This week I have been training in the hills of Italy

Over the 3 days organised by Aspire I shared an amazing experience with some fabulous people.


I want to tell you about our models first as to me, above the location, the castle, the training…they were the ones who made my trip – Mary-Kate McKay and Lee Matthews were not only beautiful on the outside but they were beautiful on the inside too.

I didn’t know them before I went and just expected a couple of models had been arranged. I had no idea that they were actually a couple and so in love. You can’t fake that kind of connection and I’m sure you’ll agree looking at the photos they’re meant for each other. Not only that but they were so down to earth, genuinely friendly and a complete hoot! I’ve never laughed so much.


Set in a neo-gothic castle in the hills outside Venice, our lovely couple helped us create some wonderful pre-wedding looks. Count Ceconi Castle, is located in the north eastern Alps, about 2 hours drive from Marco Polo airport at Venice.

The castle is a neo-gothic building, expanded to the present shape by the Count Giacomo Ceconi, a genial builder who lived during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ceconi, who would teach himself to write made his fortune from scratch and became something of a local hero.


I stayed in a local hotel – the only hotel anywhere near the castle – Albergo Alla Posta in Anduins. The owners were so lovely and accommodating, they couldn’t have been more welcoming, and the pizzas they cooked on the first evening, oh my! We don’t get pizzas like that here in the UK! The vino rosso was fab too.


After some classroom training we were all excited to get out and start taking photos. Lee and Mary-Kate were both in casual outfits and we worked our way around a few locations trying different lighting and positions. It’s always hard when doing training to try and get different images from everyone else, all whilst trying not to get in each others’ way.


Lee and Mary-Kate looked amazing in their outfits for the engagement styled shoot – again we worked our way around different locations – all outside and making the most of the beautiful light and surroundings. I especially loved Mary-Kate’s beautiful blue maxi dress.


Styled by Yasmin, and using some beautiful flowers picked from the grounds of the castle, the styling – featuring beautiful calligraphy stationery was so pretty.


We were lucky enough to be using a beautiful, delicate Claire Pettibone wedding dress on loan from The White Closet. The Claire Pettibone Seville, from her stunning Gothic Angel collection featured 3/4 sleeves, ecru striped Cluny lace with floral inserts, an open back and delicate Guipure dangles.

Lee looked very dapper in his light colour palette and open top shirt, just perfect for a stylish Italian wedding.

Again we made our way around a few locations, all in the shade so our wonderful models didn’t melt, and the light was much more flattering.

Things got emotional when they pulled out love letters which they had written to each other, and then read out. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and the glass of prosecco was very welcome afterwards!


2 x Nikon D800
1 x Nikon 85mm 1.4
1 x Nikon 24mm 1.4

1 x SB900 flash – which never even made it out of the case

Models: Mary-Kate Mckay and Lee Matthews
Styling: Yasmin Joughin
Wedding Dress: Claire Pettibone from The White Closet
Location: Venice