Sometimes you find yourself reaching for a particular look in your images, only to find that no matter what you do, you can’t find it. And then something in you tells you to let go and just try something a bit different, and lo and behold you suddenly get exactly what you want.
Case in point: the image above. It was a horrible windy day in Lancashire that I shot Katy Pickles – whose self-titled debut E.P is available for download on Bandcamp now. I knew exactly what I wanted with this shot. I was reaching for that Vanity Fair, Annie Leibowitz, painterly feel to things, though I didn’t know what that actually meant. My normal approach to an outdoor image is to expose for the sky and light for the subject – particularly at sunset. On this day, though, the sky was utterly boring – an even, featureless pale grey to go with the horrendous wind. So instead of exposing for the sky, which I knew I’d fix later with something from my sky library, I exposed for the rest of the scene: the greens, the greys, the yellows of a windswept hillside. And then once that was done I’d a light for Katy, who was far too dark in the frame.
The light was a Bowens Gemini 400 in a 4-foot octabank. Normally I don’t reach for that modifier immediately – I prefer to go for something a bit more wieldy like a small softbox or an umbrella – but as it happened I’d forgotten to bring any suitable mounts with me to the shoot – all I had that fitted on the light was the octa and some grids. I didn’t want grids for this – too dramatic – so the octa it had to be. Placed slightly in front of Katy and firing directly across her it acted a bit like window light, wrapping around her to the far side of her face and giving that soft, well balanced, even fill light. Because it was to one side, it also brought the textures out in the wood on which she was sitting (I learned from Drew Gardner that lighting textures from the side is what makes them look so cool).
So there you go: a combination of accidents and a willingness to do things differently and let go of preconceptions, and I’ve now worked out how to achieve a look that I really like. That’s how it goes sometimes. In fact, that’s how it goes at the best of times.