Majestic Mysti Vine!

Even more studio work! This time with Mysti Vine!

I have shot Mysti while comparing at a number of cabaret shows but up until now had not done a shoot together. Out of the blue Mysti contacted me to colaborate at the same time I was looking for someone to fill a time slot at a studio.

The moment when you step on some lego…

The moment when you step on some lego…

Does my boa look big in this?

Does my boa look big in this?

This has got to be one of the best outfits I had had the pleasure of shooting. It lends itself so well to the lighting setup, the gold reflecting and the contrast of the red is fantastic! As you can see Mysti is having a good time too!

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We settled down after this and I produced a chair for Mysti to sit on and pose for some more regal close up shots.

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The Mysti pulled out what I thought was a sequined dress but turned into a cape! We asked Mysti’s assistant to hold the cape up off camera, throw it into the air while stepping out of shot. We got some amazing floaty cloak action that day! Must do more cloak work!

Next years Oscar statue!

Next years Oscar statue!

More capes!!!

More capes!!!

Thanks Mysti that was fun!

You can find Mysti Vine here at https://www.comicgoddess.com

Vince Moon - Pesky Blighter

Back for some studio work, this time with Vince Moon to get some promotional shots for up coming performances. We discussed some ideas and I thought of a Bill Sykes character but with glitter….

Returning to the studio I had used before for the Clocktopus Cabaret and the Nova Halo shoots, a grey screen was used rather then a green one. The green screen from last time I found was highly reflective and trying to remove the green from skin turned out to be a nightmare.

Small gun…

Small gun…

Tip of the hat…

Tip of the hat…

I found that my Canon 6d Mkii has an issue with the third party flash. It would not trigger the flash when in live view mode so I had to look through the eye piece the whole time. Not such a bad issue but it does give you a blinding headache after 8 hours. Will have to think of a solution next time.

Take my belt!!!

Take my belt!!!

Having the flash working produced some realy crisp shots this time. Using the full 26 megapixel resolution I am able to crop in to this violent shot of Vince using his wrapped belt as a weapon.

Cuflinks…

Cuflinks…

As the recylce time of the flashes were down to a second we tried a sequce of Vince walking towards the camera and me shooting a number of shots. This way we could get a large number of action shots done in a short time. We used this method for the rest of the shoot and finished all we needed 30 minutes ahead of schedule!

Shoot faster!

Shoot faster!

Dont make me…

Dont make me…

… come over there!!!

… come over there!!!

Biggest sock ever…

Biggest sock ever…

In the end we shout around 350 sequence shots so Vince has a lot to choose from.

I must do more studio work in the future!

Ingefær Krigsmaskin

Wimbledon Common is a great place for photo shoots. It is large enough to get lost in and you only meet the occasional dog walker so you wont get disturbed too much.

I was waiting for my viking model after being dropped off by the friendly bus and noticed a message from him saying he had been stopped by the police a couple of times and was running late. No matter as I was scouting the area using Google Maps to ensure I was on the right track for Kingsmere lake, which was to be our first location.

The viking arrived shortly after and I was disappointed he turned up in an Uber and not a Longboat. It would of course be quite difficult to navigate the journey across Londinium whilst your hull is scrapping across the tarmac.

What struck me as odd, as we were walking towards the lake, that as we were approached by a young lady, out of the two of us she choose to converse with the obviously weaponized marauder and not the sensible oyster card carrying individual next to him… some people make some odd life choices.

Anything to declare sir?

Now obviously the shot above has been edited to remove the trees lining the northern edge of the lake but the resulting skyline was in fact an older shot of a sunset over Wimbledon taken many moons ago. The birds in the distance are ravens not seagulls..

Softly softly catch a deer….

Softly softly catch a deer….

Moving further in I wanted a crouching shot as if he was hunting deer or something. The common is in full bloom at the moment so I had to dull down the vibrant greens to give it a more rustic autumn kind of look. How he will down any type of deer without a bow is anyone guess.

One of these amulets is cursed…

One of these amulets is cursed…

Winter is com… oh it’s here….

Winter is com… oh it’s here….

The two shots above were taken fairly close to each other. We both wanted a shot of the trinkets being worn and original the shot had more of the viking but I choose to crop in to make the trinkets the focus. I did not think the Merton council would enjoy me throwing a couple of tons of salt around the common to create the effect of snow in the next shot. Salt would of course stop things growing. I wanted instead to use buckets of flour but if it rained then Peta would be kicking my door down to show me pictures of rabbits stuck to the floor by the now glue like substance. So I had to use Photoshop trickery for that one.

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This whole session was shot on a very hot Bank Holiday Monday. As it was so hot I was flagging a little so was grateful when we came across a natural glade for a quick rest. This is where I got the idea for a camp shot. I used my Canon 70D as it can use my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens where my Canon 60d Mkii cannot.

I hadn’t used the lens in a while so I forgot that things closer to the lens are exaggerated. In some shots the feet were massive!

After the shoot we retired to the local pubbery for mead and victuals.

Fear not death for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.

~Volunga Saga, c.5

Erm OK… I will just get the bus home then!

Carry on Clocktopus... or Aye! Aye! Captain!

A while back I started shooting for the Clocktopus Cabaret and started thinking about creating a poster / social media image for use by the show. As the show has a steampunk backstory it had me thinking about gears and metal as a basis for the image. However I needed to get some base shots of Captain Bang Bang and her first mate Miss Stormina Teacup.

I used the same studio for the recent NOVA Halo shoot. I say recent…. it was literally straight after! The two shipmates wasted no time getting ready, making full use of the mirror facilities.

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The green screen was already up and we stated taking shots with the Captain and Stormina separate and then together. I already had an idea for the poster, a central gear which would be used to frame the curvaceous Clocktopus crew, with titles and information around the top and bottom.

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With the shoot over, and after I watched the decimation of the biscuits we found, it was homeward bound to work on the shots. All shots were sent to the Captain and Stormina for approval,then I worked on removing the green screen from each potential shot for inclusion in the poster template.

My first ideas were very busy and had too much going on, the premise of the poster was just to attract attention and provide information, with too much included the eye could easily wander.

Gears are flat…

Gears are flat…

Can’t read the text…

Can’t read the text…

Why are the cogs on fire?

Why are the cogs on fire?

So after consultation, we decided to lessen the effect and stick to the above premise of the poster above. Remembering the steampunk theme I first added the original metal background then added a custom smoke texture which was replicated on each corner to keep it symmetrical, then added the redone gear wheel with additional gears inside the background.

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From there I added the selected shot for the respective show. Title text was added with the name of the show, in this case Second Helpings and the bottom quarter of the poster is reserved for show information.

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This shoot was a lot of fun, half the time was spent laughing and playing with nautical props, and as you can see there was a generous amount of arsing about but I like to think that my shoots are very relaxed. I never rush during the time involved and would rather take it slow to get that perfect shot I was looking for.

I also make sure there is time to allow for the tasting of plastic toy weaponry.

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You can follow the tenacious tentacles of the Clocktopus Cabaret on their Instagram https://www.instagram.com/clocktopuscabaret/

Pixie Danger - Hail and well met!

I was happily surprised to read an email from an American performer who was visiting London for a few days and wanted a photo shoot.

The email was from Pixie Danger, Dancer/Performer/Puppeteer/Model who hails from Nashville. We emailed back an fourth and Pixie commented that she ‘likes to do weird stuff kind of inspired by the location’. Yes, I had a weird place in mind.

I decided to return to a location on the North bank of the Thames when the tide was out. I had used the location before. However…. once I had met up with Pixie and Jonesy (?) think I have that right, we walked and talked till we arrived at the location. Only to find that the tide wasn’t quite as far out as I would have liked.

Ahh well lets keep going anyway. We descended to the shore and moved under Cannon Street bridge where we were in less danger of being swept into the Thames. I had Jonesy on guard duty to make sure none of the passing boats would create a swell big enough to disrupt our shoot ( he was also a good stage kitten for our bags too!).

Pixie lived up to her name by immediately scaling the wall and reclining on old pipes and holding on to chains. Even a rusty piece of metal was used as a balance beam by the shores edge.

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With Jonesy pushing the waters edge back we made our way towards the rusted barge which lies close to the stairs. The water line was close to the edge of the barge but we could get to the other side without the need for life jackets. I am glad we did as I was going to suggest leaving this location for another but if I had then we would not have got this incredible shot below.

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The front of the barge is sloped so the danger sense kicked in and I asked Pixie to crawl underneath for this shot. Just look at those eyes!

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It was at this point that our meteorologist, Jonesy informed us it had started raining. Grabbing my bag I noticed that it wasn’t rain but hail that was hitting my bag. So for a while we crouched under the barge for safety.

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Our next destination was across the bridge and back down on to the south shore of the Thames. Thankfully the tide had gone further out by now so we had more room to move around.

We walked along to arrive under the Millennium Bridge. If anyone asked me which is my favorite shot is then it is this one.

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This looks like the front of an album or book cover!

We then moved further down the bank towards an over hang where Pixie once again threw caution to the wind and started to swing from a old chain. I had no idea how old the chain was so I too threw caution to the bottom of the Thames and started taking photos.

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I also had no idea Pixie had been wearing a wig all this time… NONE AT ALL.

After this I called the end of the shoot and we parted ways. I walked up to Cannon Street main line station and sat down to review the shots while I waited for my train. Then I got hit on the back of the head with more hail. The quick hail shower before was just a taster! Hope you were under cover!

No swans were stalked in the making of this photo!

No swans were stalked in the making of this photo!

NOVA Halo - Inter Galactic Space Angel

Its not every day that I get to meet an Inter Galactic Space Angel but the other week I think I did just that. A year ago I had the pleasure of watching Nova Halo play at the Water Rats in North London after shooting a cabaret show.

It was Nova who contacted me about collaborating on a piece of space art after seeing a space themed picture I had created of ZeeZee Stardust. I can do better than that I thought and invited Nova down to a studio to try out a green screen set up with a number of her costumes.

The date coincided with another green screen shoot I had planned and was easy to fit in on the day. I had only shot green screen once before with Jack Stark for The Why Not Institute, and decided it was high time I tried my composite skills once again.

As usual I was early to the venue and waited for Nova to arrive. I of course looked up to the skies to see the space ship land but she arrived in disguise. However I suspect the suitcase may have been a teleportation device. We chatted for a few minutes while we waited to be let in to the studio. This was the first time I had hired this studio so it was all new for me too. Once we were settled and Nova had changed we started taking pictures.

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This is my absolute favourite outfit from the shoot, love the frills and the neck piece. Still can’t place the time period I’m thinking this is from…

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As you can see there is a theme running though the set of photos, I had started experimenting with planets and space art recently so this was an easy extension of that work. I tried to have a strong colour in each shot, yellow copper and rust for these three and blue and red for those below.

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One thing to note is as Nova was wearing space based silvery boots they easily reflected the green of the green screen she was standing on! One quick adjustment layer and they were back to silver… ish. Will have to work on that next time.

My absolute favourite shot is the red one. I love the broken planet and the look on Nova face suggested that this was the plan after all.

 

'The voice of a fantasian siren surfing the waves of a synth/dream/chamber/baroque pop and progressive/space rock ensemble. Her ethereal soundscape and alluring visuals serve a transcendental experience for the audience.' You can find Nova Halo here ….

…or possibly on Mars…

Listen & Purchase here:

iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/nova-halo/1438036959?fbclid=IwAR1McIJ_RP7g_VrQMKz_eW9DFWfRhTgPDNJaT7MKMAPSOQzHOeK_q30I3o4

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/artist/2JryV2TK3QhNlMUbY15pUn

Amazon - https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=nova+halo+astral+plane

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSbzFMB9TNW_zrKhB2pPNFA

Follow, Subscribe & Like here:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/n0vahal0/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NOVAHALOINTERGALACTICSPACEANGEL/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSbzFMB9TNW_zrKhB2pPNFA

 

Return to Wilton's Music Hall

As an early Christmas present to myself I thought I would hire The Study in Wilton Music Hall again, but this time for a full days shoot. The theme was Steampunk and I had bought some cheap plastic guns for the models to play with and the guns feature in each session.

I arrived and signed in and bounced up the stairs to the room, it looked like it had been used for a Christmas dinner the night before! Condiments and menus were on the tables so it took me a while to clear around some space to work.

First to arrive was Marquisa Darq who had modeled for me on the first trip to Wilton’s at the beginning of the year. Marquisa had brought along a gunslinger outfit which fitted well with the guns. I set up my new RotoLite Neo 2 and started shooting.

All the shots taken were with the natural light coming in from the left hand windows or from the soft light produced by the RotoLite Neo 2.

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Having the Canon 6d MKii on full resolution meant I could crop in to the shots to produce closer portraits of the full length shots.

Next up we have Venus Gallactica, and in stark contrast to Marquisa’s darq photos, I decided that these should have a lighter feel with a rainbow effect emanating from the guns.

Lastly we have a newcomer, Lisbeth Pipestrelle in her first ever photo shoot! I wanted to try a range of styles for these shots, a tinted Victorian edge, pure sepia tone to an ethereal haunted room look.

The muzzle smoke and flash was added in post production, I was not about to let Lisbeth start shooting up the place!

 
 

I have no idea who this is but as there is a penchant for violence with a variety of hidden cucurbitaceae, I would suggest you call the Peelers as soon as you can!

Fangs for the memories..

Brompton Cemetery is a London cemetery in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Home to some 35,000 monuments, burials, mausoleums and now visited by myself and a few vampires.

Considering the blazing hot sunshine on the day it was probably the worst time for vampires to congregate but I suppose they were in the best place for a burial. I visited the cemetery along with Maquissa Darq, who I last shot with at Wiltons Music Hall. I was on the look out for exploding vampires along the central avenue but sadly I think they were all under cover.

We stopped off at the right hand side of the Colonnade. Here we took a number of pictures. You can see the before and after of the two shots side by side. I didn't like the lack of symmetry in the walls so copied the left to the right and added more light through the arches. I also shot Marquissa standing in an archway at the front of the Colanndade side entrance. I purposely desaturated the colours leaving her to stand out against the start grays and whites.

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Avoiding the general public and assorted undead we moved around behind the Colonnade and found it was dotted with niches which Marquissa clambered up to stand in. The pose and the the way the hands were positioned to me said 'ermergance'... it was all getting a bit Hammer House of Horror at this point so we moved on and found a large musoleum where the exterior reminded me of egytian type architecture. This shot to me is very stygian in look.

Towards the back of the cemetery we found some locked doors leading to some catacombs, we noticed a snake motif on the door so Marquisa had a chat with it. It didn't have much to say. We also found a falconry area where for a small donation you can hold your arm out and a small owl will gladly sit on your glove, but not talk to you... 

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Avoiding tourists a the occasional cheerful Goth, we made our way back and had a drink in a local pubbery (Marquissa's new name for a pub).

Making of Icarus

Inspiration for a photo or art work can arrive at any moment. This was the case with the above art work Icarus. Originally I was looking out of my window and wanted to take a shot of the setting sun will the horizon line close to the bottom of the frame. 

I took two shots, one to expose for the brightness of the sun and the other to expose for the shadows of buildings below the horizon. I put both shots into Lightroom and used the HDR option to blend them together.

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I then went around the shot looking for any dust spot and came across a single bird to the left of the Sun. I used the spot removal tool in reverse, to select an area near the bird then select the bird to the clone it to the new position.

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I then had an evil thought and placed a copy of the bird directly in the middle of the Sun. Ha! I thought, don't fly to close to Sun! .... oh hang on a tick!

At that point the whole image changed for me. I no longer wanted to have a portrait shot with a low horizon, I wanted to crop in and make this an art piece instead.

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The crop was quite severe and lowered the resolution quite a bit but I think the aspect ratio of 21:9 really adds to the piece, the birds on the left and the Sun slowly barbecuing the GPS challenged Avifauna. (thanks Wiki).

The Sun rays were created by shooting at an aperture of f22. This a tiny aperture and creates diffraction of the light that enters the lens causing the Sun to become a starburst shape.

Icarus

Icarus

Double Trouble

Photo shoot time again and back to Brighton. A windy and cold Brighton but non the less it was a day out for me to see Violet Blaze and to meet Maria for the first time! 

I had hired the Velvet Goldmine Studio in Brighton so we could have somewhere other than the beach as in previous shoots. I wanted a dark area to shoot in as I had bought with me a number of fairy lights to drape around Violet and Maria. The booking was for two hours and I arrived in Brighton an hour and a half early. So I strolled down to the beach, stopping off at a shop to buy a packet of balloons to throw at Maria later. Individual balloons of course, I didn't mean I would be throwing the packet at her. We had only just met and the idea of throwing cheap party decorations at a new friend was not the first thing on my mind.

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I don't seem to be able to visit Brighton without taking a shot of the burnt down west pier. There is now a new attraction just opposite called the British Airways i360. I wasn't impressed at ground level to be honest so I may visit again later in the year with the wide angle lens.

I arrived at the studio and met Philippe the owner. We chatted about my work and what the days shoot comprised of and he helped set up for a dark setting. Lights and a tripod were available (didn't have to carry mine!) and there was a small sofa to store my gear on.

Violet and Maria arrived and we set about getting the first few shots. I had sent a shot list to Violet a few days before and we stayed true to it for the most part. I had no idea if the lights would work the way I wanted. They were small led lights on copper wire powered by three AA batteries.  

Light in the Dark

Light in the Dark

Turns out they worked perfectly! I used the flipscreen on the Canon 6d Mk II (a recent purchase) as I was using the Canon 50mm at an apeture of f1.8 and wanted to use the face detection to ensure a sharp shot.

Electric!

Electric!

Maria wanted in at this point so I wound the lights around both of them to produce more shots and a possible mild electric shock for both of them. 

After that we turned the main lights back on and got set up for Maria's shoot. The balloons made an appearance this time along with an array of unicorns. Violet was ready to throw the balloons at Maria but we found out that polychloroprene bags inflated with air are not very aerodynamic at all... no matter how brightly coloured they are. So the shot below is a composite of about five frames.

Balloons are hard to throw

Balloons are hard to throw

I have no idea what was going on here...

I have no idea what was going on here...

Things got silly after the balloon throwing with piggy backs, hugs, kisses and basic insanity.

The unicorns went on to form a boy band...

The unicorns went on to form a boy band...

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

Nurse! She is out of bed again!

Nurse! She is out of bed again!

Sorry I just don't know how this happened...

Sorry I just don't know how this happened...

The two hours flew by and it was time to tidy up. The balloons were unfortunately put down. Once they had landed their usefulness was over so they had to go. Lights were packed away, bits of balloon were picked up and we left the studio as we found it.

This was a fun shoot and we will have to do this again!

Joe Black : Touch of Evil

I do like shooting at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and I jumped at the chance to shoot there for Joe Black recently. Joe is currently touring with 'Joe Black’s Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villany in Song' an evening of comedy and songs taken from Disney films and other classics, accompanied on the piano with Friedrich Hollandaise. 

I don't think I had seen Joe Black since the Cabaret Roulette - Bill Murray show so it was good to watch him perform again. I arrived early to bag my usual seat and met with Arran Shurviton. Joe had mentioned the opening of the show would include a mirror which he had asked me to capture and Arran would be on hand to show me the set up. I haven't included the opening in the shot below... if you want to see it go see the show!! Among the Disney tunes there were others from films and theater as well as the creepiest version of a George Fromby song that just works so well!!

I was carrying my new Canon 6d MkII, full frame camera. I wanted a full frame version of my Canon 70d for a while and thought this would be ideal as a replacement. For someone who has used a crop sensor for a few years now the quality difference between a crop sensor and a full frame is incredible! One draw back, my Canon 24-105mm f4 is now exactly that! Where before the crop sensor allowed me to be closer at 38-168mm it feels like I haven't got quite the reach I had before.

I normally cringe when I see a stage bathed in a single colour however I welcomed it this time as the green tinge and smoke drifting around the stage really brought out the 'evil' in Joe's performance.

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Joe Black a gin drinking cabaret darling, musical comedy misfit, drag clown and acid tongued ringmaster, find out more at http://www.misterjoeblack.com/

Wilton's Music Hall - The Study

Since starting this website I have been to one of London's highest points and more recently, one of its lowest. Today took me to one of its oldest, Wilton's Music Hall. Built in 1859 behind a pub and three houses (thanks Wiki). 

I had arranged to meet with Marquissa Darq for a shoot in The Study, this was once two rooms and had a phantom staircase which ends in the ceiling. Well, most staircases end at a ceiling but they mostly continue to the next floor. I had visited the Hall a few weeks prior and made a mental note to make use of the stairs.

I arrived and signed in, was shown to the room and I unpacked and made sure I had everything with me. Marquissa arrived soon after me and we discussed the first shot. I had previously wrote out a shot list of 10 photos that we would try rather than winging it. I had also sent Marquissa some badly drawn stick figures on top of the photos I had taken on my previous visit.

'The Stick Man'

'The Haunting'

From here we set up the next shot, I had to move in to one of the room and shoot through the timbers to get the low angle I needed here. I also brought with me 12 led candles to form a pattern at the bottom of the stairs. To be honest they were not that good as the light was pretty weak. I envisioned that smoke would be rising from the central candle so this was digitally added in post. 

Continuing on with the Gothic theme I wanted a sort of 'dark bride' image, with a sort of 'risen from the grave' look. Wearing a black bodice and small top hat Marquissa was holding a small head band with a red flower as I forgot to buy a bunch of dead stalks with me. I had remembered everything else! This shot was de-saturated apart from the red and purple colour.

'The Summoning'

'Macarbride'

Coming from a Cabaret background I wanted to do a few shot for Maquissa based on the film 1966 film Cabaret! We were not in Germany, we didn't have the right stool and we hat a Top Hat not a Bowler Hat, but we had a go anyway.

The first shot I had deliberately angled 90 degrees as I have seen many couch shots like this but not one that has been tilted like this. The second shot was taken against the window with the light streaming in, I have blurred out the bench in post production. The third shot used the now more diffused light as the Sun had moved on and light was fading a little. These three photos make up the lyrics to the opening song from Cabaret! 'Willkommen! And bienvenue! Welcome!'

'Willkommen'

'Bienvenue'

'Welcome'

As the light was fading fast we had to work quick through the last set of shots.The shot below had Marquissa standing away from the wall and holding up a black lace scarf to her eyes. This provided not only a contrast to the head piece but also to the lighter wall.

'Trust in me....'

The last two shots were done in the last 25 minutes we had of our time in the Study. The head piece worn by Marquissa reminded me of old bathing caps worn many years ago, the green and blue make me think of the sea, let alone the gloves looking like coral. So for this shot I had introduced a blue/green under the sea type tint.

The last shot of the day had Marquissa sat at the table in the second room of the Study. As soon as I saw the area I knew the shot I wanted. In the room is a table which I imagined was a poker table, Marquissa put her hair up and put a couple of feathers at the back. To me this made her resemble a girl working the tables on a classic American Riverboat Casino. You can just make out the pile of poker chips on the table behind the winning hand.... I'm sure that is a legitimate winning hand in poker....

'Siren'

'Riverboat'

We finished on time with 10 minutes allocated to clearing up. I made sure the furniture was back in place as was found and the inner door was held back with the door stop. We walked back down to sign out and there was a selfie involved before Marquissa headed off home. 

Considering the time we had in the Study versus the diversity of shots created I think we did pretty well. There were other events going on in the spaces around, we heard the occasional foot steps from above us but on the whole the room and surrounding area was very quiet.

I hope to return to Wilton's Music Hall sometime soon!

Euston - The Lost Tunnels

I had heard of tours of the London Underground where you can visit old stations and areas which are no longer used, however there would be hoards of screaming public getting in the way of a decent shot. After a bit of research I found an offer of a Photographers day in the tunnels of Euston station. The head count would only be up to eight people so there would be ample opportunity to take some great shots with out the back of someones head in the way.

Its a turbine, if you missed the preamble....

Its a turbine, if you missed the preamble....

The UK had been experiencing the Beast from the East snow storm so I phoned ahead to make sure the event was happening. It was still going so I trudged my way to the meeting point inside a building opposite Euston Station. Here we were signed in and given a hi-vis jacket to wear. We were not allowed to keep them... yes I did ask.

After a brief PowerPoint presentation about the areas we were visiting and a few terms and conditions we were taken to the turbine room next door. To see a turbine... an enclosed turbine so all you could see what the outer shell. A few of the other photographers started taking shots so I thought I would give it a go too. I had my Canon 70d and the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 wide angle lens as I wanted to capture long tunnels as well as the walls in one shot and not have to resort to a panoramic set up. For now I had to make do with... a turbine.

You may be thinking 'you paid for the trip so why not enjoy everything it has to offer', this is true but the event is called 'Euston - The Lost Tunnels' not 'Euston - The Easily Found Turbine'.

After this we all trudged back outside to Euston Station and headed down to one of the platforms. We were taken through a metal grated door into the starting area. First thing you notice? The cold! 

We were first taken around each area we would be using then split into small groups. Two in each group. Each area was split into two smaller areas so we would not get in each others way. We were allowed to use the magnetic LED torches the organizers had on them and there were many places to stick them to.

This first shot had the light behind the central ladder which cast a shadow towards the camera and another illuminated the tunnel behind. My metal tripod was freezing at this point!

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Along the walls of the tunnels, mostly ripped and faded are advertising posters, many were for films, theater and train destinations. This wall had posters for films  The St Valentines Day Massacre - 1967 and One Born Every Minute - 1967.

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These tunnels are used for storage so there were a lot of tools and metal things stacked up along the walls, none of which were in the way but in places the floor was a little uneven but those areas were well lit.

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Moving further down in to the areas there is a tunnel designed to move air around as the trains on the Victoria Line come and go. The tunnel had a wall bisecting it to funnel the air around. Just around the corner there was a walkway where you could look down on the platform and watch as people boarded the trains. When the trains entered the platforms a gust of warm wind would rush down this tunnel, sadly this would do nothing for my already frozen tripod.

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I swear that if the organizers had someone dressed as H. R. Gigers Alien down here it would not look out of place at all. This side of the tunnel was stone cold as the warm air would only travel so far. You could literally stand in one place and be cold, then step forward and be warm. 

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We had been down there a while now and I started to experiment with using the camera hand held rather than on the tripod. At the current light levels the exposure time would be 1-2 seconds which gave me enough time to zoom in and out to create light trails and blurs.

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I also tried a unfocused shot of the Alien tunnel. The three lights flared out and I have combined a couple of these blurred shots together to create this surreal image below.

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The final area was a short downward sloping tunnel ending in a small door, dubbed the Hobbit door. This area was quiet despite the distant noise of the trains back along the tunnel. I took a moment while setting up the shot to think about where exactly and how far down I was in the system at this point. I wonder what was through the door?

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The curve of the ceiling and the lights caught my eye for this shot. It makes a great wallpaper image on my laptop.

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Our group was eventually released back into the warmth of Euston Station... right into the middle of an emergency evacuation. Hundreds of people milling about and complaining while the snow storm (which i had forgotten about while being underground) ignored the complaints and continued to pelt everyone with tiny ice crystals.

I gave my thanks to the organizers and trudged my way back to Kings Cross then home.

If you are the last to leave, turn out the light....

If you are the last to leave, turn out the light....

Scarlett O'Hora

There are times during a shoot that I talk to my camera when something goes wrong and on the last one, I attempted to accuse the Sun of producing far to many photons when I was trying to get a bleak looking shot. This was witnessed by my model for the day, Scarlett O'Hora! She did not look scared or worried that I was ranting at the Sun at all.

We had met earlier in the day to get a number of shots done and decided to shoot in and around Wimbledon Common. Scarlett had previously sent me examples of outfits to choose from. Our first outfit was a black dress fur coat and glasses. I immediately thought of Scarlett hanging off a bus stop pole and surprisingly she thought the same! Great minds etc!!

Being the professional I had worked out plan so our time at Wimbledon Common was maximized. This was thrown out almost immediately when we got off the wrong bus stop. Yay me.. but this gave us time to walk up to the next stop while getting to know each other.

Arriving at the correct location we talked about how we wanted the shot to look. I wanted to blur out the background for this in case the traffic got in the way and I wanted the numbers to be unreadable. However with a 70-200mm Sigma lens I had to walk quite far away to get a shot that included the majority of the bus stop and Scarlett together. Having to direct Scarlett from a distance meant a lot of hand waving and I am surprised we didn't flag down the odd taxi and bus service.

Wasn't even a request stop...

Wasn't even a request stop...

Our next shot was planned for further in, this would have been a choice between the red suit or the black sorceress type dress. Crashing through the complaining foliage we stumbled across the large horse track which was very muddy. We gingerly worked our way around this and arrived at the main clearing. For once there was no one about so Scarlett got changed behind a large tree and I was on the look out for passers by. Quite typically as soon as Scarlett stepped out in a very revealing dress there were families and dog walkers all over the place.

Even bought my pack of trained crows...

Even bought my pack of trained crows...

When I was shown this dress I immediately wanted a bleak looking shot with crows flying around, sort of a homage to the Morrigu of Celtic mythology. This is when the Sun started to annoy me. G-type main-sequence stars must like families and dog walkers more than photographers.

Our final shot meant we trudged further into the woods in search of a pathway that had a sort of tunnel effect by the trees. All we found was more dog walkers. None of them wanted to join in. The final shot had Scarlett in a fantastic suit. Even among such great trees I still wanted to blur them out so I was using the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 again. So off I went deeper into the woods to get a long shot. The tracking and fast lock on of the Sigma meant I could ask Scarlett to spin around and try to get a few shots where her hair would be flying around her face. Some of the shots had her face obscured but we got some shots on others.

You spin me right round baby right round etc...

You spin me right round baby right round etc...

It was time to pack up and leave.. once again my professionalism shone though by having us walk further than we needed to get back to the pub for a drink, chat and a look through the photos.

Not a break, we were still working

Not a break, we were still working

Yup, that's the sun up there!

Yup, that's the sun up there!

Slightly lost...

Slightly lost...

Reflective and red

Reflective and red

Always look stunning even when lost...

Always look stunning even when lost...

Wave to the dog walkers... so many of them..

Wave to the dog walkers... so many of them..

One of my favorite shots...

One of my favorite shots...

This was a fun shoot, even though some of my planning went a bit wrong it flowed easily from one area to another... must do this again!

The Apothecary Cabaret - Vol XXVI - Beginning

I was asked to shoot at The Apothecary Cabaret located underneath the Haunt in the heart of West Hackney. I had not shot in that place before so I immediately set about finding internal pictures of the area so I could see before arriving where I could stand without getting in the way.

And as usual I got there about 20 minutes early so after meeting the contact, Poppy, to discuss the shoot then I wandered back up to the bar to sit on a sofa and enjoy an expensive glass of cola. I went through my usual routine of checking the camera and been reset since the last outing and check all SD cards had been cleared. The stage area was dark so I would have to wait until a performer was standing directly in front of the main spot light, even then I was expecting high ISO levels.

The Master of Ceremonies was Driscoll Bleak, a compare I had not seen perform before but had the right mix of vaudeville and insane creepiness to make the number of cabaret virgins in the audience huddle together for protection. It was also his birthday so was forced to sample various objects and had to guess if they were cake or not.. most were not.

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As feared the lighting was low so I had to wait for the right moment to capture each performer at the best time. And then there is of course the guest inanimate object that is the bane of any photographer in a live situation. The pillar in the odd position...

I clocked that one as soon as I walked in the room. About two thirds across the stage there is a large pillar, OK i know it is there to make sure we are not covered in screaming drinkers from above as the ground floor collapses on top of us but still, like microphone stands they do tend to get in the way of a performance.

To this end I decided to stand to one side with my back to the bar and take shots from there. I would not be in the way of the paying public and could see the majority of the stage anyway.

After the show I said hello to those I knew of the performers and audience members and also had some of the birthday cake... which made me late to catch my train but that gave me time to look through the shots and start the culling process.

Shot delivered next day as usual...yay me!

 

Curiouser and curiouser!

During a recent shoot with Miss Morphic, we set up a shot to simulate Ana falling while wearing an Alice in Wonderland costume.  I thought sitting on the Box of White Doom while having her rest her foot on the White Chair of Unspeakable Horror would be preferable than actively pushing Ana down a rabbit hole. The studio was lacking in rabbit holes to begin with.

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We tried a number of poses but the one above was the best out of the lot. I originally planed to have a tree and a tube like tunnel stretching down from the top of the frame. However this wasn't coming out right so I decided to try some with a little more weird.

The first thing I had to do in post was to cut Ana out from the background.  This would have been much easier with a green screen but there wasn't one available. Using the Blend If function allowed me to key out the majority of the white leaving Ana suspended in the air. Some of her dress and legs looked like they had been eaten by moths so I had to paint those back in from the original shot. I used a blurred ellipse positioned below Ana to act as a shadow.. 

No rabbits to be seen...

No rabbits to be seen...

Totaly fake floor..

Totaly fake floor..

Next would be the background. I used Google images for Alice based inspiration and choose a chessboard as the floor. This was easy to make in Photoshop, black square, white square, rinse and repeat till I had a large floor print to work with. I used the perspective tool to form the floor them bent it 90 degrees to point upwards to form wall which was then covered by a smoke image which had been bent around its polar axis. This would form a sort of ethereal tunnel ending at the floor. The floor was given a grungy look but adding a gritty texture image over the top.

Next up was the clock image, representing the White Rabbit's time piece. This was colored red, the layer duplicated and a radial blur filter applied to make it look a bit zoomed out.

You also have to have a reference to the Queen of Hearts so a simple heart brush sprayed across a white layer and blurred out accomplished this.

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Did you spot the reflection in the floor?

Did you spot the reflection in the floor?

Bringing all the layers together I decided on an overall red tint to the composition. Total edit time was around 2.5 hours, to get everything right. I used dark brush to darken parts of Ana to add a bit of depth to her arms and legs otherwise she would have looked a little flat. Also added a reflection in the black tiles of the floor.

I could have added more but called it after 2.5 hours otherwise I would still be doing it!

I think I will print this one for the portfolio book!

Angels and Demons

Collaboration time again, this time with a burlesque/dancer/videoographer Ana Morphic. Ana had shown me a studio in London that has a massive seamless white cove wall. This would allow for pure white backgrounds that I could utilise in post production. 

I was looking forward to this so I jumped on the tube to Ealing Broadway on the Distric Line and as normal turn up 30 minutes early.. OK so I sent a message to Ana asking if she would like a large tea from the shop across the road. She did, so while carrying two large cups of tea I walked across the park with my hands slowly burning. I was hoping that my camera bag would not slip off my shoulder and pull my arm around splashing hot tea over someones unsuspecting face. 

Luckily I did not scald any passers by and I met Ana just outside the studio. On entering I noticed the cove wall was bigger than I thought and the main light had been set up already. Yay!

Ana introduced me to the owner and we then set about arranging which costumes Ana would be modeling. While discussing the options Ana mentioned the tattoo she had on her back. Once I saw it I made a mental note to shoot that and do something with it later. While Ana was getting changed I set up my Canon 70d on a tripod with the 24-105mm f4.0L attached. I did't think I would need the wide angle this time, and set up a chair as a reference point.

THE CHAIR OF DOOM... it's just a place to sit really...

THE CHAIR OF DOOM... it's just a place to sit really...

We had discussed a few weeks before of trying some levitation shots and my mind immediately thought of the famous painting 'The Creation of Adam' by Michelangelo. I wanted to try something like that. Not in exact detail but something in a similar vein.

Ana came out dressed in black with a headdress sporting a pair of horns.. the demon in our composite. The other costume was a lighter colour representing the angel.. we didn't have any wings but you get the idea. I dragged over a white box for Ana to balance on as the chair was only designed to be sat on and not to be used as an acrobatics platform. Neither was the box really but it didn't complain.

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This is the resulting composite with a few extra tweaks here and there.. can you spot them? The rune brushes were provided by http://www.obsidiandawn.com/

The Sistine Chapel meets Michael Bay [A little bit explody] Explody is now a word! Live with it!

The Sistine Chapel meets Michael Bay [A little bit explody] Explody is now a word! Live with it!

Just after the demon shot was taken I asked Ana to sit with her back to me and reveal the tattoo on her back. I had in mind how I wanted this image to look so asked her to cover her chest and turned back to look at me as I noticed the lightness of the hair would be a good contrast to the dark of the headdress. 

Original shot

Original shot

A demon rises

A demon rises

Ana also had an Alice in Wonderland costume. This was a bonus after we were discussing doing a levitation shoot! We could try a falling down the rabbit hole shot too.

For each of the costumes I asked Ana to sit on the box and look up at the light. I didn't really know where I was going with this, just wanted something to work on later.

The good, the bad and the not so innocent!

The good, the bad and the not so innocent!

The two hours we had together just flew by and I really enjoyed it. The light settings did not change from shot to shot, unlike a live show where lighting changes are in abundance, so we had time to try other shots and angles. I left Ana in the studio as she was working on some videos. 

I declined to get another scalding hot cup of tea and caught the tube home. I only culled a couple of frames from the shoot, just the ones from the start where I was working out the lighting. 

Really want to do that again!

You can see more of Ana as Miss Morphic on Viveo at https://vimeo.com/missmorphic and at her Patreon site at https://www.patreon.com/missmorphic.

A hand full of baubles.

I was contacted early morning by Joe Morose asking if I was available for a very quick photo shoot in central London the same day. I said I was and arranged to meet at the Cafe de Paris in Leicester Square.

Joe wanted some shots with a subtle Christmas theme. Nothing major like dancing reindeer and copious amounts of snow everywhere, Joe settled on a collection of baubles which he would hold in various places.

I arrived early (as I usually do) and was shown to the back changing rooms to wait for Joe. There I met Rubens R Kaye and had a quick chat as Joe arrived. He changed and we went out to the stage. Joe wanted full body shots and mid to head shots.

Holding the baubles at a distance!

Holding the baubles at a distance!

One bauble or two sir?

One bauble or two sir?

We had the stage for around 30 minutes, some of the shots needed to have the Cafe de Paris signage included. I had my Canon 24-105 f4.0 and the Sigma 10-20 f3.5. I decided on the Sigma so I would get not only Joe in the picture but the rest of the surrounding area.

Mmmm smells like Christmas..

Mmmm smells like Christmas..

The Sigma can focus at close range so I used it for the head shots too. You can see there is little distortion at this distance, the baubles are still circular and not stretched. 

Looking insane..

Looking insane..

The green ones taste of jelousy...

The green ones taste of jelousy...

The distortion of the lens was evident when Joe was sitting on the banister. In the original shot his legs were pointed towards the camera and were visibly stretched out. So I asked Joe to move his legs over the banister so the eye would be drawn up towards where Jo was sitting.

You need two hands to hold them.

You need two hands to hold them.

See how shiny they are!

See how shiny they are!

After the stairs we moved back to the stage, Joe had the idea of lying down on the front of the stage clutching the baubles. Again with the Sigma I was able  to capture Jo and the signage at the top.

I was able to use the lights around the edge of the stage to illuminate Joe but it wasn't enough. I used my recently purchased LED light, balanced on its own battery pack which allowed me to illuminate Joe's face.

We finished up and I left the Cafe, total time since entering was just over an hour, back in time for tea.

Joe Morose - Fan of gin, vice, sin, glitter and obtuse observations on the human condition. Cabaret Compere and all round raconteur. 80% Vol. You can find his twitter here

A man has to pose I suppose...

It is a bit of a mine field when you use Google Images for 'man poses'. Once filtered I had a number of poses ready for a shoot with Jack Stark. I recently shot for Jack for The Why Not Institute and he was returning the favour.

We arranged to meet at Cutty Sark station as I wanted to try a shot in the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, but as we approached I thought we would take a few shots near the waters edge first. Just a simple leaning against the railing shot. I then noticed the massive fairground attraction looming behind us. I asked Jack to stand in front of it and then I thought we could try a 'man pose'. A simple one foot behind the other and Jack improvised, as he called it, the 'I'm having a heart attack' stance of one arm gripping the elbow of the other. 

I hurt my arm on the rush matting...

I hurt my arm on the rush matting...

Look there is a seagull...

Look there is a seagull...

I wanted a contrasting shot next so Jack donned a jacket and stood against the brick wall of the entrance to the foot tunnel. Another of the 'man poses' was utilised. This one is called 'Waiting for a bus'. Most up against a wall shots have the wall straight, however I prefer the added curvature in this shot to add a break from the norm.

Do I need an oyster card?

Do I need an oyster card?

We walked around the Naval College wondering if it was ok for Jack to straddle a cannon on display. I thought better of it as I didn't think the Royal Navy would appreciate a British subject cavorting on a selection of heavy weaponry. We opted for something less deadly... a park bench and tried out another 'man pose'.

Thumbs.... good for holding your head up.

Thumbs.... good for holding your head up.

A patch of ground, at least in focus...

A patch of ground, at least in focus...

This was a simple portrait type shot. Nothing special, no fancy effects just practice taking a solid portrait. The park bench was less heroic looking than a massive cannon but it served the purpose as a place for one to sit. This is where my camera had a problem with Jacks face. It just would not seem to focus properly. It did however like to focus without problem on the floor, so along with the portrait of Jack I also present a portrait of a stone.

Can you see me?

Can you see me?

We moved through to Greenwich Park stopping and taking pictures where the surroundings looked good. I set up a panoramic shot with jack right in the middle which worked well. 

Blending in with the metal.

Blending in with the metal.

The geography teacher 'man pose'.

The geography teacher 'man pose'.

Contemplating the use of the park bench.

Contemplating the use of the park bench.

So, why do you want the job?

So, why do you want the job?

Time for a close up....

Time for a close up....

Kinda looking lost here...

Kinda looking lost here...

Jack in the box..

Jack in the box..

Shadow stalker.

Shadow stalker.

Coming at ya...

Coming at ya...

With time running out we returned to the foot tunnel to find it occupied by what looked like a number of musicians. So we returned to the side of the Cutty Sark exhibition to try out a mirrored shot you see above. Trying to find a clean part of the glass with out finger and nose prints took a little while. Here we see Jack performing the 'keys in the back pocket man pose'.

Our last 'man pose' made us look around for a set of stairs. Luckily there is one next to the Cutty Sark, which goes down to a car park. This was the last of our 'man poses' I'm not sure what this one was, either 'I'm running for that bus from earlier' or 'Help me I falling'.

We concluded the session with a dual 'man pose'... having a drink in the local pub for review of the pictures.

Cheers Jack!

Burlesque In Underland at The Camden Fringe Festival

I was once more delighted to be asked to shoot for Burlesque In Underland. This time it was at the Hen and Chickens pub in Highbury and Islington. The venue was similar to the Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel. 

I arrived about 15 minutes before curtain up to see where it would be best to sit. I had with me my Canon 24-105mm f4.0 and the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5. While I was up at the back I thought I would be reaching over peoples heads and I may miss the performers feet if I shot from way back there. So I went and sat directly at the front. I decided to switch to the Sigma and utilise the wide angle to get lot of the main stage in the shot... it could get the whole of the stage in fact as you can see from the shot below of the opening number.

Pi the Mime ( as Mercury)

Pi the Mime ( as Mercury)

Normally, using the wide angle you would get distortion, but being this close to the performers there was very little. One consequence of using this lens, it looks like the performers are further away than they actually are. When looking up from time to time it was quite a shock to see them only a couple of feet away! 

Athena Beauvoir

Athena Beauvoir

Pinky T'boo

Pinky T'boo

Jessabelle Thunder

Jessabelle Thunder

Valarie Savage

Valarie Savage

Ella the Great

Ella the Great

Senorita Scarlett

Senorita Scarlett

The cast

The cast

I like a show that is so good that you do not notice the time passing. This hours performance flew by and I was soon off home on the tube checking and marking off keeper and rejects. Glad to say a lot of them were keepers! All were packaged and sent off within my self imposed 24 hour time limit. Hate to keep performers waiting.