West Country Pasties, a hat and some silver

So, theres this guy, right. His name is Andy. Hes a photographer type bloke, bit like me. Andy Chang to be precise (go check him out at http://andrew-chang.com) Lets just call him good. Ok, bit more than good, hes blummin' excellent to be honest. And I have admired his stuff for a while now. And because of the quality of his work, I thought he was some kind of big photography big shot, out in magazine-land, being paid big bucks for his work, advertising and persuading people to buy these clothes or perfume or wot not. Turns out, thats not true. He's just like million other photographers out there, who do it for fun and the love of it. Just happens he is, in my eyes, better than 990,000 of them, but thats a whole different argument. Anyway, I digress.

We chat on Facebook over time, building a rapport as I was constantly commenting on his work. He seemed appreciative. We struck up conversations about photography, his or my images....the mutual back slapping was rife (probably more in his direction than mine, but thats fair enough).

Anyway, after a fair bit of good humoured banter and communication regarding all things photography, football and music, out of the blue and more than a little surprisingly, Andy suggested we do a shoot together. Well, frankly, I was a bit surprised....I didn't think someone of his skills would want to work with someone like me, but I was happy to. But it was a case of when, where etc....the logistics of him living in London and me being in Cambridge, work, time and so on was going to be a problem. Anyway, cutting a long story short, we worked around this. I didn't think it would happen, but we had a date, a venue and an idea.....

In the middle of this, we had to sort out models as we both had ideas about the kinds of stuff we wanted to shoot. There was also the logistics of dealing with the weather, sorting out locations, styling, make up artists etc. This was going to be a much more full on shoot than that of anything I had done before....but it was exciting and a challenge, made more so with Andy jetting off to the other side of the world for a couple of weeks on holiday, due to be back only a few days before the shoot was to happen! Ahhh the joys of social media communication...wasn't as bad as we thought! But getting a team together was more tricky....both of us put out casting calls, I had a couple of interested parties, but Andy came up trumps in a big way......and what finds they were! The two models he suggested turned out to be inspired...

The same happened with MUA's....I found one, Andy found the other. Both excelled.....

A date and venue were set to meet.....the day came......

The venue was closed for refurbishment.......!!!!!

This.....turned out to be a massive stroke of luck in some ways....more of this later....

First on the scene was Dominika....and what a star! Confident, talkative and decisive....exactly what was needed! Loaded with kit and just as annoyed about the venue being closed as I was! We decided to move further up the road and let Andy know where we are. Turns out Andy was actually already IN town...so he trundles up with back pack of gear, nothing else. I on the other hand had carried about 5 tonne of gear from the car park and my arms were dropping off. I felt a bit of a fool to be honest......that will teach me for future shoots....what a plum!

And what top guys they were in person! Andy, an outwardly meek and shy guy who turns out to be nothing of the sort! Focused, but up for a laugh, we hit it off straight away....I have to admit, this was one of my biggest fears....meeting someone you know online for the first time can sometimes be a bit of a letdown. Their written word is not a good translation for their personality. Turns out Andy was all his writing was and more....phew! Top bloke! The day was set.....thank goodness!

So, we needed a place to go to prepare....for outfit changes, make up putting on, styling and so on. Where was there to go? Dominika suggested that the top floor of the West Country Pasty Company on the corner of Market Square would be pretty good as it was more like an open cafe and had a lot of light so her and Eloise (who had let me know that she was actually on her way, but, as is the norm, the trains were rubbish....) could have good light to see what they were doing. Inspired choice........of which I shall explain.....later....So off we trekked upstairs

Now, I can't remember who was next, but I have a suspicion it was Annie......now, Annie I had only had brief communication with and had only seen the odd picture of from her modelling portfolio as she was one of Andy's respondents. But she looked amazing the second she walked in. Fashionable, bright red hair, slim and very 60's Vogue style look......perfect for the look we had in mind. Things were starting to move on! Andy and I decided to get coffees and teas for everyone and went downstairs to order......and as we were there, a woman, 6 foot tall, hair about 3 foot in length, very striking in both looks and stature, walked past us and walked upstairs. Andy and I carried on our conversation.....then looked at each other and did a bit of a double take.....

Yep, after getting our drinks, it turns out that was Emma...our second model! I wasn't expecting someone so tall....but then, being MY height, I should really, really not have been surprised. A Shetland Pony is tall to me! But she certainly made an impact! Things were coming together nicely....

We did introductions, chatted, started talking about what we wanted to do and then we did something that would set the tone for pretty much most of the shoot.....we emptied the models bags and rifled through their clothes, literally taking over about half of the upstairs room of the Pasty shop! Clothes, hats, camera gear....strewn everywhere. Furniture was rearranged, tables moved, customers frightened away (literally) with the mess we had made.....we started to decide on clothes and styles and talk about the make up that would fit the best. Eloise then finally arrives, looking a little worn out and slightly dishevelled due to her rushing to get to us and a HUGE bag of gear she brought and carried, but what a pro! Got straight into it, fit right in almost instantly and got down to work without a quibble! Top notch!

So, looks, outfits and make up decided, Andy and I started to think about what and where we were going to shoot. The girls did the girl thing, got changed and sat down for MU. And from then on, ALL plans we had went out of the window! And I for one and kinda happy about that. Yes, I would have liked to have done more scouting, but with a heavily pregnant wife and a 2 year old to look after, time isn't something I have much of! Also, I didn't want Andy to come all this way and it be worth his while. But we ended up having to wing it....and whats more, where better to start that "winging" than the place we actually were in! It had great light, lovely nooks and crannies to pose and hide in, simple, classic furniture, colour, backdrops.....the shoot would start here!

We wanted a modern take on a vintage look, but this was very loose....Emma has a classic look, so I wanted to have a classic look for her outfit and make up. Eloise got to work on Emma with a simple, bright lipstick and foundation....more enhancement than a "look" as such. Annie on the other hand.....well....Andy wanted to go completely "other worldly" and she ended up having silver leaf glued on to her lips! Poor girl had to have absolutely NO expression on her face for almost an hour! But wow, Dominika went to town! What a look! Mad, weird, brilliant! And for her look and the one that Andy was after, it worked a treat!


Once make up was done and clothes changed, the shoot was on! Emma was shooting with myself first, Annie with Andy. Emma arrived at the shoot wearing a very classicly 60's hat, big floppy rim, black....you know the sort. Quite Audrey Hepburn. Well, she was very proud of that hat.....a bargain buy that week and had to be used really! Looked great! But first, we wanted to "warm up" so we used the surroundings for the shoot, using the soft light coming in through a side window and some nice leather chairs and sofas. As previously said, Emma is TALL! And for me, to shoot anywhere near head height was going to be an issue....so, sitting it was! And boy did that work......with the hair, the bright red lipstick and the classically simple clothes, she looked amazing! She was a natural too....I didn't direct much...my own style is much less "contemporary" and more classic.....but thats not to say I don't like "different". I just wanted to have simple portraits in the surroundings......I think we nailed it! And a big shout out has to go to Eloise.....who not only did a superb job on the MU, but also was tireless throughout the shoot as an excellent voice activated human reflector stand.....not the most glamourous of jobs and not necessarily in the original job description, but she was sterling in her stamina and skill.....spot on!

So then it was the turn of the hat! No change in style, just use it! Work that hat! And work it we did! Different poses, changes of place within the room.....had to be done really....and all the time, Emma was just laughing at me at my constant whoops of delight as the images hit the back of the camera. I know, I know....its a common thread in my shoots, but I just cant help it! Plus, its an icebreaker......which turns out a bit useful as whilst we got chatting more and more, I found out that Emma and I have something in common. No, it wasn't that we were at the opposite ends of the height spectrum! It was actually that she also works in genetics.....if my memory serves me right, doing a PhD in it as we speak! Well, how about that then? So nice to meet a model who confounds stereotypes as from my experience, MOST models confound stereotypes to be honest. But thats not the public perception.....models are not seen in the best of light by a large proportion of the general public. Well, here you go, along with Annie, who is ALSO a student and after getting to know her is also FAR from your stereotype model, there are two fine examples of the profession that perfectly demonstrate the cliche of "never judge a book by its cover".

Anyway, back to the hat! Hat was located, hat was placed on head, hat took centre stage....hat was ROCKED! Check it out!

Look and hat suitably rocked, we decided to have a break.....so, there was only really one thing we could and SHOULD have.......they had been so cool to us.....PASTY!!! Oh yes.....but oh NO! Emma had taken the last steak and ale.......gutted! And she wouldn't swap.....oh well, I guess I had to let her off! But the classic pasty was still a belter and just what the doctor ordered....

Suitably refreshed, Andy and I (and the models too) decided we should swap. We didn't even consider moving venue still.....which was both a good thing and a bit of a cheeky thing too! But hey, we were there, so lets make the most of it! Now, Annie was much more of a contemporary looking model. Emma is all elegance and classic look.....I can handle and deal with that. Annie on the other hand brought something completely different to the shoot. Not only did she have the mad lips, but also a shape and look that was very different. It rocked the look and the images I got with her were very different to those that I got with Emma. Which was exactly what we needed and wanted. Pulling odd poses, using her slender shape to make even more complicated shapes, the whole look worked so well in different places around the room. I think you will agree it was a very different look....


The light had changed a fair bit, so was struggling with the room lights, the natural light and other tones bouncing everywhere. I did my best to work on the white balance, but as you can see, the tones were very striking....harsh, but they kind of worked for the look. I still really like these images, even with the slight colour tone troubles!

At the end of this, we decided it might actually be best to try and venture outside! It had been raining on and off after a beautiful beginning to the shoot, but as is the way, we missed our window! Either way, we were determined to get a good effort going on, so off we went, after a slight touch up of the look and some outfit changes....

Now, there is an alleyway down the side of the chapel of Kings College which I can never remember the name of....but its a classic through cut, cobbled streets, old doorways and very much not changed its look in hundreds of years I would say. We had to use it. Besides, our shooting window was becoming less and less, with time ticking on before I would have to leave to get back to my heavily pregnant wife and handful of a 2 year old (shes not that bad actually, but not fair on a pregnant woman! lol!).

I started with Annie this time, dressed in a classic 60's style tartan straight dress and some lovely old style shoes....a subtle look was done by Dominika, with simple darkening eye make up that matched the colours in the dress. Against Annie's red hair, it really worked! And Dominika took on the role of the reflector stand, but also giving posing advice, location advice and constant encouragement on things I couldn't see. Nicely done Dominika! And Annie was a star! I asked her to hold poses for a few seconds at a time as I wanted to try shooting with longer exposure times to blur people and get her perfectly still....tricky as I had forgotten my tripod! Needless to say, the idea failed due to my own forgetfulness, but Annie moved on with no qualms or quibbles! She was also completely unperturbed by the passers by who were both a little bemused and mildly amused at the same time! So we moved to a doorway and got some classic leading line images, some crops and some simple looks. Then on to some steps at the side of one of the buildings.....which I then promptly got her to sit in a really big puddle! Dominka came up with a great idea of sitting on a bag, which then took Annie and her to work together to hide the bag (as well as Annie's modesty!) as best as possible to get the shot! Totally worth it as I love the shot! See what you think....

Andy, Emma and Eloise in the meantime had pretty much disappeared and we didn't see them until we had done our bit annoying the pedestrians! By the time they came back, rain had started to fall reasonably hard and time (and light) was running out. A suggestion to find, quickly, one more venue was made and off we went....

Dominka finally suggested an alleyway down the side of Campkins Camera shop opposite Kinds (I am sorry, but I am AWFUL with names!). At the end was a little church with a small courtyard and graveyard outside. What a lovely and picturesque place it was too! Lived in Cambridge for 17 years now and never knew it was even there! Anyway, I had little time left, so I tried to grab a couple of shots with Emma....really was a really quick shoot before I had to scoot off! I was SO glad we did! Simple, elegant and made use of the lovely overhanging trees and bushes in the yard to frame Emma and that extraordinary hair really very nicely indeed. By this point, Emma was just happy to follow my lead as I was thinking she still found me slightly amusing! But these were my last shots of the day.....and how well they came out!


So that was it for me. I had to run pretty quickly......I said my goodbyes, thanked everyone and was actually really very pleased with my day. Andy remained behind shooting a few shots with the girls, but I am glad we had met and he suggested the shoot.....

What can I say about the day to sum up? Well, firstly, the MUA's. Those ladies knew their stuff! Both Eloise and Dominka brought a lot to the shoot, giving a look, helping out, keeping styling topped up and were generally great to be around. Those guys, we can only thank them!

Annie and Emma? Well, firstly, they themselves got on really, really well! They seemed to have a laugh, want to try stuff together, bounced ideas....a perfect match from polar opposites of looks. No bad thing. Annie was modern, "out there", quirky....spot on for the looks we tried to get and was the perfect model for the job. She made us laugh, was definitely a child of the times as I later found selfies of the looks on social media, so was keeping people up to date! I would work with her again at the drop of a hat!

Emma was a star.....for me, she is the classic beauty....tall, elegant and brought a feel of class to the look I was trying to get. Not saying that Annie didn't have this, but Emma and Annie's looks were very different. Emma was much more reserved, restrained......and that fit the look and images we made perfectly. Again, I would happily work with her, and consequently, since the shoot, we have already spoken about arranging another shoot together after the baby is born and things have settled down somewhat. I guess we hit it off a little due to our common interests and her constantly laughing and being amused at my own stupid behaviour.....she reckoned it was great and kept her amused, feeling comfortable and relaxed and made the day that much more enjoyable. Laudable sentiments, but I reckon she was still laughing AT me.... ;-)

Both models were perfect professionals.....trying things, taking on the things we threw at them without a question and pulled off all the looks we had with a smile and 100% commitment. Andy and I couldn't have asked for more....

Ahhhhhh yes....Andy. Finally, after meeting him and working with him, I can now see why his work is of such a high standard. A superb eye for detail, a clear vision and a steely, straightforward determination under a very jovial and fun exterior. A perfect gent, a great laugh, ever helpful with ideas, knowledge and never shy to let go of nuggets of wisdom or simply to just geek out on tech and gear with me! I think I found a friend (not sure how he feels about it!), but all I can say is what a top bloke he is. And as I have now seen some of his shots from the day......he totally rocks as a photographer.....still! Damn him! ;-)

Thank you to ALL of the gang for a great shoot and a great day......one of the most fun days I have had on a shoot with anyone and I can only say....here's to the next time! Will be my pleasure!