The early morning mist hovered just above the wet mossy ground and I was grateful that I had insisted John carry me in my basket. I did not want cold mud all over my soft silky paws! We were heading towards Patrick’s Barn on a private estate in Chiddinglye village near Ardingly in West Sussex. 400 year old Californian Redwoods lined the long winding drive as we headed towards the barn accompanied by the owner Becky and 3 of her loyal canine pals who were far too enthusiastic about trekking along this damp stony trail. I enjoyed sitting on my favourite blanket peering through the thick woodland for signs of deer or some interesting species of bird. But the imposing presence of the giant Californian Redwood trees along with the ghoulish gothic paraphernalia contained in our bags was giving me the eeby-geebies!
We finally reached the 17th century Patrick’s Barn as the gentle sunrise burned off the last of the foggy haze and began setting up the equipment. Our lovely model Kaylie got herself into that black lace and embellished bodice wedding dress while John and I figured out how we would use the lighting to create the atmosphere we were aiming for. We had two stunningly spooky bouquets of mysterious dark blossoms supplied to us by Steph Willoughby of Chirpee Flowers which finished off the look perfectly. The black mesh veil shimmered in front of our model’s smoky eyes and we were all happy with the creepy but elegant look of the shoot. John wanted to add a new style to the Shadow Photography wedding portfolio and this alternative to a white wedding is ideal for those who like to embrace the darker side of life.
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That’s one of our mottos at Shadow Photography. I’m speaking metaphorically of course. I only ever use my real claws on wooden fences, sisal rope scratch posts and frequently the back of the sofa (don’t tell John!). I believe that if we help others also making a living by selling their services, they’ll help us in return. Just like karma! For this reason John and I occasionally get together with other businesses such as Oops-a-daisy the florist who makes exquisite flower arrangements from the simplest bouquet of roses and leaves to a cascade of brightly coloured lilies and tulips. These radiant blooms are a tribute to the breath-taking beauty of nature and they release delicate floral scents that make any room smell delightfully fragrant (although they waft up my nose and make me sneeze).
There are many tasks to be carried out at Shadow Photography from dealing with customer enquiries and providing quotes, to organising meetings and travelling to venues, imaginative decision making and hours of editing to put the finishing touches to many hundreds of images taken at one event. I rely heavily on John to help me circumnavigate the plethora of rules and regulations involved in being Chief Executive Cat for a fine photographical establishment. John deals with the paperwork because it requires a lot of form-filling, sums and the efficient holding of a pen, none of which are my strong points. I prefer to work on the creative elements of the job so I can become the feline artiste I aspire to be. One of my key creative responsibilities is to visit the venue chosen by soon-to-be newlyweds when we are hired as official photographers for a wedding. John and I go ahead of time to check out the location and choose the finest spots with the best lighting and the most fitting backdrops so that we can take unforgettable pictures for the happy couple.
The photos here were taken at Wotton House, a picturesque country getaway in Surrey that comprises 13 acres of unbelievably well-maintained gardens and immaculately decorated rooms. I’m not normally one for pomp and ceremony but I have to admit that this place was impeccably designed to accentuate style and grace without being too ostentatious. A reflection of the true me I feel (without the rounded waistline and strangely attractive ability to sashay into any room). And I found a soft velvet cushion on a chair draped in brushed white cotton and tucked under a table, the perfect position for a nap which I will no doubt need on the wedding day itself. Being a photographer is such hard work!
Shakespeare said “If music be the food of love, play on”, and they did at Jade and Paul’s reception as the DJ played a series of upbeat tunes from the 80s, 90s and 00s. Although I’m not a great fan of loud music, I enjoy the feeling of sound vibrating through my whiskers. The happy humans gyrating around the dance floor combined with the tickle in my moustache was enough to make me shimmy and shake John Travolta style . And then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window and sheepishly skulked under the buffet table for a comforting lick! I do have a reputation to think about after all.
As I prepared to wash my left ear, I smiled to myself thinking about the girlies doing their hair and makeup before the ceremony. I had sauntered into the bridesmaids room in the morning because I’m a curious cat and found myself watching in amusement as they preened, plucked and pouted in front of an enormous mirror. They reminded me of myself in the middle of a full-on grooming session, only they had more fur! Only kidding ladies, you looked lovely and made pretty pictures for the camera with your twinkling eyes and matching accessories. The colour scheme for the day was based on my favourite shade of purple and everything from the posies to the table decorations was beautifully chosen to coordinate.
When the bride walked down the aisle, everybody thought she looked resplendent in her long flowing dress with shimmering veil. She had a big smile on her face, unlike her husband-to-be Paul who looked terrified! John and I have shot a number of weddings and I’ve noticed that the girls are always giggling and the boys tend to look nervous! I have no idea why but maybe John can explain it to me one day (yes he’s been there) as I’m unlikely to find out for myself. I’ve never met the right lady and I’m far too self-involved, I mean involved in my work! As Shakespeare said “to thine own self be true “. Good luck Jade and Paul.
I’ve got ‘the wild’ right on my doorstep in the form of a rather overgrown back garden. John says he’s let it get back to nature, but I suspect this noble sentiment is an excuse for not mowing the lawn! Nevertheless, we both enjoy looking at the garden and all the treasures it holds which is why I like to take a stroll around it from time to time, admiring Mother Nature while I think about my work. In the 2 ½ years that John and I have been running Shadow Photography, I’ve been involved with happy couples planning their wedding day, excited exhausted mothers eager to have pictures of their young baby for the mantelpiece, highly strung horses next to shiny horse boxes and wily creatures who shy away from the camera. You can find stories about my experiences and examples of the colourful and dynamic images I have produced during my work if you look back at https://shadthecat.wordpress.com/.
Weddings are great because people are always happy and the atmosphere is one of romance and optimism. A bit like the mood created by these adorable garden birds who decided to have a splash together in the bath while I was crouching under the shrubbery with my camera. Some of the birds in the garden (like the sparrows, blue tits and great tits featured in the photos) are so small I’m amazed they don’t get blown away by the wind. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to chase them, I’m far too busy analysing the light and shade in the frame, judging depth of field and generally perfecting my photography skills to be dashing around after my feathered friends. I was really lucky to catch a glimpse of a green woodpecker as you can see from the picture and I would have taken more shots only this worker bee kept buzzing around the flowers right next to me and it really put me off!
I like to take pictures of the flowers because I can play with the focus and emphasise the colour to create some striking shots, like these views of the cherry blossom and bluebell-type plants in the garden. I have produced a number of beautiful prints from these shots as well as more abstract images from the magnificent architecture that lies at the heart of history in this country. They make a lovely gift to yourself or someone you care about so if you’re tempted, check out http://www.shadow-photography.com/. On the website you’ll also discover the portfolio of work that John and I have developed over the last couple of years which gives you a flavour of our style. Please remember us if you want a professional portrait at a preferential rate, or if you have a friend who plays in a band or a family member getting married and you want to capture the fun on film. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my thoughts and snapshots with you in this blog while I beaver away at building the business. Shadow Photography is there for all your photographic needs and John and I only require a cup of coffee and a saucer of cat milk to keep us happy and working hard!
New Year’s celebrations often include watching fireworks or singing songs and enjoying meals that invite good luck for the coming year. In some parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature vegetables that resemble coins to bring future financial success such as lentils in Italy or black-eyed peas in the southern United States or grapes in Spain. Yes I know they’re a fruit not a vegetable! Ring-shaped cakes are popular in some areas of Europe as a sign that the year has come full circle and it is traditional in Sweden and Norway to serve rice pudding with an almond hidden inside. It is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune (which they will need to pay for the dentist bills)! My John knows all about dentist bills because he had to spend a few hundred quid last year on me at the vets. I had a bad case of gum disease but I’m fine now and although I’m missing a few teeth, I could easily get my mouth around a bowl of rice pudding (preferably without the nut)! That won’t happen though because us cats are not supposed to have dairy; it tastes yummy but our digestive systems are not designed to handle it.
This weekend John went over to see a friend of his and took me with him so I could hang out with some of my mates. It was a clear crisp sunny morning and while the humans were indoors chatting over coffee, my buddies and I sat in the garden discussing our New Year’s resolutions. My friend Muffin is a 5 year old black girl who I’ve known since she was knee-high to grass-hopper and her resolution for 2015 is to continue her birdwatching hobby. She has her own set of binoculars and a bird book and is getting so knowledgeable about British garden birds that she would probably do well on Mastermind. The only problem is that Magnus Magnusson probably wouldn’t understand her answers!
The practice of making resolutions is said to have originated from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods in order to earn favour such as vowing to pay off debts or return borrowed farm equipment. So my good pal Ginger promised to return my Cats and Dogs in 3D on Blu-Ray that he borrowed from me last Christmas. Ginger’s brother Basil (the chunky black and white 4 year old in the picture) assured his owner that he would keep the neighbours happy but curtailing his naughty behaviour. Basil is often given to bouts of mischief including skidding down the neighbour’s conservatory, stalking the pigeons and chasing butterflies off the fence.
Tiffin (Muffin’s sister) is another black cat with sleek shiny fur like mine and she is calm and reserved. Her New Year’s resolution is to lose some weight because she (also like me) is a bit on the cuddly side and needs to improve her waistline. Unlike the slender and agile Zoukia (the black and white 2 year old with 3 paws) who resolved this year to beat his high-jump record which currently stands at 31 inches from the ground. Here he is getting some practice on the grass today while his owner flicked a feather toy around.
My New Year’s resolution is to build the business and develop Shadow Photography’s portfolio by doing more wedding shoots and bagging the best wildlife shot I’ve ever done. The business is very important to John and me because we love the art of photography and enjoy expressing ourselves through this medium. That’s why I write this blog and share my photos with you and that’s why John dedicates a huge amount of his time trekking around in search of opportunities to capture events and subjects of interest. John and I thank you for your continued support and best wishes to everyone for 2015.
This is a moment for celebration and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you lovely readers for your commitment and interest in Shad the Cat’s blog. The reason for celebration is that I’ve had 10,000 views. I love sharing my escapades and reflections with you and I sincerely hope you enjoy reading about them. I do have a tendency to contemplate life and sometimes it’s hard for me as a cat to live in a world I don’t always understand. But I try not to grumble too much despite all the crazy and often unkind things that go on in this beautiful world. I hope to continue spreading a little smile across all your faces in the months to come and give you a few insights into the unique requirements of the feline variety, as well as some other of my other furry, scaly and prickly friends from the animal kingdom.
Shadow Photography is the business John and I started almost 2 years ago and, at the risk of sounding self-indulgent, John and I have worked hard to develop it into a viable prospect. Not many cats have the opportunity to learn new skills and meet interesting people from all walks of life so I feel quite proud to be part of the project. I try to make sure John feels like he’s in charge and I have to admit I couldn’t do it without him – he can lift heavy loads and he has opposable thumbs! Don’t worry, he’s used to my cheek!
I thought you might like to see the Shadow Photography advertising campaign that has been designed this year. Am I sounding executive enough yet?! It may not be an international conglomerate, but its mine and John’s baby and as managing director I’ve decided to share with you a couple of the ideas we’ve had to promote the business. Do you recognise the cat in the background on one of the ads? Its a good-looking ginger-striped old mate of mine.