Photography Blog by Duncan Holmes
Hmm...how to tell the story of a shoot without blowing the whole concept, showing too much or otherwise interfering with the chance that it might, possibly, perhaps, maybe make it into print.
This was an idea of mine that was originally inspired by a classical painting, the Birth of Venus. I wasn't interested in shooting nudes though, so I thought of using the idea as a springboard to shoot a model in a dress in a similar kind of setting. This was tentatively pencilled in with one model for a day in August.
But, the more I thought about the idea, the more I thought it could be expanded on and 1 shoot with one model and 1 dress became 2 shoots with 7 models and 8 dresses. I had originally planned for 3 locations, but couldn't stretch the logistics that far. So the shoots settled down to one at Loch Lomond and another back on the beach at Ardrossan.
I'd first reached out to a number of talented Scottish designers, to gauge interest and see who might be willing to loan pieces for the shoots. We actually had more interested than we ended up shooting, but slight kerfuffles meant that we never got to shoot two of them. We still ended up with some spectacular works by Psychomoda, nicci.n, Sweet Danger and Claudette. Alison at Psychomoda had even designed a dress specifically for the shoot!
The day before the shoot the original stylist pulled out due to work commitments, which left me a bit in the lurch, especially as she was bringing dresses from one of the designers, so that was us down one.. Luckily my friend and talented stylist, Jacki Clark, was able to step into the breach and provide styling for the first of the shoots at Loch Lomond.
Early on in the process of planning the shoot I had been contacted by Rachel Gallagher, the makeup artist. Coincidentally we ended up working in between on the Betty Spoke and Lady Jojo shoots, which just goes to show what a small world it is. I'd had all sorts of plans to send her some ideas for inspiration, but time caught up with me. The night before the shoot she came up with a brilliant idea of her own, and hey presto the makeup was ready to go too.
Shoot day dawned for the first of the two shoots, grey, wet and miserable. Naturally, I was thrilled. With some trepidation I picked up my assistant for the shoot, Benita and the first of the models, Nicola Creen (the only 1 of the 4 models I'd not shot with before) and headed for Balloch. We met the other 3 models and Rachel at the station. This is where I found out that another designer, who had planned to come with us for the shoot, was unable to attend due to an emergency with a friend. This meant that we were also down a car.
I ferried Rachel, Nicola, Jacki and Tuma up to the shoot location, left them with a cool box, a chair and instructions to start makeup and hunt good spots for the shoot, then headed back for Sharon, Nisha and Benita.
Hair and makeup was done at a picnic table and though overcast, the weather was kind to us. Jacki had found a spot a wee walk away, and once everybody was ready and dressed for the shoot we trudged, waddled and strode to the shoot.
We ended up shooting for about an hour and a half with the 4 models, with some of them proving very adventurous in the rocks they were willing to climb, needless to say I did suffer an occasional heart attack or two as they wobbled at the Loch's edge!
We managed to call it a day, just as the rain returned. So once again I was on ferrying duties. Only to find, as we reached Balloch, that all trains were cancelled due to flooding. Once I'd collected the remaining folk, I shoved 4 women in a taxi, 1 in a car with her boyfriend and dropped two home. Not the best end to the day, but the pictures are looking great.
After the relative complications of Sunday's shoots, Venus part 2 dawned with another grey and showery morning. Scotland in summer. But it was just doing it to fool us as the shoot itself took place under glorious blue skies in the sunshine.
This was a simpler arrangement, with just Rachel and 3 models, Jenna, KT and Nikita. With the styling tips from the day before and a better grasp of my aims I did not miss the absent stylist this time. We were fortunate that The Waterside were kind enough to let us set up shop on their patio again for the shoot, though the sea breeze meant that the models were hiding under blankets as they got their makeup done. I'd shot before with Jenna, but KT and Nikita were both new to me. We chatted and teeth chattered as Rachel worked her way through makeup. The first dresses were decided on and the models had the luxury of toilets for changing.
We then zipped along to the same spot as I'd used for the Warrior shoot. We tried shooting with the prop again, as we had the day before, but the sea breezes were just a little too frantic and the prop a little too light. So, this shoot became a bit more generic. Though I tried to use the rocks and beach features to still play on the goddess theme.
Both KT and Nikita were agreeable discoveries, with Nikita a virtual posing machine, and all three models looked spectacular. I was most impressed by their ability to change in the back of a car!
Post shoot we were able to have a light meal at the Waterside, before I dropped them at the station for their trips home. No cancelled trains this time!
Last week saw me making not one but two trips to Edinburgh! Rare for me, over on the West coast to make the long trek through morning traffic, but sometimes it’s worth the effort.
Wednesday was originally just a quick trip to pop my head round the door at Lady Jojo’s Boutique
, host for Thursday’s shoot. Thanks to an enquiry at the weekend it also turned into an unrelated wee mini shoot. The original plan had been to shoot in and around the Botanic Gardens, but the monsoon came and soon persuaded us away from that idea.
Luckily, the model for the day was also the owner of a shop with plenty of floor space. Luckily too, she had rolls of fabric and lace that provided us with an improvised backdrop. It was a new departure for me, as the model was dressed in traditional Indian costume. Caroline, our makeup artist, provided some colourful looks to compliment the outfits and we had a relaxed afternoon of shooting.
A quick (well, as quick as tramworks, diversions and afternoon traffic allowed) bus into town and I met up with Joanna at Lady Jojo’s and had a quick chat before winging my way back to Glasgow.
For someone who has an inclination towards genuine vintage and retro, a trip into Lady Jojo’s
is a trip into some kind of mini heaven, exquisitely crafted in fabric. You could outfit all the female extras for an entire episode of Mad Men with the choice of pencil dresses and circle skirt dresses on display, with some cunning prints here or there to bring us into the current era. As well as stocking a number of suitable accessories, the boutique houses a display from Mairi Brunning Millinery, ranging from simple dinky little baby fascinators and hair combs up to the more elaborate hats and fascinators. From a photographic perspective, I was thrilled, there were enough options to be shooting for weeks and be coming up with a different look each time.
I’d been suffering from a cough and cold over these days, so when Thursday dawned early again, I was a bit wobbly and tired on the motorway through to the capital. A coffee and a bun restored my energies somewhat and I bathed in the sun on a bench in the Grassmarket as I waited to meet the stylist for that day’s shoot. The stylist was Roisin Ferguson, “The Fashion Mermaid”. She brought along an equally blue haired friend, Miranda, to assist. We descended on Joanna and Roisin made her initial plans for outfits for our two models.
We went for a quick coffee and returned in time to greet our makeup artist, Rachel Gallagher
, on her arrival. She had recently worked with me on a shoot for Betty Spoke, so a familiar face and a skilled set of hands for makeup and hair for the day.
Jenna, the first of the models was next. She’d been one of the stars of my Razor
shoot earlier in the year so I knew that she was perfect for the classic 40’s and 50’s style circle dresses from Lady Jojo’s. Aimee, our second model, also a familiar face from recent shoots
, was due in somewhat later (though in the end, it was later than we’d expected due to travel links from Glasgow). She’s another model with a very vintage look about her.
Once hair and makeup were done, Jenna was arrayed in the first of her dresses for the day, a pink dress with liquorice allsorts print and a fascinator from Mairi Brunning Millinery
. We managed to do a quick circuit of the old town, before the rain started to threaten us and got some great pictures.
Joanna had to leave for an interview for a Scottish Enterprise Award (you just have to look at the attention to detail in everything she does in her shop, to know that she’s a very astute businesswoman, though not so great as a wiring technician), so we were left to our own devices with the second dress, a black dress with prints of 50’s style pinup girls. The rain was still threatening, so we took some shots of this dress under a nearby arch, down towards Castle Terrace, and then some more as the sun came out. These included some lovely dreamy shots under the shadow of some leaves by a wall and a very Marilyn Monroe moment as the wind seemed determined to have a rummage through Jenna’s skirt.
In the meantime, Aimee had arrived and was under Rachel’s expert hands in hair and makeup, so another change and both models were ready to go out together. This time Roisin had selected a couple of dresses with flower prints, one dark, one light.
We did some nice shots with the castle in the background before the rain chased us away again. This bout of rain was a bit more persistent, but luckily eased off before we all turned into pumpkins. We managed to squeeze in a few more shots before it was time to pack up and leave Joanna to lock up her shop.
After a full day on the town and the constant waft of chips from the pub down the road, we had a wee pitstop for food, where I had possibly the driest chicken breast it is possible to have without resorting to petrification.
I gave the two models a lift back to Glasgow, both fell promptly asleep in the car, so my conversation skills have obviously not improved.
I survived the shoot on adrenalin and the copious amount of coffee I’d consumed in the morning, by the time we got back to Glasgow for around 8pm I was really flagging. So much so, that my brief post shoot meeting with Betty Spoke
turned into more of a hi / bye and she sent me away to get some sleep.
Sometimes things happen, outwith your control and somehow a miracle occurs and everything works out to perfection. I'd arranged this shoot sometime ago, tweaking and perfecting as I went until we had two talented makeup artists, Jillian Elizabeth and Aileen Wallace, two models and clothes from HandmadeinPartick.
So I collected the first of our models, Hazel Martin (who I'd had the pleasure of working with before at the ten30 shoot last year) from Ardrossan South Beach station, then we went to the Waterside, who had kindly granted us access to a table on their patio for makeup and theirr toilets for changing. The designer had kindly volunteered to pick up our other model at the station in Glasgow, but the model was a no show, not a whisper of why she wasn' there. So, Hazel and I drowned our sorrows in coffee and Rocky Road chocolate biscuits, trying to work out how we would get two makeup artists gainfully employed on one model.
Aileen and Jillian turned up quite soon after and we sat in the developing sun, drinking coffee, hot chocolates and tea and awaiting the now delayed Lorna, with her designs. Makeup then ensued with the two ladies working together on Hazel to create a warrior woman, with a wound or two to show she'd been in the wars. A little gentle persuasion and I now had three models, as they both gamely agreed to step in front of the lens.
Once Hazel’s makeup was done and she was looking suitably fierce, Lorna dressed her in one of her outfits and Hazel and I drove up the beach a bit to start shooting. (Given that the Waterside had been such congenial and understanding hosts, it would have been churlish to then set off a bunch of smoke effects right in front of their patio).
Hazel was such a joy to shoot, getting right into her role of warrior woman as she donned a broadsword and scabbard to complete her look. We shot for a little while, before being distracted by a nearby ice cream van. A cone and a nougat later and the other ladies managed to find us and join us. Lorna’s pop up (but impossible to pop down, as we found out later) wind break acted as a shelter for bits and bobs and changing area for Jillian and Aileen.
Not being models themselves, it took Jillian and Aileen a little longer to warm into their roles, but they were soon swinging swords and posing alongside Hazel with true style and grace.
We shot for a while at the shoreline and paddling in the sea, before finally breaking out the smoke effects, much to Lorna’s delight as she was placed in charge of the BBQ lighter, pellets and powders.
We got some very dramatic effects with the addition of the smoke and some of the shots are looking great. Though, I had to shoot quick and often due to the short duration of the smoke and the general unpredictability of chaotic motion.
So, except for some very unexpected sunburn (we’d all thought we’d be needing thermals, not factor 50) we had a very successful day. A coffee at the waterside to bid farewell to Aileen and Jillian, before chips in Largs for the rest of us.
And so the editing marathon begins.
Just a quick snippet, we had a networking day at Kelburn Country Park on Sunday. We were a little under represented in the Makeup artist department, but we had three lovely models in Klara, Edmee and Daryl and 9 photographers made it along. We were also graced by Joanna Chomicz and some of her designs.
I was halfway through a holiday when the urge to go back into the studio hit me. With the help of the models, Jamie Hillen and Anna Elizabeth Elliott and the talented brushes of the makeup artist Elle McMillan I was able to fulfill the urge last Thursday. Unlike some of my other shoots in the recent past, there was no grand plan or story behind the shoot, just a chance to play with some lighting ideas and work with some nice folk. C.Watson saw my call for a makeup artist (always in high demand these folk) and tagged along on the shoot too with her daughter and some of her latest designs. Unfortunately all these designs had been conceived with a particular petite model in mind, so Christine's daughter stepped into the limelight for this little mini shoot within a shoot. It was interesting directing a non model, I found that by adding motion, jumps and spins we got some dynamic and fun shots which we never would have thought of or tried with generic model style poses.
It was a fairly relaxed afternoon with the rain tanking it down outside in Glasgow's streets. Jamie revealed that he fills up on a single banana and can do a passable impression of a vampire.
I'd met Anna briefly at the Oohfashion launch
last year and with the peace following exams reigning she was back in the modelling world. She's a lovely and engaging young woman with striking looks that Elle brought to the fore with the 2nd more adventurous makeup look.
Anyway, 3 early samples of the resulting images to show you what you can do with the simple addition of some gels to the lights on a white backdrop.
The strange thing about building networks of fellow creative minds, whether they be designers, stylists, makeup artists, models, singers, artists etc. is that life can sometimes lead you down some unusual avenues.
My friend, Jacki Clark, who had helped style some of my fashion shoots, has a sideline organising cabaret and burlesque nights in Glasgow. This latest creation, the Baby Blues Club, which she formed with the singer, Michelle Elli, was a new variation on the theme.
I arrived a little early, after indulging in some tapas in the upstairs restaurant, then descended down the stairs and turned left into music heaven. Michelle and her band were starting their sound checks and I walked in on Minnie the Moocher in full swing, With sax, horn, drums, double bass and keyboard the band gave a big band feel on the small stage and Michelle's velvety whisky voice just made me melt.
I watched Jacki slowly pull the show together over the last few minutes and fend off eager patrons and then we were ready to begin.
Our compere for the evening was Gary, a familiar face who had hosted the Candylicious fashion show earlier in the year, with equal aplomb. He did seem to come over all obsessed about Geordie Shore at one stage, but I'm sure he's recovered now.
After an introductory piece by Michelle and our band, Terry turned up with his table, a briefcase and two chairs. A few rope tricks, some cards and cup and ball games later and he was whispered off the stage due to overrunning slightly.
Now I hadn't know what to expect from the next act on the play sheet, One Blood, a troupe of breakdancers. They performed 3 routines during the evening and each one was a marvel of movement, athelticism and dance, running up walls, twisting on the floor and body popping. It was a break from the jazzy, blues feeling of Michelle's band but strangely it worked as a piece of entertainment in this low ceilinged darkly lit club, speakeasy cabaret brought into the modern age.
After another couple of numbers from Michelle and her band it was the turn of the first of our burlesque dancers for the night. Vendetta Vain appeared, exquisite in a ballgown and opera gloves and graced us with an elegant dance routine. Now I'm just a country boy at heart, so I'm ok with burlesque right up until the tassels come out, when I get a little angsty and unsure about how savoury the whole thing is. Vendetta's approach made me forget all those worries and I was captivated by her routine, even as I had to remind myself to stop admiring and take a picture or two.
Now I guess, before I go any further in the recounting of the night's events, I should give you a little view of Michelle and her band at work. I'm not so old that I ever got to see the greats live in their clubs and bars. Often when you hear folk render tunes like Is you is, Minnie the Moocher, and others, either the band or the singer don't quite have that undefinable "something". Michelle and her band brought me back to the dream of those times and those places and our little underground club, home of the Baby Blues was a living breathing taste of all that is good about music. (i guess you can tell I liked them).
After another delve into breakdancing we were graced with the energetic routine of Favourite Sin, in keeping with the evening it had a little old fashioned gangster edge to it.
The fabulous night was brought to a rousing close with a duet of a kind. As Michelle sang to our souls, the boys of One Blood danced in turn and in syncopated synchronicity to the music.
I don't know when they might return to Glasgow's fair city, but I can't help feeling that the streets shine a little brighter, the people are more beautiful, the world is a better place, now that the Baby Blues is in town.
Wedding wise, last night saw me going over wedding album proofs with a February couple
Friday will see me meeting with a new prospective couple, the bride to be having been a bridesmaid at a wedding last year. It's always nice to get these kinds of referrals, it's a sign that something went right on the night and that a good impression was left behind with the guests and wedding party.
My next wedding isn't until 11th May, but it's sure to be a biggie as the couple have planned an elaborate day involving church wedding in Port Glasgow, meal in Glasgow itself and then back to Port Glasgow town hall for an evening reception. Somewhere in there we have to squeeze in a few photos too. I've roped in an assistant for the first time ever for this one, so it will be a new experience for me, delegating some of the tasks, whilst still keeping my own approach to the wedding photography and experience.
Tonight I'm off to darkest Crossford, by Dunfermline, for a wee charity fashion show for the RNLI. My mother inlow got a tow off a lifeboat, so I thought it was a good enough cause. A local boutique will be showing their wares at a nice hotel.
Thursday night I am going to the Glasgow Concert Hall to be wowed by the makeup creations of Clydebank college's students. These events are a feast for the eyes and the imagination, as well as being a chance to network with new talented makeup artists and other creative folk in attendance.
Sunday will be my first attendance at a wedding Fayre, I will be showing at Cruden Hall in Greenock. It's a smallish show, but will be a chance to ease into the process. There's another fair in town on the same day, so hopefully lots of couples will be shopping around. My 2012/2013 calendar still has a couple of gaps here and there that it would be nice to fill.
Then the 1st May sees me returning to the catwalk (so to speak) as I go up to Glasgow again for one of the big fashion shows of the year, Nightwalk. This promises to be a grand occasion with some talented designers showing their work on the catwalk at the Arches. (get your tickets quick as they're selling out!)
The 3rd May is a little more unusual for me. Jacki Clark, who has been a stylist on some of my shoots, has a wee sideline organising Burlesque Cabaret nights. So she has invited me along to be the official photographer for the night. These nights are mostly about comedy and music, with the burlesque element punctuating the night with its own mix of glamour, tease and humour. I was offerred a free ticket for my wife "to keep an eye on me", but it would appear that her trust is strong, or her desire for an early night stronger, so I will be on my own for this.
Then I have a week off up to the wedding, which might involve a night away somewhere..I think I might need it.
Last Saturday saw me descend on a garage on Port Glasgow, unofficial home and rehearsal studio of the Tragic City Thieves for a quick shoot. It was a bit of playtime with the band, with their friend Tara providing posing and directing tips.
After a busy couple of weeks with weddings and photoshoots I'm finally getting a chance to catch my breath before the next storm.
Apart from a couple of prospective wedding couples to be met, I can take the next couple of weeks to regroup, reedit and prepare for some exciting new work at the end of the Month.
On 25th March I will be returning to the Harbour Barber's for probably the biggest of the planned shoots there. We will be borrowing hats from the fabulously creative Jenivieve Berlin Millinery
, some risque outfits from a boutique in Glasgow and creating a burlesque carnival within the confines of the shop. It promises to be challenging, if only keeping so many people out of the reflections in the mirrors and because we only start at 4:30 pm, so will be shooting into the night.
Last weekend saw me making the long trip to Melrose to delivery a print to Karen Reid Designs.
Karen had been one of the designers at the Perfectly Petite
shoot last November and this errant print had bounced between the Borders and a Parcelforce depot for several weeks, before returning to its origin at the lab. I'd picked it up myself in the end and had been showing it to everyone I could, before finally hand delivering it to Karen.
In the abstract I had been aware that Karen had been pleased with the resulting images from our shoot, some of my pictures even feature heavily on her current website, but it was still a surprise to walk up the stairs to her shop and be confronted by a gallery of my pictures on the staircase. It was quite a boost to the old ego, I can tell you.
The other motive for my shoot will become evident at a later date, as the week following the next barbershop shoot will see me descending on a very fine B&B in Galashiels for an all day shoot involving Karen's designs, vintage wedding dresses and gorgeous surroundings. I can't wait!
Being the careful planner that I am, I had planned a shoot indoors at a local barbershop. I'd arranged things in advance for an early morning start on a Sunday so that we could fit in with the shop's opening hours. It being winter, I figured a nice warm indoor shoot would be just the thing. The potential venue had a lot going for it, with a retro look, freshly repainted and a checkerboard floor.
So the cold Sunday morning found me bright and early in Greenock. I'd lost one makeup artist by the wayside due to ill health, but had planned ahead and had two more people coming with hair and makeup skills. The lovely Katie Ford came to help out again and a new face (for me) Melanie Watson
, who was one of the makeup artists I'd seen at the James Watt College show last year.
Both arrived outside the shop to keep me company, which was when I got the text from 1 model, saying she'd been up sick all night and was off to hospital. A deep breath and a confirmation that our second model was on the way, and I was still feeling positive about the shoot. Jamie, our talented male model was next to arrive, shivering and trembling off of the slightly delayed train from Glasgow. Aimee, our remaining female model, and her mum were then next on the scene, with my assistant for the day, Billy somewhere in between.
Notice that I have not mentioned the barbershop owner?
At 8:40 or so, it was time to gather my horde of teeth chatterers and come up with a backup plan. Billy suggested the train station at Wemyss Bay and it proved to be a great choice. We jumped in cars and convoyed to Wemyss Bay. The Seaview Cafe played inadvertent host to us, but they were very accommodating, and did not object too much when we took over their toilet for changing and makeup. They even let us plug in some tongs in the kitchen (though don't tell the other clientele that!). After coffees and a slight warm up, makeup was commenced.
Some days later we rapped on the door and got Jamie done quickly so that I could start shooting. We dragged him out into the cold and he gave us some mean and moody looks around the station and down on the wee beach beside the ferry landing. He's a very versatile young man and looked the part in the leather jacket we'd borrowed from We Love to Boogie's Vintage shop.
We went back to the cafe and waited some more until finally Aimee was presented to us in all her retro (and slightly pinned) glory, in one of the fabulous dresses from Psychomoda
. The picture above shows some last minute tweaking by Aimee's mum as she fixed the petticoats).
So we continued shooting, with two pauses for dress changes, through the next couple of hours or so, around Wemyss Bay station and down on the beach Aimee and Jamie shivering in between shutter clicks, and being totally professional the minute the camera came up to my eye. There was a little patching to makeup, smudged by dabbing at running noses (it's all glamour), and tweaking of hair disturbed by the arctic breeze.
This post includes some preview pics from the shoot. I'm quite proud of what we achieved in the face of such diversity. Everybody really pulled together and hopefully I didn't drive anyone else into hospital post shoot!
Next week should be the second of the barbershop shoots, for which a barbershop is a key element in the plot and poses. I'll do my best to coordinate it better and smooth things over for that shoot, either that or I find a new shop/salon to try my luck with. Also need to find a suit for Jamie...busy week ahead.