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.

Back on it... by Neil Alexander

Neil Alexander's Best of 2009 - October - Sunset over Lymm Dam

Crikey, its been so long since I've posted that you guys were probably thinking that I'd given up or disappeared or something. No such like I'm afraid. The frightful delay was a result of my deciding that a new blog system and host was required. Previously I've been using the dotNet Blog Engine which has served me very well over the years. Unfortunately (or fortunately - depends on your point of view) the readership of this blog has reached such a level that the hosting I had in place was no longer sufficient - it was running over a broadband connection, albeit a fast one, on a server in the office cellar. The downside to the .Net engine was that it required a SQL server to power it, and a hosted SQL installation doesn't come cheap. So to cut a long story short, the past 4 weeks have found me immersed in php and trying to comprehend the behemoth that is WordPress. I finally have a system that I'm pretty happy with, though moving 200 odd posts from one system to the other was a tad trying at times. I just hope that I don't have to move again in the near future! I've used a templated design from which I've hacked around with a little, and a host of assorted plugins which take care of everything from the Lightbox to the related posts and from SEO to performance caching. So I'd be interested to know your thoughts. I still have a few smaller issues to resolve, and tweak, but if you spot anything which looks broken or out of place, I'd be keen to hear from you.

Anyways, back to the photography.....

I grabbed myself a copy of David Hobby's Strobist Lighting Seminar DVD set from the Flash Centre along with a bunch of gels, and some other bits and bobs. (A+ to the Flash Centre - ordered Wed eve, arrived on doorstep Fri am!) If you've never heard of David Hobby and you're into your off-camera flash set ups, then you are seriously missing out. The guy is a genius and if there's anything he doesn't know about strobes, then it's not worth knowing. He's also created quite a little community over at his blog, and the wealth of knowledge there is stunning. In the DVD set, the first DVD consists of a comprehensive guide to the kind of gear you'd need, and how to cut costs to a minimum. In the next 4 discs David is recorded giving a seminar where he goes into great depth on everything to do with OCF, and then the final 3 discs are a series of location shoots where he explains his various set ups and how to get the best out of your gear on location. All in all a very worthwhile purchase. I've learnt a gamut of new information and am flooded with ideas to try.

As for shooting myself, well what with the new blog and Mr Hobby sidetracking me, its been a little quiet lately. I've been experimenting quite a bit, but nothing worth showing. Apart from the above that is - it's the last chance that I think I'm going to get an Autumn shot of Lymm dam this year. It's a 5 frame HDR shot with the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 at F11 processed in Photomatix, and cropped a little.

Pond at sunset by Neil Alexander

Pond at sunset Originally uploaded by jacobsdad
Clouds Originally uploaded by jacobsdad

Both shot near the end of runway 2 at Manchester Airport -

Took the little fella along to watch the planes for half an hour or so before his bedtime the night before last, so they're just grab shots, but turned out ok nonetheless.