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Recent work: Jess Kemp on Location

Jess Kemp - Location Shoot-2

Last time we were looking at my recent work, I was telling you about my adventures in the studio with Jess Kemp. Today, I’ll talk briefly about the second half of the shoot. Or, rather, the second shoot. We’d hoped to do this bit on the same day as the studio stuff but the Manchester weather had been, well, itself, and had scuppered that idea.

This shoot was much simpler conceptually than the studio work — the brief was to get some skyline shots and a couple of street level shots at night — but was actually more complicated, logistically. And by that I mean that I had a subject and a light on a high building on a windy day, and had decided that a 5′ octabox was the right light modifier for the job.

My assistant, luckily, was very good at holding the light steady against the wind, so I was able to get the shots that I wanted (Mancunians will recognise the view from the top of the Printworks car park). This is a really simple lighting set up: let the sky get down to around f/4, bring in a nice soft light, also f/4, and capture the detail in the sky and in the subject’s face, too.

Jess Kemp - Location Shoot-5

I played with the colour balance in these shots as the ambient bled away, and walked the shutter speed down to try and keep the ratio between flash and ambient pretty much a constant.

I only wish that I’d brought some apple boxes or a nice solid platform for Jess to stand on, so that there wasn’t that ugly railing in shot. Next time, perhaps…

Once night had pretty much fallen we headed down to street level. It was pretty quiet, being a Monday night, but as we descended we could hear the jeers of crowds watching England’s disastrous exit from the World Cup. Spilling out from the Printworks sports bars, they were chanting “we are fucking shit” over and over.

We didn’t know how long we’d get before the streets got busy with lairy and miserable football fans, so we worked quickly to shoot some images at street level. Letting the ambient do most of the work, with just a low-powered pop of flash to freeze Jess and light her in a neutral colour against the sulphurous yellows.

Jess Kemp - Location Shoot-9

Before wrapping, we took a chance and dived into one of the Northern Quarter bars, all decked out in England-supporting bunting. A quick check with the bar staff that we were okay to shoot in there, we fired off a few frames. At first we used the bar’s lighting as our only light source, but that didn’t work terribly well. So we put a flash though an umbrella to get another cool portrait.

Jess Kemp - Location Shoot-12

And with that, another great collaboration with Jess came to an end. I’m really looking forward to the next one. In the meantime, you can check out her music on SoundCloud