A couple of photographer friends of mine have this habit of arranging crazy projects and inviting me along - I am truly blessed! This was one of Gino's ideas, he had been given access to a disused gym in Chatham and he contacted loads of different people to get them together in one place for a big shoot. We had three photographers, make-up artists, cosplayers, actors, look-a-likes, models, model's mums and partners, random friends of friends, and a beautiful St Bernard dog.
I set up a basic studio against one of the walls, with a 3' octobox as a cross light camera left, and after the first shoot I introduced a beauty dish camera right pointed along the wall to kill any harsh shadows. I wanted to work the wall, letting my models lean and use it as a base to pose. This leads to much more relaxed shots than using a sweep, which is my usual set-up in my home studio. I used my EM-1 primarily with the 12-40 f/2.8 at around f/8 and 1/250.
First up for me was the lovely model Kinkles - I started experimenting with the shadow before deciding to remove it with a second light:
Next up was David, a superb model. We hit it off straight away, he was so professional in his work and moved perfectly in time with the camera to get some great shots.
Bob is an actor, and by shooting wider and making use of the shapes created by the light fall-off I could give a kind of 1930s back-alley feel to the image. Bob needed direction but followed my instructions really well, and it helped that I had a vision for the final image right from the start.
Then I got to work with Laura - wow. I love photographing all kinds people and I genuinely find beauty in many different looks but Laura's classic beauty was a joy to capture. She got roped into coming as a friend of one of our make-up artists, and hadn't done many photoshoots before. That's likely to change quickly! I moved her away from the wall and without adjusting the lights too much started with a chiaroscuro set up - key light on one side and a background highlight on the opposite. I added a reflector later, but I really liked the contrasty shadow look too:
I moved the lights slightly to provide more back-lighting and hair highlight. By turning down the key light and adding a reflector on the right, I could really show off the contours of her face and highlight her freckles.
I then worked with Louisa - she was much less comfortable in front of the camera and I took some time to talk her through the shoot and get to know her face. I found that when I got her to chill out she had an innocence that the camera could pick up, but it was hard to get her to relax! Using flash, I couldn't sneak shoot her when talking so I just slowed things down. I went back to my wall set-up for this one.
Stuart is our favourite Doctor Who impersonator, his Tom Baker is amazing. I've photographed Stuart several times before but kept the same set up and let the natural vignette created by the lights frame my shot:
I had several different sessions with John, who is a videographer that could almost be Benedict Cumberbatch's brother. His wife, Karen, had a whole library of BC shots that she wanted us to try to recreate. I worked with John to get the perfect look, pushing his chin forward and down (like a chicken!), which really increased his likeness. I decided to use a single beauty dish just above the lens which really hollows the cheeks, ideal for this subject, and I shot it at 15mm to further elongate his features. I have lots more of these to work on but maybe that's for another thread.
I then got to work with Rory, a young guy who has just started modelling. He came with his mum - so sweet! I took a long while working with him, he had lots of ideas but I needed to explain how to bring out his best in front of the camera. So many little things that look good in the mirror don't work for the camera, and some things that feel awkward when posing look great in front of the lens. I took multiple shots and then showed him the difference on the back of the camera so he could see how my direction was working for the light and camera angle. After some time he relaxed into a rhythm, and his personality shone through. This used a beauty dish similar to the shot above, with a reflector under his chin.
It was at this point - several hours in - that I remembered there was more to this venue than a dirty white wall. I really wanted to explore the shower room, it had something creepy about it. I took a single speedlight shooting into a reflective umbrella off-camera right, and asked Laura to try a vulnerable look. This seemed to morph into something less spooky and more sultry as the shoot developed, but I think it really worked:
We are doing a punk themed shoot in October and Bob had dressed the part so we could do some promo stuff for the shoot - as our old boy punk! I found this door to the basement and it felt grungy enough for the theme. This used natural light.
Moving back inside I wanted to make use of the natural light and the big windows at the end of the room. Laura had changed into a wedding dress for one of the other photographers, and I used the back-lit window light to highlight her hair. I shot with my favourite adapted lens - the Minolta 58mm f/1.4 with a lens turbo. This led to a very low contrast exposure, but I liked the soft tones and character.
Lastly I wanted to showcase the urbex enironment, and use a model as a focal point for the architecture. Kinkles stepped back in - she has an amazing body hip-pop - and I silhouetted her against the windows.
What a great day! I have hundreds of usable photos, and made some really useful contacts. Huge thanks to Steph Sceal and in particular to Gino Cinganelli as my photographer buddies, and to all the creative team. Gino organised the shoot and his enthusiasm transferred to everyone involved. I love watching him work as he is so energetic and builds up an amazing rapport with those he works with. Stuff like this - photographic intangible skills - are so important when working with people.
I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.