If you're on Facebook, you will have got those messages telling you your 'memories' from the same day a year or more ago. Apparently a year ago yesterday I made two New Year resolutions: to sort out my garden and to get myself set up for a home portrait studio. I think of myself as someone who doesn't make resolutions, so I was surprised to realise I'd made them. Its a good thing Facebook keeps these memories as apparently my own brain doesn't! Even more surprisingly, I have accomplished both those resolutions. The garden is no longer entirely covered with brambles and I have started doing studio sessions.
The set up I have is that a very wide paper backdrop hangs from a rail between two stands. This is collapsible and packs away between shoots. As my office/studio/junk room is what was formerly the garage attached to my house, there's plenty of width. The lights I use are a pair of portable lights in a kit from Calumet, which I've had for years and have often used on location. They can be triggered by on-camera flash or, as in the shot above, by directly connecting the camera to the soft-box.
My first shot was a family with two children. They perched on bar stools to keep them still, though they were still pretty wiggly! Mum stood behind them to make a tight family group and then it was a case of trying to catch the moments as they chatted and mucked around. I shot in colour but my favourites are the converted to black and white. Its worth customising this in Photoshop as you can adjust the channels. I find that reducing the red component gives much brighter complexions. I did a tiny bit of cleaning up in Photoshop as well, as one child had a scratched on their face which didn't need to be immortalised.
I'm hoping this shoot will be the first of many. Please do get in touch if you're interested.
There are people crazy enough to go outdoor swimming on Christmas morning in several places around the UK. There are also swims on Boxing Day and New Year's Day in quite a few places, including the sea which, even in a mild winter such as we're having this year, must be toe-curlingly cold.
Brockwell Lido in south London has run a Christmas morning swim for the last 2 years and this year I went along to take photos for Demotix. The water was at 10 centigrade, a big improvement on the bone-chilling 4 centigrade it was last year. Even so, many people only managed a couple of lengths before heading for the showers or the sauna. Clearly some people are regular cold-water swimmers though, because many did several lengths and some even managed to look relaxed while doing it. I particularly liked the elegant lady with the tinsel in her hair -- she seemed to have some self-contained sense of enjoyment as she swan length after length.
In terms of press photos, what I was looking for were photos with people in costume or people grimacing in the cold water. Sure enough, there were a few Santa hats around and inevitably some face-pulling as people went into the lido. It was a grey morning, though it brightened a bit as the morning went on. in fact, that's quite good for photos; no problems of harsh shadows or blown highlights. I shot at 800 ISO to give myself plenty of depth of field even when using a quite fast exposure -- about 1/250th of a second -- to capture splashes of water and to avoid camera shake when using a long lens.
If anyone who swam there would like to order a print of their photo, they can do so here.
Anna Watson: photographer, parent, juggler