In October I shot a commission for the band Visions of Trees. I met with the management and the band at my East London exhibition in August, and we’d been on the lookout for interesting locations for a collaboration since then. The brief was to produce publicity photos using styles and techniques from my own self-portrait portfolio. We had our eye on a range of places including palatial gardens, abandoned houses and old hospitals, but we all agreed on a group of abandoned RAF satellite dishes in Lincolnshire.
To make sure they still existed, it was wise to do a recce beforehand, and I found myself in the area with my family. I did test shots with my sisters and dog:
My mum sensibly waited at the other side of the mud.
The panorama below was stitched together from about 4 shots as I annoyingly only had my 50mm lens with me on the recce…
I reported back to the band and we were back up in Lincolnshire only about 2 weeks later for the real shoot. I knew it would be unlike any location I had used before. Vast and surreal, I tried to use them as part of dynamic wide shots featuring the band, Joni and Sara, as well as more intimate portraits.
One of the main ways I captured the full scale of the dishes whilst also adorning the frame with the subjects, was to use multiplicity. The image below was more like a sketch for a composite, not chosen in the end, so I didn’t properly complete the whole thing. I think it’s one of my favourites, in terms of how to use these vast manmade ‘props’ as part of a portrait, using ghostly multiplicity over the frame.
There were also some images that worked well without multiples, trickery, or so much as a touch of colour and vibrancy in RAW conversion:
The location also worked well with HDR. The band only wanted 5 images in total, but we did lots more for them to pick from. The image below is one processed by Matt, where 3 exposures were blended in Photomatix then further touched up in Photoshop. This was shot just after the sun had risen.
The image below is an auto-bracketed scene as well as a multiplicity composite. I shot three exposures of the scene without any person in it. This was a hint from Matt, so thanks to him!
Towards the end of the shoot we moved to the side of a dish that was mostly in shadow. We used a reflector to bounce back the afternoon sun, with the gold side, into the subjects so that they seemed almost illuminated by a real light source.
We also used this scene for another multiplicity composite. The band had commented on my multiplicity images particularly ‘Their fleeting imprint’:
…and liked the idea of ghostly multiples travelling around the space:
The technique for doing this – locking the camera down and making them run all over the place - produced many shots that also looked interesting as individual ’studies’, each using Joni and Sara separately:
Some other shots from the day:
Close-up portrait chosen by the band:
Thanks to stylist Rose Forde, hair/make-up Holly Silius, also assistance and partial retouching by Matt. The shoot was commissioned by Scruffy Bird Management.
Some behind the scenes…
Above: the whole team!
I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of all the combined elements of this shoot. Thanks to all involved!