I had this crazy idea to run a few workshops in Switzerland on my annual road trip to Tuscany. What could possibly go wrong I thought. I put the word out on social media and two friends responded with offers of help. Keren Bisaz and Felix Peter. I’ll get onto the workshop I ran with Keren next but first up is this set taken in a regenerated brick factory in Switzerland. Felix negotiated with the building owner and booked Corinne to do the make-up. I booked Madeleine, who flew in from Rome for the shoot.
1. Madeleine and I met in Tuscany in 2020. We just had a two-hour shoot but in that time we clicked and I knew she’d be great in Switzerland. I bought the white suit online together with the vintage cat’s eye tortoiseshell glasses. Madeleine is lit with window light and a backlight from a Lupo 2000 fresnel spotlight.
2. I love the little bit of backlight from the Lupo 2000, the diffused sunlight and the classic rendering of the GF 110mm lens. The 110mm has a perfect mix of intimacy, depth of field and bokeh. Wider lenses have more intimacy at the expense of perspective and depth of field. As they need a wider aperture to create background separation and in turn, this creates an impossibly shallow depth of field.
3. Madeleine basks in the light from a Lupo 2000 spotlight. I used the GF 250mm lens for both of these shots. It’s a fabulous lens for mid shots and long shots. The background is close by and is rendered nicely out of focus while the spanner and Madeleine are both pin-sharp using f/4. Right: I found this spanner lying around in the factory and put it to good use as a prop. It’s important to have the right tool for the right job.
4. Top left: We had fun making up the conversation on the phone. I played the part of the remote caller. Bottom Left: Madeleine gave us a cheeky swirl in the Bardot collar skater dress. She has classic 2 point movie-style lighting and a puff of smoke for added atmosphere. Right: This niche was perfect for a shot with the white dress that I bought at H&M in Marrakesh. I used a Lupo Superpanel powered by a battery to light Madeleine. (see below in the BTS section for a BTS view)
I am very aware that my clients on workshops are less likely to buy a large Fresnel spotlight than they are a 30cm square LED panel light so I tend to use the panel light more. I like to keep everything realistic and within reach on my workshops. I use a GFX medium format camera but any modern camera can take decent pictures. I use a set of Lupo lights but there are many cheaper alternatives coming out of China. You can get 95% of the look with 20% of the budget for sure. The best investment my clients can make is to come to workshops. That is where I impart knowledge and inspiration. The stuff that will make them better photographers and cannot be bought in camera shops or on AliExpress.
5. I used the Superpanel to light these two shots. It has a beauty dish size but with a slightly less pretty shadow penumbra. I don’t retouch my photographs in Photoshop and only do cosmetic retouching for printed output. Each of my photographs gets about one minute of adjustment in Lightroom.
6. Once Madeleine had done up her shoes we headed over to the boiler cabinet. A new installation in zinc plated steel looked like a fun departure from the grandeur of the factory hall. I used the Superpanel to light these shots.
7. Although I had my portable Philips steamer with me I could have done a better job on the back of the dress. I just love that reflection of Madeleine’s face. There is a really nice close up in there that I didn’t take.
On day two, I worked with Madeleine and Felix to develop a few ideas and to shoot some nudes ahead of the Tuscany workshop with Madeleine a couple of weeks later.
8. Top: I put this headpiece/ hat to good use in several conceptual shots on my road trip. It was made by Maus, a friend from school that I’d not seen for 41 years. I’ve been rubbish at keeping in touch with my school friends. I matured late and my friendships at school were on shallow grounds. I left school at sixteen and went to college. By nineteen I was a cameraman at the BBC and had met my first wife. Crazy!
9. I wanted to get a full-length fashion shot and I chose the GF 250mm f/4 lens to do it. It is not often that I get the chance to shoot a full-length shot inside with this lens. It begs for space. Madeleine is standing in the one place that is lit. I used the Lupo 2000 and the Superpanel to create the key and kick look. The windows beside us were my motivation to key light Madeleine from the left. Madeleine wears a wrap dress from Nasty Gal, an online store based in the UK.
10. I intended this shot to be a monochrome print with large areas of shadow detail to draw the eye of the viewer in. There is a subtle difference with a big impact between black holes in photographs and dark shadowy detail. I kept it in colour because the colours look lush.
11. I used a Lupo 650 from the right and a Lupo 2000 from the left for this monochrome shot. Like the shot above, I had the camera set to mono when I took the picture but I loved the colour hues when the preview from the RAW file popped up in Lightroom. Notice how I used the spill from the 650 barn doors to light the background wall. Cheaky tweak like this add another dimension.
12. The dirty windows in this factory are protected. They are not allowed to be cleaned and it’s easy to see why. When the afternoon sunlight comes through them it creates magical pools of light.
13. These shots give you some idea of the size of this place. I used smoke to add atmosphere to the scene.
BTS – Behind The Scenes
Congratulations if you’ve come this far. These BTS shots were taken by my fixer and host Felix Peter. Top Left: This is a shot from the start of the day with my clients and me assessing the main shooting zone and discussing our options. I start each session with a group planning stage. This was the first time that I have shot in this location and when faced with such a vast and complex location it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The planning at this stage is all about making the most of the opportunities that exist. Everything is very relaxed on a Lovegrove Adventures workshop. Bottom Left: The lovely Corinne did the hair and make up for Madeleine on the workshop day. My direction for the makeup was to keep everything minimalist. Bottom Right: Oh the glamour. While the make-up was happening, I steamed the dresses and the white suit but I can see from the pictures above that I should have taken more time and care at this stage. Top Right: I delivered a puff of smoke to set the scene.
Left: Madeleine and I discuss a pose idea. Top Right: You can see the Lupo 2000 spotlight rigged behind me ready for the shot. Bottom Right: I lit that set of shots with the Lupo Superpanel. It gives out a surprisingly bright 22,000 Lux at 1m partly because each LED has its own micro fresnel lens.
Top: The Superpanel in action. Being battery powered gave us options and convenience. Middle Left: I still use a tripod for all my shoots. I have since bought a GFX 50s ll with in-body image stabilisation. Will this change the way I shoot? I doubt it. I’m in a comfortable place right now with my shooting process. Middle Right: A happy moment as we pose for a casual shot together. Bottom Left: By taking the exposure of the room down and the intensity of the lighting up I increased the punchiness of the shots for this scene. Here I am discussing the motivation of the shot with Madeleine. Bottom Right: I waft the smoke into the far parts of the room first and give it time to disperse slightly before we get underway with the shoot.