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).

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!

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!

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!

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!

Clowning about...

I was contacted by Jack Stark and was asked to come down and take some shots for The Why Not Institute. These were to be added to the website and used in promotional material.

I traveled to the location, a church hall in Clapham, South London and shocked two old ladies as I walked into the church by mistake. I was quickly ushered out before I burst into flames and found the hall. Met up with Jack and Angela and had a quick chat about the set ups, we were to be joined by Ness Gracious later on. This would be the first time I would be working with people on a green screen, so I had to make sure there was very little green reflections and spill over onto clothing. 

We started with some simple head shots to establish characters, finger pointing (to point at objects on the website) and finished off with holding a large piece of paper which would be filled in at post production.

We then went out side to shoot. We tried to do a series of shots where Jack and Angela were traveling with instruments. One of which was bulky and heavy so we took turns with the large instrument being carried on each others back. As you can see Jack seemed to be either enjoying himself or was experiencing immense back pain.

Look! Its green!

Possible internal hemoraging too.

Getting in to the spirit of clowning I asked if I could throw in a few ideas. I had my 10-20mm f3.5 lens with me which close up can really distort facial features but I was thinking more along the lines of enlarging other features. Jack and Angela sat on the pavement surrounded by the instruments and I crouched down to their level. Instantly the legs and feet expanded due to the wide angle nature of the lens but as the heads were further back they were not distorted. This was also true when Jack pushed his hat towards the lens, it made it look massive!

Large feet..

Massive hat..

Ness Gracious arrived soon after so they all changed into cloths more suited to musicians and we played around with trombones. One of them had the mouth piece missing so in the shot below I asked Jack to shout into it. From then on things got a little insane..

OI!!!

Just insane...

The sun was still shining so we went back outside to shoot more shots with Ness, again they all sat down and I used the 10-20mm and this time asked Angela to point at me. This lens does have a good close focus range and at f3.5 I managed to make the finger sharp and the faces behind burred out. While working with them for the day I noticed how each character interacted with each other. It seemed that Ness' character was more interested in apply her make up than help move the instruments so for the shot below I asked for Angela and Jack to look back at Ness while she looks into her compact.

Look there is a photographer!

Look there is a photographer!

At least someone is helping..

At least someone is helping..

I really enjoyed working on the collaboration and it was good throwing some ideas into the mix. Of course I cant let this go with out doing my own twist with things. I used some of the green screen shots to do some simple portrait work.

Silva (Angela de Castro)

Kiki (Jack Stark)

Kiki (Jack Stark)

Ness (Grace Miller)

 

The Why Not Institute is the UK’s only organisation totally dedicated to contemporary clowning. They are a community, offering resources, developing performance, and nourishing support networks for clowns and others interested in the approach of its founder, Angela de Castro (as well as that of a growing band of collaborators and associates). The Institute is dynamic, shaping and responding to the resurgence in modern clowning, with a special focus on clowning within theatre traditions.

 

Multifaceted Gem

Many things can be considered 'hot', people, cloths and of course the large yellow thing in the sky called the Sun. The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star according to Wikipedia. I don't go around name calling solar bodies but today I had other names for the spherical celestial plasma spewer. It was HOT!!

I met up with Ruby Deshabille, a burlesque performer, whom I had shot a couple of times at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for Cabaret Roulette. I wanted to shoot some contrasting shots and Ruby had the very thing, a bright metallic type dress that really stood out against everything.

We moved around the area we had selected to shoot in, a small dock area in Haggerston in East London. There were a few people walking along the banks enjoying the sun, I often wonder what people think when they see me waving a large lens around. When I'm using the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 I can be a considerable distance from the model.

As you can most probably tell I have been working on these shots with bright light in mind. In each I have left some element of light or introduced an even greater element to enhance the photos.

You may also notice that Ruby seemed to have more than one version of the dress she was wearing. This was just down to post processing in Photoshop, targeting the blue dress and changing the hue until I found something I liked.

I especially like the shot below titled 'Stunning in Scarlet'. I read somewhere that a photo can be more interesting if you throw in a splash of red. OK so it is less of a suggestion and more like a slap in the face to all blue dresses in the world but there was enough blue in the shot to begin with.

Ruby Deshabille is a London-based burlesque performer, actress and pin-up model, you can visit her website at www.rubydeshabille.com

A Shade of Rouge

I had some time to go and see Briar Rouge recently to do a quick photo shoot. We choose a small local park five minutes from Hitchen station. Hitchen is only thirty minutes from Kings Cross so I was able to view new things from the window like rolling fields and sheep. These sheep were either circus performers or they just liked getting on top of each other for some reason....

Pulled into Hitchen and consulted Google Maps and headed towards the park. The wrong way... oh great start. Arriving at the park I noticed something that Google Maps didn't show me. The cluster of trees I thought were dense turned out to have a fence stopping any further progress. This was fortunate as this would have taken me up to the train lines and a large number of volts to the legs would not be nice.

I received a text from Briar confirming she was on her way so I did a quick look around for viable places. The first thing was a willow tree with a path behind it. This was a good place to start as we would then walk around the edge of the park looking for area to shoot in.

Urtica dioica

Pink Chiffon

Pink Chiffon

Briar arrived and we had a quick discussion about the cloths and accessories she had bought with her. Briar was already dressed in pink chiffon dress and a red hat so we started with that. I like red as its a contrast to most things especially when you are in a large field of green things. I stepped down a few nettles around the tree, one thing you don't want is a model annoyed at you for stepping on a perennial Urtica Dioica. (thanks Wiki). Always look after your model, you want them to smile at you! The sun came out just at the right time for a shot that illuminated the dress.

We moved from location to location, dodging a few dog walkers and managed a few costume changes. I had a three of my lenses with me, the Canon 24-105mm f4Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and the Canon 50mm f1.8. All three were used with the 50mm f1.8 used for close up shots of Briar's face, the f4 for medium to close shots and the f2.8 for long range shots or when I wanted to really blow out the background.

On occasion I do like to take a few candid shots while the model is getting ready, it can show a different side of the shoot.

Mirror Mirror.. off the wall.

Mirror Mirror.. off the wall.

I allow two hours for a shoot, this allows time for a costume change and enough time to explore the area and utilize as many versions of a shot as you can. Ideas can run out quick if the area is small too. We wrapped in a hour and a half and parted ways. Throughout the shoot Briar showed a lot of experience and suggested areas to shoot in and improvised looks and poses while the shutter was clicking away. Cheers Briar hope to work with you again!

Briar Rouge is a singer and burlesque performer, you can find her website here at http://www.briarrouge.com/

Shooting Bambi in the woods

I contacted Bambi Bang Bang, a burlesque performer who I had taken shots of at a House of Burlesque performance at the Rolling Stock bar. We had met later at Cabaret Roulette a few months later and got chatting about collaborating on a shoot. We met at a park in North London and walked towards a bank of trees. We started off simple with a few poses leaning back against one of the trees. I found that during shoots I tend to ramble on and makes jokes to hopefully make the talent relaxed and comfortable. It worked really well this time as there were many outtakes available!

Moving from the trees we wandered over to a small rise covered in leaves. They were free for the taking, so we used a couple of them for the shot below. Love the eyes in this shot and I must use props more often. Funny thing was we both remarked that they didn't feel like leaves at all.

We moved on from the 'Matrix-glitch' leaves and walked towards the center of the field. I wanted a shot of Bambi lying down looking towards the camera. The shot worked but looking at the shot from the back of the camera which I didn't figure out until post production. When you notice Bambi is not looking directly at the camera then the shot takes on a more sinister tone...ahem..

Bambi is fine really!

Bambi is fine really!

Moving into the center of the a grove of trees I wanted to try out the Brenizer effect. By zooming in to 105mm I focused on Bambi and took many shots around here to make a panoramic. Zooming in like this compressing the background and provides a short depth of field. The shot came out as I wanted and as I was looking at it an idea came to mind. There always seems to be one shot that stands out from each shoot I do that warrants a bit more attention and work. You can see the result below.

Seriously, even God thinks you're a dick..

Seriously, even God thinks you're a dick..

It remains to say that this was a fun shoot, full of laughter, jokes and avoiding the odd squashed apple or two.

Thanks Bambi!


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A Ness in Wonderland

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Not having done a shoot in a while I contacted Ness Gracious. I had previously worked with Ness nearly a year ago walking around her local area. This time I wanted to do a set of photos that would tell a story. After confirmation from Ness that she had a selection of summer dresses I thought of trying a 'Alice in Wonderland' style shoot.

We headed towards Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe. My backpack was straining as it was carrying the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8. I hadn't used the lens in a while and forgot two things about it. One, the focus speed is sooo fast and Two, it is sooo heavy!

However it did help with compressing the background in the long shot of Ness in the first photo. This was near the base Boot Camp hill a few yards from the Ecological Park. The top of the hill show a fantastic panoramic view. I will be going back to take shots of that view another time.

We moved on, into the Ecological Park and started taking shots of Ness walking around the park. I had ideas of before the shoot of having Ness holding branches back and looking at flowers which worked out well and I was thinking ahead with regards to effects and techniques I could use is post production.

We stopped at a bench next to a pond where Ness took out a book as a prop. From behind us we heared noises that sounded very suspicious. Making a comparativly suspicious comment about the noises made Ness laugh out loud so I quickly snapped off a shot as a memory of the moment. Seconds later a small dog burst from the bushes, he had been playing in a nearby pond. I was still suspicious.

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Finally we found a clearing with a large number of purple flowers. While Ness sat down in the grass I moved around finding shots, some directly in front and some with the grass in front to create depth.

Back home and with all the shots in Lightroom I started the culling process. For each 'scene' I had taken a number of shots so I had Lightroom show the group of photos and then remove one at a time until I had the best one left.

The best were moved to a pick folder for further editing.

I enjoyed this shoot, Ness is fun to work with and with a theme to work to meant that I had to think quickly to visualize shots to match the theme. (OK Ness helped with a few).

 Thanks to Ness for being available that day!


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Andy Van der Graaf

Head Shot!

I was contacted by Andy Van der Graaf who was requesting some simple head shots to be taken. I suggested we meet at Canary Wharf station. I had walked around there a few years back and had found it to be very quiet. Multitudes of tourists in the background do not make a good head shot.

I was looking for a neutral background for our head shot and settled on a marble pillar down by the water front.

Some of them were in shadow so I asked Andy to stand in the light rather than the shade. This was a not to hot March afternoon, the sun was past its zenith but was still very strong. After a few shots the sun was was causing Andy to blink a lot! The shot seen here was taken at 1/4000th of a second!

We took a number of shots then retreated from the sun to a nearby pub where Andy (using Adobe Lightroom on my laptop) chose his favourites for processing and delivery.

Good luck with the head shots Andy!


While we were wandering around Canary Wharf we walked through a corridor connecting one street to another. I immediately saw an opportunity for a photo right there, lots of lines receding into the distance! I asked Andy to pose as near to the centre as possible as I knew which type of editing I would be going for.

Good Ness Gracious

I contacted a performer Ness Gracious, and asked if she was available for a quick shoot? She said she was so I jumped on to the East London Line up to Rotherhithe station. Ness arrived on time and we walked towards the Thames. The weather wasn't on our side so I had earlier suggested Ness brings an umbrella. Turns out we used it as a prop during the times when it was really windy.

While Ness was posing with the North bank of the Thames behind her I could see that where ever I pointed the camera there was always a crane in view! Still I had to set fire to the stunt umbrella that had taken a bit of a beating by the end of the session.

We moved on to a local park where a children's play area and a band stand were made use of. We dodged a couple of squirrels and a friendly dog too. I had spotted a small cafe close to the edge of the park and thought it was nearly time to call it a day. While kicking a few leaves around I asked Ness to gather some up and throw them in the air while I try to capture them in mid flight.

We had a few goes at it as many of the leaves had their own ideas when it came to gravity and decided to get in front of Ness's face. In the end I managed to stitch a few shots together to make one composition. After which we had a cup of tea in the cafe and called it a day.

I learned from this shoot that asking performers to model can be advantage. There are very used to being in the public view so shooting around town is not a problem and, like with Ness, needed very little directing. Roll on Summer, lets do this again!



Miss Whisky Falls

Back to Balham!

A while back I shot for Sadie Sinner with Mynxie Monroe at the Bedford pub in Balham. This time I was shooting for Yvette Jenkins and Whisky Falls for BurlesqueNylons.co.uk.

This location had me looking around the area to maximize the diversity of shot we could use. I had Whisky draped over a throne, posing against a fireplace and the pub bar as well as upside down on a couch.

We then strolled outside to the underside of a rail bridge close by. The light at this time of day was incredible, allowed me to take some fantastic sharp shots of Whisky against the brickwork of the bridge. Just around the corner from there was a path way which we also used while the sun was setting.

Mynxie Monroe

It is not every day that I am asked ‘could you shoot something royal in pub in Balham? There will be a throne and model!’ Hell yeah OK!

I had been contacted by Sadie Sinner, whom I have met at Madam Jo Jo’s, to do a shoot as soon as possible for an event she was hosting later in July.

I asked for a few more details and realized I would need to bring my lights again. This would be my second chance to use my lights in anger as they were last used in Brighton for my shoot with Violet Blaze. They performed well then so I was excited to give them another go.

I arrived early at the Bedford in Balham with time to spare. My contact was the manager of the pub called Scott, who was not in work that day. No matter, I talked to the bar staff and as I could show I was knowledgeable about Scott and the throne I was allowed to go up and check out the area.

The pub hosts music and comedy nights and while I ascended the stairs I could hear some folk music coming from the central auditorium. I wasn’t sure of the exact room I would be shooting in so I wandered around a few rooms. Most were music oriented and some were furnished room with additional bar facilities.

I soon met up with Sadie and we scoped out the room. It was long on one side with windows giving lots of light. We moved a throne from an adjoining room and positioned it across from the windows.

The light wasn’t that great so I broke out the lights only to find there was no power. A quick call downstairs fixed that and we were ready. I had placed my lights to the left and right of the throne. This did off a couple of shadows but the theme was a Gothic/punk/royal/ anarchy shoot so I think they fitted.

Mynxie Monroe, the model arrived and we started the shoot. Sadie knew the kind of look she wanted so she was directing Mynxie instead of myself. This meant I could concentrate of shooting with my Canon 50mm f1.8. I had used this with the Violet Blaze shoot so I wanted to try it again today.

Having the aperture wide open at f.18 meant the depth of field was very narrow. I was trying to focus on Mynxie’s closest eye and as she was sitting still in the throne, the only movement that would spoil the shot would have been mine. Therefore I set the camera to multiple frames to hopefully ensure one will be sharp.

Moving on from the throne there was a great royal couch in the other room. We had Mynxie lounge all over it taking numerous shots. I dragged up one of the lights and placed it close to Mynxie and stood directly behind it. The light whited out her face so I decided to use this shot to try and create a vampire effect after.

Towards the end of the shoot I broke out the Sigma 10-20mm and locked off the camera on my tripod. I directed Mynxie to sit on one side of the couch and I took a shot, I then asked her to move to the other side and another shot was taken. Finally a shot was taken with Mynxie sitting in the leather chair next to the couch. These three shots were blended together later in Photoshop to create a final image.

We packed up the equipment and spent the afternoon looking through the shots on my Nexus 7.

Although it was supposed to be Gothic settingI didn't want any distractions in the shots. There were two pieces of paper on the floor and a mark on the wall. I also removed the end of a light fitting above the throne to clean up the image. I removed a number of scratch marks on the painted walls as well which was ironic as I was soon to put some back.

In Lightroom I have some pre-sets which can make a shot look grungy and… well… horrid. The effect worked on everything including Mynxie! That was not going to work so I threw the shot into Photoshop and added a layer mask to allow Mynxie to show through the grunge.

I then added a couple of textures from the SLR Lounge Texture Pack and added them to the image. The first layer was intended to add scratches around the edge of the image and the second was to add blistered paint to the walls. Layer masks took care of the blistering walls. The other texture had a bright center and a dark outer edge, making this layer as Pass Through reversed this effect, adding scratches to the outside. With both the scratches and blister layers made I was able to use these layers on the other photos, accelerating the editing process.

All the requested shots were delivered in two days and this is the final result with the poster elements added.

Violet Blaze

Oh lord where do I begin with Violet Blaze? Nutcase... yeah that will do.

I first met Violet Blaze in the Distillers pub in Hammersmith, London. This however was the second time I have seen her perform as I had previously captured her winning performance of Big Mama at Madam Jo Jo's during the Burlesque Idol Final in 2012.

Since then we had had a number of shoots together, all at sunny Brighton in the south of England. OK one was in her bedroom... :-).

In 2015 I also had the pleasure of shooting her wedding to her husband Mike.