“Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm” — Winston Churchill (possibly!)
The origins of this quote are a bit questionable. Some accredit it to Winston Churchill, others Abraham Lincoln. Regardless of the origin it seems fitting today.
The start of May has a special place in my photographic calendar. It’s the high point in the bluebell season. Staffordshire has some great bluebell woods – including some that seem to be exceptionally well kept secrets. Jackson’s Coppice is one of those special places for me. It’s only a small site but it’s a truly magical place. Situated out in the countryside near Eccleshall and away from any major roads it’s incredibly tranquil. One of those places where the only sound to be heard is birdsong. In spring the coppice is transformed with a vivid blue carpet for a couple of weeks. Above this you’ll find fresh vibrant greens of the new leaves on the beech trees, and the occasional bit of blossom on one of the flowering trees that are dotted around.
This year I decided I’d try and be super-organised and get a model booked for a fashion shoot at Jackson’s Coppice. I posted a casting on a model directory site and had a dozen or so offers. I booked with a fairly experienced model who matched with the mental image I had created of the final images I wanted to produce. I always get quite excited about fashion shoots. I photograph a lot of different subjects, but fashion/editorial is the genre that gives me the biggest “buzz”.
Yesterday was a busy evening of charging batteries, testing and cleaning equipment and generally getting prepared. The way I shoot fashion has a tendency to be quite gear-intensive. I packed up three Canon Speedlites along with Cactus v6 wireless triggers and some light stands so I could use the flash off-camera. Because I was aiming for a fairly soft look to my lighting for this shoot I packed up a 60cm square softbox and an 80cm shoot-through brolly to give me some choice of how I wanted the light to look. I also packed a Honl grid – this doesn’t give soft light at all, but is ideal for putting the light exactly where you want it while keeping it controlled so it doesn’t go any further. I mostly use my gridded Speedlite as a hair light to add a glossy highlight to the model’s hair and to help the model stand out from the background. (If you’re interested in finding out about using flash off-camera and with a variety of light modifiers then you should book in on our Introduction to Studio Lighting Course. The skills you’ll learn are transferable between working in the studio and using off-camera flash on location).
So the big day finally arrived. Exciting times. I got the car packed up with everything and headed off. I always aim to arrive around an hour early for these shoots. Arriving early gives me time to takes some test shots and get a feel for the ambient light. This is when I’ll make my final choices on exactly where I’ll be shooting. I’ll also work out a starting point for my lighting, although it may change during the shoot depending on how the photos are looking. So far so good. 15 minutes before the model is due to arrive I head back to the car to wait for her to arrive. Some models like to turn up a few minutes early, so I like to be there to meet them if they do. Today wasn’t one of those days. The shoot start time came and went and still no model. Not an ideal start to a fashion shoot I’m sure you’ll agree.
So there I am in the middle of nowhere for a fashion shoot and the model hasn’t turned up. The first thing I’ll do in that situation is to check my phone to make sure she’s not been trying to contact me. Helpfully my car is parked in something of a valley, and my phone is showing a “no service” message. Less than ideal! The only way I can get a signal is a 2 minute walk up the steeply banked coppice where I’ve found a spot that has a remote chance of providing some mobile coverage. I wait for five minutes to see if my phone picks up any messages but there’s nothing. I text the model with my exact location according to my phone’s GPS (isn’t modern technology a wonderful thing!).
Half and hour passes with me alternating between visiting the car and visiting the mobile phone “hotspot”. Still nothing. I give the model a call but get her voicemail – that’s not unexpected as she may well be driving. After an hour I decide to head for home and call the model on the way (via my bluetooth hands-free kit, naturally). It’s at that point I meet a car coming the other way. It’s a single track road, so I do the only thing I can – a very long reverse. As the other car pulls into the passing place next to me I catch a glimpse of the driver – it’s Rosie, my model. I wind down my window and suggest we pull up in the next layby.
So we’re in the right place an hour later than planned. It turns out that on the way over Rosie was following a car when it was involved in a collision. Being the lovely young lady, and thoroughly decent human being she is, Rosie had stopped to make sure everyone was ok. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but Rosie was held up while she helped the lady involved get her springer spaniels out of the car. All this time Rosie had been texting me, but due to the wonder that is the mobile phone network these messages wouldn’t make it to my phone until an hour after I got home.
Being that close to a car accident had really taken it our of Rosie – as she stood there talking to me with her perfectly styled hair and expertly applied makeup you could see she was still shaking from the experience. She wasn’t in any real state to model at that point. She looked like all she really needed was to get home and have a sit down with a hot drink. After a quick chat we agreed that we’d write off today and try to rebook in the future, although with a different concept as the bluebells sadly won’t be around the next time I’ve got space in my schedule.
The crazy events of today got me thinking about how we deal with things going wrong. Sometimes however much you plan things and however prepared you may be, life just throws you a curve-ball. There’s nothing either of us could have done to plan for this situation. We just have to accept what happened, and move on. I’m not sure I’ll be chalking this one up in the win column as such, but I’m not going to let it get me down. As far as what Churchill may or may not have said, I think there’s a lot of truth in the sentiment. You have to pick yourself up and move on. Keep your enthusiasm going and remember that tomorrow is another day.
If you’d love to experience this wonderful bluebell display then why not join us for our free bluebell walk next Sunday afternoon? Further details can be found here: Bluebell Walk