A couple of years ago when I was lecturing at the Maine Media Workshops I asked one of the students, Jenna Stoltzfus, how she achieved a really groovy effect in one of her pics.

She paused before answering.

In the end she replied ‘Well it is the photo fairies’

When I asked her to explain she elaborated that it was her expression for those moments, those precious pieces of good luck which elevate an image to another place by ‘happy accident’

I’m sure you will all have ‘photo fairy’ moments but let me share one with you.

I was shooting Anna Friel for the cover of the BBC ‘Radio Times’ to publicise her mulit Emmy winning TV series ‘Pushing Daisies’

I thought it would be fun to photograph her on a swing in the studio, bit of a mission but we managed to suspend it from a steel RSJ in the roof of the studio (thoroughly tested by yours truly of course!)

The back drop canvas was a hired, as was the ‘fake’ daisies and turf.

Setting up, as you may have guessed took a long, long time….

Anna was all set up in position on the swing, lit with a large Chimera Softbox on an Elinchrom 1200S head, mounted on a boom, high and to the right, about 45 degrees.
I filled in the shot with ‘zebra’ (silver and gold reflector) by California Sunbounce, on the floor at about 45 degrees too.

I had one light, another Elinchrom 1200S with a honey comb grid on it, lighting Anna from behind, with a poly board or ‘Gobo’ to prevent flare into the lens

The shoot was going very well, then by total accident, the ‘Gobo’ was kicked, moving it for one frame.

One solitary frame, where the expression was great, the pose was perfect.

And it flare coming into shot from the left hand side of the frame

I was gutted.

Contemplating retouching, I looked again.
The ‘Photo Fairies’ had landed

What one moment I considered to be shot ruining flare, in fact helped make the photo.

We had put up a canvas background to give us a blue sky, and what the flare from the backlight did was give us the ‘sun’

Needless to say this was the one they used for the cover.


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Sometimes I remember…

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