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Phlogger aka Andrew Walmsley

A website dedicated to photography showcasing articles, interviews, reviews and Photography Insights podcast.

Covid, group shoots & film

Yes, it’s a little about COVID, group shoots & film. I thought it was important to discuss what has affected us all. Although its now late August 2020 and we are out of lockdown, some areas in the UK are now going backward. So why not reflect back on this period and discuss photography, working with models & film.

Beth (Kodak Portra) by Phlogger

It’s been a strange few months, so much time sitting inside or only playing in the garden with my daughters.  Then finally we were allowed to exercise for an hour nearby. It’s amazing what this COVID pandemic had done to so many people and creatives. 

Covid

Everyone had their own take on “lockdown” and what rules they followed. For some, it was really harsh like my friend Shaun Johnson who was confined to the house due to health reasons. 

Finally, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and could start planning towards normality again.  So late June it was safe enough to start arranging small shoots out in the open.  This was actually a nervous time for me, after working from home for so long.  Not spending time in shops or supermarkets (the public’s response to social distancing was not great in my opinion), meant I was little risk to anyone.  However, I knew people that went through COVID and after spending a little time interviewing people about it I was not exactly motivated to go near anyone.

Phlogger working in daughters bedroom (my current office)

The shoot

I hope you understand my thoughts and reservations of meeting up, it was literally like starting all over again.  You had to think about your gear sure, but how could you realistically work without getting close.  Obviously I chose a suitable focal length (150mm) and we arranged a group on social media to cover basics for the shoot.

 We arranged to meet up in a local park (arboretum) as it’s large and has a variety of areas.  There are grass lawns, a steep hill, steps, fountain, small ponds + bridge, and even a children’s size maze.

The maze & Beth (Kodak Portra) by Phlogger

After shooting so much film during COVID I made it clear I was shooting film only.  The reason I said this was to ensure no-one relied on me for pictures.  I wasn’t really that interested in shooting but wanted to meet up with mates.  For me, the social aspect is a great side effect of photography, as you meet some amazing people.  

The team

Since it was our first shoot in a while we arranged this with some reliable people, including Shannon and Hattie.  Shannon was also bringing a friend so we had 3 photographers too (Shaun, Jay and myself).  We had shot Hattie and Shannon plenty of times so it was great to work with someone new.  Beth was well spoken and dressed in a lovely summer dress (it was a typical sunny summer evening).

Jay helped me meter the scene which gave me a great point to start with.  This allowed me to work with Beth around the maze, whilst Shaun and Jay were close by in other areas.  It’s honestly a great little park to shoot in but also very popular with families and teenagers too.

The lovely Beth (Kodak portra by Phlogger)

Some teenage girls commenting how pretty the ladies looked which was very sweet.  Unfortunately, we also had a few local drunks walk by and laughed as we were all stood talking in a huge circle a couple of meters apart.  It made me laugh really, as they were walking side by side chatting, whilst we obeyed social distancing!

The results

Obviously we can’t always perform perfectly, sometimes we are a little rusty.  One thing I have learned from shooting on my Bronica is focusing on the eyes.  It is so hard to nail the exact focus point with the viewfinder. 

Example of poorly focused shot (Beth) by Phlogger

In theory, the solution is really simple – a tripod and patience, except you, can’t do that leaning over a wall like the one above! In the past, I have held up a piece of paper with writing on, next to the models’ face.  That allows you to really nail the focus on the eye.  However, this was our first shoot in months, so forgot about it.  

Unfortunately, we did start losing the light and I was only using 100 iso film.  I won’t waste money on shots for the sake of it, so just stopped shooting.  Yes, this seemed premature and only took 16 exposures but it’s enough. 

You see, the other point of shooting film is to slow down and really consider the poses.  So quite often I will chat and let them move, see what comes naturally and ask them to do it again.  With Beth, I wanted to shoot her full body to get the effect of the blue dress and her blond her.  Working in and around the maze we played with some poses and finally nailed a few.

Beth (Kodak Portra) by Phlogger

Shaun & Jay Gallery

I thought it was only right to include some images by the other photographers. It gives you an idea of how different our work is despite working the same scenery.


Conclusion

I have to say everybody was really good on the shoot.  It was nice to see my friends again and work with Hattie and Shannon, they are lovely young ladies.  Meeting Beth was great too, she’s been so busy modelling since then.  She’s got some interesting life experiences already and helping out in the modeling community already.  In fact, we got on so well she took part in our podcast about model safety (link).

Nailed the shot of Hattie (Kodak portra) by Phlogger

Shooting film is always something I enjoy, I cannot explain really why.  I have my thoughts which I have aired many times, whether they are real and mean anything is only relevant to me.  The separation from technology is truly great, I really do try and let the emulsion of the film work its magic with the model.  Yes, I’m a poor image manipulator, but with this model work, I try to convey reality.  That doesn’t put me of shooting digitally or really spending time editing, it’s just sometimes not what I want.

As for feeling nervous meeting up, that didn’t really leave to be honest. It’s now days away from September and I don’t feel much different. I have not taken the risks others have. I’m still working from home, I still don’t go to supermarkets. You might think its silly, but it’s been hard watching all the deaths. We shouldn’t even get started on the ongoing protests and activities in America.

But please don’t worry I don’t feel down or anything like that, I’ve kept myself so busy. I do hope companies and people learn from this as I’m looking forward to change.


LINKS

Here are the links to all the lovely ladies from the shoot:

Beth – https://www.instagram.com/choo_choo42/

Hattie – https://www.instagram.com/life_of_vanessa_k_/

Shannon – https://www.instagram.com/shannon_model_/

Here are the links to my mates Jay and Shaun:

Jay Clarke – https://www.instagram.com/jpcphotography1/

Shaun Johnson – https://www.instagram.com/shaun.johnson.710/