Chalk & Cheese

My eldest daughter Megan is home from university for the next 5 weeks; 5 weeks that will see some significant changes in this family as we separate and begin new lives, so it’s nice that Meg, and her boyfriend Jack, are here for one last time with all of us present.

She arrived on Friday evening, so had yesterday to settle in and get ready before she and Jack went to dinner at the excellent Broad Chare in Newcastle, while her younger sister Holly was also getting ready for a night out with her friends in South Shields.

So what is a photographer to do when he has two beautiful daughters together in their finery when it’s such a rare occasion?  Inevitably it’s portrait time.

You may be aware that I’ve been reading Christa Meola’s The Art of Boudoir Photography lately, and there was a lighting set up that I wanted to try and replicate involving a single, diffused overhead light source to create some interesting shadows.  Now I don’t possess a studio, but then she does most of her work on the road so that shouldn’t be a problem.  I chose a suitably coloured wall as my backdrop (though if you’re trying to do the same a roll of backing paper could produce the same effect) and set to work on the lighting.  This was my biggest challenge.  I have a couple of lightweight stands for my speedlite flash units, but nothing robust enough to suspend a studio strobe so battery powered flash was my only option. I then had to find a way of suspending a diffuser panel beneath the two lights.

Using a clamp attached to each light stand I gripped the diffuser (part of a small 5 in 1 reflector kit) and angled the flash heads downwards.  Setting one flash unit to trigger the other I now needed a radio transmitter to activate that unit when I pressed the shutter button.  It all felt a bit Heath Robinson, but taking a couple of test shots with a self timer demonstrated that I had the effect I wanted, especially if I positioned a reflector to bounce some light back into the eyes where the overhead light caused them to be lost in the shade of my eyebrows.

Good to go then, but for one thing.

You can set up equipment, test tweak and adjust and ultimately get what you’re after.  You can’t do the same with daughters.

Megan declared that she didn’t really want to be photographed last night, and devoted herself to getting Holly ready before she even began her preparations.  This not only robbed me of one of my models, but meant that I couldn’t even rely on her to hold a reflector in place.  Hey ho.

Holly (who has always been the more co-operative photographic model) and I persisted, and got some nice shots.  As I thought, getting any catchlights in her eyes was difficult without reflector.  Thinking about it later I realised I could probably have attached the reflector to a light stand with some gaffa tape and had some effect, but this was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.  Consequently I had to resort to post processing to achieve those catchlights in some of the shots.  Nevertheless I’m happy with overall outcomes.  Not bad for shots taken in a front room against a wall of flaking paint with nothing much more than a couple of flash units.  I’m sure the model helped too!

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