Hampers or Bust

14th Apr 2011

 I got the call on Friday, well the email actually.

"The product's in the post, should be with you by Saturday. The magazines deadline is next Friday. Good luck. I'm on holiday for a week can you send the photos direct to the magazine"

It did make me momentarily wince!

I guess any kind of brief is better than no brief at all, at least it is in my eyes. Whenever i get a line that reads something like "do whatever you fancy, its just got to show the product" it tends to bring me out in a cold sweat. I love a challenge as much as the next man, I also love being given creative control when its apropriate. But my interpretation of a product in a cretain situation may not be the same "vision" as the clients - Game on.

The product mentioned in the email was a "chalk bag" used in climbing or rather several of them in various colors and sizes.

By 2 O'clock the next day the good old British postal system looked like it had let me down (again - but thats another story) I was just about to leave the house and get on with all those things that normal people do on a saturday in surburbia when a "rat a tat tat" on the door signified the possible arrival of Mr.Postie! Ten minutes later and i was working out how best to photograph the contents of my oversized "Jiffy bag"

hampers hang

        Hampers Hang - A photograph I'd taken of the problem previously

I said ealier I hadn't received a brief. I had managed to have a chat with two seperate members from the client's British team about a month previous, no deadlines mentioned. Unfortunately for me, both individuals seemed to have their own idea of how the Chalk bags should "fit in" to the final context of the advert which was to run in a magazine.

Enter stage left - Executive "A" Simple photo of the Chalk bag taken against a white background, no bells and whistles, call a spade a spade. The writing for the advert would then be overlaid on top of the image - very simple idea, clean and crisp.

Enter stage right - Executive "B" slightly more involved idea. Get a climber to wear the chalk bag on a well known classic boulder problem recognisible to the magazines readership and then as before overlay the words.

Neither of the ideas should prove to taxing even at such short notice (did I say I only had a day to shoot this as previous work committments were going to take up the rest of the week) although as it was pouring down with rain, making it outside to photograph a climber might prove quite problematical, so i set about photographing "Exec A's" dream scenario.


          Hampers Hang - Photographed from an entirely different angle

It wouldn't be far from the truth if someone said I'm obsessed with the weather.  I constantly check and then re-check various National, International and local websites to give me the best chance of success. Sunday morning in the Derbyshire Peak District dawned just like it had been predicted, wet, cold and windy. However if the local forecast was to be believed it would change for the better around lunch time and the afternoons weather was supposed to be almost tropical by comparison.

Luckily for me I only live about 10 minutes drive from some of the best climbing in Britain, so if the suns out in the back garden chances are it'll be fine in the peak. A few phone calls later and I had a model in the shape of Lucy Creamer Britains top female climber and an assistant to hold my lights. An hour after that with a minimal amount of gear and my two dogs neatly packed into the car (one of the advantages of working on home turf is knowing what you're going to need to create the look you want) we head out to the coffee shop and eventually to Stanage Edge, home to "Hampers Hang" the boulder problem we're going to photograph.

I'd photographed "Hampers" on a couple of occassions previously and was keen not to shoot from the classic straight on view. The buttress is undercut with striking horizontal breaks which can look quite dramatic in harsh lighting conditions. I knew to get the effect i wanted I'd have to shoot virtually straight into the sun so had come prepared with a couple of Nikon SB900's, not the most powerful of lights, but adequate to take out the shadows on the climber at very close quarters.

Lucy and I had gone through various clothing options before we headed out and had decided on a pair of trendy "Blue Jeans" and a light Blue power stretch top, both products made by the client. The blue went well with the sky, stood out nicely against the dark Gritstone and complimented the Orange of the chalk bag. After various dry runs to check the position of Lu's body we were ready to go. I find it really advantageous at this stage in the proceedings to show the model the shots of the "dry runs" it's really easy to point out where you want their hands and feet on the back of the camera. In this instance I really wanted her right leg to kick out from the rock to add dynamics to the proceedings, we also realised that in order for "eye contact' to be acheived Lucy had to be looking much further over to her right than the hold she was actually preparing to lunge for, this wouldn't have been at all obvious if we couldn't zoom in and have a look.

As the sun was coming from in front and to the climbers left, the right side of her body was in shadow. To compensate for this I was going to fire a Nikon SB900 through a Lastolote Ezybox Hotshoe 60cm x 60cm Softbox, held about 2 feet to the right and about a foot above Lucy. It was angled slightly away from her so that the main "Blast" of light actually missed, but the edge of the light nicely feathered onto her (see diagram below)


I'm neatly tucked directly underneath the softbox which is being held on a telescopic handle by an assistant. I'm shooting ultra wide at 15mm on my 14mm-24mm, so I'm actually very close to Lucy, so close in fact that when she kicks off with her right leg I "get it in the head" a couple of times. I'm level with the chalk bag. The aperture is f5.6 which gives just enough DOF on a lens like this to keep the climber totally in focus even when their limbs are flying around.

I'm happy with the results, well almost. If you look at the final image with a critical eye you can see some lens flare, this could have been taken out in post. Composition wise you can't see Lucy's left hand, its hidden behind her head which annoys me, I was too focused on getting her right leg just right. Apart from that all the elements work well together and the shoot took less than two hours door to door. The dogs got a walk, I got some much needed sunshine on a cold March day and the client got an image which illustrated exactly what they envisaged, well at least one of them envisaged. The images got emailed over to the magazines publishers that same evening. They in turn worked their post production and layout skills on the final image which also included a "plain" shot of the chalk bags - so everyone's a winner - RESULT.


                     The Final Advert as used in the magazine