On Location: Jackie and Cem at Observatory Hill, Sydney


Natural backdrops are always popular for wedding photos and for city weddings a visit to the park offers a nice contrast to the surrounding urban landscape. Moreton Bay fig trees are a particularly popular setting, which isn't really surprising given their size and the fact that two of the most iconic trees in Sydney are figs located outside Dunbar House in Watsons Bay and on Observatory Hill in The Rocks.

The challenge in photographing a tree is to use it effectively and I also like to push myself creatively by trying to use a tree differently each time.

Now it might seem pretty simple to take a photo of a couple standing in front of a tree, but the resulting image relies on a number of factors including lens choice, focal length, the positions of the photographer and the couple, the direction of light and, of course, the overall composition of the image. And while there's no such thing as a "wrong" photo, seeing an image of a couple with branches sprouting out of their heads always makes me wonder how much thought went into making it.

In my opinion if you intend to include a tree as a major part of a composition it deserves your time, consideration and respect. In the case of a Morton Bay fig I'll look at opportunities to make use of its towering frame or dramatic silhouette to juxtapose and counterbalance the comparatively small size of the couple and delicateness of the bride.

Jackie and Cem were married on Observatory Hill so it made sense to use one of my favourite trees close to the rotunda where their ceremony was held. On previous occasions I've used this tree as a frame and positioned the couple under the branches that you can see to the left of the trunk. However, this time I felt something different was in order. There was an obvious warmth between Jackie and Cem and together with their height difference and Jackie's petite frame it made sense to create an image that conveyed a feeling of intimacy and security. Having preselected my lens and position before the ceremony all I had to do was nestle them in the folds of the trunk where the sunlight would lightly kiss them, step back and just let them be themselves.

I made several compositions from this scene, positioning the couple on both the left and right sides of the frame. While I like them all, I feel that this is the strongest as the eye naturally ends up at the bottom right corner of an image or page, and "trapping" Jackie and Cem into the bottom right corner also increases the feeling of intimacy.

I hope you liked this little insight. Where's your favourite tree?