Steampunk Portrait Session in Bewdley
Earlier this year, I attended a portrait workshop run by DCZ Photography over in Bewdley. The day had just been described as a "themed" portrait session involving the Severn Valley Railway, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I used to live in Bewdley, and occasionally the SVR would hold 1940s weekends, so I went along on the day wondering if the model might be dressed in that kind of style. The mystery was solved when we were introduced to Morgan, our model for the day, who arrived decked out in an impressive steampunk costume.
As a theme, steampunk worked really well - the 'old fashioned' background provided by Bewdley station meant Morgan's costume never looked out of place. Often it's possible to walk around the station's yard, where the trains are repaired and all sorts of big, old machinery is lying about just waiting to be used as a backdrop. Sadly, as there was repair work going on that day, the gates to the yard were firmly locked, and we limited ourselves to the station itself.
With steam trains arriving and departing while we were there, there was also the opportunity to experiment with things like a moving background. I'm pleased with how this shot turned out:
The setting and theme obviously lent itself to a rare use of my camera's sepia setting, as well as some more normal portrait styling.
After a break for lunch, we next headed up into the forest out to the east of Bewdley. Although this didn't entirely fit with the steampunk theme it did provide a very different background and another set of lighting conditions to work with.
Morgan was unimpressed by the number of creepy-crawlies lurking in the undergrowth, and the brambles threatened to snag her costume with every step, but she very patiently let us amateurs boss her about into another series of poses.
Overall, I'm not sure I learned a huge amount from the tuition side of the day, but the experience of working with a model (i.e. somebody who's relatively comfortable with their photo being taken and who isn't going to get too bored and annoyed if you want to spend a while trying various different versions of the same shot) was hugely useful. I'm very pleased with the shots I ended up with, and I hope I can put some of the lessons I learned during the workshop into practice soon.
The Kit Box
I decided I'm going to try separating 'technical' stuff (not that I'm ever likely to get that technical) from the main posts, as I appreciate that while some readers will be interested in what lenses, etc. I've been using, plenty of people won't.
For me, this workshop was, more than anything, a chance to give the XF56mm f1.2 lens a thorough try-out. I'd had it a month or so, but other than a couple of test shots I really hadn't used it for anything - and it's a pricey bit of kit to have gathering dust. So I took that, and the XF35mm f1.4, which in the end I didn't use at all. I wish I'd taken my XF55-200mm, just for some closer shots, as everybody else on the workshop was using longer lenses and so it was impossible for me to get in any tighter without wandering into their shots. I can certainly see the appeal of the XF50-140mm f2.8 for this kind of work, although whether I'll be able to justify adding that to my set-up anytime soon remains to be seen.
More importantly, the 56mm passed the test with flying colours. I'd read a lot of reviews, all raving about how sharp it is, what an attractive 'look' it gives pictures, how it's almost impossible to take a bad portrait with it - and I can only echo all those sentiments. It's a helluva lens! Set at a wide aperture it provides wonderful subject separation, and even at f1.2 it was sharp enough to pick out errant specks of mascara on Morgan's cheek. Plus although it's well made and pleasingly hefty, it's still really not that heavy. Pairing it with my X-T10 produced a lightweight but powerful portrait-taking machine I'd have been happy to shoot with all day. I can't wait to give it another outing.