You won’t Valkova me!

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Model: Valis Volkova                                                                                                                                                       Location: Chippenham, UK

The portrait project is progressing slowly but steadily. I’ve been trying to book a session a week but sadly I haven’t managed it quite as often as that. However, I’ve now shot 6 models and have another today. I’ve also been searching my back catalogue and will have a few more to add from there as time progresses.

A few weeks ago I met and worked with the marvellous Valis Volkova. Would you believe she’s been in my home town for well over a year and we haven’t worked together before. In fact, we’d never even met each other despite the fact she resided in a house I’d visited several times!

We arranged a shoot here at my home and from the moment I picked her up (5 mins drive!) to the time she left we got on like a house on fire. Valis is a superstar in the making. She’s already appeared in Game of Thrones and I’m sure she’ll get tons more work now she’s moved to London. For now though, for three hours, she was working with li’l ole me and boy did we get some shots. I love the classic Hollywood feel to these shots and with my favoured one light rig (as natural as possible) Valis’ look is simply stunning.

The B&W portrait theme is an interesting one because it’s not as simple as I thought it’d be. I’ve always poo-pooed the idea that you have to ‘think’ in mono as being a bit naff and, quite frankly, bollocks. However, for this, I think I’m starting to plan in my head how things might look. I’ve now set my camera screen to show contrasty mono so I can get a good feel of the shot as I go (thanks Artemis!).

I’m still amazed at how different a shot can feel with just the slightest movement of head, eyes, chin, mouth, hair or shoulder. Ok, I’ve always known this and maybe I’m just uber sensitive to it on this project but never has it had such an effect on me. There are frames that knock you out next to one with the slightest adjustment that just ‘doesn’t quite work’. Maybe it’s just my personal taste but I like the challenge of this series and it’s only just beginning!

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Another week, another shoot

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Having done a few shoots in and around Wiltshire I decided it was time to travel a bit further afield, so I headed for the south coast. My reason was to hook up and work with with wonderful Milly Jean. We hadn’t worked together before so its always a bit nerve-racking meeting someone for the first time and then trying to get the most personal and intimate photographs of them.

I needn’t have worried as Milly’s just a lovely, down to earth person and a perfect subject to shoot. She has a look that changes depending on the smallest shifts in pose and considering I’m shooting portraits, thats pretty impressive.

For this project it’s also extremely helpful as it makes scrolling through the photographs in post production much simpler. My technique for this crucial stage of my processing is to put on some mood music (usually something that fits emotionally with my project intent) and scroll through the images one by one. For this work, I convert them all to B&W and boost the contrast so that I get an overall ‘feel’ for how they’d look converted properly. I then make the selection of the shots I’d like to ‘investigate further’ by flagging them in Adobe’s Lightroom Classic CC. If while doing this I come across a shot that takes my breath away, I also add a colour tag so that I can identify it when I return.

When I’ve gone through all the shots I’ll then be quite brutal and change my viewing mode to “Flagged only” and then go through my chosen frames one by one making more shot specific alterations such as cropping, exposure and tonal changes. All this is just to get an overall impression of how the final image might look if I decided to edit it fully. Usually, any technical problems with the photograph itself such as focus misses or exposure problems, I’d remove the flag and move on, however, for this particular project, I’m less concerned with technical perfection and more concerned with ‘mood’. Having done this I’ll walk from them and re-visit the folder on another day. It’s amazing the difference a day makes when editing! Sometimes a shot that you believe is a world beater and work on for hours can the following day look nothing special at all so time is my friend here.

Milly’s shoot was a joy. We spent as much time chatting and laughing and getting to know each other as we did shooting which certainly helps for a more intuitive and successful shoot. I’ve edited a whole bunch and still haven’t decided quite which one I’ll use as my final choice. The impressive thing is, I have a number to choose from which isn’t always the case!

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Portrait Series

I’ve embarked on a new project that’s aimed at simple, natural portraits of beauty.

I make no apology for this. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’m holding the camera! So it’s my eye, my take and my series.

I’ve started with four amazing models that’ve each been fun and exciting to work with. Their abilities and skills in achieving my aims have been amazing. Although the brief sounds simple enough, it takes a great degree of effort, practice and dedication to simply “look natural”.  Add into that, a lighting set up and a photographer gabbling on ten to the dozen and you have to know what you’re doing as a model!

The series will one day be published in a coffee table book but will take some time to amass a portfolio. However, the shots published here won’t be the ones I’ll use, not the shot I’ve chosen as the photo that ‘takes my breath away’! However, they will hopefully give you a flavour and serve as a reminder for me.

The intention is to produce them all in a B&W. I saw a video of shots of actors, some posed, some shot on set but all having a natural, almost candid feel to them. As a lot were stars from yesteryear, most were taken on mono film and that’s the look I’ve adopted. It isn’t a revolutionary style or anything that will wow the photographic community but I don’t normally shoot with B&W in mind and it’s been some time since I produced anything without colour. My usual attitude is that it takes away a vital aspect of information from the viewer and is an oft used excuse for poor colour management/composition by the photographer, so this series is a challenge for me.

This session with Rebecca Perry was shot here at my place. Rebecca arrived and we chatted and drank tea as we got to know each other. For the next 2-3 hours we shot and chatted and laughed and shot. The lovely thing about these projects is that you meet wonderful people as strangers and, after an intense and personal period of time, you inevitably leave as friends. This is exactly what happened with Rebecca. (I’m planning on writing a blog post just about the creative process and it’s alluring and seductive aspects which sometimes lead to misunderstood emotions.) Rebecca’s an amazingly brave and driven individual. She has that gorgeous sophisticated look, professionalism and hard work ethic that will take her far in whatever career she eventually ends up in whether that remains modelling or not.

I love this shot but have not given it the green light as the ‘one’ because it looks and feels too much like a studio shot. It wasn’t but it could easily be mistaken for one. As for her beauty, well, that’s for you to decide!

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Drown

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Model: Ezzie                                                                              Location: Swindon

I promise this is the last in the series of “lyrics”, my project is complete.

This final image was one that Ezzie and I had planned for over a year. We needed to find the right weather and time of year. In the full-size version you’d be able to clearly see the rain falling. Brave Ezzie stood out in it for over an hour in freezing conditions and like the super-star she’s sure to become, she never complained once! We tried a few different poses and settings before I settled on this one for the final edit.

The song is by Front Porch Step and is called Drown. It’s an angst ridden chant-like acoustic song that either grates or catches. For me it caught. It captures the fleeting moment between outright devastation and anger when a relationship breaks down. The hurt is still there but the anger isn’t far away. Part of the healing process I guess.

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Rainbow smile

This is dedicated to all those people in the world that fight and struggle with all forms of depression. Either on a regular basis, occasionally or only once in their lives. However people are affected, deep bouts or light ‘downs’, living and coping with it can be extremely debilitating. If the truth was told, we all suffer at some point with ‘little black clouds’ following us around.

This image is my attempt, inspired by the Stereophonics’, Maybe Tomorrow track to make my small comment.

I remember times in my life when regardless of how I felt, I went out into the world and wore my ‘rainbow smile’. Sometimes, I tried to ‘buy’ happiness, maybe alcohol, maybe a physical object, maybe another kind of false tonic. I may have felt mildly better, for a time, but then I ended up alone with my thoughts.

Mental illness is simply awful. Appearances deceive, help is limited and most of us try to power on through. We try to bury it deep inside, soldier on and sometimes we get lucky, altering some things in our lives which helps to heal the wounds.

Maybe tomorrow I might feel better if I can just (rainbow) smile my way through today.

Big love to all

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Dance along the light of day

I met the lovely Roswell Ivory a couple of weeks ago here in Wiltshire. We had some pre-shoot comms about what I’d like to try to complete during our 3 hours working together.

When I picked her up we chatted more and both the shots we completed ended up being different from the ideas I had in my head.

This one was always going to be interesting as it’s about a girl who’s gone away travelling to discover herself and the world, leaving a boyfriend behind at home. He’s now wondering if she still loves him now she’s realised some of her dreams.

Capturing this was hard enough, editing it in a way that evoked what I wanted it to was even harder. I tried several different edits, a couple (as is often the case!) I laughed at a day later and hit the delete key but this developed over a few days of adjusting, building, moving and developing. The final edit is a little more ‘polished’ but this is near enough!

She’s returned from her “stay on the moon” and is free, more relaxed and ultimately more knowing. Whether thats a good thing for our writer is a different matter…

Thanks to Train and “Drops of Jupiter” for the inspiration, thanks to Roswell for her patience and stickability despite howling winds, a freezing location and intermittent heavy downpours!

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To crack a nut!

With all the election hype and Trump silliness I thought it’d be a good idea to lighten the mood a bit.

This was shot a couple of weeks ago with the lovely Avant Garde again. I’d had this idea to show how we’re happy to compromise with the right person and Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer gave me the excuse to indulge. My original thought was to have Jade in various uniforms (Fire Fighter, Police, Army etc) but I think this works so much better. Jade’s capacity to become a different character for each look was incredible and we had a good laugh completing the complicated process!

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