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Phlogger aka Andrew Walmsley

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Returning to portraiture – coping with covid

Throughout last year I’ve wrote, talked and shown images from covid. Like everyone, it’s a personal journey through this time and how we move forward. During April 2021 we were seeing normality starting to happen and the end in sight. Announcements were made we were allowed to meet outside (socially distanced and with precaution).

It’s about time we get out and started shooting again, so we will look at this, what happened and show the results from the session.

The location

My friend Jay Good (check his Instagram here) contacted me about actually meeting up for the first time. Having already walked around my area I thought it was time to shoot something we both like doing too – working with models. It’s been a little bit tough in the sense some people are very cautious and other’s are not. When it’s your health at risk and working in the I.T. sector you have think professionally – as you could be affecting or infecting a lot of people if you were to get ill.

Jay arranged to work with a model (Kayleigh Mansfield) and asked if we could meet up in a town an hour or so away during the weekend. I thought it would make a nice change, I had never been to the location or town before. Looking at Wyndham Park on search engines and reviews it seemed a pleasant local park more than anything. The sort of place you walk and meet friends and family, playground, small water area sort of thing.

Returning to portraiture - mobile shot of the bridge
Mobile shot of the bridge and stream

I purposely arrived early so I could scout the location and check out the lighting too. There were a few under cover structures with seating, a bridge over a stream, some trees and plant areas too.

Having an onsite cafe was a rare treat too and since we had plenty of time we stopped for a warm drink. It’s times like this you can use to get to know each other better too.

The gear

When shooting with models and to help the speed and flow, i tend to use my Nikon d200. This allows me to get a good idea of setting required and I have access to a 28-70mm (old) pro lens. Luckily I prepared early and charged all my batteries (not great life) and took a small card (4gb) with me.

For lighting equipment I took a stand,a parabolic umbrella and 2 small £1 shoot through umbrellas. There was also 2 different strobes (flash) with triggers I use.

The shoot

Working with new people is always great in one sense and difficult in another. You spend time getting to know a person, what outfits and types of poses are more natural etc. Personally I love meeting people and always up for a challenge anyway.

The shoot was tough in one sense, being one of the first days we could meet meant there was a lot of the public around but not overcrowded. It just meant sometimes we had to wait to get a shot – but that’s fine. I tried different combinations of climbing down the bridge to sitting on it too (Jay knows what i’m like).

Returning to portraiture - kayleigh on bridge in sun
Picture of Kayleigh (after climbing down the bridge)

What surprised me most on this day were 3 things – 1 was the sun and the others I will talk about in a minute. So the sun – my god it’s been like a year since we have seen the damn thing! Breaking out between clouds you were suddenly straining to see or it would cast harsh light. I felt for Kayleigh, she was squinting so had to keep changing positions and locations to help.

Lucky for us Kayleigh was far too nice and wanted to keep going and use all her outfits to get the best images. We tried several areas including this little “band stand” or sitting area. What you can’t see are the 3 young ladies just sat behind us enjoying the outdoor space. So you have to think about working around the public too and be polite!

Returning to portraiture - kayleigh against post near band stand
Kayleigh – adjusting position to suit the harsh light

The second hardest element working outdoors is your lighting equipment, Jay has some great quality lights and decent stand. However, the height and size of these make it so easy for the wind to catch it and start swaying. So we decided to help each other and hand hold the stands. It’s something we have contended with in the past, we are good mates and makes us slow down (which is a good thing).

Behind the scenes (filmed on my mobile)

Moving to different areas makes you think about how to use the space and nature around you. It’s so different not knowing a location and area, so you need to be able to think. Jay has a lot of good ideas and concepts before a shoot and uses the place to suit. My mind tends to be more focused when I’m there and work with what is in front of me. It’s just different that’s all – portraiture is something that needs to be fun. We decided to try and use nature herself in the form of trees and tree stumps, so we moved a short distance and watched the position of the sun.

You might notice a slight movement of hair in some of the images too as there was a slight breeze. After deciding on the tree and pose I went for a classy mono look on this.

Kayleigh (underneath a tree)

Very close to this area there were some lovely blossom trees too. After nearly walking away an idea came and Kayleigh agreed to try a different pose. They say upwards shots are not complimentary for ladies, but Kayleigh has a slim build so it was no issue. It was a case of the pink and blue just seeming to compliment each other.

Returning to portraiture -kayleigh upwards shot with blossom tree
Kayleigh with blossom tree

Conclusion

Every time out shooting you learn something and this was no different. I spoke above about 3 issues and bet you thought I had missed the last? Well it was lack of practise – I literally spent 50 shots with a problem. There seemed to be a delay before the shutter fired. I wondered if the focus was knackered to be honest (it’s 10 year old lens that the focus had died once). However it was no different on manual, so even after checking the menu I confirmed there was no delay set!

When you are out in the field you can’t let anything defeat you, you get on and work around it. So I knew it would take 4 seconds before it fired and patiently took fewer shots. After an hour or so it dawned on me there is a wheel under the iso/wb button and it was set to a clock icon. Sure enough this camera has a manual timer function – damn it! I did laugh and cry at the same time, but this it what happens. Bear in mind it had probably been a year since I used this camera.

Anyway it was nice to be outdoor’s, it was good to be around my mate Jay and meet another new lovely person. The lessons are always there, know your gear and practise.


Links

Kayleigh Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/misskaymansfield/

Jay Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/2021sonyshooter/

Phlogger Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/phlogger.co.uk

Wyndham Park – http://www.wyndhamparkgrantham.co.uk/