Sometimes, a chance encounter is all you need to get a project started. This is also an interesting example of street photography turning into a model shoot. Let me tell you a story.
In late November, I went to the Hyper Japan Christmas Market with a few friends. As is usual when I’m in London, I tend to walk from and back to the train station rather than using the tube. This way I do some exercise, I potentially get to visit parts of the city I’ve never seen, and I can obviously indulge in some street photography.
On my way back from the event, as I arrived near the Tower of London, I came across a guy dressed in medieval clothing. Timing was short so I only managed a quick snap. It wasn’t my finest street photography moments but I ended up sharing it with my Facebook friends, just because of the curiosity factor.
It turned out that the guy in the photo and I had a common acquaintance who introduced me to him.
His name is Oskar and he represents a place in Poland called the Fantasy Village. It’s basically a medieval village built by a bunch of friends who are hoping to live there and rent out their services and facilities for LARP events, films, weddings, etc. Oskar’s job in London was to promote the village, which is why he was wandering in London dressed as a knight.
We had a bit of a chat, and decided to do a photo shoot the next weekend back in London. I hadn’t shot anything for my portfolio in while and this was the perfect occasion to test my new soft box (an Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa 100cm) so I welcomed the opportunity for a collaborative work.
Oskar met us on the Sunday with a friend of his, dressed in a princess-y outfit. Oskar wanted to get some shots in front of the Tower of London, being one of the most medieval-looking places in the City. Unfortunately, as it was during the weekend, the area was rather crowded, plus we didn’t get permission to shoot there. And it’s difficult to not look like a commercial photographer when you’re setting up such a big soft box. We instead retreated to a nearby park and set up shop there for a few couple shots.
The weather was overcast, which meant I didn’t have to fight the sun, but it also meant I couldn’t use it either. It was fairly windy as well. One of the first decisions was to ditch the reflector and the light stands and have the flash/soft box combo handheld by the assistant so that we could be mobile and didn’t have to worry about gear flying away. For that first set I went for a high contrast setup in order to highlight the costumes.
The interesting part about this first session is that it made me realise how well the X-T1 retains detail in the highlights. I did eventually tone them down in post, but Exposure To The Right is definitely on the table with this camera.
For the next shot, we went on the south side of the river. The theme for Oskar was “A knight in London”, so it made sense to have him share the frame with one of London’s most iconic monuments: Tower Bridge.
I took advantage of the windy weather to capture Oskar’s cape in motion. The soft box was held a bit further than usual to avoid a harsh light falloff on the grass. Following the same theme, the next shot was set in a pedestrian street whose Victorian architecture contrasted with our knight’s medieval outfit.
From a lighting perspective, the goal there was to have the flash and ambient light evenly balanced, so once again I moved the soft box far away to get an even light, as subtle as possible.
Finally, we moved to an alley leading to the bank for a few more shots. That last one was kind of a happy accident. The alleyway was quite narrow so I was struggling to find a good position for the light. I ended up placing the light camera left in an archway, completely forgetting that the pillar to Oskar’s right would be in the light’s way. This contributed to shape the background rather having a bland evenly lit wall. I was quite happy with that set up and kept on shooting.
This was a very fun day and I was glad I got to test my new modifier in such a variety of situations. I was initially worried that a single Speedlite would struggle shooting through the soft box, but it turned out to be perfectly up to the task. It did however spend most of the session close to full power on an overcast day (even though I did that on purpose to speed up the shoot), so if might not fare so well in bright sunlight but that will be another test for another day.