Ask any photographer and they will tell you that personal work is very important. Sadly it is hard to find the time and personal work is always the first to get moved, shelved or forgotten. I decided on a photography project some time ago incorporating two of the loves in my life, music and the Kent coastline. The idea is to photograph musical friends in coastal locations. I have a long list of subjects and have many of the shots in mind but have never managed to get past the conception stage until now. Act one of the project features Mezzo Soprano Jennifer Brisk - the location St Margaret's Bay.
I often find myself at St Margaret's Bay there is something magical about the place and it was the obvious location for Jennifer's shoot. I scouted the location and worked out that I wanted to shoot about two and a half hours before high tide. Sadly the only day we could do the shoot meant we would need to be at the Bay ready to shoot for 08:30 - this meant that hair and make-up would have to be left to Jennifer to do herself.
I had a strong image in mind, I wanted specific waves breaking over the rocks, I wanted to use the sun as a rim light and a large beauty dish as main producing a dramatic image with lots of contrast.
The reality ... I woke to a wet miserable morning and it would have so easy to pick up the phone and call the shoot off. If I didn't do it today then it could be months before I could arrange another date so it had to happen. Thomas and I arrived at the bay early to set and get ready - we quickly realised that we would have to change our plans somewhat. It was raining steadily and whilst this is not a problem for the cameras it is not ideal for the studio flashes. It was also quite blustery which meant the beauty dish was not an option as it would be blown away. We mounted our 600ws portable strobe on a stand and used an eight inch reflector, we covered the whole thing with a translucent shower curtain as a makeshift waterproof jacket. We then used a large bag of pebbles as ballast. And whilst on the negatives the sun was not going to provide any rim-light, the sky was just dark and grey, also the waves were not breaking over the rocks! Whilst quite windy the sea in the bay was relatively calm.
Jennifer and her entourage arrived and she changed into her very glamourous ball gown in the not so glamourous public conveniences. The three of us made our way onto the beach - by this time no one else even wanted to get out of their cars.
The shots in my mind were not going to happen for reasons mentioned above but we carried on. Our beautiful opera singer now minus her shoes and socks paddling in the icy water, the wind now getting stronger and the rain heavier. Our light decided that it would shutdown, we are not sure if it overheated in its rain coat or wether it was a moisture issue. We managed to get it going again and carried on for a little longer.
Suddenly a revelation, from a photographer's perspective this was fun, once over the cold, the wind the rain and my now wet feet it was fun but I did have a big warm coat on. Jennifer on the other hand was now knee deep in the English Channel in her stunning sleeveless dress, she had even found that standing on handfuls of seaweed saved her feet from the pebbles - a real trooper. From a safety and sensibility point of view we had to stop. Did we get the shots I had planned - no, did I get shots that met the project brief - yes!!
Whilst we stopped shooting for the project we did move on to the relative warmth of Dover's admiralty pier to get some shots of Jennifer and Soprano Cristina Pharo.
Big thanks to Jennifer, Cristina, Thomas for braving the elements and helping make this happen. Thanks also to Louise from Mascarada Fancy Dress for the loan of the black cape. A special mention to the Tesco Value shower curtain - a must have for any photographer's kit bag.
I will share a few images from the morning but my final choice for my project remains a secret.