It’s not much fun being a Leyburn wedding photographer who hasn’t been shooting any weddings recently due to Covid -19 and the resulting lockdown. Although I’m based in Manchester, I do offer natural wedding photography – when not staying inside to protect our beloved NHS – all over the UK, in particular North Yorkshire, where I have some family and many friends.
Now that the process of easing the lockdown has begun, I thought I’d write a little blog post – with plenty of photos added of course – about my life over the past couple of months. My wife is an NHS key worker and although she’s not patient-facing, she plays a crucial role behind the scenes in the big, complicated administrative machine that maintains order in the NHS and keeps things ticking over. As such, she had to travel to work, even when most other people were working from home, and with our usual nursery shut, I became fulltime carer for our toddler son, Owen, who turned two during the lockdown.
All children’s facilities, from play groups to play areas, were shut (still shut, at the time of writing) and so we spent two months doing long walks, exploring our local area, and messing around in the back garden. Keeping a toddler entertained can be pretty tough, but the great weather plus my son’s birthday were godsends when it came to breaking up the monotony and keeping him happy. Nonetheless, Owen did get pretty fed up and grump at times and you’ll see at least one photo of him upset because we’d already been out that day and we’d run out of new things to do at home. Yes, that’s it, the one with the epic snot bubble.
We explored as far and as wide as was reasonable to do so. Obviously, we spent a lot of time at Heaton Park, which is on our doorstep, but we also ventured to Phillips Park / Drinkwater Park, and prior to the lockdown coming into full effect visited Clifton, Daisy Nook, and Reddish Vale Country Parks. We’d go very early in the morning to minimise contact with people. Owen had recently developed an infatuation for trains so we would stop to watch them go past whenever we could. It was strange being out and about with no-one else around and there was a tangible atmosphere of fear and trepidation. Some people, the elderly in particular, would make a point of avoiding Owen, even when he was in his pram. One old lady even did the sign of the cross at him while doing a hissing sound! I wonder if some people held the notion that children were somehow more infectious. And yet, at the same time, everywhere was blissfully peaceful, and at many times I detected a sense of camaraderie: many people were polite, caring and tolerant. Ironically, despite ongoing social distancing, I’ve had more chitchats with complete strangers than I ever did before the lockdown.
One day, while out exploring, we discovered an old skip near the entrance to Drinkwater park. We didn’t hang about long as I was unsure how safe it might be…but for the 5 minutes we stayed there, it felt like we were in a zombie film, or playing the Last of Us in real life! On another day, we found some small disused tunnels in Drinkwater Park, which Owen loved running through. Alas, Daddy was a little too big. The photos had a spooky quality to them, once I put them in black and white. Reminded me of something from the X-Files.
Of course, we spent the vast majority of our time at home, making up as many fun things to do as we could. Owen loved being outside, especially playing with water: being squirted, running round the paddling pool, and filling up buckets and cups with water from the outside tap. Every time he came into contact with even the slightest bit of water, he’d squeal ‘Owengettawet!’ I also found an unused blowup camping mattress at the back of the shed and this became an improvised bouncy castle. Owen’s favourite game was ‘Gororidda’ (toddler speak for ‘Gorilla’), where Daddy would pretend to be a grumpy gorilla who would throw Owen around the mattress. Alas, not many photos of this game: it’s very hard to take a photos while you’re throwing your son from great (not so great) heights! A lucky find on ebay meant Owen got his first camera. He’s unsure exactly what it is, or how to use it, but he likes the sound it makes when he presses the shutter and is fascinated that he can see things through the view finder. Indeed, not long after it seems he developed an interest in one of my own cameras and when I came to upload the photos to my computer, I found loads of shots he’d taken, clearly holding the button down so he could hear the sound of the shutter. In one of two he’d actually looked into the lens, and so he’s unwittingly taken his first selfie! I’ve included these in the set below.
My wife, Eleanor, would join in at the weekend when she could. She had to work very long hours, not even getting an Easter holiday, so was pretty much knackered all the time. Still, she always made time for Owen. We both got him painting several times: churning out a reasonable rainbow (with the colours in the wrong order. Daddy’s fault, obviously) and some nice handprints that are now in our living room window facing outwards. Romping around on the bed has always been top order in our household and I was able to capture some charming moments between my wife and son. Eleanor’s use of a hairdryer to entertain was certainly impressive!
On rainy days the living room would become a giant playzone, and trips to and from the kitchen would be a game of stepping stones or Indian Jones level proportions as tread carefully through the sea of toys. An awesome window cleaner provided some brief but very welcome respite from the doom and gloom of being stuck inside. We don’t normally let Owen watch too much television, but it was just impossible to keep him occupied 100% of the time so these rules were relaxed a little bit (as was the rule about climbing on furniture). I put off doing it, but alas the time came to give Owen a much needed homebrew haircut. As expected he hated it almost as much as when we go to professional barbers (which he really hates).
It’s funny. At the time I took these photos I thought I was documenting our experience of the lockdown, but looking back through them now, all I see are photos of my family, doing what all families do. What I mean to say is, with no photos of people queuing at supermarkets, traffic-less streets, and people-less city centres, you could easily think these are just photos of my family enjoying themselves. If I hadn’t told you they were taken during the lockdown, you probably wouldn’t guess. It gets me thinking: perhaps the lockdown didn’t affect us as much as I thought it did, or perhaps as a photographer I’m interested too much in humanity and feeling to be bothered by a photo of a supermarket queue, or perhaps I just really love my family.
I’m very lucky to be a Leyburn wedding photographer! I offer a relaxed approach to wedding photography where you and your loved one get to enjoy your day with zero fuss from me, while at the same time taking confidence in guaranteed great photos, giving you emotive and lasting memories of your special day. Why not check out some full weddings in my blog or get in touch to check for availability.