Shooting on Hampstead Heath / by Neil Alexander

Roseanne on Hampstead Heath by Neil Alexander

Last Friday I went down to London for Kelby Training's "On location lighting workshop" with the legendary National Geographic and Life photographer, Joe McNally. Having been to David Hobby's fantastic workshop in Leeds, where there were about 30-40 attendees, I was quite shocked to see an auditorium packed with more than 500 eager photographers. It was a somewhat less intimate affair, but equally as entertaining and informative.

I had been planning this weekend for some time, so I booked myself into a hotel and arranged three separate on location model shoots for the 24 hours after the workshop to try and put into practice some of the tips and tricks that I had gleamed. For the first shoot I had intended on trying to shoot in Regents or Hyde Parks, but after a ridiculous email conversation with the Royal Parks people, I quickly decided to knock that idea on the head. The gist of the final email was "if you are aiming for your images to be published/promoted in the future, then we must treat you as a professional and therefore charge you £400 and insist on £5 million worth of public liability insurance"! So I decided to go for Hampstead Heath instead. I'd done some extensive research online and found that there's a really cool looking pergola over on the western edge of the park that looked like a real possible for a sunset shoot. It's raised about 10 feet above the ground and runs in an east/west & north/south direction. We got there eventually about 8pm, but only managed about 15 minutes shooting time before the sun dropped down behind the tree line. We then left here and moved to a little hillock round the corner which still had the descending sun lighting it through the trees. The vibe here wasn't all that comfortable - there were lots of single blokes milling around looking rather sheepish and it wasn't until later that I found out that this was the "gay cruising" area of the park!

Roseanne on Hampstead Heath by Neil Alexander

In spite of all that, Roseanne was great, and most definitely game, and I got a few keepers. Somehow I'd managed to heavily underexposed most of the images, and I'm not sure why. I can only think that it can have been for two reasons; just the other day I'd been shooting in bright sunlight so had turned the brightness on the LCD on the back of the camera right up, and for most of the shots of Roseanne, I had positioned her in the sunlight and I'd been in the shade which I guess made the pictures look brighter than they actually were.

As a result of travelling down by train, I came equipped as lightly as possible. So in the way of lighting gear, I just brought 3 strobes, a couple of stands and 2 reversible brollies and decided to leave the kitchen sink behind. I did bring my Pocket Wizards, but inspired by McNally's amazing use of Nikon's CLS system, I decided to try and shoot TTL all weekend. The top two images were lit with an SB900 on a shoot thru either side of Roseanne and feathered a little. In fact for the second image, I left 2/3s of the reversible cover on the umbrella camera right to prevent too much fall off onto the background. For the bottom image, I just used one strobe and shoot through camera left to fill in the shadows a little left by the falling sun over my right shoulder. More to come.....

Roseanne on Hampstead Heath by Neil Alexander