Location shoot with the new Safari Li-on

I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit  on this shoot, because I played assistant to another photographer, Michael Sewell

Michael mentioned to me that he was doing a shoot for the Marriott Hotel in Preston, to help them sell their services to Brides.

And at the same time, he could produce some nice shots of wedding gowns for another client, Zoe

And some beautiful portfolio images for his model, Nicola.

And, at the same time, Michael thought it would be a good idea to get a video crew from Captive North there too, to produce a promotional video that would help to get future business from other venues etc…

Now, that’s the kind of shoot I like – multi purpose, with a few different people both contributing to it and benefiting from it. So I sort of volunteered my services, or pushed in, whichever way you like to look at it…

My excuse for pushing in was simple – maybe Michael might find it useful to have the new Lencarta Safari Li-on there, to supplement his existing equipment – and of course it would provide yet another  pretty tough test of the Li-on, to add to all the studio and location testing that I’ve already carried out with it.

So I set off, in heavy rain, hoping that we’d end up with some decent weather . But as I got further along the M6 the heavy rain turned to torrential rain and the traffic had to slow to around 30, just to see through the spray.

Anyway, I finally got there and met the rest of the team, which included make up, events coordinator, a young lad called John who was shadowing Michael on work experience, the video guys and of course Wedding Gowns Zoe and model Nicola.

Because of the weather we started off in the suite supplied by the Marriott – it was a bit crowded there, with people, various wedding gowns and a massive Lencarta 150cm Profold softbox but we managed OK. Now, I shouldn’t really have fitted this massive softbox to the Li-on head, especially for the outdoor shots with the wind blowing – Lencarta recommends the metal-head Safari Classic for really large and heavy light shapers, but I took a chance on it.

The first shots were against the window. The dull weather produced just about the right level of backlighting to allow the classic beautiful-bride-looking-out-of-the-window shots and the Safari Li-on and sofbox provided the lighting balance needed, no problems there. You’ll see that clips had to be used to ‘fit’ the dress to the model, which can create fun for the photographer who has to make sure that they don’t appear in the shots – I really don’t know why, but although size 8 is very popular with models, size 12 is the norm for wedding gowns – just as size 10 is the norm for lingerie…

We then made our way to reception, where Michael had spotted a beautiful classic fireplace with an ornate convex mirror above – a great setting but of course convex mirrors always manage to reflect the things we don’t want them to as well as the things we do, so we had to clear a large area of the reception – using the standard photographer’s maxim of ‘Don’t ask, just do it’.

We put the 150cm Octa a fair way back, to keep it out of the mirror. It’s size allowed it to be used at a distance and still produce gentle fill lighting, it was used just to balance the ambient light and create very flat lighting. Now, flat lighting isn’t my thing personally but wedding dresses definitely need it because the trick is to show all the fine detail and that’s only possible if the lighting is pretty even. A couple of shots needed a large 5 in 1 reflector opposite the softbox, I could and I suppose should have brought along a reflector boom arm – an invaluable bit of kit, but I knew that there would be plenty of people around who could hold the reflector in place,  so it wasn’t needed.

The concern that most people have with portable lighting systems like the Safari – and rightly so – is whether or not there will be enough power. I’ve found, on every one of my outdoor shoots in bright sunlight, that the Safari has enough power to overwhelm the sun when I need it too. 600Ws of power is just about right, and makes it far more versatile than most other makes, which can struggle with only 400Ws. But that wasn’t the problem here. Michael wanted to turn the power down even further than it could go, to add just a touch of fill. It looked like a problem but it wasn’t, all that we needed to do was to unplug the flash head from socket A and stick it in socket B instead, because socket A puts out 400Ws at full power (ranging down to 25Ws at minimum power) and socket B puts out exactly half that, doubling the range of adjustment. Of course, pressing the magic button that links both heads together produces from 50 – 600Ws from one socket.

By the time we’d finished in reception and handed the area back to the long-suffering hotel staff, the weather had improved a lot so we broke for lunch, and then we moved outside to take some shots with the hotel as a backdrop.

Again, we used the 150 Octa Softbox but we took the diffusers off the give a more punchy light, which was perfect for the job.

Finally, we took some shots with the extensive grounds as a backdrop. The heavy rain had made the ground soggy, so we actually shot on the patio. The softbox had done a good job but we now needed a harder light, so I swapped it for a high intensity reflector, which did a great job of backlighting our Bride and creating sunlight where there was none.

After that, it was just a matter of clearing away and a few minutes for Michael to do a quick piece to video camera and then we were off – and just as we finished, the sun came out!