Wimbledon common is possibly one of the most fantastic places I’ve shot yet. It’s full of dark, secluded places and twisty trees, little paths and gullies and all sorts of places that a photographer like me – on another day and with more lights available – could spend weeks shooting in (if you’re not clear what I mean, think Drew Gardner’s Water Buffalo. Okay, that wasn’t Wimbledon Common, but still).
My original subject for the day – another one of my work colleagues, Cezzaine – had to drop out due to a migraine, so Alaina, who’s a friend of Michelle, my hostess-for-the-trip, offerred to stand in. So off to Wimbledon Common we trundled, four of us in a black car on a hot day… cripes.
Mich, Alaina and Shaun (or Sean; I never asked. He’s a Mississippi native who recently moved to the UK via Louisiana and Australia) set up a blanket and a mini picnic whilst I tried to find somewhere interesting to shoot (or rather, tried to narrow down my options).
I’d decided to shoot the whole of this shoot – or a substantial part of it anyway – with a wide-angle lens. Nothing, I told myself, longer than 30mm. That meant shooting with either my Sigma 30mm f1.4 (which is my go-to lens in a lot of cases; it may not be a Nikkor in terms of quality but you’d never tell) or the Sigma 10-20mm, which I’d used earlier whilst shooting this editorial shot of Michelle in her artist persona.
So, looking for somewhere to shoot, I came across a tree stood pretty much on its own in a clearing. Threw up an SB-900 just to see how it looked.
Not too bad. I was going for lonely, middle-of-nowhere kind of feel. Alaina stepped in and we got this:
Not too bad, but I wasn’t happy with it. For a start, the tree made it awkward for Alaina to pose, so the images felt kind of stilted. Then, as I switched positions, trying something different, I accidentally hit the shutter release and got this:
When the muses smile on you, you don’t ask too many questions.
When we were setting up for our first shot, Alaina had spotted some trees in nice, dappled sunlight further up the hill. After a quick costume change we tried a few test shots and I realised that what I wanted was a sort of Earth-goddess look (this was mostly because I’d spent the night before shooting the breeze with Michelle and talking about the Celtic gods and goddesses who ruled Britain before the Romans, and through them Christianity, came along). Alaina and I talked it through and between us we came up with this, after I’d thrown up an SB-900 through a shoot-through umbrella. And boy were we lucky to get the sun flare.
We also managed to get this, which is one of my favourite shots from the whole trip:
I’d thought we were done for the day, but then Lainey (did I mention she’s a bit crazy?) spotted a tree that she thought would be cool to climb. The SB-900 was still set up, so I just swung it round and let it do its work, picking her out from among the branches.
And with that, we were done. I was tired and sweaty but very, very happy with what we’d managed to produce in under an hour’s worth of shooting. Imagine what we could’ve done if we’d had more time to scout and pre-light.
So, some lessons I learned:
1. I’m not used to using an umbrella as a modifier
By which I mean that I’m used to using a shoot-through, but I very rarely use the reflective side of the umbrella, and that means that when I do come to use it – when I want something slightly more specular than a shoot-through but softer than a bare bulb, for example – I don’t quite know what it’s going to do. I need to practice with it to make sure I know how it’s going to behave.
2. Shooting in woodlands is great; later (or earlier) in the day would be better
We shot at around 4pm, which is fine in April or October, but too close to midday during the summer. The sun was high in the sky and very bright, so it was hard to control all the highlights in the images. In the end, it didn’t matter too much, but shooting later, or for preference earlier, in the day would have given me a few more options.
3. I need to try this shoot with a longer lens
I love my 10-20mm and 30mm lenses. I need to shoot with them more often. That said, I’m intrigued to find out how this shoot would have turned out if I’d shot it with a longer lens, say a 50mm or a 70-200mm. The longer focal length would have given the woods a more claustrophobic feel, which combined with a slightly earlier time of day to give me more chance to drop out the ambient light, could have been very interesting to play with.
Anyway, that’s it for this edition of what-I-did-on-my-roadtrip. Next time: why I like shooting with cute couples. For now, though, I need to go to bed. I’m off to London tomorrow and that means catching the 5:35am train. Yes, really. Gah.