Spotlight: Tiree Dawson
In this series we are sharing some of the wonderful photographers who make up the NineDots Community. Finding out what makes them tick and the what, why and how behind some of the work they are most proud of. Today Lake District Wedding Photographer – Tiree Dawson shares her favourite 3 images and why she loves them so much.
WHY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
Truth be told, I’d rather be an oil painter than a photographer but it takes too long, I can’t stand the mess and it’s not really the most practical way to capture a wedding!
After school I spent 4 years at St.Andrews Uni studying Art History. Endless happy hours in dark lecture theatres devouring paintings and learning about lighting, composition, colour. I carefully learnt “The Rules” and – more importantly – how and when they were successfully broken by crazily creative people. Ever since I’ve been working on ways to make my photos look like paintings. From how I light and compose them in the moment to experimenting with layers and textures on screen afterwards. I’m forever grateful that my degree gave me the ability to look at any image as a flat canvas and analyse it to within an inch of its life. I find it fascinating to work out why or why not something appeals to me.
Like lots of people, I kind of fell into photographing weddings. Favours for friends turned into “proper” bookings and the rest is history. 800 weddings in and it remains such an honour to be trusted to photograph the key moments in someone’s life. As wedding photographers, we have more access to the couple on their big day than even the closest of their family and friends, and I never take that privilege lightly.
I’ve always felt that in the photography industry there’s a tendency to associate “documentary style” with images that are high energy, brightly coloured and real in a gritty, warts-and-all way. Whilst there are lots of things I love about this approach, I try to provide a different, gentler, option for my clients. I aim to make images that are authentic but also as stylish and flattering as they can be. Candid, real, soulful moments but with a fine art approach.
If a happy client sees the final result and says “oh wow it looks like a painting!” then my day is made.
Tiree’s Spotlight photos
Taking this image taught me so much. It was a December wedding in the Lakes, and with the icy rain lashing down the drinks reception was entirely indoors. Belmount Hall is one of my favourite venues, but I suddenly felt overwhelmed by so many people chatting loudly in a heady fog of steaming mulled wine. I escaped outside for a breath of air. As I turned around, I saw this little boy watching me with great interest.
This photo reminds me that I don’t have to look busy 100% of the time. That it’s OK to take a break. It also made me realise that you can get great wet weather photos with only you being out in the rain. Years later, I now have a whole series of rainy window portraits shot from outside – loved up couples, drunk groups of friends or hands with fresh wedding rings pushed up against the glass. I think this will always be my favourite though.
I wanted to challenge myself to pick a group shot for one of my featured three, and this one came to mind. It can often feel like group photos are a bit of a chore, but I think for many this changed after Covid. I for one now have a newfound appreciation of how important it is to record groups of people enjoying their rare time together in one place.
Anyway, talking of Covid, just getting to the very point of me and my camera being in front of this group of people was a flipping HUGE challenge. Wim and Noor’s wedding was in Belgium. Brexit and Covid did their utmost to make it bloody difficult for me to get to them. With the Covid-ridden UK still on their “Red List” I set off thoroughly swabbed and struggled my way through customs with my newly acquired patchy knowledge of Carnets. When I turned on my phone after finally landing I was pinged by Track and Trace. I’d been sat next to someone who tested positive on a flight back from Mallorca a few days before. Cue two more lots of swabbing, a mandatory 48 hours of self isolation at the wedding venue and a nervous wait for the (thankfully negative!) results. There was a lot of celebrating to be done after all that!
Groups are a very different part of a wedding day for me. I mainly aim to blend into the background and become a stealth wedding guest. Directing groups takes a different approach. There’s not really any other option than piping out my “teacher voice” and taking control. Once everyone is in place and I’ve got the predicted shots, I tend to have a weird moment of calm randomness. Something pops into my head and out of my mouth and suddenly all these expectant faces in front of me are doing what I say. It’s a weird heady little power trip with random and often hilarious results!
I think the exhaustion that’s felt after shooting a wedding is mainly due to the sheer amount of mental power it takes to do the job well. As a wedding photographer you must be 100% present and aware at all times, constantly scanning everything that’s going on. You are also constantly faced with a zillion decisions in rapidly changing conditions…which lens, which angle, what lighting, which moment to prioritise? With challenging weather the decisions become even more significant. You might be confident that you can get amazing shots in the wind and the rain, but you also know how much the bride has paid to look as perfect as she does and that she’d still like to look half decent when the evening guests arrive. In this situation I am constantly trying to mentally predict what images I can get and balance these with how severe the collateral damage to hair and make-up is likely to be.
On the wedding day in this image, we all faced a full on winter storm in the Lakes. Emilie and Tom had hired a lovely Landrover and driver to take them off site for portraits, which turned out to be a blessing as it meant we were committed to going. When we got to the lake the conditions were a million times worse. We somehow managed to get the couple onto a rock at the water’s edge and I worked as fast as I could to get the dramatic hero shot we were all hoping for. The rain was lashing down and the wind was so strong it was almost impossible to walk. Despite worrying about how wet my cameras were getting I decided to grab a few more shots of the struggle back to the vehicle. These turned out to be my favourite of the day. This image is a few years old now but it always pops into my head as a reminder to keep on shooting – that the in between moments are often the most important.
WHY NINE DOTS?
NineDots is the only photography community I’ve ever paid to be a part of, and it’s worth every penny. I’ve not managed to make it to one of their amazing sounding events yet, due to wedding commitments, but I’ve benefited so much from their online offerings. The member zone contains some invaluable educational tools, there’s a full calendar of live online learning and, perhaps most of all, the Facebook group is an amazing pool of knowledge to dunk yourself into in times of need!