Getting lost on the Edge / by Neil Alexander

Frankie by Neil Alexander

Last week, I hooked up with Frankie for another on-location portrait shoot. I decided on Alderley Edge as a location, specifically Stormy Point, which has a great view as a backdrop. As I knew this was National Trust property, and after the debacle at Lyme Park I decided very early on to clear this with the relevant authorities to save any mither. I contacted the people at the property directly in the first instance, and was referred to the media department at their head office. Having already spoken to them the other week, I had a good idea of the process. I explained in a concise email that this was not to be a commercial shoot, no money would be exchaning hands, but I would be using what they might deem to be "professional equipment". It was explained to me that this would be fine, and they would waive any charges (how kind of them), but I would need their standard cover of £5 million of public liability insurance. Any attempt to reason with this ridiculous demand was met with silence. Had I been shooting inside one of their mansions, or even in a busy park, then maybe I could have understood that a level of PLI was required, but were to shoot in a completely out of the way area in the middle of the day during the week. The chances of us even coming across another person were slim, never mind the possibility of me accidentally koshing them over the head with a light stand.

As it transpires, I do have PLI but to nothing like that level. Eventually they agreed that on this occassion this level of cover would suffice, and would I please sign their 12 page contract.

Frankie by Neil Alexander

Now normally, I would have paid the location a visit or two beforehand just to work out logistics of transporting and setting up gear, and to give myself a chance to envision how I would like the final images to look. But for one reason and another, this time I didn't. Which was a mistake. The last time I'd been here must have been around 20 years ago, and my memory has clearly gone a little hazy over the years. I was totally unable to find the spot I was looking for, and after about 45 minutes lugging around camera bag, lighting bag, a portable changing room that I've knocked up and light stands, in the blazing sun, I gave up! We turned around and headed back to an embankment that I'd spotted as a plan B on the way down, and decided to set up shop there. We still had a decent backdrop, but being in the middle of a field recently inhabited by cattle meant that we had to pick our spots rather carefully, if you know what I mean. Having said all that, I still managed to get images that I'm pleased with.

Frankie by Neil Alexander

Now, I have made a point of trying to record camera and flash settings, but the more I'm shooting this kind of thing outside, the more I find that recording settings isn't really practical - the light is generally constantly changing and so therefore are my settings. Though in general these were shot with SB900s and shoot through umbrellas positioned either side of Frankie. This was certainly the case for the top two, though I think for the middle one, I may also have used a ring for a little fill. For the bottom image, I struggled to light the full length of the model appropriately against the fairly bright background. I ended up using both brollies, the ring flash and a bare flash directed straight at her to try and bring out those funky tights she was wearing.