Now there’s a dilemma, what to choose? A day out at a record fair in Shrewsbury with Mr Edwards or a weekend in the company of passionate photographers with Welshot?
When Lee asked me if I would record some images from behind the scenes and capture my thoughts about the Welshot advanced photographic lighting and studio weekend with Will Cheung I jumped at the chance. So last Saturday I made my way to Chester to the Crowne Plaza hotel along with a small but perfectly formed group of Welshotters.
Following a formal welcome from Lee, an introduction to our models and some ground rules as to how to get the best out of the weekend it was over to Will Cheung to get things moving.
Will explained that the first part of the day would be given over to understanding some of the more common lighting patterns used in portrait photography and how to achieve them. He talked about white balance and suggested that it might be worth considering using manual Kelvin or custom white balance settings. With that we were split into two groups, one with Eifion and the other with Will and we were let loose on our models, Stacey and Sioned from the Chester Operatic Society
During the course of the morning session, Will took us through the rudiments of split lighting, Rembrandt lighting, loop lighting and beauty lighting and showed us how to set the lights to achieve the effect. In addition he explained how to use light meters to good effect to produce consistent images time after time. From time to time as I looked across at the other group, I could see there was lots of information being absorbed!
It was great to see and hear the Welshotters helping and encouraging each other to produce great images of our models and Stacey, who was a patient and accommodating model quickly became at ease in front of the camera and interacted with us all.
One of my favourite images was when we asked Stacey to hold up her mane of hair which was backlit by a gridded spotlight, it looks great in colour but even better in black and white. I think it’s fair to say that Stacey worked incredibly hard and helped the photographers in their understanding of lighting.
Now I’ve said it before, but Lee has absolutely no inhibitions when it comes to Welshot, you can imagine our surprise therefore when she suddenly appeared with a very good-looking young man on her arm as she showed him what was going on. It transpired that he was a life drawing class model, who had inadvertently walked into the Welshot event. Never one to miss an opportunity, Lee secured his name and number with a view to him working with Welshot in the future. Mrs Iggulden you are incorrigible!
Following this pleasant interruption, Will showed us how to use two lights in a clamshell formation to create an alternative beauty style lighting. He also patiently explained the concept of narrow and broad lighting to a number of delegates and when it was appropriate to use either. At this point there was much note-taking in evidence
It was with surprise that we looked at our watches and discovered it was lunchtime and the obligatory chilli and chips which are synonymous with Welshot made an appearance. Over lunch there was lots of chatter about what had been learned during the morning as well as lots of comparing of images.
After lunch we swapped models, and our group got to work with Sioned and Eifion. This time rather than a high key setup, we were thrust into using a black background. Once again we were encouraged to create a custom white balance. During this time we learned how to use other modifiers such as a snoot, as a hair light. When we weren’t busy photographing Sioned, we were able to use the Lastolite hi-lite background to produce high key images of another model, Neil, also a member of the COS.
It’s fair to say that as day one drew to a close, there were a lot of tired photographers and three tired models. However lots of fun and learning ensured that our image making is sure to improve, and we made our way home for a well-earned rest ahead of day two.
Day two dawned and promised much, as this time we had four fabulous models, Welshot regulars Hazel and Rachel, along with Jen and Harriet (also from the Chester Operatic Society), and it started with a confident rendition of “the sun has got his hat on” from Harriet and her little red ukelele. I should’ve known then how much fun we were going to have.
This day two less structured in that we were given the freedom to experiment with the equipment and practice our new-found skills, and we were allowed to go ‘off-piste’. Initially we started by again experimenting with the lighting equipment and a wide range of modifiers, but as the morning wore on, the creative side of the Welshot family started to emerge!
Lighting set ups containing one, two, three and even four lights were created, and we learned how to make effective use of reflectors and black light absorbing panels to enhance our images. It’s a good job the models weren’t claustrophobic!
Lunch was kept slightly shorter than usual, to allow for Will to take both groups on a walkabout in the hotel – as we cleared our plates we were presented with four incredibly elegant women to photograph (not sure about the men in black though
There’s always one image which grabs the imagination…I don’t know what Martin and Dave were doing with Jen but it looked like some serious ‘toggery’ going on – captions on a postcard to Lee please!! (Thanks to Gaynor Roberts for this BTS shot!)
Credit must go to all our models who handled the day with professionalism and stamina…lovely Rachel for the number of times she leaped in the air; patient Hazel who ‘fluffed’her petticoats for Gill countless times until she got the shot she wanted and of course Harriet and Jen both of whom serenaded us with fantastic singing – fabulous voices both
It’s also fair to say that without Eifion, Lee and Will, this weekend would not have been the success it was…the multitude of images on the Welshot academy are testament to this
It’s always a real joy to attend Welshot events, meet old friends and make new ones and, to coin a phrase widely used by Lee, learn a thing or three! The networking and chatter which happen are invaluable and help build both confidence and lasting friendships – in my view, it’s one of the things that makes Welshot special – don’t leave it too long before you book on one!
It’s fair to say that this week was a week of two halves. Having suffered from a particularly nasty little bug at the start of the week, I was somewhat relieved when Friday came around and my one-to-one session with Eifion at Cambrian Photography was in the diary. This is a benefit for Welshot members which allows them to learn how to use the studio set up at the rear of the shop, which members may then book the studio for use at their own convenience, when the shop is open.
I picked up my model Shaannon, who I had worked with previously, and drove us both to Colwyn Bay, parked the car just up the road for £1.50, and we arrived at Cambrian just ahead of our 10 o’clock appointment.
The primary objective of the session was to learn how to use the various lights and modifiers that Cambrian has to offer and give the member an opportunity to ask questions or queries of the infinitely patient Eifion.
Whilst Shaannon took the opportunity to get ready and apply her make-up, Eifion spent the time showing me the Bowens lights, explaining the various buttons and switches and how they worked. To get the best out of the session I think you do need a light meter, it doesn’t have to be an all singing and dancing model, however it does makes the task of creating consistent and repeatable images very much easier.
If you haven’t been to Cambrian, let me sketch a picture of the studio space for you. Now I’m not that great at estimating dimensions of a space, however the background roll was at least 12 feet wide with a couple of extra feet of room either side. The length of the studio has to be in excess of 24 feet. When I visited there was a white and a black background roll on the main wall, on the left-hand wall there was a brown mottled fabric background, a pop up background (brown), four Bowens lights which were either 250 or 500 watt, a snoot, and a variety of soft boxes the largest being approximately 5 feet tall. There are also a couple of chairs which served as very useful props along with a three tier step stool and an oval mirror and I pressed these into service throughout the session.
Shannon appeared from behind the curtain and it was all systems go. I started off using one light with the large softbox which produces a beautiful wraparound light. We then moved on and tried to set the light with the snoot up, and whilst we were able to illuminate the background, the strength of the light meant it was a bit too strong for my taste. A word of warning, the snoot is made of metal and gets really hot!
I then brought a second light into the equation, still using the large soft box, but positioning a smaller soft box and light to the side of my model, and combined them both to produce some slightly different lighting effects.
Towards the end of my session, I did persevere with the snoot and was able to use it as an effective hair light, and will definitely try it again.
I brought the session to close, using the brown pop-up background, and my own Rayflash to produce some final images.
Was it worthwhile? Absolutely! Eifion’s knowledge and patience were invaluable, and allowed me to try a number of ideas in a safe and supportive learning environment. As a result of my session, I feel confident enough to book the studio for myself, knowing that I can work all of the equipment correctly and even change a soft box that is nearly as tall as me!
This is a great member benefit specially negotiated by Welshot, and the Cambrian team are as always, helpful and accommodating, don’t leave it too long before you book yours!
It is now commonly believed that the events leading up to Sir Isaac Newton formulating his theory of gravitation did not, in all probability, feature him sitting under an apple tree whilst a falling apple imparted the spark of understanding; sadly this is almost certainly apocryphal. However, let me assure you that I have it on very good authority that Welshot member Gill McGowan was actually sitting under a tree when she came up with the idea of doing a Welshot evening based on the theme of dance and movement. Gill put this idea to Lee and the wheels were put into motion, action taken and the event organised.
I arrived at the Days Hotel, Chester, to find that two studio backdrops and strobes had been set up; one was high key, one was low key. After being assigned to groups, and the usual pre-shoot introduction from Lee, we set about the task in hand. The aim of the evening, the theme being dance and movement, was to try and capture the passage of time in our photographs, albeit that the period of time in question was measured in fractions of a second. It was going to be an interesting assignment.
My group was first to work with Rachel who did some amazing dance moves whilst holding on to a diaphanous piece of material that made nice arcs in the air. The plan was to use the flash to freeze the image for a split second but drag the shutter, i.e. use a slow shutter speed, so that there would be a blurred path of Rachel’s movement following on from that initial burst of flash.
The thing to remember with this technique is that there’s a lot of trial and error, you’re not going to get consistently reproducible results; but that’s half the fun of it. The trick is to count down from three and get your model to move on one. You have to time your shot so that the model’s movements keep her in the frame for the duration of the shot, which was usually around the 1 to ½ second range. You should pre-focus the lens rather than relying on the AF.
After a very quick hour the teams switched around and we headed off to another room. Here were all manner of toys: a train set, Olympic velodrome, Newton’s cradle, spinning tops – basically anything that moved. So we spent the remaining time until the dinner break shooting these various toys and gizmos.
Fortified by the traditional Welshot chips we resumed work for the last session of the evening. Now it was Lucy’s turn to impress with her ballet leaps and turns. There was much discussion between myself and Mark Carline about various camera settings and techniques we could try. Some of the most effective shots were when we ditched the flash and just shot with the light from the modelling lights. The black background gave a particularly good effect and highlighted the blurring of the dancer.
This was another very enjoyable Welshot event and certainly got me thinking about techniques I wouldn’t have otherwise done. I don’t think I’ve had as much interest from as many people before who wanted to know how the shot was made.
I’ve thought a while over Christmas about what to write in this blog post and then I remembered that old saying – “A picture speaks a thousand words”. So I decided in the end to wrap up the year for Welshot with a collection of my personal favourite images from various Welshot blog posts.
At the start of February Tracy Edwards had a swell party at Hallam Mill in Stockport and then posted this collection of various images from everyone that attended:
….and then a little later in February Martin Fryatt wrote about Aliens Zombies And Lighting Rigs and captured this cool image of Sammie Jones:
Then in March, Kat Kingsley-Hughes wrote about the wonderful Seascapes and star trails workshop and posted this cool image:
…and then apparently 12 went mad in Iceland ….
…which was then enough for anyone to want to go back to living Life in the City as Kevin Pack wrote about after a Street Photography workshop in Manchester….
Moving onto April, Roj Smith was no fool in suggesting that we should pick up a Ferrari, well ok, take a picture of one anyway…
Then in May, Gaynor Roberts wanted to be Flash Gordon – Aah Ha! – Gordon’s Alive!
..and Keith was on the starting blocks with Riders Ready, Pedals Ready, Go!….
Picture taken by Gill McGowan
Moving into June, Lee re-re-re-discovered her love of Windows and Doors (again!) and posted about her own personal photography…
Stephen Maitland then got up really early for the longest day…
Then starting in July Martin Fryatt went all “petit pois chez long” on us and posted about a pre paris workshop event in Chester and took some stunning Film Noir style images:
..and then Paul M Williams moved up a gear, driving forward, all cylinders on fire (sorry!) and wrote about Anglesey Circuit / Trac Mon:
Then off to The City of Light, Gill McGowan was so taken by the city of Paris that she posted not one, not two, not three, but four posts! This image she took during that workshop is just stunning:
September saw Gaynor Roberts and Phil Thomas talk about Dora the campervan and a woodland wander with a Landscape Photography Workshop with Simon Watkinson.
Being a father of two, I personally really enjoyed seeing what Tracy Edwards came up with on the Family Workshop, this image is just brilliant (all together now – “ahhhh”) :
Lee is one of those people that once you have met her you won’t forget her (in the nicest way!) but we sometimes need to remember that behind the scenes (and the “man in the know”) is the Unsung Hero of Welshot as Keith Barlow reminded us at the end of September:
October turned out to be a very busy month with Roj Smith starting us off with his post about the first Advanced Academy Evening, the first of which was with a friend of mine, Ashley Fayth.
Martin Fryatt photographs Ashley Fayth, photo by Gill McGowan
I went tick off one of my “bucket list” items and had a great day shooting my first band with Ashley Fayth & Band.
(Image by Mark Carline)
Forget Nectar points, Sainsburys Points or Green Shield Stamps (remember them!) well Welshot now have #welshotrewards and Lisa Marie Gee was on a mission to collect as many as she can!.
Laura Norrey at the July Academy Evening
The creative side of the Welshot members shows now boundaries and Helen Iles showed us that photography isn’t the only thing shes good at with a poem on her post about a lighting workshop.
The red Shoes.
As we drew closer to the end of the year, Gaynor Roberts learned some Lightroom magic from a man in a moustaches with a yo yos. She also discovered that processing your images isn’t as difficult as a lot of people think and came up with this great image:
The excitement of finally being able to create the word Welshot in a collage
And finally! To wrap up the year with the last blog post (apart from this one!) there was the Will Cheung London workshop (also with Gavin Hoey)
I think you’ll agree that looking at the images above, you can really see that Welshot have had an amazing year. Well done to Lee and Eifion and also everyone else that’s part of the amazing team.
I’ll leave this post with one final comment….
Whatever you do in 2014, make sure you leave time to do the things that you enjoy doing the most. If photography is part of that then great (I’m guessing if your reading this then it is!) but never forget the reasons why you picked up the camera in the first place. It doesn’t matter about gear, how sharp a lens is, how many mega pixels a camera has etc. If you enjoy photography and want to be better at it then you can you can using any gear. To this date my favourite image I have ever taken was taken with an old 1960′s film camera I got off ebay for £10!
To quote Gusteau (from one of my favourite films – Ratatouille)…..
“anyone can cook!”
Have a happy 2014!
Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/markcarline/
In 2012 I set off alone to London with a bit of trepidation as I was attending my first Welshot event. In fact not only was it my first event but it was the first time I was to actually meet anyone in person from Welshot! My relationship with this fantastic Photographic Academy is a bit of long distance one and has always been online only. I just knew Welshot could offer me more than any other camera club or photographic association that I had looked into joining. I need not have worried because everyone from the members themselves to the two cogs that turn the wheels of Welshot (Lee Iggulden and Eifion Williams) are some of the nicest people I have met. So December the 15th 2013 I once again set off to London to attend this event. Catching up with some members from last year and meeting some for the first time it was like a wonderful reunion but making some new friends also. Below is a glimpse of just what us Welshotters got up to in London.
Saturday was an early start for those willing to rise from their beds at 6.00 am on a weekend! Will Cheung FRPS and Eifion Williams were taking us deep beneath London. Down to the tube stations in fact, where it was proved to me that there is a photograph to be taken wherever we go. I would never have believed the fantastic images that can be taken in an underground station. An early start ensured there were not too many people walking around the stations.
Next stop was another strange to place to visit, a cemetery none the less! Brompton Road Cemetery to be precise, again there are some fascinating images to be found in these old cemeteries. I found myself being drawn to the magnificent Angels dotted around the cemetery.
No rest for the wicked, it wasn’t long before we was on our way to our next stop, the fabulous Natural History Museum. The architecture alone is absolutely stunning in this amazing place. Difficult to get images without people in them but not impossible. We also had a chance for a quick pit stop in the museum cafe.
Back on the road again and it was time to visit Brick Lane for some much needed lunch. The route took us through Smithfield’s Market. A colourful collection of stalls where we also had to stop Lee from buying on impulse!
Back to the hotel for an hour or so rest and then finishing off our day with a great meal together. Christmas crackers and hats included.
Sunday was a bit later start than the previous day, 7.30 start. Will Cheung FRPS was this time taking us to the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. Having heard the weather forecast the previous evening we could never have believed the wonderful sunrise that awaited us. It is a sight I will never forget, seeing the sunrise behind the Shard and casting a magical light over the Thames. Never trust a weather forecaster!
Us Welshotters take our photography seriously and this can sometimes lead us into taking up some strange positions to get that image!
Next it was back to the hotel to re-group and head off to meet our models who would be working with us for the off camera flash session. The lovely Hazel Clarke and Radha Patel. The shoot started outside the Lloyds building but as the weather took a turn for the worse we headed undercover into Leadenhall Market. What a fantastic place for a shoot this turned out to be.
Here we also met up with Gavin Hoey of gavtrain.com who allowed us to have a bit of fun with his fisheye lens.
From here we stopped off for a much needed bite to eat before heading off for our final stop of the weekend. Trafalgar Square. The light was starting to fade and alas my tripod was back at the hotel, however Gavin pointed out that I did have a tripod, my camera bag! Gavin gave me some tuition in creative white balance and slow shutter speed to blur the water from the fountains. I loved the image below that was created with Gavin’s help. A real Christmas image and one that I have used to create my twitter and facebook Christmas cards. For anyone reading this that thinks Welshot is too far away for them to become a member trust me this is not the case. Welshot has online tutorials for it’s members as well as the many Photographic experiences throughout the year. My photography is I feel finally going where I want it to go and that is thanks to Welshot. There is always a warm welcome from Welshot and its many members and each member is always willing to freely help another member. This leaves me with only one thing left to say.