I decided to shoot this part first as I thought I would have less control over the outcome and it would therefore be easier to later fit a sequence of indoor photos that would work as a series with the outdoor photos. In retrospect, this was a mistake – the indoor photos within a contained space and environment came much easier with some clear choices for selects. It would have been better to use the context of these selects to shape the outdoor shoot and photos that would work in series.
The route we’d agreed upon is on high ground (a pinnacle) overlooking the surrounding landscape. In theory, this sounded like a good idea – dramatic backdrop to provide context for the portraits. However, in practice, it proved to be less than ideal for monochrome portraiture; on high ground there was little light and shade and contrast in light to shape monochrome images, particularly as it was an overcast day with cloud spreading light evenly all around. Also, the objectives of creating a portrait and including a distant dramatic landscape within the same shot were a little at odds (which is really the subject?). I would have been better to choose a landscape where the subject could have been part of it, rather than standing above it. Still, it is a valuable lesson that sometimes one has to take care of reaching a balance between no directing and considering the details during the planning of shoots.
During the shoot, I didn’t feel that I was getting great images but didn’t have the experience to step out of the process and consider other possibilities at the time. Now I’ve learned.
On the positive side, Rachel was very pleased with the photo of her dog, Diesel, and chose this to be made into an A3 print by way of a thank you for giving several hours of her life to my photography project!
Rachel came with her own suggestion of doing part of the shoot dressed in everyday clothes without makeup and part dressed in a dinner dress, with makeup; a play on the ‘vice versa’ theme. I liked this suggestion and it also sparked the idea that some of the dressed-up photographs should be taken with controlled lighting with flash for a studio-like effect. This would then give the option of selecting entirely indoor shots while meeting the visa versa brief.
A couple of observations on the process:
- I borrowed Rachel’s small step ladders to allow a different point of view for some of the shots – this approach worked well, it allows us to view angles we do not normally see and creates visual interest.
- I generally kept conversation down and concentrated on observing Rachel’s changing expressions as she was being watched and photographed. On a couple of occasions I experiment with telling Rachel stories that might amuse her and provoke a response – what is interesting in these photos is that the whole dynamic changes; she is suddenly clearly engaged with the camera and photographer, rather being her reflective self. It was the latter I was aiming for.
- Having some experience of flash photography under my belt (during CAN course), I was pleased that I was able to quickly and intuitively set up the lighting and relocate it to various positions in the house with quick re-adjustments. I was a little apprehensive about how this aspect would play out in advance of the shoot, but this experience has made me fully confident (almost anyway).
In total, I shot over 200 photos for the project. Contact sheets of potential photos are attached below (click to open larger images). The star ratings: 1 (a potential from first review of files), 3 (a select from the potentials), 5 (final selects).