Sunday, 20 September 2009

Faerie in the Glen

I like to try a little bit of everything in photography, so a couple of months ago I signed up to, a networking site for models and photographers. I made a few contacts quite quickly, but I never did anything about it until I was on holiday this week.

I decided on a whim to take a trip up to the Highlands, specifically the Moray Firth near Inverness, since it's supposedly a good place for dolphin-spotting. It also meant I could contact Zombie Sazza, an Elgin-based model and rather fetching redhead who'd joined MM about a month after me, thereby letting me combine two photo-sessions into one trip. Despite the last minute arrangement (I'd only given the poor lass two days' notice), we were able to work something out: I'd travel up the next day and scope out a good location, we'd meet up on Friday for the actual shoot, and then Saturday would be free for the sealife.

The dolphins themselves proved to be a no-show, but everything with Sazza went swimmingly. We headed for Fairy Glen, a woodland area on the outskirts of a wee village on the Black Isle called Rosemarkie. The Thursday recce had confirmed it to be a great location, aside from the small problem of it being a popular haunt with local hikers and dog-walkers. There were a few occasions when my muse had to leap from her spot and grab a bathrobe, but although one elderly lady gave Sazza a good old Puritanical glare, we mostly only had to deal with puzzled expressions and the occasional wry smile.

I'd been a bit nervous in advance--'twas my first one-on-one modelling shoot and my first nude photography too--but it worked out fantastically well. It was Sazza's first time doing a "pro" shoot too, thought you'd never have guessed since she was so relaxed and easy to work with. The water was freeeeezing, but she could still hold a pose so well that I could take 1/4-second long exposures without any problems. We took pictures in the pond, beside/in/halfway up/above three different waterfalls, and along the stream where the light was best. On the trip back, we also nipped into a freshly turned-over field just outside Inverness (there were hunners of them), and captured a few of those old nude-reclining-against-haybales classics.

There was a moment during the day when Sazza had just finished a particularly tricky pose, clambering halfway up a waterfall to stand on a ledge while the rushing water acted as a flowing backdrop. When she was back down, I showed her the images on my camera's LCD to make sure they were OK. "You know," she said happily as she looked at them, "I think this is one of the coolest things I've ever done".

What a really, really great day.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Gears of war, part 2

A follow up to my post last year when I treated myself to a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, my most expensive lens to date.

Since then, I haven't really bought anything, being distracted by a car purchase which obviously drained my savings a bit. I'll post in depth about the car in due course, but it was bought with economy in mind; I wanted the cheapest thing to run that I could get my hands on, partly because I resented the high cost of petrol in the UK (where a teeth-grinding 70% of the pump price is tax), and partly because I wasn't going to save up for my ma-hoosive shopping list of photographic goodies if I had to keep a high-maintenance sports car fed, watered, and shod every month as well.

I got hold of a tiny wee diesel hatchback which can manage over 60mpg, and thanks to its parsimony my bank balance has been reasonably healthy since then. Still, the economic downturn made me think twice about splurging my rainy day savings on luxury items like camera kit until recently.

Now business is picking up again, and I've a couple of pressures on me to expand my shooting capabilities; I signed up to, and I've been thinking about expanding into headshots-for-thesps after making a few contacts over the summer. I'd need decent lighting equipment for both those, or a pro-quality flash unit at the very least--something I felt like I was missing when I shot the Sentinels of Rock'n'Roll in June. There were plenty of options out there, but I ended up going the flashy [sic] route with a Canon 580 EX-II.

I also felt like I could have done with an ultra-wide for the band shots, but there wasn't any imminent pressure to get one... except the Sentinels are having a gig in mid-September, and I'd like to get some decent shots of them performing in front of a crowd. Nuts, there is imminent pressure on me after all. After much back-and-forthery, I plumped for a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, my first third-party lens. I didn't have qualms; it has a better rep for IQ and sharpness than the Canon 10-22, is wider through the range, and is cheaper to boot. I'll have to upgrade it (to a Canon 17-40 most likely) if/when I go full-frame, but for now it should allow a few more photo-opportunities than were previously available.

In the middle of all this, I noticed an eBayer who didn't seem to be getting much interest for his Lowepro Rolling Computrekker backpack, my rucksack of choice. Despite being the bells'n'whistles version with a handle and wheels, nobody else was biting. After two failed auctions, he chose the "buy now or best offer" version, and I successfully lowballed him. My current rucksack is just a regular O'Neill backpack, so getting a dedicated carry-all for my kit is long overdue.

Some silly self-indulgence then, especially since my car is due its tax and MOT this month as well. Still, I have my fingers crossed that it won't bleed me dry, and I can continue my putting my pennies in the piggy-bank, with a 5D2 and more jazzy bits of kit as my reward.