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KYH: Quite Possibly Mad (Part 2)

Been a funny couple of weeks. By funny, I mean ‘odd,’ not ‘ha ha.’ I’ve felt like I was constantly chasing my tail with the day job and as a result I’ve felt like I wasn’t doing photographer-me any justice or giving him any time to breathe. And blogging? Forget it it. I’d promised myself when I relaunched the site that I’d blog at least twice, preferably three times a week. I just haven’t had the energy.

Moving on, though.

A while back, when I put out my casting call for models on ModelMayhem, I got a response from Louise, who goes by the name Amaryllis on said site. Louise is a very experienced model, so I was to surprised to say the least when she suggested that she’d like to work with me. Once I’d got past my surprise and decided to just go for it, I suggested that we go out into the Trough of Bowland to shoot. It’s a lovely area and holds some of the best bits of Lancashire’s landscape. I’d had an idea in my head for a while about putting someone in one of the bleaker bits of the landscape and I’d also been dying to shoot by this stream near Marshaw for some time, so we had plenty to be going on with.

Louise arrived, along with Helen Scott, our Make-up Artist for the day, wearing a steampunk outfit and we warmed up with some shots in natural light:

As you’ll already know from my previous post, I’d rented a Profoto 7B pack and head from Calumet for the purposes of this shoot. I didn’t really know entirely what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that I’d be fighting harsh sunlight at times and sometimes, when you’re dealing with the sun, a couple of speedlights just don’t cut the mustard. Once I had it, of course, I wasn’t going to not use it, even when an SB-900 would have done the job just as well. We shoved the head up on a stand with a 60″ shoot-through to get a different feel to the lighting (in fact I think that in some of these images the lighting makes it look like we’re shooting on a set. Not sure that’s a good thing.

As I said earlier, the real reason that we were hanging around in this tiny little patch of pine wood just east of Marshaw was the stream that runs through it. I chucked the idea of using it somehow out into the air and before I’d had chance to get my wellies on Louise had already made her way out onto some stones in the middle of it. We kept the shoot-through on the Profoto head to get this:

Just before we finished and moved on to our second location I saw the sun peeking through the trees, so I tried to find a way to work it into shot. Managed to get these two.

We moved on to our second location with a change of outfit. For this, we’d decided to shoot on the moors near Jubilee Tower, which is a very exposed part of the Trough. Louise had changed into a more gothic ensemble: black corset and skirt, red bustle and assorted accessories from emeraldangel.co.uk. Sadly, being as exposed as it was on a day that was windy even in the sheltered parts of Lancashire, the accessories ended up looking a bit windswept. But we still got some cool shots, with the Profoto head, using just its reflector, making the reds really pop against the drab colours of the high grass and the smoke-filled sky.

With just enough time left for one more location we headed off to a place that we’d seen on the way to the stream where we started the day; a huge mound of earth and rock in the middle of a field. It allowed us to put Louise up on a high point with the valley around Quernmore dropping away behind her. We added just a bit of fill from the Profoto pack to even out the light from the setting sun (oh how I wish I’d had a suitably-sized piece of CTO gel with me).

I had a fantastic time, and though we didn’t get all the shots we wanted (we didn’t managed to do justice to the accessories, for example) I’m really proud of what we managed to produce. Louise and I are already discussing following things up with a studio shoot; watch this space for more news on that.

Lessons

So, what did I learn from dragging a model, a makeup artist, a hair stylist and a Profoto pack out onto location? Well, a few things:

  • You don’t need big lights, but they’re nice to have sometimes. Rental, especially from a well-known rental house like Calumet, is an excellent idea.
  • Assistants are a good idea on location. Helen acted as my light-stand support for this shoot, but it would have been nice to have someone who knew the gear and how to set up for different looks.
  • It’s a brave creative team that’s going to go up on the moors for the next few months. We had lovely weather and but it was still hard work for everyone involved, even me (and I’m a lazy person by nature).
  • It’s important to start with what you know. I already knew this, but this shoot reinforced for me the evolutionary nature of a photo shoot. We started with natural light to get warmed up, added a reflector, added a light, moved the light to find the look we wanted and eventually got there. The important thing was that we started simply and didn’t try to overcomplicate matters.

What next?

One of the things that this shoot has reinforced for me is the need for me to do more (indeed any, at this point) studio work. Location work is fine and I love doing it, but it’s now coming to the time of year where locations are less and less hospitable, the weather is less cooperative and people are more likely to start suffering from hypothermia when you drag them up onto a hill (massive amounts of kudos have to go to Louise for this shoot; she was freezing on the second and third locations but she did a stirling job nevertheless). And even with that aside I don’t have a huge amount of studio work in my portfolio.

I’ve been toying with the idea of booking a studio for a day, getting some models and shooting a variety of personal tests, but I can’t help feeling that it’s something that needs a bit more thought than that. It’s great to be able to do tests with models on a trade for print / cd / whatever basis but there’s only so far that’ll get you; I’m starting to wonder whether it wouldn’t be a better idea for me to save my cash and wait until the new year, which would allow me not only to book a studio but also to pay for one or two professional models. From there might be able to start shopping my portfolio around to local agencies (including some of the work I’ve already done, of course).

And that’s before I start thinking about the music promo side of my portfolio. Of which more anon, of course.

Hopefully this blog entry, wordy as it is (1200 words so far, according to WordPress), marks the end of my blogging drought. We’ll see. I’ve got a backlog of posts to catch up on, that’s for sure.