Monday, 23 April 2012

Lacock Abbey

A couple of weeks ago my old college tutor invited me, and several other past students, to accompany her and a group of current photography students on a trip to Lacock Abbey and Village. It was great to see some old friends again and hear about what they had been up to.

I'd not been to Lacock before, so was not sure what to expect but having been to a few old country houses and manors I had some preconceived ideas. Turns out that I was wrong on most counts! The gardens were very natural, not the highly landscaped flower beds I have seen so many times before. I would have loved it there as a kid, so many places to hide!

The only problem was the rain. It was quite heavy at times and that made it hard to get any clear shots without there being other visitors in the frame. The shot of the cloisters above was taken in a brief break between the showers. One good thing about the rain is the nice saturated colours.

During another break I took a walk out to the orchard and loved the way the church looked against the sky.

Not long after taking this photo I was caught out by another downpour so headed back to the cloisters and the dry. I was fortunate enough to just get this photo before people in the room at the end of the cloister walked out. If you look carefully you can just make out the silhouette of one of them.

I had planned on doing some HDR shots too but due to the number of people around I only managed one image.

HDR is often used to give a surreal look to a photo but I like to keep it simple and use it just to enhance the image. The three shots below show why HDR is useful. In the centre shot you see the "normal" exposure for the room. It looks fine, but the scene outside the window is too bright and gets blown to white. Exposing for the outside plunges the room into darkness. The third shot exposes to get detail in the shadows.

Combining the three you get something closer to what the eye can see.

Another thing worth looking at if you visit Lacock is the William Henry Fox Talbot Photography Museum. You can learn about the history of photography and the process patented by Fox Talbot in the 1800's and see prints of some of his photos.

Like other houses, there are many paintings to see at Lacock, but there are also the photos by Fox Talbot himself. For me the photos have something very special about them. A painting shows an artists impression of his subject but a photograph captures the actual person, as they were at that instant in time. It is one of the things I love most about photography and why I am drawn to photograph people more than any other subject.

At the moment the museum also houses a gallery of photographs by Basil Pao. If you have watched the Michael Palin adventures on TV then you may recognise many of these photographs as Basil travelled with Michael on many of his trips. There are some amazing portraits in the collection.

Unfortunately I had time only to take a brief look around the village. Next time I will plan better!

Take care

Friday, 20 April 2012

Engagement: Kathrine and Lewis

I've been really looking forward to photographing Kathrine and Lewis for their engagement. We have had quite a wait as Lewis has been at sea for about the last six months!

We met up at Foster Gardens on a lovely sunny afternoon. Too sunny in fact, so the first job was to find some nice shady areas to work in. A bench under the trees was perfect as it also allowed them to relax and get used to being photographed.

It didn't take long before we were getting some lovely photos of them together.

Next we headed over to the pergolas. I think the stone supports make for an interesting background without being distracting. For these close-up shots I decided to use a minimal depth of field to really focus on either Lewis or Kathrine.

Then I had to increate the depth for this shot of the two of them, but not so much that the background became distracting.

The pond was in direct sunlight, so I decided to have Kathrine and Lewis sit at the edge with their backs to the sun so they were not squinting too badly.

We finished up with a splash of colour from the flower beds.

Really looking forward to the wedding, which is just about a month away now. I'm sure it will be a great day.

More soon!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Clamshell Lighting

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to meet Emily, a lovely model from the Isle of Wight.

I picker her, and one of her friends, up at the hoverport in Southsea then headed out to Havant to shoot at Staunton Country Park. It was around November and it was COLD. I was all wrapped up in multiple layers whilst Emily bravely, and without a word of complaint, managed to pose and look beautiful as she steadily froze solid. We did manage to get some great shots though. :) And we warmed her up before taking her back.

She was a real star that day so I was delighted when she suggested working together again.

We started out with a similar plan, but I thought we could make good use of the features around Southsea and Old Portsmouth. I met her at the hoverport again but unfortunately it looked like rain, the wind was picking up and it was a really dreary looking day. Enter "Plan B", back to the warmth and dry of home and a studio setup.

The shot above was made with just two lights. The background, a Lastolite HiLite, was lit with one Elinchrom BXRi 500 whilst Emily was lit with the second BXRi with 70cm silver beauty dish. The dish was fitted with a white deflector and shower cap to soften it just a little.

Using a C-Stand I was able to place the dish about 80cm in front of Emily and angle it down at 45 degrees to light her face and a large silver reflector. You can see two catchlights in her eyes, from the dish at the top and the reflector below. I placed the camera between the dish and reflector and had Emily look directly down the lens for this shot.

I love the clean simplicity of this. For a more dramatic look I could have removed the reflector, which would have introduced stronger shadows under her chin. The background looks good in grey too, which means that this could have been done with just one light.

Take care,