I have been dying to write a post like this for ages... it's been a tricky one to get going, because I'm not really sure I can narrow it down to just one message or meaning. I guess what I'm trying to show you is how my brain works! (And mother, I know you're reading this, no comments about whether I actually have a brain or not, please!)
When I arrive at a shoot I ask the owner to take me on a little "tour" of their yard or chosen shoot location. It's hard when you see the same view day in day out, but every yard, no matter how big or small, messy or picturesque - ever yard has ideal locations for your shoot. I'll be taking in to account where the sun is, how the light is falling. Minute objects in the background that could be distracting, as well as thinking where we can safely position a horse during the shoot.
So I thought it would be a little bit of fun to ask one of my non-photographer friends what she sees in each of these locations, and then I'll explain why I've picked, and used them during my shoot.
I hope to write a few more of these over time, I hope you find them fascinating! When I arrived at Kim's shoot, I was already quite familiar with the yard, the set up and where we can go. With that being said, everyone has a different vision for their shoot, although, kindly, Kim said she'd be guided by me! We had field upon field to use - but due to it's location behind the back of the railway tracks, we thought it would be better to venture down towards the river.
The shoot began first of all at the indoor school:
What my friend sees: "A black background set up!" .. well, yes, but she's been on quite a few shoots with me now, so she's getting the hang of what one looks like!
What do I see: A perfect black background space! The light is only filtering in from one direction, which is where I will be stood, this means I won't have to worry about light hitting the horse from above of behind, which can ruin the "studio" effect that i want to create. With all the lights off, even just from standing looking in to the indoor school, the background looks very dark behind so I won't need to do too much work in Photoshop! There's plenty of space for us to position the horse and move around, we can definitely get some full body shots in the space!
Now that these portraits have become more popular, people have been telling their friends how I achieve the effect. Most of the work is done in camera and I've got a particular way of angling and posing the horses that really allows your eye to believe they were taken within a studio. The foreground of the image being in the light, with no interfering shadows, the light fades away as you reach the rear of the focal point. When I first started doing these portraits, I think people found it hard to imagine what I was taking, they were worried the marks on the wall behind would be visible, or the people mucking out behind will ruin the shot.
Alot of things go on in my head during the shoot that probably most haven't even considered; making use of the light is pretty obvious though:
What my friend sees: A big oak tree with the sun shining through behind.
What do I see: The sun is quite harsh now, I don't want to create shadows across Kim's face, and correctly exposing an image in harsh light, particularly with a grey horse can be challenging to ensure I don't loose the details on Lucas' coat, but also, equally, I don't want to loose the darks from the image too. For that reason, when it's sunny - I seek shade! This is a concept that most people seem to think is bizarre: they pray for the sun to be out during their shoot, when in actually, it's the bain of my life! Making use of the vast oak tree, I positioned Kim and Lucas in the shadows. Notice how there's no shadows in the image and the skin looks much softer. I also love allowing the bright light behind to filter in amongst the leaves behind.
So, I get particularly excited when there's a light cloud cover during shoots, this allows me to really make the most of the location, without having to factor in shadows! We were very lucky that there was a blue sky with a fine hazy cloud across the sun for most of the shoot:
What my friend sees: An open space, with lots of greenery around, large trees...
What do I see: If I position the horse just in front of the hedge, I can create a lovely soft background, contrasting and complimenting the lightness of Lucas' coat and the vibrant reds in Kim's outfit. I don't want the horse and owner to become hidden as part of the background, I really want them to stand out. The hedge fills the background nicely with no distraction from my lovely models!
In the case of this shoot, some of these shots from behind the scenes probably aren't too surprising, I thought this one was just a good warm up to show you how my creative thought process happens. We had plenty of space to work with and lots of un-cluttered open space to use. I already can't wait to write another one of these posts!
What my friend sees: Trees, trees, more trees, blue sky and lots of grass!
What do I see: We moved away from the tree slightly, using the tree to block the distractions in the background: the car, walkers and the fence line. Again, positioning my models away from the backdrop allows me to create the soft bokeh effect - ensuring that they are the clear focal point of the image.
Throughout the shoot I'm constantly thinking about using different angles, shooting from different view points and varying the poses and heights, whilst ensuring my main aim is fulfilled: capturing the relationship between horse and owner in the most beautiful way possible.