This shoot was down at my favourite coastal Sydney location. I know the light here well and it’s varied from soft reflective through to strong backlight and low angled sunset lighting. Sarah had expressed a desire to concentrate on her portrait modelling and these images show her versatility and skill with expressive portraiture. We only shot from 3pm to 5pm and that included half an hour or more of walking so I’m amazed at how many great images there are. Always a sign of a great model.

Portra 160 (expired), Pentax 67, f3.4

I always begin in this location inside a large south-east facing cave. It’s elevated off the wave platform so receives beautiful reflected light from the sky. Catchlights are always great and the deeper back you go into the cave the more light is sucked from the sides (the dark walls of the cave) - giving nice cheekbone shadow and definition. At this time of year the shadow edge from the cave is out toward the front of the cave - a few metres outside it.

Portra 160 (expired), Pentax 67, f3.4

Portra 160 (expired), Pentax 67, f3.4

I had a selection of film to use including expired Portra 160 (11 years old), Fuji PRO400H, Ektar 100 and Portra 400. The camera was the Pentax 67. I have two of these bodies, each with the amazing glass of the 105mm F2.4 lens. There is no lens like this - other than a selected few in the large format 4x5 range. I’m able to load both cameras and then shoot 20 frames without needing to stop and reload. For my way of shooting this works best as I usually work my way ‘into’ shots, meaning I shoot and look carefully, generally finding something that I can hone in on and capitalise on - it’s easier to do this with 20 available shots than just 10.

Nikon D800, 50mm f1.8

Portra 400, Pentax 67, f3.4

Portra 400, Pentax 67, f3.4

Portra 400, Pentax 67, f3.4

Portra 400, Pentax 67, f3.4

I usually start with comfortable sitting-type situations and move to standing with movement. The model moves, and I move, looking for angles and shots. This is quite hard with a big manual focus camera and there are always some out of focus shots but I like those - they have potential to be different and to create something extra in terms of ‘feel’. The above shots were all from one roll of film, same aperture, same shutter speed (which I don’t remember), but you can see how Sarah’s skin is much brighter than in the previous shots - they were taken toward the front of the cave. Also, less shadow on the sides of the face etc.

The next sequence were shot on digital out the front of the cave and using the backlight of the sun. Exposure is always tricky but I just use the preview on the back of camera to get it right in the first few shots then leave it. Often I’m working inside the model’s shadow alternating out just to the edge of the shadow where flare exists and then back in again. Apparently this has become somewhat of a trademark look in my work.

And here are some film shots using the same technique. I actually prefer the digital camera for backlit situations - I’m always aiming for flare and the old Pentax lens tends to spread the flare across the image (even at small apertures) whereas the digital lenses create sharper more intense flare. I had left the 70-200 f2.8 at home - and that’s my usual lens for this kind of movement and backlit stuff. The lens used here is the cheap 50mm f1.8. Using that I need to be careful of distortion negatively affecting the image in terms of enlarging body parts closest to the camera. I need to look at the model’s physique and check which areas would be impacted and by which camera angles. Every model is different.

So after working inside the cave and toward the edge of the cave (both situations in the shadow) and also on the very edge of the shadow using backlight as above - we moved out into the full sun.

Sarah changed her outfit to a lovely vintage skirt and striped blouse.

Portra 400, F11

Again, I had Sarah slowly moving in order to find the best shots. Obviously the model needs to feel very comfortable and also confident in your ability to find the shots with this style of shooting as they are not holding static poses that they know will look good on camera. It’s up to the photographer to ‘find’ the shots and for the model to trust that they will find them! The following sequence is all digital, D800 with a very old manual focus 35mm lens. I really love this set.

As you can see, this spot is always windy - another aspect that I love to incorporate into my work.

35mm film, Nikon F100, 35mm lens

This next shot was maybe my favourite image from the whole shoot. I was lucky to catch it. When Sarah went into this position it looked amazing so we repeated it a few times to make sure I got it but the first shot, this one, was still the best.

The above images were all shot within a radius of 100m or so. After this we moved off toward the small pebbly beach where we shot another expressive movement sequence. Again using the 35mm manual focus lens and some amazing backlight. The backlight always works well on the beach as the background is a dark cliff face which increases the drama in the images. makes them a little more cinematic in my opinion.

During the above shots Sarah had picked up a shell, a round one with a hole in the middle. Observing her looking at it, I asked her to hold it in various ways as I photographed it. Her expression and the way she held it struck a chord in me somewhere.

Fuji PRO400H, Pentax 67

And a digital too…

It’s always a nice change to work from a lying position too. Sometimes it requires some agility to get into the right positions. Again, backlight lighting and digital camera with 50mm F1.8.

And finally, we started walking back toward the car but still had only been shooting for less than an hour and a half. The last shots were done by some old containers which are right near the carpark, and quite public.



and a digital too… These were done quite quickly due to the public nature of the location.

Oh, here’s a couple I missed from out front of the cave…