Lighting: Lupo Superpanel 30, Lupo Dual Colour 1000 and 650
Camera kit: Fujifilm GFX50s, GF32-64mm, GF110mm and GF250mm
Tripod: Novo T20 with Benro G2 ball head and an RRS quick release plate
Atmospherics: Scotty 2 smoke machine
1. Our first workshop session with Simona got off to a great start at this abandoned railway workers hut. I placed the bottles on the mantlepiece for aesthetic reasons and removed the green fly screen from the window shutters. I directed Simona as each photographer shot in turn. The natural light in the room was wonderful and just needed a bit of control with the window shutter.
Simona joined us from Rome, driving up in her cool convertible. This kind of photography in abandoned places was new for her and once we got going we really settled into a wonderful shoot. I hadn’t shot with Simona before so I had arranged for a day of test shooting prior to my clients arriving for the first of our two workshops. These shakedown sessions are great for building rapport, aligning creative styles and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
I always share all of my images with my models as this helps them see my thought processes and the progression of a shoot with respect to direction. I just give them the camera and show them the playback controls and the delete button. When I’ve given a simple direction like “relax your shoulders” my model can toggle between the before and after shots to see the difference.
2. This is just half of the shot as captured because the framing was similar to that of the shot below. It’s rare that I crop hard like this, but when working with the GFX 50s it is easy to crop down without sacrificing detail. Many times, magazine editors have pulled cover shots out of my horizontal compositions shot on GFX.
3. I love this abandoned farmhouse. The views are delightful and the structure is sound. It is the kind of place I could live in once restored. Next year, when I pop back for this workshop, I’ll ask around for the owners contact details. Simona was lit with the Lupo Superpanel.
4. The cellar of the same farmhouse once housed the cattle in the winter. The body heat from the animals working their way up through the house, a bit like an underfloor heating system that runs on hay. This shot of Simona is one of my favourites of 2021. I lit her with the battery powered Lupo Superpanel and balanced the lighting of the scene for the foreground, background and subject. Selecting the direction and angle of the light along with careful feathering is a skill that I share with the photographers on the workshop. Once they have seen the process from start to finish they are empowered to create simple and beautiful shots like this. One key element to making a shot like this work is to be in control of shadow detail. The great master painters of the past rendered the finest of detail in the shadows that surrounded their portraits and I like to do the same.
5. Left: At a quarter past four on a hot September afternoon the sun streaks through the broken roof of the station onto the abandoned platform. Both: Crisp, hard, sunlight is a favourite light source of mine for portraiture. Black and white is a great way to render high contrast scenes too. Because we don’t see the world in black and white we can really bump up the contrast and drama in the tonality of a photograph without it looking wrong.
Out of the twenty eight shots here, eight of them have eye contact and that is probably too many. I love a bit of mystery and the sense of remote observation of a moment.
6. When the sun went hazy we had a great opportunity to capture soft delicate tones in our shots of Simona whilst maintaining crisp hard shadows. This location was at an abandoned railway station. The hat came from a street market in Rimini 10 years ago and I’ve retired it now.
7. The rendering is a bit slap dash, the paint work is a bit slap dash too, but I love it. I couldn’t get away with that where I live in the village of Wedmore, Somerset. The oblique sunlight reveals the textures and the anonymity afforded by the straw hat allows the viewers eyes to linger.
8. Left: There is so much to take in at an abandoned station like this and the technique that I use is to isolate. A telephoto does that well by cutting out the majority of the background. A bit of the water tank and the old rails give enough detail to build the narrative. Right: Simona waiting for her train to come in. Lost in a thousand thoughts in transition between a broken past and a hopeful future. Incidentally I love those lace up gladiator sandals.
9. This Sorcerer’s Pool of Redemption and the Secret Cascade are set deep in a valley, far from the bustle of daily life in the hilltop town just four kilometres away to the South. I directed the action for Simona and used 1/500th second to capture the water beautifully.
10. Ancient olive trees and fields of lavender surrounded our Tuscan villa and I used the GF250mm lens to capture this set.
12. Top Left: I decided to use a couple of Lupo fresnel spotlights for a quick set up in our villa. The camera is at 90° to the lights here. Right: I moved the camera round under the key light to take this shot with the same lighting rig. Bottom Left: This shot taken moments before is lit with available light. Notice the same classic two point lighting.
13. The light from a Superpanel glances Simona in this cool dark basement.
14. I used the Superpanel here to provide a kick light on Simona. The fabulous metallic dress is Simona’s.
In just a couple of days we covered so many set ups and had a lot of creative fun along the way. The GFX 50s was the perfect camera for this shoot for sure. There is more than enough detail, perhaps too much at times. I’ve replaced it with a 50s ll for the 2022 season and the 50s will become my back up kit.
15. I love this scene so much I want to share a different frame with you. The puff of smoke added a another dimension. We were at the location by 10am to get the morning sunlight through the trees. By 10:30am the lighting had gone and the moment was over.
I’d like to thank Simona for her total commitment and professionalism. Modelling for a workshop requires patience and energy. I’ll definitely be photographing Simona again. Perhaps in the South of Italy, near Matera.
If you want to join me in Italy in 2022 you can see the details here. At the time of writing, there is just one place left.