Slightly unusual - I have been asked to provide a blow by blow account of how a picture OF ME was taken! It came at the end of a portrait session for a glossy business magazine and I made the decision that I needed a new picture of myself for this pre-blog.


It was a very sunny and bitterly cold day and I had been commissioned to shoot a cover picture of a senior member of the Cambridge University management team. Unusually, I could have shot almost anywhere around the University and I had already taken a lot of shots in front of The Senate and in the main quad of King's College. The cold weather was having a really bad effect on the batteries of my Lumedyne system and an hour outside had pretty much killed two batteries.

When myself and my assistant for the day John McEchnie packed up and moved to location number three we didn't even bother to get the Lumedyne out of it's new rolling case. Sadly, even John's constant swapping of the batteries and manful attempts to give them some warmth inside his coat had failed so we switched to the backup plan of using my lightweight kit which consists of a Vivitar 285 HV and a Lumedyne Tiny Cycler and a stand with Pocket Wizards and a 70cm umbrella.

I had set up the shot with our six foot two tall subject. I'm five feet ten. The light was set up at an angle of about 30 degrees from the axis of the lens and at a height of six foot five. I had shot several frames of the subject looking into the lens but had preferred those where he was looking in the direction of the light. The exposure for the sky and background buildings was 1/180th of a second at f16 whilst the subject was at least five stops darker and therefore perfect for the kind of "shooting from the shade" technique that I have written about before. I had decided to underexpose the background by half a stop and so set the shutter speed to 1/250th. I had forgotten that my brand new EOS5D MkII isn't supposed to synch with external flashes beyond 1/200th - but it did and so I carried on. This shot (along with most of the later pictures of our subject) was taken without any light modifier and with the Vivitar on 1/4 power. It's quite a hard light and so it often looks better with the subject looking towards the flash.

The Vivitar 285 also has a very subtle green/yellow tint compared to a Canon Speedlight or my Lumedynes. I shot everything in RAW and added about +4 magenta in Adobe Camera RAW which made the Portland stone buildings of Kings and Trinity colleges a lovely warm tone.

When our subject had gone back to his busy day and it was my turn to stand in front of the camera I handed it to Six foot five John and made his crouch down a fair bit to get the right separation between me and the sky. The camera had my 16-35 f2.8L lens on it and John was delighted to shoot very near the 16mm end (this shot is 18mm according to the EXIF data).

It was cold, we were cold (can you tell?) and John had nailed it in half a dozen frames. Time to pack up and head back for the nice (soon to be warm) car.



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