Sarah fixing her shoes

Sarah fixing her shoes.

12 Photographers. 10 gorgeous models. Makeup and props. Camera, light, action! No, this isn’t Hollywood, and it isn’t the next cover for Vogue (well, at least nobody has said so yet). It was the Essex Strobist photo shoot at Colne Valley Railway. The railway had let us use all their trains, carts, buildings, tracks and props, and the models looked prettier than ever. Even the weather had decided to cooperate, with clear blue skies at the beginning of the day.

Jayde on the train

Jayde leaning off a railway carriage

We photographers paired up, and tried to ensure there would be an experienced photog working with each less experienced, giving everybody a chance to learn a little from each other. I paired up with Rahul, and experienced wedding photographer.   The models used the prep time to help each other freshen up makeup and get ready.

We initially agreed to swap locations and models every hour or so, but with us all scattered over the large area available, this soon proved unfeasible. So instead we just fell back on the old principle of available models and photographers spotting each other around the dressing room. The pairing of photogs and number of models meant it worked well, and nobody was waiting long.

A “rural” spot beyond the station proved to be a favourite spot, with the rails making nice, leading lines, and the greenery providing a clean backdrop. Shooting here, towards the bright, sunlit sky, was a challenge. So we got a chance to practise the theory of balancing flash against the sky with the aim of retaining detail in the sky without turning the shadows into solid black splotches.

I’ve had a chance to reflect over the result during my initial retouching of the pictures, and the lessons I will take away from the day include

  • I need to watch for the angles and curves formed by the models’ limbs. I was fortunate to work with models who varied their poses throughout the shoot, but where the angles work, it is due to their choice of pose rather than my deliberate composition.
  • Eye contact is important to let the viewer connect with the picture, but (by chance) I got a few shots where the model wasn’t looking toward the camera at all. I’d like to explore in more detail the way each approach work.
  • I felt back on safe lighting a lot of the time. A single flash in a softbox in a 45 degree angle to the front left or right of the model. It works, but I want to practise different light setups as well. Maybe, in particular, I want to spend more time working with a reflector to provide gentle fill light.
  • I’ve got a number of shots with the model facing the camera straight-on. This can look a bit static, and I want to explore different poses with shoulders and faces turned (partly) away from the camera.
  • Despite carefully dialing in the light before each set of pictures, I do have a number of shots where the highlights has been blown. So I need to chimp a little more.
Rita with the station manager's cap

Rita with the station manager's cap

We had agreed with the railway that we could use the facilities until 6pm, but after the first six hours of shooting, everybody was getting tired. Although it’s great fun, it’s also hard work, particularly for the models that have to look fresh and alert at all times. So we called it a day around 4pm.

Many thanks for great patience with me, wonderful poses, high spirits and generally for being so fun to be around to the models – Sarah (model mayhem # 1652067), Jayde (model mayhem # 1364880) and Rita (model mayhem # 1565789)

Now awaits a few busy days to get all the pictures sorted and retouched. As and when mine gets done, I’ll add them to this album.