Saturday, 11 December 2010

Forbidden, part 2 (and once again, ooh-la-la)

As I blogged previously, I had to return to Forbidden to complete my shoot-the-dancers assignment for the club's website. A couple of girls still needed photographed, including Natasha, who I'd briefly chatted with during my previous visit. She's quite a memorable-looking girl. For starters, she has pink hair. Vivid, radioactive pink. Second, she has about a bazillion tattoos, including 'Do or not, there is no try' across her chest, and a large scroll of text down one leg.

Last week, after the first shoot, I was idly browsing through Model Mayhem and came across a profile I was very familiar with: Goreckii. A very experienced young model and dancer, with a great portfolio of photos to her name. Great look, long, vivid blue hair... several piercings...
"tattoos - a full paragraph of the Declation of Abroath on the side of my right leg from hip to knee...'Do or not, there is no try' along my chest..."

Eh ?! Wot ?! Natasha is Goreckii ?!?!

It was embarrassing to think I hadn't spotted who she was, especially since her Purestorm profile uses her real name. Nevertheless, I couldn't believe my luck: I was going to get a free shooting session with Goreckii, even if I didn't want to get my hopes up because of the constraining circumstances of the gig. So we did some quick test shots, then moved to the dancers' pole where she assured me she'd be able to show off some good moves.

Holy cow! This girl was fantastic, striking effortless poses in apparent defiance of gravity, and holding them until I could get the shot. And then it got even better! Before we finished, she asked if she could do some more static posing next to the pole. We did that, and I dimmed the lights a little to try and get a darker and more edgy look to the images. When I showed them to her, she raved! If things stayed quiet, she asked, would it be ok for her to come back later, and we could do some arty nude/topless stuff, just for us? I kid you not.

And I kid you not about what happened next: nothing, because I left and went home. I know what you're thinking. But I'd been paid, the club was getting a busy, there were three other mini-shoots I'd have to complete before I could get any one-on-one time with her, and it had been about nine hours since I'd eaten anything so I was staaaaaaaaaaaarving.

Still, you're right of course: Dumbest. Move. Ever. I've kicked myself every day since for not hanging around. Even if I'd had to wait six hours until the club was closed, she would have been worth it. I'm going to try and organize something between us in the new year, but it won't be the same; this was one of those spontaneous, carpe diem moments that you either grab with both hands, or lose forever.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Forbidden (ooh-la-la)

Thanks to a contact-on-the-inside, I was able to get a gig as photographer for Forbidden, the lapdancing club in Glasgow's Maxwell Street, so they could update their website with pictures of girls who actually work for them.

This shoot was originally planned for a few months ago, but various logistical difficulties prevented it happening then. However, at the end of last month I got chased up for it, and I decided what the hell, my 40th birthday was approaching, and it would probably cheer me up a bit to spend several hours taking pictures of scantily-clad young ladies gyrating round a pole; think of it as a wee present to myself.

And it worked a treat! Despite the "challenging" conditions (extremely poor light, and blaring music which made communications with the girls very difficult during each shoot) things went very well. I ended up with over a dozen pictures which will hopefully end up on the club's website, and lifted my spirits a little bit from the middle-aged gloom they were in, albeit temporarily.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to complete the assignment before punters started arriving and I had to pack up my kit. So I volunteered to come back next Saturday and finish the job. How big-hearted am I, eh?

To be honest, I'm not really the type for places like this. I'd never even been in a lapdancing club before Saturday, and the shoot hasn't changed my mind. However, I would like to say that the girls were charming, polite, hard-working, and very professional throughout, and it was a pleasure to work with them.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

You dirty old man

I've always been a bit lazy with the content filters on Flickr, for two reasons:

(i) the internet is full of explicit porn... in case you hadn't noticed. If you're worried about your kid seeing photos which contain mind-warping atrocities like a woman's nipple, then your best bet is probably to keep him away from a computer, full stop.
(ii) Flickr doesn't allow you to set a filter up before you upload images.* So even if you're quick and well-intentioned, you can't help but corrupt some poor innocents during that brief window between your shots becoming visible on the site, and you getting to the page that allows you to adjust the various settings. My personal record was 25 views on an image in the few seconds before I could lock it down, which frankly was a compelling motivation to not self-censor.

(* I now think this isn't true, but as a function it's hidden away somewhere, and you have to go looking for it. Which is almost as dumb as not having it at all)

Anyhoo, someone at Flickr finally noticed that a few of my pics weren't 100% kiddie-friendly, and reset the permissions on them to "moderate". Hey-ho, that's the way the cookie crumbles. I think I got lucky; I've heard stories of entire accounts being marked as restricted on the basis of one complaint about a single shot. Clicking on my own "nude" tag reveals 24 shots, and only five were moderated, so I can't complain.

However, what amuses and perplexes me is the randomness of the censorship. Of the two below, the top image was restricted, the bottom one left unfettered:

For a while I wondered if it was something to do with the pubic area. In the case of the two black & white bodyscapes, if the model had a fluffy ladygarden it would be visible in the top shot, but possibly not in the bottom one. Then again, both this shot and this one have her bajingo visible, and neither was censored.

Furthmore, both pictures of Karen1985 (below) show her foo-foo. Well, just about. In the largest versions. If you squint. Yet while the colour shot on the left was moderated, the black & white version wasn't:

No clue about those two at all. They're right next to each other in my photostream, are in pretty much the same groups, etc. Is there some kind of complex formula involved? Or was a Flickr staffer halfway through censoring me on a Friday afternoon when it came time to go home, and he never finished the job when he returned on Monday morning?

Addendum: Following an alleged complaint, my entire photostream was moderated in early December. Only took a couple of hours to resolve things, and their actions this time round made more sense; a bit heavy-handed given that nude images comprise only 5% of my stream, but not unexpected given Flickr's history in this kind of thing. I've marked everything as moderate that needs to be, although I think I'll have a second look at some of them; interpreting the big F's filtering instructions literally, I think I'm entitled to disable my self-censorship when nothing incriminating (e.g. breast, buttock) is actually visible.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

With apologies to Ingmar

I had a hoot-and-a-half at Dunure with Roxy Stardust and Karen B on Thursday, putting together a little spoof-cum-homage to the 1957 Ingmar Bergman classic The Seventh Seal. My first attempt at this shoot last month with just Roxy was curtailed by a lack of time and some heavy winds, so we planned to return when there was more daylight, and once I'd recruited a suitable assistant (i.e. Kazza).

Three bods, three rucksacks, three poly bags, two tripods, a portable studio lighting kit, and Mr Bones himself meant using my wee Arosa as transportation was out of the question, so I hired a Vauxhall Zafira. Brand spanking new: a 60-plate with only 300 miles on the clock, and a lovely set of wheels it was too. Although I suspect the fact that I'm singing the praises of a diesel people-carrier means I am truly, incontrovertibly middle-aged. Boo-hoo...

Anyhoo, because it was the October week, there were more people around than I'd planned, but they didn't really affect us. I left my phone in the car as well, which was a bit daft since I'd copied the movie onto it so I could crib from it as required. D'oh! Still, looking through the shots I think everything went ok regardless. The only real trouble was the very rapid rise of the tide, which forced us to move onto an elevated rock for the games themselves after the introductiory pictures were taken. But even that wasn't too bad, since the new location was quite grand. My only regret is that I didn't get an out-take snap of KB and Roxy with Mr Bones once the shoot was done. Hey-ho.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

What has 22 legs and says "cheese"?

A photoshoot with me, a model, a make-up artist, and two tarantulas.

A month or so ago, a new profile appeared on Modelmayhem, belonging to Eanruig. She said she was "...interested in gaining more modelling experience in different genres", and was "...up for almost anything and like[d] to be experimental." So far so good. But as I kept reading, it got even better: "I own tarantulas and am fine with most creepy crawlies."

Oh yeah, that's what G likes to read. You've got my attention now, Jen...

I had a couple of other shoots provisionally organized, so I placed my newly hatched plan on the backburner while they were dealt with first. Then, a couple of weeks ago, disaster! Jen had created a new account on Purestorm as well! Noooooooo!! Every GWC in the greater Glasgow area would be inundating her mailbox with requests for nudes, nudes with her horse, nudes with her spiders, etc etc. I had to move fast, so the gist of my message to her was as follows:

Dear Jen, I'd like to do a high-fashion shoot with you. It'll be headshots with smooth skin, glossy lips, and well-groomed hair, looking all sophisticated at ready-for-the-catwalk as you pout at the camera. I'll get a proper MUA in to do your hair and make-up. Oh, and instead of corsages, ribbons, or necklaces, you'll be wearing your pet tarantula as an accessory. Interested?"

It all went swimmingly. We recruited Elle McMillan as the make-up artist after she confirmed that she wasn't arachnophobic, and a week later the three of us were up at Jen's flat, looking like a right old bunch of pros. Elle went to work immediately giving Jen some extreeeeemely long eyelashes and funky eyeshadow to complement the hairy co-models (Ginger and Chilli) who'd be sharing the spotlight. Meanwhile, I was setting up my new studio lights, reflectors, camera, tripod, etc. Could have been Milan or Paris, but no, it was downtown Clydebank.

I should interject here that I'd never used my studio lights before. Or used a professional make-up artist before. Or shot in someone's home before. Or tried to photograph tarantulas before. Ulp. This could end up a right old car crash.

But it didn't. I swapped the images over to my laptop during make-up breaks, which meant I got a better in-situ preview of how they were turning out than I usually do, so I knew things were going really well right from the start. Closer examination that night showed a few flaws, but I still had 30-40 half decent TIFs to choose from. Even my first attempt at airbrushing my model to high-fashion glossy perfection in Photoshop went great. The whole thing just couldn't have been better; the idea gave me a buzz, the execution on the day was a total joyride, and I'm high on the end results two days afterwards. Literally, a dream come true.

So thank you Elle, for your artistry with the make-up brush. Thank you Ginger and Chilli, for your patience and modelling skills. And most of all thank you Jennifer, who opened up your home to two strangers, and endured the web glands, tiny claws, and urticating hairs of your pets for three hours so that I could indulge my photographic pecadillos. And then gave me two bars of genuine Swiss chocolate when I was leaving! ❤ ❤ ❤

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Zener Diode

Did a promo shoot last weekend with Zener Diode, a seven-piece electro-rock band. It's been on the cards for a while, but various little niggles caused us to reschedule a few times before we were finally all go.

I had a wee gander at a few potential locations, but all of the best ones would have required James Bond-esque circumventions of security, so in the end I rather dispiritedly suggested the abandoned railway station under the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, where I shot last month with Lily LeStrange. It felt like an absence of creativity for me to return there so soon, but fortunately the other participants were all very enthusiastic.

We didn't get started until almost 6pm, and I feel like I struggled. Ideas were in short supply, and the receding evening light was forcing me into uncomfortable shutter speeds and ISOs. Inevitably, I was less than thrilled with the end results, but both the band and the art director (I was really just the jobbing camera operator) were delighted. And since it was their money, I guess their satisfaction is what matters.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Loup o' Fintry

Had my second waterscape nude shoot this past week. I'd been planning it for ages, but circumstances prevented me; partly time, partly weather, partly the fact that there's not many TF models who do nudes, but mostly because I'm just quite lazy.

Then, about three weeks ago, I was contacted by a model requesting such work. I wasn't really keen to work with her, and was "between jobs" as well, so declined the offer. Next thing I knew, I found out she'd done a nude-in-water shoot with a tog who'd been in contact with Sazza, the lassie who'd previously helped me out. Eeeek! My precious idea would be all over everyone's profile before I could even establish it as a signature style! What to do?! What to do?!

Rush job. Scoped out a couple of locations, contacted the lovely Karen1985, and got a shoot sorted in the space of nine days. I confess that I wasn't as happy with the results compared with Fairy Glen, but maybe my expectations were higher? Still, nice location, great model, and nothing to stop me giving it a second shot in the future.

Addendum: turns out the other model's nude-in-water shots were nothing like mine, and I was worrying needlessly. Still, I'm kind of glad she contacted me, since it made me get off my lazy ass and get a shoot organized.

Friday, 18 June 2010

People are LeStrange

Had a shoot planned in East Kilbride with MM's Lily LeStrange and a newbie male model from PureStorm. He'd contacted me a couple of months ago looking to work together, and I suggested he play the victim of a makeover psychopath who would tie him up, cover him in gunk, and come at him with blowtorches, scalpels, etc. "Think Heath Ledger's Joker meets Trinny and Susannah" was how I put it.

He loved it, designated psycho Lily loved it, and eventually we settled on 11am on June 18th as our date. I then got a message at 11pm on the 17th saying he couldn't make it because of a family bereavement, but I didn't see it because I'd gone for an early night (so I could get up in time for the shoot). Had to rush the next morning, and didn't check my messages then either... you see where this is going? Yup, we discovered he'd be a no-show while sitting at the train station where we were supposed to be meeting him. D'oh!

My fault in a way, but very frustrating nevertheless. Lily and myself decided to go to the planned location anyway, but there was a security guard and a dog putting the kibosh on my plans. I suggested the abandoned railway station under the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow as an alternative; bit of a photographic cliché, frankly, but still a very cool place if you haven't visited. Anyhoo, although I was a bit lacking in inspiration, we still got a few good shots, and finished off with some ice cream in the gardens afterwards. The moral of the story? Always bring a spare model to shoots, in case one doesn't show up.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


"Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes", as David Bowie once sang... Something new, something new, something new, and something new.

#1 New job. Starting on the 21st of June, after 14 years at my old place which came to an end in May. Although the carnage since I left -- over thirty redundancies, including 23 of 30 in the production department which is where most of the revenue is generated -- makes me feel like one of the lucky ones...

#2 New gadgets. It's 2010, and I finally got around to buying myself a phone of my own for the very first time. I was losing my works-provided handset (actually I got to keep it, but I needed to get a new contract so I could swap my number over), so I decided to go hog wild; I could have just bought a SIM-only contract, but instead I treated myself to a new HTC Desire smartphone. I also got a new point'n'shoot, but since a model had asked about an underwater shoot, I thought I'd get something that could cope with a dunking: a Canon Powershot D10.

#3 New business cards. To go with my "commercial" website, at While I go through this big upheaval in my life, I thought I might as well have a stab at getting more paid work as a 'tog. Heck, bezzie mate Karen B left to become a full-time actress. That's a proper full-time actress, not one of those people who works in an office for forty hours a week but calls herself an actress because she got to be an extra in The Bill eleven years ago. So if she can take such a plunge, why can't I be a 'tog? I'm already getting paid every now and then.

#4 New car. The wee Arosa's beginning to aggravate me after two years of ownership. It continues to be enviably cheap to run (a best of 74 mpg last month, £35/year VED), but it rattles a bit, one of the front wheels is slightly squinty, and the exhaust needs fixing. It's too wee, and since I'm no longer working in Glasgow every day, I don't need something that you can park in itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny spots. I'll probably miss it when it's gone though, especially when I'm filling up at the petrol station. EDIT: Might be a change of plan with this. Keep running the Seat, which has now managed a 76 mpg tank, or switch to a Skoda Octavia or Ford Mondeo? I can't decide...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Modelling website upgrades

Got a bit of a busy summer planned as far as model photography's concerned. My recent shoot with Rage was the first of several which were, directly or indirectly, spurred by me upgrading my Purestorm online portfolios to a paid account, which made me more visible on the site.

I currently have the dress rehearsals and publicity material for Romeo & Juliet tonight, two confirmed waterfall shoots in May, a bit of portfolio enhancement for a pal of Rage who's new to modelling, and about half a dozen other shoots which I've still to finalize.

Feeling perky about my togging, and with a wee bit of spare cash burning a hole in my pocket thanks to recent circumstances, I decided to go hog wild: I upgraded my ModelMayhem portfolio to a paid account as well, splashed out on an ad-free version of my Wix website, and bought myself a dedicated domain name to point to it.

So gaze in wonder, puny mortals, at the majesty of...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Red Rage

After emerging from my photographic hibernation recently, I was contacted by Rage (aka Lou), a model who'd spotted my (newly upgraded) PureStorm portfolio. I'd already seen her own stuff and liked it, so once we got chatting, things started moving quickly. I ended up volunteering for a fashion shoot she was planning, since she's the "face" of an aspiring corsetiere and needed some promotional shots of their latest creation.

Now, I'm normally a bit rubbish with fashion, but this one turned out swell. Good location, nice outfits, and even the weather was reasonable. And as for Lou, she's supposedly not very experienced, but she was striking poses like a pro as soon as I got my lens cap off. Photogenic, a total natural in front of the camera, and didn't need any direction all day. And thank gawd, the pictures turned out quite well too, at least I think so.

PS I never did ask her why she was called "Rage". Perfectly charming lassie the whole time she was with me, but maybe she has a dark side...?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

5D mkII vs 400D

So, this weekend... out and about with the 5D2 trying to justify its purchase. Cue lots of swapping lenses, taking turns with each body on the tripod, etc etc, making comparative test shots.

To my relief, there does seem to be a noticeable improvement in quality (between my brand new, £1600, full-frame-sensored 5D2 and the crop-bodied 400D which has over 13k actuations to its name in three years of use--not exactly a stunning upset). However, of course there's more to it than just the IQ.

The first thing to notice is of course the weight. At 810g the 5D2 is about 60% heavier than the baby Rebel. It's physically bigger as well, and though my small hands were quite suited to handling the 400D, I definitely like the chunkiness of this mid-range body. Next difference is probably the most significant so far: I just lurrve the 5D2's viewfinder. Big, bright, and clear, it blows the socks off the crop-body's.

Ergonomically, it's difficult to split them. The 400D's on-off switch is in a more intuitive location for me, and of course I'm more used to its layout, but I think it'd be impossible to squeeze in all the 5D2's controls and functions while following its baby brother's design. Since I've not yet come across anything that made me go "well, that's a stupid place to put it", I'll call that one a draw.

Does the 400D beat the 5D2 at anything? Well yes, sort of. I had a collection of 4GB CF cards onto which 370 raw files from the wee camera could be squeezed. Now, with the 5D2 and its mammoth 21MP sensor, it's not so good. I'm using the RAW + JPG(L) mode, which means about 107 images, or 215 on my new 8GB CF cards. I now carry 36GB of flash storage around with me spread across six cards, but I think I could fill the lot of 'em on a single charge of the 5D2's battery. And don't forget the humungous 16-bit TIFFs I'll create in post-processing: 120MB each before I even start editing?! Feck me, suddenly my PC's 1.5TB HDD doesn't seem quite so voluminous any more...

Monday, 4 January 2010

Danse Macabre

I've been planning this shoot for a while now. It started when model/tog Roxy Stardust contacted me via Modelmayhem in September, and I suggested some setups including this one. The original inspiration came from this rather terrific photo on Flickr. I loved it, but for some reason I thought my version should have a woman dancing with a skeleton. Don't ask me why, I just did.

It took a bit of time to organize. I had a willing collaborator, but I needed a location and the vital prop. Roxy herself suggested Drumcross Farm, which turned out to be a bitterly cold studio in the January freeze; we lasted about 90 minutes before our blue extremities forced us to give up for the day. The dancing partner himself proved elusive, until I finally gave in to temptation and bought one on the internet. Expensive, but I'm planning to hire him out to other 'togs in future, so hopefully I'll recoup some of my investment.

Things didn't go entirely to plan. The biggest problem was the sheer weight of the skeleton, which made my original idea (having Roxy swishing around the room with the bones in tow) a bit unrealistic. In the end I settled for some more "staged" poses, and hoped I could minimize the support stand in post-processing as much as possible.

Since our original conversation, things have moved on a little. Rather than a single shoot, I'm now planning a whole necro-romantic series. Roxy and Mr Bones share a candlelit meal... Roxy and Mr Bones play chess... Roxy and Mr Bones go to the beach... Roxy and Mr Bones get married...

The possibilities are endless.