(R)in the house

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Model: Sinopa Rin                     Location: Wiltshire, UK

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with Sinopa Rin here in Wiltshire. I had long been an admirer of her work and messaged her to see if she would be willing to sit for some portraits for my black & white project.

A few messages and days later, she arrived at the station up the road for our shoot. After having been near licked to death by my lab we set about the task of creating some images.

As I expected, Rin was effortless, great fun to work with and we got loads of brilliant pics of her being…well….Rin I guess! (Which is kinda what I’m after).

The wonder of doing this project is that I get to meet so many amazing creative people and although it’s becoming a bit of cliche in the photographer/model world, cliches are cliches for a reason!

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Ezzie

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Model: Erin                   Location: Wiltshire, UK

One of the aspects I want to capture in this B&W portrait series is a kinda candid feel. That not all of the pictures are staged and posed. To be honest, for a model and photographer, these more ‘relaxed and natural’ shots are probably amongst the hardest to capture. It’s like setting up a video camera and being told to ‘walk normally down this road while we film you’. As soon as you think about how you walk ‘normally’, you can’t.

The reason I think, lies in the fact that you don’t think, you just do it. As soon as your conscious brain takes over, it becomes hard to be natural. It’s why most of us really struggle to act well or perform simple ‘natural’ poses when being photographed.

From a photographers perspective, the key to getting these shots is to create as relaxed a shoot as possible. However, for different sitters this will mean different things. What is relaxing and natural to me isn’t necessarily the same for your model. Judging and reacting to your sitters character, attitude and even mood during the shoot can be vital in achieving the results you want.

I have no idea how a model like Ezzie manages to make this look so easy. I know it takes a lot of hard work and I also know she sometimes mentally puts her mind in a situation that invokes the look she’s after. Beyond that I’ve no idea and just marvel and am in awe at the seeming ease she is able to transform from one look to another.

All that said, for me, shooting with Ezzie means none of the above applies. Over the couple of year’s we’ve worked together we’ve become friends and her full time job is an actress. We have to occasionally remember we have work to do and have to literally drag ourselves away from tea drinking, chattering and laughing in order to do some serious work!

These shots were achieved with one strobe/beauty dish and during a moment we were either taking the piss out of each other or performing our huge array of fake accents that always revert to Irish for some reason neither of us has yet fathomed!

The technicals are Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 50mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the top image and Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 70mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the bottom.

 

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Belle-Eve

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Model: Belle Eve               Location: Wiltshire, UK

The beautiful Belle Eve contacted me to see if I was interested in a shoot as she was ‘in my area’ on a tour. One look at her port and I jumped at the chance.

She arrived ready to go and we spent a few hours chatting, shooting, chatting and shooting some more. We tried different styles, we varied the lighting and I changed lenses throughout.

Eventually, when it came to editing, as I’m finding with many of these portrait shoots, the tricky bit is choosing which shots fit my own brief and work with the other images I already have.

This isn’t one of the chosen images but I love it all the same. I like Belle’s near smile and eye contact. A lovely image of a lovely model!

Shot using an LED continuous ring light on Canon 5D Mark IV, Sigma f1.4 85mm at 1/500th sec at f2.5, ISO 1600.

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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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