• Paul Phipps-Williams

Mark, Hayley and Evie at Beckenham Place Park

It started with an email about a birthday surprise and then a pandemic got in the way. Now, over two years later, the Graeme Family finally had their day in the park.

It was Mark's sister, Natalie that originally got in touch. I used to be listed on a website that put you in touch with people who were looking for photographers. Mark's birthday was coming up - would I be available to take some photos, she asked. There's a new puppy, and everything...


How do you say no! We exchanged a couple of details... and then the world started to fall apart around us all, and the website I used to use went bust, and all went quiet.


Until Mark and his wife Hayley got back in touch last month. Was I still interested? I sent them a picture of a puppy I took on a recent shoot by way of reply.


We decided to spent a relaxed hour in Beckenham Place Park. I've lived in London for ten years now, and I still get surprised at the places I've never been. It was a glorious spring afternoon. We started off by getting Mark and Hayley's six-almost-seven-year old daughter, Evie, relaxed - by getting her to shout posing instructions at her parents. OPEN! CLOSED! STACK!


And soon we were having giggles. I've never been to Beckenham Place Park before, but it was lovely.


We started by visiting the formal gardens, where rows upon rows of flowerbeds were coming into bloom.


Armed with a 85mm 1.4 and a 35mm 1.4, we settled into a nice routine of chilling out and trying whoever felt natural.


The puppy, Charlie, was no longer a puppy and was a bit of a Daddy's boy - every time we tried a photo without him, he started pining for Mark. So he was never left alone for long, and soon became quite the star of the show.


Our little adventure took us from the formal gardens, to little woodland tracks, through open fields and stepping stones.


It was when we were trying out a crazy idea to peep through some holes in a tree that we noticed some bluebells deep in the woods. Like an excited child, I started pointing and Mark led the way inside.


What a find. They were beautiful and set the scene for the rest of the afternoon. It was reaching 5pm by this point, and the sunshine was dappled through the trees in the most perfect way.


I loved every minute of the Graeme's portrait session, from climbing across a felled tree assault course, to clambering around wooded glazes.


They might have won the prize for the longest enquiry time ever, but it was certainly worth the wait.

For more information on Portraits for Life, click here.

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