondly remembered in years to come then I will take my photographer's hat off and welcome this intrusion. Sadly I can guess a week and that picture/video will be forgotten like so many other billions of phone recordings. Lost into the technolgical dustbin. Whilst muggins photographer has to work a photoshop miracle to preserve a wedding's critical moment and keep a stray secret arm at bay.
What could be more idyllic at a wedding reception than.. an impromptu football match in their best wedding clobber. The greasy top surface from the earlier steady drizzle made for interesting conditions and resulted into an array of rich green grass stains that only the local dry cleaners could look forward to. In fact the wet horizontal rain had not deterred this brave wedding party from the formal group shots. Watching the brave, teeth-gritted expressions through the lens made me feel guilty. But it was a jointly amicable decision to be outside and I exactly wasn't dry either.
Back forward to the match and occasionally the goalie, with understandable pint in hand, did actually save a couple. Otherwise the seriousness of scoring that worldly goal was obvious to share. The hysterics when it was missed was funnier.
An example of the zealous 'know-better'. Fortunately my calm exterior let the moment pass with a straight-forward rejection of what the restaurant manager had perceived as a better photograph to take of the bemused wedding couple.
Later I was considering a foodie response advice regarding the over-peppered chicken, but thought best left. We all have our own roles.
Worse, the SLR enthusiast guest. A distracting menace, who's purpose seems to un-wittingly disturb the natural bohemia of your routine. No malice as they have a big-bum Canon or Nikon which probably outguns your discreet Fuji, but what could be precious moments not recorded because it makes sense to tatter on about full frame, mirrorless, bob's your uncle knobs on the camera. Nah, best avoid the eye contact.
Then again a favourite these days for me is to 'nab the picture' from all the smartphone once photographed never viewed again random group shots. Let them set up the collective, all smiling with relaxed ease. Then barge up to the shoulder of the taker and boom you have a great group shot that no one had thought of until now. It's called cheating really.
The Daff's begin to droop but the sun, when it bothers, still glistens what blossom is left.
My sniffly, pollen-infected sniffle doesn't impress. A particularly noticeable scene during the ceremony where not only the bride's mother has a tissue for eyes, but the photographer for his nose too. A very emotional scene.
What didn't help the other week was the insistence of a hotel staff member spraying beforehand a heavily scented glade or febreze mist blossom for a total fake ill-effect.
Despite the on-coming meltdown of all society and soon to be non-civilisation, the recently improving February-March weather brings forward more incentives for couples to be wed in this cheaper time of year. Therefore what was once a period of a wedding photographer's hibernation, has now become more than a time to be just "ticking over".
Long may it last. Is it going to snow next week?
I am starting to gain a notoriety of arriving too early for appointments, weddings, travel, going to sleep. Most recently I was killing time in an upmarket charity shop (they do exist in the right locations). Sorely tempted by a designer suit for £25, I am beginning to realise that becoming so keen to get there well before is costly. Thankfully on this occasion I relented after the thought of carrying a cat's charity plastic bag to someone's wedding day. Instead two cups of coffee and a pee but still another £5 spent.
At least the wedding went smooth enough and my wide-awake appearance was necessary for the extended church service time on this occasion. Even the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the neighbouring church canteen did not distract our congregation as they rambled past during group shot photos stage.
Fact, when walking on a pavement you are more likely to have a head-on collision with a phone user than walking in dogshit.
The permanent face down, the cupped hand that can't let go and the cross-eyes if they ever bother to look up. Maybe we are all guilty of it.
But a pet hate is the smartphone appearance at weddings. Now a common occurrence, we all need to know the latest gossip, football scores, and news-worldly events at your fingertips. But come on, at a wedding of a family member or close friend? It's ruining a photographer's pictures! Whatever happened to conversation without an urge to show off your dog's latest trick or baby's recent gurgle in the gallery of thousands of un-deleted images.
What's worse is the "can't let go of my phone" attitude in group photos. When was it so splendid to see best mate Bob, bride with groom and a gleaming Samsung iphone?
A bowed head searching for some source of entertainment on the screen will not be photographed by me.
I once was sat a guest's table to eat (I was invited to do so, don't worry!) and had the non-pleasurable silent experience of a company of mobile phone users. The whole table, two were watching a non-league football match being streamed from another phone! Was that more interesting than attending this wedding? Well, maybe...but you are invited and that respect should be taken seriously.
I'm old-fashioned to presume you can survive without a gadget for a few hours until the next time I bump into you in the street.
It's still fresh and raw. Two years ago a contented life in the countryside abroad, a thousand miles from the day to day work pressures. I was still photographing weddings, only from a base a distance away. I flew back when I felt necessary to take on a brief. What a luxury. But the commissions were getting smaller, suddenly the quality was being over-taken. I was photographing scraps, leftovers, unwanted weddings. The enjoyment of waiting in airport lounges was draining and flights were constantly being delayed. Uncle Ryanair were sneakily adding extras that cost, my head was being harassed with scratch card notifications, I knew the script word to word. My photography was a reason to come back (not the only one or even possibly the most important), but I wanted to liaise with clients face to face, not through a crackly Skype call. That engagement is an important bond between both client and photographer especially in today's over-saturated world of wedding photographers. Trust is required from both sides.