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Paul Wilkinson is a national multi award-winning photographer based in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. To add to his collection of trophies, he has just won Best Portrait and Best Lifestyle Photographer 2013 at the prestigious MPA Awards. Here are his favourite places in the Oxfordshire, Bucks and beyond.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
I first started working at Le Manoir in 2005 photographing a gorgeous intimate summer’s wedding. And this most ‘French’ of British Restaurants has become a location that I photograph more often than any other. For a world-renowned restaurant and hotel it’s understated and gentle with an attention to detail that is second to none. Yet it is never pretentious. Expensive? I guess so. But so incredibly friendly you always feel like you’re visiting an old friend. And, as a photographer, there isn’t a bad angle!
I always think that first glimpse as the M40 dips over the Chilterns and into the vale as you descend into the Tolkien-esque expanse of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire spread out below is simply glorious. Admittedly being on the motorway looking down is probably a better view than looking back up at the motorway but without fail it sends my pulse racing. As well as being a stunning vista (it’s worth a walk or a ride high onto the ridge!), it always signals that I’m nearly home.
The Royal Institution, London
The Royal Institution in London is not particularly well known but if, like me, you have an engineering family, you’ll be completely in awe of the ‘firsts’ that were presented here, from Calcium to Electromagnetism. Did you know Faraday first announced the existence of photography here in 1839? No wonder I love the place! And they have a very very cool bar too, which is never a bad thing if you’re in town and fancy a drink somewhere a little unusual. The Royal Institute is where I photographed Bill Clinton for the BBC’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, one of the highlights of my career so far.
Lunch at Crazy Bear, Stadhampton
My relationship with the Crazy Bear group goes way back and all of the venues are stunning! My favourite though – the one in which l always feel completely at home – is the original hotel in Stadhampton. If you haven’t tried the food there you should – the Thai is to die for! We stopped on our way back from our family summer holiday for lunch and, sat out in the glorious sunshine, myself and Sarah and the kids had the most delicious Thai meal and the friendliest service. Did you know the Crazy Bear Farm Shop is open seven days a week? I’m always shooting there, and I regularly pick up a few bags of their Thai Green Curry Sauce (it’s made in the restaurant and you can freeze it – genius!) and some of their sweet chilli sauce. MasterChef eat your heart out.
The Café In The Woods, Wendover
Always welcoming and seemingly always open, this dog-and-mud-friendly watering hole is definitely worth popping into. We’ve photographed a lot in Wendover Woods – it is a magical place full of light and shade and unexpected vistas. During one location photography session, I nearly called it off due to fog but decided to chance it. As we drove up onto the ridge, we rose above the fog that sat swirling beneath us in the vale, completely drowning Wendover in ghostly ripples. It made for a magical (though cold) shoot. So it’s always with tingling relief that we step into the little cafe in the heart of the wood, as much for the warm as their delicious cakes and coffee.
Little Italy, Haddenham
Ever since Cathrine first arrived one needle-sharp frosty morning with her big grin (and equally welcoming coffee van – see the image!) I’ve been a huge fan and a regular of this wonderful Espresso Bar set up by Cathrine and Simon. Or should I say bars as they now have two in Haddenham, one at Bicester Station and one at Wendover Station. And I happily stop at any one of them when on a shoot whether it’s heading into London or grabbing some lunch with a client here in the heart of our village. The coffee is second to none and their homemade cakes are to die for.
Grays of Westminster
If, like me, you’re a bit of a Nikon fan (I’ve used Nikon pro cameras in lenses for many years now) then you’ll almost certainly know of this little shop. It’s a little like Ollivander’s Wand shop in Harry Potter (the photographer doesn’t choose the camera, the camera chooses the photographer…) as the team here knows everything there is to know about Nikon kit and they could not be more helpful and friendly. This minuscule building also seems to have an inexhaustible stock – only once have I not been able to get what I needed and that was only because it was sold the very morning I popped in!
I love this city nearly as much as love London (London was a little large to include on this list!). The light and the atmosphere are always warm, even in mid-winter. This is my favourite time of year to shoot actually, as the crowds dissipate and the low arcing sun creates a magic all of its own, dancing off the historic walls and spires. This photograph was taken at Hertford College bridge (often – and wrongly – called the Bridge Of Sighs which is in Venice). I love this spot because the light and the scene are simply unbeatable. And also because the excellent Turf Tavern is just a quick walk down an adjacent alley.
The Kings Head, Aylesbury
I can’t help it. I like a pint of real ale. The more unusual the better. And the Kings Head, owned by the Natural Trust right in the middle of Aylesbury, is always a wonderful place to kick back and enjoy a pint of the finest. The picture isn’t from the Kings Head but is of one of the casks of real ale we sponsored Haddenham’s fantastic Annual Beer Festival. Cheers!