Jan 13 2010

The Quarantine Station in Abbotsford is “fully sick, awesome”

We were recently asked by our bride & groom to find a suitable location for the bridal party photographs close to the wedding reception, Dedes Restaurant at the Sydney Rowing Club in AbbotsfordThe venue is right on the water and the couple were keen to maintain the waterside theme yet happy to leave it up to us to decide where best to take the photos.

So a brief look around the neighbourhood and we stumbled upon the perfect spot.  Only minutes from the restaurant is the original Animal Quarantine Station dating back to 1917 when it was first opened.  The park is appropriately named Quarantine Reserve and is now open to the public.

It’s one of those places that I’m sure the locals know all about but like to keep secret from the rest of us.  After all it’s right on the water and would make a really nice place for a family picnic.  There’s plenty of parking too.

But the plan wasn’t to throw a rug down and nibble on cucumber sandwiches.  It was, to enjoy the scenery, the company of best friends & family, and sip on a glass or two of champagne!

The first spot you’ll notice are the old stables.  The timber boards make a terrific, rustic backdrop for photographs of both the bridal party and just the bride & groom together.  There’s some really soft available light that’s ideal for shots of the couple, and in the afternoon the space between the two buildings is in the shade.  And being a large open undercover space means it can also be used during wet weather.  Fortunately, the place hasn’t been used to accommodate animals since 1980 so there’s no problem with the smell.

Take a stroll down to the waters edge and you’ll pass through open grassed areas that could also be used for photographs.  But we were keen to make the most of our time by the water and so candid shots through the small forest of pine trees was our preferred option.

The scene then opens to views across the water to Cabarita and taking a deep breath fills the lungs with the invigorating smell of the salt air.  You’ll notice the sandstone wall on the southern end of the park provides another background.

There’s some very cute, albeit small beaches with large, determined mangrove trees protruding through the sand.  Yet there’s plenty of room for the bride & groom, at the very least, to take a stroll and enjoy the sand between their toes.  In fact, why not let the whole bridal party kick off their shoes and get their feet wet!

For what it’s worth, it’s the sort of wedding location we would prefer to keep a secret…


Quarantine Station, Abbotsford

Quarantine Station, Abbotsford

Dec 23 2009

Margan Family Winegrowers & Restaurant is “the place to eat, drink and be merry”

On a hot & dry Saturday morning, with the mercury nudging 40 degrees, I found myself driving through the lush countryside of the Hunter Valley passing vineyards left, right and centre on my way to Margan Family Winegrowers & Restaurant.  You’ll find it out along the Broke Rd, past all the big name wineries in Pokolbin, which leads to the quieter, more tranquil area of Broke Fordwich.  A pleasant 1 1/2 hour drive from Sydney’s north up the F3, I believe it’s worth every minute of the trip!

Whenever I’m visiting the Hunter Valley I prefer to avoid the larger wineries choosing instead to drop in to the smaller, family-owned cellar doors of Marsh EstateMargan, Petersons and Scarborough.  They are incredibly passionate about their wines and the whole wine-making process, seeing it as more of an art form and less of a commercial enterprise, despite their well-deserved success.

Not surprisingly, the Hunter Valley is a very popular destination for weddings with couples choosing to get away from the big smoke, opting instead for a relaxed country wedding.  There are countless wineries that cater for wedding ceremonies & receptions and Margan Family Winegrowers & Restaurant is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of photographing.

Secreted away at the foot of the Brokenback Range, Margan is a stylish venue that will impress the minute you crunch up the gravel driveway.  The open area out the back provides a large venue for your wedding ceremony, with a view across the burgeoning grape vines to the Brokenback Range.

Once the ceremony is over and the candid shots of the guests and pre-requisite family group photographs have been captured, the bridal party can then stroll through the vineyard for their wedding location photographs.  The late afternoon sun warms the landscape casting shadows on the painted wall of the large chook-house with it’s rustic, iron filigree windows conjuring romantic images of Tuscany.

However, a lone eucalypt, typical of this countryside, brings you back home.  Mind you, it does provide another feature to the scenic expanses, ideally juxtaposed with a bridal party enjoying light conversation and genteel laughter between celebratory sips of the local Margan wine.

Of course, no visit to a vineyard is complete without a stroll through the furrows between the vines and if they are covered in fruit and vibrant, green foliage then all the better.  Just watch your step if you’re walking in high-heels!

The courtyard of the restaurant provides additional locations for the bride & groom with the sandstone Margan sign and the bench in front of the lavender.  Even the tasting room with it’s beautiful artwork makes a great alternative for photographs. 

Inside the restaurant is the huge, high-ceiling Barrel Room where wedding receptions are generally held.  As the name would suggest there are barrels and barrels lining the walls providing an atmosphere entirely appropriate to the down-to-earth festive occasion.  Yet despite the vastness of the interior it still feels intimate and friendly, like you’re sharing an enormous banquet with family & friends.

Attentive, delightful staff serving well-prepared, exceptionally delicious food just makes the whole setting perfect – cheers! 


Margan Family Winegrowers & Restaurant

Margan Family Winegrowers & Restaurant

Dec 20 2009

Pilu at Freshwater is “a breath of fresh air”

There is certainly no shortage of wonderful beaches in Sydney’s north.  Select from any one of a dozen or more and you’re bound to have a picturesque location for wedding photographs.  But what would be great is to find a restaurant at one of those beaches that has more than just pretty views and easy access to the sand & sea.

Fortunately there are a number of excellent restaurants suited to wedding receptions, one of them being Pilu at Freshwater.

It should come as no surpise that Pilu at Freshwater is located just north of Manly at Freshwater Beach, situated at the southern end of the beach with panoramic views through large windows as the surf lazily crashes on the shore below.

The venue has a distinctly welcoming, home-like feel to it, as if you’re staying at a friend’s place whilst holidaying on the coast.  A courtyard surrounded by hedges is available for your wedding ceremony should you choose to have a relaxed, relatively informal event.  And if the weather doesn’t go to plan you can always use the restaurant as an undercover option.

Down on the beach there are several places to utilise for your wedding location photographs.  The southern end is well sheltered from a southerly should the breeze prove to be a little too strong.  However, it can be nice to have the bride’s veil gently caught by the wind in photographs.

Stroll along the good sized but not too long beach over to the northern end near the Harbord Diggers and you’ll find some sparkling rockpools and an outdoor saltwater swimming pool.  A little further on is a large rock shelf that gives yet another protected spot for location photographs.

Before returning to the restaurant there are some sand dunes that work well for bridal party photographs, just near the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club.

Back at the restaurant and you’ll be treated to some deliciously fine cuisine.  The Italian food is defintely biased towards seafood but then what would you expect from a seaside restaurant.  Yet the Sardinian flavours are so mouth-watering you’ll want to come back on another occasion so you can try all the dishes you missed.  I guess two SMH Good Food Guide chef’s hats puts them up there with the best.

Interestingly, it’s the fun all the guests were having on the dance floor that I remember the most from the last wedding we photographed at Pilu at Freshwater.  For such an intimate venue there is still plenty of room for a small band or a DJ and a good-sized, enthusiastic crowd to bop the night away.


Pilu at Freshwater

Pilu at Freshwater

Dec 16 2009

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour is “an oasis in the city”

There’s a place in the city that is a garden of tranquility in a sea of chaos.  Quietly tucked away amidst the hustle & bustle of the busy City of Sydney is the Chinese Garden of Friendship conveniently located on the Cockle Bay Wharf side of Darling Harbour opposite the Sydney Convention Centre.

The area of Darling Harbour is littered with countless shops and restaurants making it as much a local haunt as it is a tourist destination.  Therefore it’s nice to find somewhere to take time out from the frantic pace of your work day or sightseeing.

For much the same reason, the Chinese Gardens makes a wonderful venue for both wedding ceremony and location photographs.

There are numerous venues within the Chinese Gardens where your wedding ceremony can take place.  The most popular include the courtyard in front of the Dragon Wall, the Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance and the Peace Boat Pavilion.  All have their different benefits such as the number of guests who will be able to watch proceedings or the back-drop during your ceremony.

Go for a wander through the gardens and discover little nooks & crannies for your wedding location photographs.  Many of the tracks make for great candid shots with bamboo and rocks bordering the pathways. 

Then there are spots to stop and have the Lake of Brightness in the background.  And choose the right time of year and there will be everything from Azaleas, Port Wine Magnolias, Gardenias and Camelias flowering brilliantly in the shots. 

Close to the Teahouse Pavilion you’ll find a small waterfall that cascades down translucent black rocks with brilliant green foliage that is perfect for an intimate bride & groom photograph.

Many of the pavilions provide good cover for the bridal party photographs should it be a wet day with some of the pillars adorned with Chinese characters - a nice touch that gives context to the images.

But our favourite spot is the bridge that zig zags across the lake.  There is a Frangipani that smells heavenly with a back-drop of these enormous Weeping Willow trees.  All this and more with another splash of colour when the lillies are in flower.

Sublime, exquisite, serene!


Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Darling Harbour

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour

Dec 13 2009

Rose Seidler House is “a modern time warp”

Rose Seidler House is an unusual venue for your wedding location photographs but the images will definitely stand out from the crowd.

Located in the upper north shore suburb of Wahroonga, it is surrounded by tall eucalypts that are in stark contrast to the building’s strong architectural lines.  Built by the famous architect, Harry Seidler, for his parents between 1948-50, and named after his mother, it was exceptionally modern for it’s time.

The house itself is dominated by a ramp leading up to the living areas.  The geometrics are particularly striking as black & white images and are nicely juxtaposed with natural garden and bushland setting.

Walking up the ramp to the landing finds you facing a wonderfully intense painted wall full of incredibly bold colours (a mixture of reds, blues, greys, browns and yellows) intersected by curved black lines and dots that makes a fantastic back-drop for bridal party photographs.  Apparently, all the colours link in with materials and other walls & doors throughout the house.

The timber boards here also work well in black & white looking out across to the bush or use the funky chairs as a feature to add yet another splash of colour to the scene.

Inside are furnishings in dominant oranges, deep browns and brilliant mid-blues together with walls & doors that make yet another statement.  With lots of large glass windows looking out over the property it is possible to get some exquisite window light gently falling upon the bride & groom.

The kitchen itself is a clean, eclectic mix of whites & chrome together with red, blue & yellow cupboard doors.  The kitchen utensils were the most modern of their time and now lend a real nostalgia to that post-war era.

The historic house is generally open to the public on Sundays and although we have used it as a wedding location for bridal party photographs in the past, it is necessary to check with the caretaker to see whether or not they will allow such photographs and what sort of fees may need to be paid.

Understandibly, this is not your average wedding location but it will certainly allow your photographs to say something about you; your past, your present and your intended future life together as husband & wife.


Rose Seidler House

Rose Seidler House

Dec 9 2009

Bells at Killcare lets you “leave all your cares behind”

As much as we love to photograph weddings in Sydney, it’s nice to have a change of scenery and travel somewhere outside of the metropolitan area that’s not too far away.  One such place is Killcare on the NSW Central Coast.  And it may just be the perfect alternative for your wedding guests to enjoy.

Only a short drive from Sydney’s north, about an hour or so up the F3, you’ll find Bells at Killcare.  They describe themselves as a boutique hotel, restaurant and bar as well as a world-class destination and quite frankly we believe they more than live up to that reputation.

Drive up the gravel driveway and you could be mistaken for thinking you’re holidaying in the European countryside.  Set amongst extensive grounds is the big & beautiful main house where guests can dine and relax.  Yet the decor and furniture has a decidely coastal feel to it with clean whites and striking blues dominating.

The accommodation is made up villas and suites that are well-appointed and tastefully decorated to ensure you relax the minute you walk through the door.  Combine that with the warm & friendly welcome you’ll receive from the staff and you will not want to leave!

The dining room is well-suited to smaller wedding groups seating up to 70 people but the wide open space of the lush, green, manicured lawns permits about 200 guests to enjoy a cocktail wedding ceremony and reception.

There are also a number of spots for the bridal party to slip away for some location photographs including a garden near the cabins with a small pond.  You’ll just have to mind the mosquitos if your photographs are at dusk.  Of course, choose the right time of year and there are magnificent flowering trees to add a vibrant splash of colour.  And the well maintained hedges near the fountain add yet another back-drop.

The house itself boasts yet more places to take photographs inside and out.  One in particular is the balcony with round pillars bordered by a hedge.

And you’re only a stones throw away from Putty Beach, Pretty Beach, Killcare Beach and the jetty at Hardys Bay.  But who wants any of those locations when all you need is at Bells at Killcare.

After all, they are blessed with the incredible talents of Stefano Manfredi in the kitchen, the well-renowned chef who used to be at the amazing bel mondo in Sydney once upon a time.  And with two SMH Good Food Guide chef’s hats they must be doing something right.

Quite simply, this place is your home-away-from-home!


Bells at Killcare

Bells at Killcare

Dec 6 2009

Killara Golf Club ensures “the competition sees green”

Enter Killara Golf Club and immediately you feel like you’ve gone back in time to that 19th Century era of charm and sophistication.  Established in 1899, a couple of years before Federation, it’s architecture oozes the sort of character that many venues lack due to modern blandness.  However, this is a wedding venue with history and a heritage that makes any function a grand event.

Step out onto their balcony and enjoy the views of the wide open expanses of the groomed fairways that are incredibly well looked after.  Enjoy cocktails & canapés as you watch the sun set in a blaze of glory beyond the tall trees as the attentive wait-staff look after the needs of you and your guests.

Nestled amongst the old stately homes of Killara in Sydney’s leafy upper north shore yet sprawling as far as the eye can see, this is a golf course that warrants a closer look when planning your wedding.  Not only is it a terrific wedding reception venue but it is also an ideal spot for your wedding ceremony and location photographs.

Interestingly, despite being an older and very well established golf club, they are incredibly up-to-date in their thinking.  For example, one particular wedding we photographed at Killara Golf Club was a little unusual as the bride’s arrival was upstaged by the big entrance of the groom and his groomsmen.

Having gained permission from the club, they arrived by helicopter touching down in sight of all the guests.  The brilliant, bold red colour of this ultra-modern piece of machinery was quite a contrast to the lush, green fairway where it landed.  Mind you, the poor pilot had to negotiate a hail storm that threated to put a dampener on proceedings.  Fortunately, Killara Golf Club has the option of an indoor space should the weather take a turn for the worst.

As it turned out, the rain held off and the bridal party were able to enjoy their time on the golf buggies as we shuttled from one great location to the next.  The course boasts tall eucalypts that catch the late afternoon sun, devilish sand bunkers on the edge of putting greens, and vibrant flowering trees all of which enable the bridal party to relax and enjoy their time away from the formal proceedings amongst stunning back-drops.

Back at the club house the family groups can be photographed on the first tee with some tall trees in the background.  And a large group shot with all the guests’ faces seen clearly is achieved by having them all stand around the practice green and shooting down from the balcony.  This area is also nicely maintained with a bed of brilliant, colourful flowers.

But it’s not all about the photographs.   The service is excellent and the food delicious – always an important consideration at any wedding.


Killara Golf Club

Killara Golf Club

Nov 22 2009

The Tea Room, Gunners’ Barracks in Mosman “hits the target”

It always feels a little like a home-coming when I photograph a wedding in Mosman.  Having grown up in the suburb I can still remember as a young & adventurous teenager playing in the disused catacombs around Georges Heights near the Gunners’ Barracks, looking for what little treasures we could find.

Fortunately, what was once owned by the Army has now been opened to the public.  And what a treasure it is!

The old building overlooking the harbour is now home to The Tea Room, Gunners’ Barracks, sister restaurant to The Tea Room, QVB.

The courtyard area, often used for ceremonies, twinkles at night with an abundance of fairy lights.  And the dark, mottled old sandstone walls provide a wonderfully rustic feel that contrasts with the formal attire of a wedding party.

Climbing the steps to the plateau overlooking the courtyard and the birds-eye view allows all the guests to be clearly visible in a group photograph, so long as the photographer doesn’t suffer from vertigo.

On the other side of the building the covered verandah provides panoramic views across Sydney Harbour giving the bride & groom a stress-free alternative should the weather turn bad.  Mind you, watching a storm roll in from the south can be quite a spectacular sight!

Below the verandah, down the steps, is a large grassed area ideal for group & family photographs as the afternoon sun will be behind them all.  And the rich colours and textures on this other sandstone wall is perfect for bridal party location shots.  There is even a nice little alcove that can be utilised.

A short walk up the driveway to the lookout for more location photographs and the view gets even better.  The relatively recently built walkway and lookout has expansive views from the heads to the city skyline.  You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world!

Back down to the restaurant for the reception and you’ll be treated to some magnificent food.  I was fortunate enough to receive a complete meal the last time I photographed a wedding at The Tea Room, Gunners’ Barracks and all I can say is that it was mouth-watering.

To call the place a tea room simply doesn’t do it justice.


The Tea Room, Gunners' Barracks

The Tea Room, Gunners' Barracks

Nov 15 2009

The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney lets you “feel like royalty”

It’s especially nice to be granted the privilege of photographing a bride & groom and their bridal party in posh surroundings.  There aren’t too many places that can equal the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) for that feeling of rich opulence.

Like The Strand Arcade, also located in George St, Sydney, the QVB was built at the end of the 19th Century, quite a different era compared to that of today.  Back then a horse & cart was the equivelent of a limousine and photography was done using equipment so large and cumbersome that the very idea of photojournalistic & candid or spontaneous & natural was unheard of.

What’s great about the QVB is that it has a wide variety of areas, little nooks & crannies really, that can be used for photographs all within the one building.

For example, the central circular opening is great for tiered shots taken from different angles, both looking up and down.  However, be aware that come Christmas time their enormous tree will go up sadly removing this option.

Then there are the staircases, the larger ones both centrally located.  Of course, you may need to pause every now and again for the odd shopper, tourist or sticky-beaker.  But there are smaller and less used staircases at either end of the building.

The boldly painted walls are another great backdrop for wedding photographs.  One wall is almost the colour of fire-engine red and the other a serene mid-blue.  Either way they will help give a vibrant punch to your location images.

Finally, the shops themselves make a terrific background.  Selecting an up-market brand like Versace or Vivian Chan Shaw provides you with instant sophistication!

Keep in mind, you will need to have permission from the QVB management to use the space for photography, especially wedding & commercial photography.  If the wedding reception is not being held at The Tea Room, QVB then you will need to pay a nominal fee of $50 that is donated to The Guide Dogs.  I suggest you organise it at least a few weeks in advance because they will also want to see proof of Public Liability Insurance.

A magnificent location perfectly suited to night photography and when it’s raining.


Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building

Nov 8 2009

Sanders Waterfront Restaurant in Cabarita is “as close to the water as they come”

There is always something incredibly alluring & calming about a waterfront location.  I’ve heard it said that it’s the clean, fresh air of the sea that helps to clear the mind and induce relaxation.  I know that whenever I photograph a wedding by the water I find it partcularly easy to get into “the zone”.

So it’s especially enjoyable when the ceremony, location and reception photographs happen all pretty much within the same vicinity.

Sanders Waterfront Restaurant in Cabarita is an unusual mix of an intimate venue surrounded by the sophistication of motor cruisers & yachts as if you’re in some millionaires’ paradise.  It brings back memories of Shores Restaurant which was a larger restaurant also located at a marina, namely MHYC, but sadly it closed recently yet has re-opened as The Upper Deck.

So the wedding I photographed the other day at d’Albora Marina in Cabarita just outside the restaurant was situated in what I would consider an ideal location.  The deck area with it’s weathered timber boards looking out towards all the boats really set the scene.  Inside the restaurant there was room for a band to set-up and a dance floor allowing the bride & groom to perform a well choreographed bridal waltz followed by the guests boogie-ing the afternoon away.  Fortunately, the number of guests was less than 40 as they would have been hard-pushed to squeeze in more than an extra dozen or so.

It should come as no surprise that the food was impeccable.  I think the bride, having worked at the restaurant in the past, had an inside running on how good the place was.

But the one aspect of the day that was truly convenient was the fact that we could simply utilise the beautiful sandstone and seashore literally next door to take photos of the bridal party.  This meant no wasted travelling time or the unnecessary use of hire cars as we were a stone’s throw away.

Ahh…if only all my weddings were this simple!


Sanders Waterfront Restaurant

Sanders Waterfront Restaurant