For a lazy and disorganised person like myself, being a shoot director is HARD. You have so many things to think about – models, costumes, make up, timings of the shoot, positions, locations… There is a lot to organise.
Thankfully, as a lazy and disorganised person I have over the years spent much time developing an invaluable skill – delegation. Using this extremely useful ability I was able to fob off all the difficult bits to other people, not least onto the head of Jessica Newey who so ably performed duties as model for the Empress at the previous shoot and was now serving as Make Up Director, Warderobe Mistress and general maintainer of sanity …
However, one issue I could not solve was the weather.
I seem to talk about the weather a lot on this blog, most recently in my Fire and Ice entry where I talk about the extreme storm we had. The reason is because the UK and Manchester in particular is known for its chaotic and unpredictable weather patterns. In the case of this photoshoot, the weather was doubly critical because we intended to go outside and shoot in a local woodland.
So, with everything planned and prepared to meticulous detail, our only wild card factor was whether the rain would stop play.With models coming vast distances (well, vast in UK terms, ‘just down the road’ in American terms and ‘from next door’ in Australian) we needed to make a call to cancel as soon as possible to avoid unecessary trips. However, the weather reports were sketchy and unreliable and we oscillated between joy at a reasonably clear report and despair at one which showed storms. With photography equipment costing something up to the budget of a small South American state at risk we realised we would have to cancel.
But then PLAN B was mooted! There was a suggestion from the photographer that as everyone was already free that weekend, no one seemed to be free for any other weekend in the near future and the studio we used last time was free we could shift plans and do it in the studio where rain was not an issue. It only took a minor bit of plan jiggling and suddenly we were on again!
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. Yes, the predicted rain and storms were not to be seen, the skies were clear. Cursing whichever deities or Meteorologists were to blame for the inconsistancies in weather reporting, we headed into deepest, darkest Yorkshire. All the way there I kept wondering if we should have reverted to plan A because the weather was fine but at that point we had already gone too far.
Luckily, we were justified in sticking to plan B because midway through the day there was a massive rainstrom that took everyone by surprise…
Now, the studio, with its convenient roof, solved the pressing issue of the equipment getting wet… However, the plan was to shoot in a woodland and the shots were arranged to suit this. Generally speaking, you rarely find trees or other woodland foliage inside a studio. I had assumed that the photographer was planning to repeat what we did before – single shots of characters against a black backdrop. However, I was wrong. His plans were far more ambitious.
His idea was to do some compositing. Essentially, take photos of all the models in costume against a white background and then superimpose them onto the backdrop of our choice. It requires a lot more editing work than simply doing it in a real woodland but it was our only choice at present and, besides, I think he relished the technical challenge. More to the point, while the layout of the shots I had planned called for two or three figures in each one, his plan was to shoot each figure individually against the white background and work from that to get the required vingettes.
Personally, I have doubts as to whether this will work or not. However, I am willing to wait and see what the final results look like. Past results where I have doubted have been awesome.
There were two vingettes I wanted to see. One, possibly the simplest technically, was an image of the three Vaetari Audenti – the historic leaders of the elven race in Realm. This required two female models and one male dressed in the Roman style costume. This required little make up other than a pair of latex elf ears each. The second was to represent the Onryo – the cursed undead race with a distinct Japanese theme. This involved a significant amount of make up.
While Jess fussed around with costume and make up, creating some wonderfully realistic wounds, the photographer worked on the lighting. This took even longer than it did for the previous shoot as he needed to get a completely white background without shadows. This was not as easy as you might think and probably needed at least one more light to properly drench the area but after a lot of faffing he finally achieved it.
There was then the same process there had been last time of posing and taking shots, critically appraising them and suggesting changes. However, because we had a lot more figures to shoot, this process had to be more condensed to allow time for all the subjects to be covered. There was also the added complication of pondering how the figures would eventually be placed in the final vingette.
While the models were waiting for their turn in front of the camera, there were a number of activities to keep them amused. Some read, some slept, some played with mobile phones and some posed for joke shots as 1960’s style elves…
By the end of the day, we were all exhausted but left the studio with a sense that we had created something great in our time there. Now it is just a question of waiting for the shots to be edited…. Once that has happened, I will post more on the subject.