When I attended London Fashion Weekend earlier this year, I pretty much assumed it would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, unless I actually make it into professional photography. So when I caught wind of another opportunity to apply for a spot at the autumn/winter London Fashion Weekend I jumped at it straight away. No shameless ‘I love my Canon’ tweets this time, I just had to drop an email to someone asking nicely if I could come. This later led to a bit of confusion when I received the info for the show without actually getting confirmation I was going, and despite further correspondence not figuring out whether I was originally supposed to be going or not, my name was put on the list.
Before I arrived at the event I was feeling a bit guilty about returning to the show. I thought I’d lucked out a bit getting a place for a second time. At the pre-event briefing I kept my head down, expecting to be spotted and turfed out at any point. I’m a bit paranoid at times. It was only when I chatted to a few of the other photographers whilst queuing outside the catwalk that I realised I wasn’t the only one returning to the catwalk show for a second time.
My fears allayed, I could finally focus (geddit? See, because it’s like – ah, forget it) on shooting the show.
Things were arranged a bit differently this time. Instead of the standard catwalk, on which a parade of stick-thin, unhappy-looking models walk up, turn around and back down again, the arrangement was a horseshoe shape, so that the models walked their rake-like figures up one catwalk, looped round, and back down another.
The photographers pit was at the end of the ‘out’ catwalk, so we’d be shooting the models as they walked towards us, rather than their bums as they walked away (I guess this is a matter of preference).
Like my previous visit, we were again given a base set of camera settings to use when shooting. This time, however, they were a little different, and worse, beyond the abilities of a lot of my kit. Last time, we were told to shoot at an aperture of f/5.6, which is great and not a problem at all. All of my lenses open that wide. This time, we were advised to use f/4.5, which is all well and good at wider angles, but both of my zoom lenses can only manage f/5.6 at their maximum zoom. This isn’t something I really thought about at the time, stupidly, so I didn’t always adjust my shutter speed to match. As a result, quite a few of my more zoomed shots were almost a full stop underexposed, something far more noticeable when the model had darker skin or a hat. (there must have been less light at this event. They were asking us to shoot a wider aperture, a slower shutter, and a warmer white balance).
The first thing to do when we got into the venue was pick a spot. This time I wanted to try a very different angle than previously, so I plonked myself down at the front and off to the right a bit, planning on shooting wide for the first show and getting shots with a bit more surrounding in them, compared to the mainly closeups I took in February.
The format of the show was a little different as well. Like last time we were to sit through the same show twice, this time looking at the in-vogue garb for autumn and winter, but we also started out with a ‘Designer show’, featuring the sort of clothing that is stupidly expensive and looks pretty bizarre and despite looking more ridiculous and being far more impractical also costs about a bajillion times more.
The work of the Designer show we shot seemed to be based around the concept of working clothes. A lot of the girls were dressed in clothing clearly inspired by the working gear of various trades, especially this lass who was wearing, essentially, a sparkly hi-vis jacket and trousers.
For a lot of the Designer show I shot wide, aiming to get in the lights above the catwalk and, where possible, a hint of the audience. I also played about a bit with my post-processing, monochroming some images and using a cross-process on others (including the photograph above).
As I often do, I found it tricky to pick between the two similar shots above. I love the colours of the latter, but I also really like how it looks in monochrome, and I think I prefer the framing and composition of the former.
I really love the perspective line in the ‘finale’ shot.
We then had a bit of sitting around and waiting until the first ‘trend’ show started. I elected to stay in the spot I’d used for the Designer show, just shuffling along a bit closer to centre. The trend show was once again split into different subsections – this year Pretty in Pink, Back to Nature, Shape Up and Victoriana – featuring themed collections of clothing. First up was Pretty in Pink, and for this show I decided to switch to my trusty 70-300mm telephoto.
One thing I tried during the event (perhaps maybe twice) was getting closeups of elements of the costumes being worn. Most of my few attempts were pretty shoddy, but I like how this tight shot of this handbag came out.
‘Pretty in Pink’ should really need no explanation. Even I understand it: the clothes all contain pink in some way. Sometimes, indeed most of the time, it was tasteful and decent. Other times it was like some kind of 80s throwback had been washed with a red sock.
Next came the Back to Nature segment, and it started quickly enough that I didn’t even consider swapping away from my telephoto lens. How these girls managed a full change of clothes in that time is beyond me.
One of the great things about this segment was the details on the fabrics, which looked really nice (nice? nice? I’m clearly rusty at this writing lark).
The nature category also contained a lot of (what I presume was) fake fur. This, too, looked nicely detailed when you could get a sharp shot of it. It’s a shame the models didn’t always look so pleased to be wearing it.
This model, in fact, often looked grumpy. I’m not sure what got her goat but she’s either not liking the job as much as she thought, or she’s still green enough that concentrating on walking to the beat of some music without falling over takes so much concentration that it shows on her face. Most of the others at least just looked determined.
I really love the details in the fur on this coat. Photographically, I mean. I’m not planning on wearing it any time soon.
The final getup in the Back to Nature section was this woman, wearing something which, at first, seemed pretty conservative.
I really liked the look, it photographed really well.
And then, as she walked around to the upstream catwalk, the full extent of her headgear became apparent.
I wouldn’t like to be sitting behind that on a train.
For the Shape Up quadrant I swapped back to my wide zoom. Most of the images were decent but largely unremarkable, but my favourite was this MTV-inspired shot.
The final section of the show was Victoriana, which takes its inspiration from Victorian era clothing. Occasionally it means there was someone wearing a doily, but for the most part it looked pretty cool, airing that Victorian sense of propriety.
As the show ended and the presenter wrapped up, I was able to turn my camera on the audience to get some shots. I quite liked some of the results.
Whilst waiting for the repeat of the show to come around, I started planning on shooting with the lenses I hadn’t had much opportunity to use up until that point – including the show in February – namely my two prime lenses. I got chatting to one of the Canon reps there and she suggested that the start of the Pretty in Pink section, which started with bright pink flowers on the screens – looked pretty good in a wide angle. So I swapped back to my wide angle for the start of the show (she also taught me another great trick about changing the metering/AF point without taking my eyes off the viewfinder. I’ve definitely used that one a few times since).
I shot the whole of the second Pink show with my wide zoom, nicely getting some completely different angles on things. Remember the closeup of the handbag from earlier? Here is the woman who was carrying it.
I was also able to get a better shot of the lady in the weird glasses.
For the second Back to Nature show, I decided to use my nifty fifty and shoot at f/1.8, mainly because one of the Canon reps there had suggested it would be a stupid thing to do, and I wanted to prove them wrong. Or right.
It was obviously a bit challenging shooting with a 50mm prime that couldn’t get particularly close to the action, and thanks to the narrow depth of field from shooting at f/1.8 I had no time to waste between focussing and shooting. It also took a bit of fiddling about of the settings to get properly exposed shots, as I was deviating so much from the given settings. Foolishly, I quickened the shutter instead of lowering the ISO to get to the right exposure, but my camera operates pretty well at ISO 800 so there was no great loss.
For the Shape Up repeat I swapped back to my telephoto to get a bit closer to the patterns on the clothing.
I would argue that I had the same intention for the second Victoriana set, but this dress doesn’t exactly have a vibrant pattern to it.
I jumped back to my wider angle to get a decent shot. I was aiming for a repetition of the ‘finale’ shot of the Designer show, but as it was at the tail end of the more conservative Victoriana set it was lacking the vibrant colours of that shot a bit.
And what you can’t see here is that due to the fact the presenter forgot to mention that there was a finale this line of girls was about to turn a corner and encounter the queue of people trying to leave. Still, the models took it in good spirits; it was the first time I saw some of them smile.
London Fashion Weekend
Some More Portraits