Sunset on Virginia Waters
Welcome, inquisitive reader and/or Photographer, to my Photography blog! Whether you’re hear for photography tips and hints, the beautiful pictures or just a good read, I’m positive this first post will draw you in and have you reading more and more as I frequently keep you updated with outstanding blog posts.
I’m beginning my blogging adventure with a throwback essentially, to the warm summer heat of 2017. In case you didn’t know this about me, I am a UK based photographer currently travelling New Zealand, so it is a welcome comfort to reminisce about my home town and the people in it.
The photo you can see at the top of this page, is one of my favorites. It’s a picture of my girlfriend Grace, taken at the end of a long, relaxing day spent in the pleasant glow of the sun with a picnic and a bottle of prosecco. One of the great things about Grace, is that as we have grown more comfortable together, she’s allowed me to take plenty of photos of her as practice for future photoshoots. She must get quite annoyed about it secretly, but it has led to us regularly going for long walks or day trips for photoshoots, this being the first. So, enough introduction, lets delve right into the details of my first practice photoshoot!
For our shooting location, we spent the day at Virginia Waters in Windsor. If you are UK based and live in or are paying a visit to the Berkshire area, this a stunning to place to visit on a sunny summers day.
With a network of intertwining walks around the gorgeous lake and woodland area, food courts and flower gardens, it’s a wonderful day out for the whole family. The Savill Garden with its beauty of blossom is a must; while counting the variety of animals on the 100ft Totem Pole is a fun activity for the kids. There is also a fantastic waterfall situated in the centre of the park. So, if you enjoy capturing raw nature shots, make sure you take your tripod and ND filters with you on your visit!
Note: This picture is not my own. Unfortunately, due to the volume of people in the park during my visit, the waterfall was surrounded by adventurous children climbing on the rocks, making it difficult to get a good shot. For that reason, if you wanted to get shots of the waterfall, I would recommend paying a visit around either sunrise or sunset when the park will be virtually empty. Parking can be tricky here as well as it is a very popular area, so arriving earlier and parking along the roadside adjacent to the park is a definite bonus.
There are a variety of spots to set up for a picnic as well, with large open patches of grass scattered around the park. For our photoshoot, we managed to find a secluded spot, hidden in the trees on the north side of the lake, close to the Valley Gardens. The spot was perfect for privacy for our picnic and photoshoot, and great for lighting, as we had sunlight pouring through the gap in the trees behind us, as well as reflecting off the water on the other side.
This first shot was taken whilst we were relaxing in the shade with our picnic. The sunlight glistening on the lake created a striking backdrop for our portrait photos. This also applied to the background behind us facing the gardens.
As it was high noon, the natural light provided by the sun surrounded our shaded spot, painting light into the background. Unfortunately, a rookie mistake meant that my flash gun was left behind at home, along with my remote triggers and diffuser. This leads on to the next important variable to consider for any photoshoot:
As stated above, leaving crucial lighting equipment at home meant that my photos were not as sharp as they could have been. Without a flash gun in my arsenal for the day, I had to shoot with a higher ISO and slower shutter speed to let more light into the camera. This also meant that Grace had darker shadows on her face than I would have liked, leading to a very important note to make:
ALWAYS CARRY A FLASH.
Even with the perfect natural lighting in a situation like this, having a flash gives you more control over the filling of shadows, whether it’s on your subject’s face or just for your foreground. I have a Nikon SB910 which is a fantastic speed light for you Nikon users out there. I also use a Mag Bounce diffuser, which works perfectly to just fill those shadows that make the subjects skin look a hell of a lot smoother. IF I had my flash with me on this occasion, I would have set it to Manual, 1/128 brightness with the Mag Bounce attached.
Never the less, the photos still came out great by just raising the ISO a little. So, the only equipment used in this entire shoot, consisted of:
Nikon D7100 & Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens
As the day went on and the sun began to drop down behind the horizon, we decided to move location for our last shots of the day. After a leisurely stroll through the winding maze of the Valley Gardens, we stopped by the shores to dip our feet in the cool water. We used the last of the natural light that we had to take a few more photos before we called it a day and headed home.
As you can see from the meta data above, I took two separate exposures for this shot to expose for the subject and for the rich colors of the sunset in the background.
If you have a high-end Nikon, there will be an option for “Bracketing” on your camera, which you can set to take more than one exposure, either lighter or darker than your original settings. With lower end cameras, you may have to set the exposures manually, which can be tricky when trying to maintain your composition and models pose. Again, this shows the importance of fill flash, or even a reflector in a situation with direct sunlight.
I later blended the two exposures with a simple click in Photoshop. If you don’t know how to do this, it will be discussed in a later blog post, but for now, here is a link to a useful Youtube tutorial that will teach how to quickly blend two exposures in Photoshop:
Also notice the composition of this shot; I asked Grace to stand slightly to the right of the glow from the sun. This created the excellent flare effect that you can see, while the details in her face, hair and dress are still prominent. This is a good technique to use for sunset photoshoots, as it creates a lovely glow on the back of your subject.
As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the fluorescent oranges faded into tones of muted magenta, allowing time for one more shot (and apparently time for us to switch roles, resulting in me ending up on the other end of the lens).
Our day ended by finishing our walk around the lake with the warmth of the sun beginning to disappear and the light of the moon bouncing off the ripples in the water. It was a fantastic day for my first practice photoshoot, teaching me essential lessons that I now apply to all of my shoots.
I thank you for spending your precious time reading my very first blog post and sincerely hope you keep an eye out for more posts to come about my upcoming shoots, my travels around the world and all the knowledge that I have surrounding photography that I look forward to sharing with you.
I will soon be writing a new post on the editing of these photos, including how I smoothed the subjects skin, and enhanced the colours and light in each photo.
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Until next time guys, keep on snapping away!