Quick and easy location portraits by Neil Alexander

Recently I was asked to shoot some portraits for a construction company at their offices up in North Manchester for their new look website. This was a rare occasion in that I’d been unable to do my usual pre-site visit to see what the location would be like. So on the day, I headed up there laden with everything including the kitchen sink in the worst rainstorms I’ve seen for some time. The combination of not having seen the offices and the torrential rain was beginning to make me nervous. It meant that no matter how awkward the office was to shoot in, there was absolutely no chance of shooting outside instead. Guess what I found on arrival? Small windowless rooms and long narrow corridors. It was going to be extremely problematic to shoot in. I had no choice but to make it work, somehow.


It came down to using a dark long narrow corridor shaped like a T, no windows, fluorescent lighting and without a great deal of room to manoeuvre. At one end I threw up a white seamless and put a Lastolite Ezybox on a stand. There was very little room to position the light and not get it in the frame. In fact the corner of the soft box is in the top corner of every frame. As the subjects varied from a tad shorter than me to way way over my head, I made a conscious decision to tripod my camera and crop the softbox out  after the fact. 

Broadoak Preservation - Staff Neil_Alexander 04.jpg

Quick location portrait set up shot

I dialled in an exposure just sufficient to get a completely black frame, and then incrementally added flash until I had the light I was looking for. The Ezybox wasn’t quite enough on its own though. As a result of the only position I could put it, I was getting too much fall off on the far side of the subjects' faces and bodies. I set up another Quadra on the other side and directed this at the white wall so that it would bounce back and provide a little fill. Worked a treat.

It was all going fine until somebody mentioned a group shot……

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My favourites from 2011 by Neil Alexander

It's that time again.... In keeping with the last couple of year's reflections on the year that was (2010 here, and 2009 here) below are my 12 14 favourite images from 2011. Slightly different from these previous entries though, I haven't picked one image from each month, I've simply tried to pick my 12 (which ended up being14) personal favourite images from this year. It's always an interesting exercise and I find it really quite rewarding to see how my skills have developed from the year before. So here they are, although not in any order in particular, other than chronological.

First up is an image I made in Spinningfields, Manchester that I submitted in the Urban View category of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 competition, which was subsequently shortlisted.

The Avenue, Manchester - Shortlisted for Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

Also in January I made the image below with Charlie in Castlefield with one of my favourite modifiers, the Lastolite Ezybox. Details here

Charlie, Castlefield

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale car park before the security guards came along. Blog post here

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale Car Park, Manchester

Maltese street scene - First trip to Malta this year. Blog post here.

Typical street scene in Victoria on the Island of Gozo, Malta

Kayleigh, Trafford Park with the moon. Blog post  here


Zejtun, Malta

Second trip to Malta this year. Blog posts here and here

Doorway, Zejtun, Malta

Anna - "Waiting for a bus?" with some very carefully placed SB900s - blog post here

Waiting for a bus?

Lighthouse, Vilamoura, Portgual. Blog post here and on variable neutral density filters here

View of the breakwater at Vilamoura, Portugal with a lighthouse at the end

Manchester Central Library - post here

Manchester Central Library at sunset

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester. Post here

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester

The Lake District. Post here

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning

Derwent Valley. Post here

Tree in the Derwent Valley, High Peaks

And finally a shoot I did with Sophie and Pat in mid December that I haven't yet blogged about. Post to follow in the New Year.

Pat & Sophie

So in retrospect I'm more than happy with the quality of what I've produced this year, though I do feel that I need to up the quantity next year. And in upping the quantity I'm pretty certain that this will also see an improvement in the quality too. I ought to write a post on my plans for 2012 too. For one, it'll give me something to be held to, and it'll also help me to thrash out my thoughts and plans for the next year of my business and where I want to take it. So you can look forward to this in the coming weeks.

Finally, for 2012 I'll be releasing desktop wallpapers for your personal use. You can download January's here in 3 separate sizes. There's 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1200 & 1440 x 900. Simply click the appropriate link and right click to save to your desktop.

NeilAlexander_JanuaryDesktop - 1440x900

As this'll be my final post for 2011, I'll sign off by saying that it's been a fantastic year for me photographically speaking and I hope that 2012 is even better. Enjoy the celebrations, and I'll see you on the other side.

Wishing you a prosperous 2012. Neil

A model, a strobe and the moon... by Neil Alexander

I was working on some fresh head shots with Kayleigh on location in Trafford Park, Manchester last week and shortly before we started to wrap up, I spotted the moon high up in the sky with a cloudless sky around it. I figured it would make quite a cool image if I could get enough light on Kayleigh yet still get a clear moon in the background. Using the 105mm F2.8 I stopped it down to F16, mainly in an attempt to get something vaguely resembling a moon shape rather than just a white blur, ran up my ISO to 400 and made this exposure at 1/60 second. I used one SB900 in my large trusty Lastolite Ezybox at zero compensation using TTL. The wind was whipping around, and anchoring the sail-like Ezybox whilst lying on the floor shooting up at Kayleigh wasn't exactly a pretty site, but after a dozen frames or so I think we nailed it.

Kayleigh by Neil Alexander (Click for larger)