South Bank shoot / by Neil Alexander

South Bank Portrait Shoot - Karolina Szwemin by Neil Alexander

 As part of my trip to London the other week I arranged with Karolina to meet on the South Bank in London at 5am. I was very surprised that I was going to get a model to meet me this early and was even more surprised to find that she was actually there before me when I arrived. I'd done a great deal of planning for this weekend's shoots, and I figured that the corner of the South Bank by the National Theatre would get a little direct sunlight early on after it had risen from behind St. Paul's cathedral, but would then be filtered a little by the rows of trees down the embankment of the Thames as it rose and moved around, if it appeared at all that is. I awoke around 4am and peered out the window to see a pretty much cloudless sky, got the hotel to fill a flask full of coffee, and jumped in a cab with all my gear.

I had hoped to shoot on the oversized sofas outside the National but unfortunately there were some lads there who were obviously winding down from their Friday night out. So we proceeded up onto the balcony. I figured there would be no security around this early or if there were they wouldn't bother us. Unfortunately I was wrong. We'd managed to get a few decent frames in the bag until two security guards asked us to leave as apparently we were on private property. We then moved further down the bank and preceded to shoot quite happily there for a good couple of hours changing outfits, moving around & changing location slightly. Although I expected some interest / harassment from late night revellers, drunks, security guards etc we were surprisingly pretty much uninterrupted.

South Bank Portrait Shoot - Karolina Szwemin by Neil Alexander

All these images were taken with the only two lenses I had taken with me which were the 17-55 F2.8 and the 70 to 200 F2 .8.

For the first half an hour or so I was quite successfully shooting with just one light. I didn't really need much more than that to match the ambient. Once the sun had risen a little further I then felt I need a little more light to match and overpower the ambient so I mounted another SB 900 on a smaller shoot through umbrella. That was when I started to have intermittent lighting problems. As per my previous post, I made a point of doing all this TTL & I found that every now and then my flashes wouldn't fire. Try as I may I was unable to locate source of my lighting issues. After a while this began to get really frustrating. I would shoot a half a dozen frames with the flashes firing perfectly, and then nothing. Either one or neither flash would fire. Eventually it became apparent that the problem was one of the hot shoes onto which I had one of the strobes mounted. This hot shoe which sits on top of the umbrella spigot mount was of the type that has a diode on the front in order to trigger older flashes manually. I moved it so that it was half on the hot shoe and half not so that there were no contacts made between the bottom of the flash and the hot shoe then all appeared to work much better. However I was nervous of the flash falling off. And none of the other cold shoes that I had with me appeared to take the SB 900 mounts. I had a vague recollection of having had this problem before, and had applied a little gaffer tape over the connections on the hot shoe to prevent contact between hot shoe and flash, but in my eagerness to keep the traveling load down, had left all of my tape at home.

South Bank Portrait Shoot - Karolina Szwemin by Neil Alexander