I seem to have quite a bit of luck when it comes to winning places on photography experiences. In the last eighteen months I’ve been to two fashion shows and a whole day of shooting experiences at Canon HQ. I feel like I’m disproportionately fortunate, especially since the weekend before last I once again found myself on the way to London for another visit to London Fashion Weekend.
This being my third trip, I was beginning to settle into things quite a bit. On my second visit to the fashion show, around this time last year, I was overly anxious to get a completely different set of shots compared to my first visit. It led to me using a wider angle lens for a lot of the show, and trying to avoid using my telephoto that I’d leaned on heavily the first time out. This time, having seen that the images from the first show were a lot better than the second, I had no preset plans for shooting anything different or new – I just wanted to shoot whatever felt right and best at the time.
That said, it was whilst editing the images from last year’s show that I came to the conclusion that the 18-135mm lens I had used up until that point was no longer good enough and in short order had replaced it with the 24-105mm I use now, so of course I felt I had to use it at least for a bit to see how it compared.
I’ve already waxed about how much better the new lens is than the old, but the short of it is that it’s fantastically better. Obviously you’d hope as much with an ‘L’ and a red ring on it, but it focuses quicker and gives noticeably sharper results than the lens it replaced (feel free to take a look and compare for yourself).
I still wanted to play about with processing. The lighting in the venue was pretty nice as it allowed some spotlight-style effects, especially when I cranked the contrast up a bit.
There was a smattering of colour about on this dress, so I did a bit of selective monochroming. This is the same model as the shot above, but I liked the pink heels and spots on the the dress and decided to bring them out a lot more by removing the other colours.
Much like last year’s trip, we attended several shows, the first being the ‘designer’ show with more exclusive clothing, which is why these costumes look a little fancier than what you’d see on the high street.
It’s also why some of the clothing can’t really be considered to be entirely practical.
Concerns about practicality aside, I loved the look of this dress. It was fluffy and delightfully blue, and even better, the model looked straight at me as she turned at the end of the catwalk.
This dress was by no means the most impractical of outfits on the catwalk. I can’t imagine anyone not having trouble with this attire on a rainy day or working in an office where one might have to do some shredding from time to time.
I used monochrome quite a lot for the designer show. A lot of the dresses were mostly white (I’m presuming white is the new orange is the new black or something, I don’t really ‘get’ fashion) so using monochrome helps bring out a lot of the details in the dresses, and helped make the contrast a lot more prominent.
Shooting with the wider angle lens, I tried – as I did in both of my previous trips – to capture a little more of the surroundings. For reasons I can’t quite quantify I like to capture the lights on the ceiling. Maybe it’s because of the perspective lines they create in tandem with the catwalk.
As you can see, another problem I faced with the position I picked in the photographers’ pit was that when I was trying to photograph the model coming up the catwalk one of the previous models would be in the background. Sometimes this was solved by fortuitous timing, or hiding the exiting model behind the prominent one, or – like in this next image – making the most of closeups.
Speaking of timing, when shooting something like this timing is everything (well, almost everything. Focussing helps a lot too). You want to try to make sure the models’ feet are on the ground because catching them mid-stride can make it look like their legs are wonky (although I like to try to capture the moment when just the heel of the leading foot has hit the ground, I think it gives the impression of pace). This next model added an extra timing challenge: the metal handbag she was holding was glinting in the light as she walked, and it needed good timing to catch it mid-glint.
The other timing challenge is catching the poses.
I’ve already mentioned how the making the images monochrome enhanced the contrast. This helps to improve the ‘spotlight’ effect of the lighting.
As ever, I used Silver Efex Pro 2 to make my images back and white, but I’ve also recently obtained another monochroming package called Tonality Pro which adds a whole new slew of presets and a different way of processing images. It was one of the latter’s presets that gave me the following silhouette shot as the final model exited and the lights drew down.
After the designer show, we had two runs of a street show to shoot. For this, I swapped to my 70-300mm telephoto to get a bit closer to the models.
Something else I tried on occasion was getting even more extreme closeups. For the model above, I liked the way the bottom of her dress was billowing.
Being able to zoom closer meant that I could frame out background models – and remove the challenge of timing the positioning of feet.
Occasionally, instead of trying to frame out the trailing model, I used her as part of the composition.
For the most part however, I tried to frame close and keep things a bit neater.
I also liked trying to capture billowing dresses and skirts.
I also liked detailed patterns, like the lace in this shot or the fluffiness in the shot below it.
This next model managed to get enough of a rhythm in her walk that her ponytail was bouncing out as she walked.
The highlight at the end of the show was this red dress, which caused a lot of shutters to fire.
It was even interesting on the exit.
The finale walkout was very colourful.
For the second runthrough of the show I decided to find a higher vantage point, to get an angle on the catwalk that I’d not gotten before in any of the shows I’d been to.
This is another dress that looked great and billowy on the way out too.
Here’s another billowy red dress.
For the last section of the show, I switched back to my 24-105mm.
The red dress closed the show as it did the last time, and this time I managed to grab another shot as the lights faded that could be thrown through Tonality Pro to create a silhouette.
The group walkout was the ultimate finale of the show.
I’m pretty pleased with this set of images, but I can’t help but think they’re not as good as that very first trip to London Fashion Weekend back in February 2013. Part of this is because I think the clothing and props in the 2013 show were more interesting to look at, but I also think I had better positioning in the photographers’ pit. It’s a bit funny that as I shoot the same thing more the quality seems to be going down, that’s kind of the opposite direction I’m aiming for (and, I’d like to think, manage to achieve in most of the stuff I shoot twice).
Maybe I’ll be lucky enough for a fourth trip to London Fashion Weekend?
London Fashion Weekend
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Canon Experience Day