Author Archives: Hannah Larkin Photography

About Hannah Larkin Photography

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com Wedding, family & travel photography

Romantic Iceland

Looking for the most romantic places in Iceland? Iceland is an incredible country filled with beauty, whether you’re looking for the perfect place to propose, a magical spot to elope, a wonderful wedding location or the honeymoon of your dreams. From majestic icebergs to soaring basalt, tumbling waterfalls to rocky reflections, safe harbours to culture central and spots to soak under the stars…. Here are my top 7 romantic Icelandic destinations:

Majestic Icebergs – Jökulsárlón

This may be the most magical place I’ve ever visited. As you drive along the south coast of Iceland from Reykjavik you suddenly round a corner to this amazing view. On your right is a beautiful black sand beach and on your left is a lake filled with icebergs – glacier lagoon. When the wind is low the water is still and calm giving perfect reflections of the incredible shapes and colours of the icebergs which calf from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. There’s a small cafe, a nice spot to sit and watch the seals in the lake, you can stroll along the beach where icebergs sometimes wash up shining white against the black volcanic sand or wander around the lagoon until you find the perfect place.

Soaring Basalt – Reynisfjara, near Vik

This stretch of coast between Reykjavík and Jökulsárlón is a black pebble beach with a dramatic view and a beautiful backdrop. Looking out over the ocean you see Reynisdrangar – 66m high columns of volcanic rock that stand out of the Atlantic. According to legend these three pillars of rock are three trolls who stayed out too late and were frozen by the light as the sun rose. As a backdrop there’s an amazing pyramid shaped cliff of basalt columns.  There’s a shallow cave in the basalt rocks that allows you to tuck away out of the rain, look out at the sea stacks and admire the neatly stacked hexagonal columns up close.

Tumbling Waterfalls – Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss

Iceland has many beautiful waterfalls so there’s plenty of choice if you’re looking for romance by tumbling water. Whilst Gullfoss is the big name waterfall – if you’re looking for a slightly quieter spot I recommend Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss. These two waterfalls are between Vik & Reykjavík, near Skógar just off Route 1. Skógafoss is over 60m high and you can climb the rocky steps for a view from the top or walk by the foot of the falls and according to legend a chest of gold was hidden behind the waterfall. Seljalandsfoss falls into a deep pool and there’s a hidden path behind the water so (in summer) you can peer through a curtain of water out at the meadows surrounding it.

Rocky Reflections – Snaefellsnes Peninsular

The Snaefellsnes Peninsular includes spectacular scenery and some beautiful windswept churches. Búðakirkja, an unusual black wooden church in the village of Búðir and white-washed Hellnar church are two of my favourites. Further round you’ll find Djupalonssandur beach with its huge waves – and four lifting stones to show off your strength. Along the northern coast of the peninsular you’ll find fields full of jagged lava rocks – a crazy landscape like something from another planet, a mix of hardened spikes and moss-covered boulders. In the midst of the 4000 year old Berserkjahraun lava field is a sea inlet called Hraunsfjordur – its a quiet spot, sheltered by the hills providing stunning reflections.

Safe Harbour – Stykkishólmur

A picture perfect town set around a natural harbour on the North coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsular.  With painted houses and reflections of coloured boats in the harbour it’s a lovely setting. You can walk out across the stone causeway to the basalt island of Súgandisey with a lighthouse and an incredible view across Breioafjorour – a broad fjord filled with small islands. Local legend says there are only two things in the world that can’t be counted – the stars in the sky and the craggy islets in the bay. Sitting up there enjoying the quiet and tranquillity you can at least try…

Culture Central – Reykjavík

If you’re looking for a pretty city spot you have plenty to choose from in Reykjavík. From Hallgrímskirkja, the immense concrete church designed to reflect the volcanic basalt columns, you can take the lift to the top of the 75m high tower for incredible views across the city. There’s also a quiet tree-lined avenue at the back of the church. Then there’s Harpa a beautiful concert hall also inspired by the natural basalt and featuring walls of coloured glass panels right by the ocean, particularly striking at night. Or for quirky al fresco dining don’t miss the world’s best hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the little shack by the harbour – buy them two at a time… otherwise you’ll simply rejoin the queue as soon as you’ve eaten the first one!

Soak under the Stars – Blue Lagoon

Finally, not far from Reykjavík, you can find the incredible Blue Lagoon. An outdoor pool filled with geothermal water from 2,000 metres below the earth’s surface and rich in silica, algae and minerals. It’s generally a toasty 37-40°C year round and although the water is actually white, the silica reflects the sunlight to give the blue colour of the lagoon’s name – although it’s often hidden by all the steam. With additional spa options available it’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the fresh air in comfort no matter the weather. You need to book in advance but they are open from 7 or 8am to 10pm or midnight depending on the time of year, so for extra romance you can even enjoy the lagoon at night under the stars.

To combine all of these, I’d recommend flying into Reykjavík, driving East to Vik to visit Reynisfjara, then travelling further East to Jökulsárlón. Head back West via Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss. Explore Reykjavík further before heading West out to Snaefellsnes peninsular including a stop at Stykkishólmur then make your way back to the capital, ending your trip by soaking aching muscles in the Blue Lagoon.

                                                

I’ve made several trips to Iceland and I’m keen to go back! If you’re planning an Icelandic proposal, elopement or wedding I’d love to talk to you about capturing your special memories in this incredible country.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

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Top garden wedding venues in London

Looking for a garden wedding venue in London? There’s something so romantic about a garden wedding – but you might not know these very different garden venues in Central London… Whatever your style there’s a garden to fit – from tropical roof terraces to secret walled gardens, urban jungles to quirky garden centres, huge botanical greenhouses to the smallest Royal Palace. Here are my top 5 garden venues in the capital:

The Tropical Garden – The Roof Gardens

Walking in Kensington you’d never know that up on the rooftop there’s a tropical paradise – and once you’re there you’ll forget you’re in London. On the 6th floor of the building you find beautiful garden complete with terraces and courtyards, archways and streams… and flamingos! There are three distinct styles of garden. First a Spanish garden based on the Alhambra with pastel buildings and formal symmetrical layout of paths and waterways, colourful flowers, palms and elegant cypress trees. Then a Tudor Garden comprising elegant arched walkways and three walled courtyards shaded by large umbrellas. Finally, an English Woodland Garden with a twist – thousands of bulbs under the trees, a grassy lawn and winding stream complete with exotic ducks and flamingos.

In the centre of these three gardens is a clubhouse with large windows looking out onto the garden, which is licensed for civil ceremonies (up to 150 guests). You can hire the garden exclusively (100 guests or more) for your ceremony and reception.

  

The Secret Garden – Chelsea Physic Garden

This hidden gem, a secret walled garden, is right in the heart of Chelsea. London’s oldest botanic gardens, it was founded in 1673 and is tucked away by the Thames. With beautiful greenhouses, lawns for lounging and little winding paths through the flowers it’s perfect for romantic walks and relaxed wedding portraits. The garden itself has a warm microclimate so you can stroll in comfort, admiring over 100 different species of trees, ponds full of water lilies and romantic secluded benches surrounded by climbing plants.

Although the garden isn’t licensed for civil ceremonies the central location means it’s only a 10 minute walk from the beautiful Chelsea Old Town Hall where there are rooms to suit every ceremony size (from 8 guests in the Harrington Room up to 360 in the Main Hall). You can exclusively hire the whole garden on Saturdays so your guests are free to explore, if you have more than 90 guests then a marquee is advisable.

 

The Urban Jungle Barbican Conservatory

If you love the idea of garden wedding but want to keep an urban feel to your day, then the Barbican Conservatory is the place for you. The Barbican is a Grade II listed building which opened in 1982. As one of the most iconic Brutalist buildings in the world, it’s distinctive with a very urban style. However, hidden away is a tropical jungle in the Barbican Conservatory. This magical and unexpected space is full of light from the walls of windows and glass roof skylights offering views of the city skyline. It is home to over 2000 species of tropical plants, succulents and palm trees. There are even pools of terrapins and exotic fish – a true urban jungle.

The Conservatory is licensed to host wedding ceremonies and the adjoining Garden Room, with its floor to ceiling windows, can seat up to 250 guests for a reception with an incredible view.

     

The Quirky Working Garden – Petersham Nurseries

A wonderful mix of greenhouses, flowers and antiques – Petersham Nurseries is tucked away between the river and Richmond Park. They have a range of different spaces from a courtyard covered in vines, wisteria and roses perfect for al fresco dining (up to 85 guests), to a cosy little greenhouse that heats up so much it’s best for October-May weddings (up to 44 guests). Their main restaurant (up to 140 guests) is a beautiful glasshouse scented by bougainvillea and jasmine and decorated in a quirky style with a range of antique furniture, statement mirrors and pieces of art – a veritable treasure trove.

Although they don’t have a licence for civil ceremonies they are only a 13 minute drive from York House a 17th century Grade II listed building on the banks of the Thames. There you can have your ceremony in the Terrace Room (up to 50 guests) with french doors opening out onto the terrace, the Loggia Room (up to 75 guests) overlooking the garden, or the Salon (up to 70 guests). Alternatively, St Peter’s Church in Petersham is just round the corner less than 5 minutes walk. You can exclusively hire the nurseries (50 guests or more) so your guests are free to explore, and delicious food is provided with vegetables, herbs & edible flowers grown in the walled garden.

The Biggest Garden – Kew Gardens

Probably the best known and certainly the biggest London garden, this UNESCO world heritage site has the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world. Featuring the Palm House, a huge Victorian glasshouse filled with tropical plants in a rainforest climate and acres of landscaped garden, it’s a botanist’s dream.

You can get married at Kew Gardens in a civil ceremony (up to 200 guests) in the stunning Nash Conservatory – with a glass roof and floor to ceiling windows on three sides you’ll feel like you’re getting married outside. If you opt for a religious wedding ceremony this can take place in the Sir Joseph Banks building (up to 200 guests) with large windows giving a view out over the lake. For a drinks reception with a difference you can visit the Princess of Wales Conservatory a large glasshouse containing ten different climatic zones, raised walkways and ponds. The 18th century grade I listed Orangery, with high ceilings and grand arched windows, is the spot for dinner and dancing.

Alternatively for smaller celebrations you can have your civil ceremony (up to 80 guests) and reception (up to 120 guests) in Cambridge Cottage a former royal residence with a drawing room and a gallery of botanic artwork opening onto a quiet and secluded garden. Or in Britain’s smallest Royal Palace – Kew Palace. Set in the quiet Queen’s Garden within Kew Gardens, this red limewashed palace offers a variety of rooms available for your reception (up to 60 guests or 30 for dinner).

     

I love garden weddings, especially when the venue lets your personality shine through. I’d love to talk to you about your perfect venue and how I can photograph the story of your day.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

Eagle Hunter Life in Kyrgyzstan

Photographs of Kyrgyz eagle hunters inspired me to learn to ride, book flights to Kyrgyzstan and arrange to stay with a master Burkutchu (eagle hunter). Through Tilek at CBT Kyrgyzstan I made contact with Ruslan, a medal-winning eagle hunter, and arranged to spend time living with him, his family and his golden eagles near Lake Issyk-Kul.

Ruslan was a wonderful host – I arrived and was welcomed to his home, a pretty white-washed house with blue trim. Ruslan was dressed in his full eagle hunter finery – which is rated and scored in competitions – and showed me his medals. After sharing tea in the living room which the family had made over to me to sleep in, I ventured outside. Ruslan has an outdoor kitchen and long-drop toilet, a vegetable patch, lots of rabbits in hutches and three golden eagles. Each eagle has a wooden enclosure with a grassy seat and Ruslan showed me how he goes a little way outside the village and digs up a new circle of turf every few days to refresh the seat. He smiled and chose some grass with flowers as “a present” for his youngest eagle.

During the day the eagles sit out in the garden, perched on little hoops. Ruslan explained that they bathe and showed how he fills a metal tub with water for them. One eagle was keen and jumped right in, whilst another was reluctant and even with gentle coaxing didn’t want to get his feet wet! I could see how much Ruslan loves his eagles – and how they respond to him – turning towards his voice, pushing their head like a cat against his hand as he strokes them and calling to him. Eventually the reluctant eagle allowed Ruslan to cup water in his hand and pour it over her – his soothing voice talking to her the whole time.

Ruslan explained how he makes the little leather hats from a basic template, altered for each eagle to make sure it’s a comfortable fit. As eagles have such incredible eyesight he said when they’re out in the garden, they’re calmer when they wear the hats rather than straining to fly after everything they see. He showed us how he makes simple nets by tying thin twine and uses these to catch a young eagle ready to train. The custom is that each eagle is trained and stays with the eagle hunter for around 7-9 years before being released back into the wild.

 

The eagles also have a swing in the garden – “car training” Ruslan said, explaining that it helps them to learn how to balance on a moving perch. I didn’t understand until later that day when we took the eagles out to the nearby mountains to practice hunting skills – they seemed perfectly happy: one in the backseat and one in the boot of his little car!

Seeing the eagles flying freely in the mountains – coming back to Ruslan when he called or calling and repeatedly looking over towards him when they caught something – showed just how strong the bond is between eagle and hunter. There’s nothing stopping the bird just flying away – Ruslan explained that the importance of this bond is why he spends hours everyday sitting with, talking to and stroking the eagles. This bond is also the reason he’s only been scratched once – and that was when he had to separate his eagle from another hunter’s eagle when they started fighting over a kill.

We watched one of his older and more experienced eagles as Ruslan demonstrated how he trains them – pulling a fox skin along the ground for them to ‘catch’. Then it was time for his youngest eagle to attempt her first kill. A rabbit had been brought from the hutch in the garden and was released on the ground. Ruslan was anxious – but the eagle swept down, caught and killed the rabbit with ease. Ruslan was beaming with pride and the eagle too seemed very pleased with herself – fluffing up all her feathers. She was able to eat a large part of the rabbit meat, until there was a visible bulge under her feathers!

                                        

Having the opportunity to stroke and hold the eagles myself made me appreciate just how strong Ruslan is! When he hunts in the winter for foxes and wolves he takes his eagle on horseback using a small forked stick to rest his eagle-carrying arm on while he rides. He laughed at my efforts, encouraging me to hold the eagle higher – rocking my hand back and forth to encourage the eagle to stretch their wings. I managed this just long enough to be captured on camera – before quickly supporting my eagle-arm against my side! I tried out my limited Kyrgyz – I’d learnt the words for eagle and the word beautiful that is used for animals. Ruslan smiled and corrected me – for him the word beautiful used for humans applies to both humans and eagles, they are in the same class.

That evening I watched Ruslan gently cleaning the eagles’ feet, applying a special cream to their talons. Now in an Adidas jacket rather than his eagle hunter finery, it was an intimate scene and I felt privileged to be seeing this nightly routine. Ruslan’s young daughter had found my white face quite unsettling – crying every time she saw me much to Ruslan’s amusement. However, seeing Ruslan with the eagle she was desperate to stroke the soft feathers and showed none of the fear I inspired in her!

The time I spent with the family was the highlight of an incredible trip to Kyrgyzstan. I learnt about this centuries-old tradition (now recognised by UNESCO as an endangered living form of cultural heritage) and made friends with the eagles and their family.

                

You can see more of my photography on my website and if you’d like to talk to me about photographing a love story (between people or eagles) or an adventure (a wedding, family outing or travel across the globe) I’d love to hear from you.

Marcus & Marta’s Cambridge College Engagement

Marta & Marcus chose to have their engagement shoot at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Marcus went to university here and, like his parents, they decided to get married here. Pembroke is one of Cambridge University’s oldest colleges with buildings dating from nearly every century since it was founded in 1347. The grounds are beautiful, with plenty of quiet doorways, lovely lawns and sheltered seats.

Before their engagement shoot Marta & Marcus’s wedding website contained ‘placeholder’ photos of their handsome cat Clovis as they didn’t have any photos of themselves. They let me know they were unphotogenic and that it would be a “bit of a challenge” to get photos without silly faces…

This is why I love prewed shoots. So many couples feel a little apprehensive or think they don’t look good in photos and it’s best to get those nerves and misapprehensions out of the way before the wedding. An engagement or prewed shoot lets couples get used to being photographed and relax in front of my camera – and gives me a chance to learn what helps them to feel comfortable and happy.

For Marta & Marcus there was certainly plenty of laughter and the odd silly face. At one point I asked Marta to look at me and Marcus to look at Marta – “not like that!” – which caused gales of laughter!

I love the confidence my couples gain when they look through a whole gallery of beautiful, natural, relaxed portraits – so that on their wedding day they won’t worry about the photos and just enjoy every moment of their celebration.

                          

You can see more of the fun and laughter from their engagement shoot here:

If you’re just engaged please get in touch so we can plan a relaxed and romantic engagement session that fits your story. Or if you’re planning a special proposal I’d love to find a way to capture the moment, whether you’d like to propose during a couple shoot or arrange for me to be in your chosen location to photograph it discreetly.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

Dana & Eoin’s American Irish Wedding

Dana & Eoin are a wonderful couple – it would be hard to find two more generous, warm & welcoming people. Dana is American & Eoin is from Ireland – they met in New York City, got engaged in a proposal where the ring fell into a Lake & celebrated their wedding on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first celebration took place in Annapolis. Dana & Eoin chose to continue a family tradition and get married in the stunning US Naval Academy Chapel before a sunlight filled reception at Ogle Hall – just as her parents had done. Dana wore a beautiful long lace gown from Pronovias, paired with sparkly Badgley Mischka shoes. She gifted a pair of engraved cufflinks to Eoin and he included a touch of Irish influence with a thistle buttonhole. Before the ceremony, they passed a note through a doorway, staying hidden from each other. Dana shared a photograph with me of her parents standing in the doorway of Ogle Hall on their wedding day & I was happy to be able to recreate it both with Dana & Eoin, & also with Dana’s parents.

Special touches at the reception included a message in a bottle guest book continuing the Naval theme, & adorable advice for Dana from the children she taught. This included traditional wisdom such as “say I love you every day and hold his hand”, some supportive suggestions like “don’t be scared to kiss” & “get a puppy” and a the more unusual tip: “don’t wrestle with your dad at the wedding”! Golden evening light was perfect for portraits, before cutting the cake with it’s romantic dipping dancers and then taking to the dance floor to a live band.

                                                                   

The second celebration was a lively Irish celebration in the little village of Ballyvaughan near Galway Bay, where American & Irish flags flew against a blue sky by the ocean. The Burren Atlantic Hotel was filled with laughter, music & dancing as family & friends performed & sang traditional folk tunes. I was honoured to be there to capture both parts of the celebration – congratulations Dana & Eoin!

     

You can see their wedding story:

Click to see more of my wedding photography, and if you’re looking for a wedding photographer for the UK or overseas I’d love to talk to you about your plans.

Relaxed first dances to match your personality

How to choose a song and tell your story, whether you’re shy with two left feet or a pro who loves the spotlight. Here are my ten top tips for finding a first dance you can relax and enjoy, from a choreographed masterpiece to a private moment for non-dancers.

Planning your first dance is often left to the last minute, but it’s a great opportunity to choose something unique and personal – and it’s often where some of my favourite photos are captured. Maybe you can’t agree on a song or you hate the idea of being the centre of attention. Maybe you’re looking to include your story and culture or you want to perform a grand finale. Relax – there’s a perfect first dance for everyone.

1. Choose a song that makes you smile

It can be hard to choose a song – it doesn’t have to be romantic or even seasonal (my first dance was to “All I want for Christmas” and I got married in September!) just something that makes you smile. If it’s hard to pick only one, try a mix tape with clips from all your favourites or even a song from each year you’ve been together. And if your tastes are totally different you can always go for rival playlists in a silent disco dance off!

  

2. Embrace the romance

You don’t have to be a dance professional to have a first dance – it’s fine to just hold each other and enjoy the moment. Some couples feel more relaxed with simple steps to follow and there are many dance instructors who can tailor something just for you.

  

3. Go for it and laugh!

Who cares if you aren’t ‘Strictly’ standard – just learn a ballroom hold, throw in the odd twirl, go for it and laugh your way through. Remember enthusiasm is both appealing and infectious – you’ll soon have all your guests up and dancing!

 

4. Escape the spotlight

If you can’t stand to have others watching, then how about a private first dance? Head into the ballroom before your guests or escape for a few minutes to dance under the stars.

  

5. Tell your story

First dances don’t have to be all music – some couples have recorded voice overs telling the story of their romance. And you can even use props and act out your proposal.

 

6. Showcase your culture

First dances can also be a chance to share your culture or passion – whether it’s ceilidh dancing with a folk band, showing off some salsa style or breaking out your best Bollywood moves.

7. Involve your wedding party

Consider getting your wedding party to join you for a conga line, a choreographed group dance or get everyone on their feet and dance and dazzle your way through the crowd.

 

8. Let the little ones shine

Little guests always add cuteness and often steal the show.

  

9. Solo spots

For those with killer moves, keep everyone’s eyes on you and step into the spotlight for a solo.

 

10. Grand finale

Want a first dance that no one will forget? Take centre stage with dramatic twirls, streamers and confetti canons – end with a kiss, or sweep your bride right off her feet.

  

Good luck finding the perfect first dance to suit your personality!

And if you’re looking for a wedding photographer who loves weddings where personality shines through, it would be lovely to hear from you. Let’s tell your story.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

A modern twist on an Asian bridal look

I love weddings where elements of culture and tradition are updated or combined with quirky details to truly express the personalities of the couple. I find Indian bridal jewellery beautiful and intriguing – the intricate elements all combine to create a stunning look. But whilst I’ve photographed traditional styles before, I wanted to find a way to keep the important cultural elements, but with an up to date modern style.

Beautiful model and dancer Nikita, showed off the maharani neckline green blouse and pink high waisted bridal lengha perfectly. Choosing these bright colours rather than traditional golds and reds, already introduces a modern look. Continuing these colours into the makeup, Shreya Pandya used a pink lipstick and a brilliant green eyeliner on the lower rims, creating dramatic emphasis to her deep brown eyes. She added a graded silver shadow to the lids and accentuated the look with eyelash extensions, sculpting the face with blusher to accentuate Nikita’s high cheekbones.

Shreya styled long loose curls, carefully pinned to frame Nikita’s face. Opting, instead of the traditional centre parting and tikka, for a side parting combined with a beautiful white passa with accents of green and pink to match the lengha to create a very different look. Long matching earrings were used together with a large hoop natha or nose ring with a diamond flower. Picking up on the diamond, the white statement 18 strand necklace completed the look.

Choosing bright accent colours, for both the the bridal lengha, jewellery and makeup – together with a side parting and passa without a tikka, allows the traditional Indian bridal style to be updated, giving a fresh modern look.

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Creative Team:
Model Nikkita Chadha
Hair & MUA Shreya Pandya
Clothing Maahira
Jewellery Nishel

I’d love to connect, find me on Instagram @hannahlarkinphotography or visit my website.