Into the Woods

Back at the end of February, on my birthday weekend, we went on a photoshoot in Bourne Wood. It’s just out the back of Farnham, and has been used as a location by a number of Hollywood films – if you remember the scenes of Harry Potter and friends being hunted by dark wizards, for example, then that’s the woodland we’re talking about.

We’d set up the shoot with Toneagraphy Photography just before Christmas after having such a good experience of shooting with Tony in October at MCM. What I didn’t know until that weekend was that plans had also been made for Lady S to join Lady M and myself.

It was a bitterly cold day, not long before the snows hit, so while I was wrapped up warm with multiple layers as part of my costume, the same was not true for my poor partners.

Lady M had updated her Poison Ivy costume to include a winter cloak, while Lady S was channelling her inner Death Eater to present a young Bellatrix Lestrange. My rucksack was full of spare blankets and slippers to try and keep some warmth in people between bits of the shoot.

Bourne Wood is just off the North Downs, so it’s hilly terrain, and well loved by local families and dog walkers alike. The reactions of each to seeing various people in costumes accompanied by a photographer and lighting kit ranged from making a wide berth to simple curiosity and asking what we were doing.

Gender-bent Harley Quinn closeup

Somehow “taking photos” didn’t seem enough, so a brief explanation of cosplay and conventions usually then started. That was pleasant enough, but in near freezing temperatures we did start hoping people would avoid us after a while.

So, it was exhausting and cold, but also fun. Yes, we played dress-up in the woods. The photos that have come back from Tony are beautiful. One of the things I love about his work is his use of light in his compositions. He’s also more than willing to explain what he’s doing and why, and to share views of the raw shots while we work.

It has in turn made me more thoughtful about the composition and framing of my own photos, even if I am only using a phone.

Most importantly, it was fun. If you’ve not done a photoshoot before – and the cosplay element is irrelevant for this part – then consider giving one a go with someone you trust. It’s a fun and collaborative experience that has inspired memories and conversations ever since.

Valentine’s Week

Being the soppy people we are, it’s never a case of there being a special day to express our love – as more than one person puts it, it should be a 365 day per year effort and appreciation – but it does no harm to focus hearts and minds on giving a little boost.

This year, the redoubtable Lady P offered to do a romantic photoshoot in the woods for me and Lady M (Lady S having a prior engagement that weekend), so on Saturday we tripped over to Virginia Water to dodge the rainclouds. Lady P has a Crown Estates Photography Permit, so has been on a number of expeditions with her partner to find good locations, so we put ourselves in her hands for the afternoon.

Yesterday, while we snuggled on the sofa, the group chat we share with Lady P went berserk as she uploaded the selection of photos she had processed for us – with the aim of showing us how she perceives us and our love for each other. They’re beautiful – and I’ve been slowly putting them on Instagram and Facebook in small batches.

We may not be traditional, but we are geeks, and our love of life and play and each other shines through – feel free to go take a look as the collection expands.

We may not have had Lady S around, but at least we had messenger – and we’ll see her again soon enough. Valentine’s continues.

Sunday in the Park

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in West London, and as happy as I am to be rude about Hounslow I do have to concede that we have some amazing parks. One of those, Osterley, became something of a fixture for my family, and then in turn for the Charleesi as she has grown up too.

Maintained by the National Trust, Osterley is largely freely open to the public, and is used by families and dog-walkers all year round. In the summer, it’s a favourite for picnics, and if it snows you can barely move for snowmen.

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Merida, lost in contemplation

Today, it was Charleesi’s turn to introduce someone new to it. She’d taken a few shots there recently with her new camera and mentioned in passing to Lady P that she thought it would make a good backdrop for cosplay pictures. With half an eye on the weather, the challenge was accepted, and that’s why we spent a good hour or so this afternoon, in the company of Merida from Disney’s Brave.

We were expecting some varied reactions, and West London did not disappoint us. Many people ignored us, or pretended to while casting suspicious eyes in our direction, as if expecting us to break out in song while film crews captured it for You’ve Been Framed. Some of the children waved and grinned, with one young girl running to embrace Merida and having a shy conversation before running back, starstruck, to her parents. Her brother had stayed back, hiding behind his father’s legs, desperate not to admit he was fascinated.

Then we had the older generation, shall we say, who didn’t recognise the character or understand why Lady P was dressed up and having her photo taken on a cold Sunday afternoon. We had some lovely confused comments as their brains caught up with them halfway through the conversations.

All in all, a wonderfully different way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We retired to Maidment Towers for hot chocolate, and we’ll see what awesomeness comes from the shoot.

Photo is courtesy of ItsLottiePhotography.

Chilling out pre-Christmas

I’m in our local Harris and Hoole with the Charleesi, drinks and snacks before us.

Through the window to my left is a packed Tesco carpark. It’s so full that people are driving round on the off-chance that one of the illegally parked cars on the carpark exits might move. To my right, I have a perfect view of the people running around, frantic to do their Christmas grocery shopping.

Okay, there’s a degree of smugness going on because I live within walking distance, and we’re being catered for this this year so I don’t need to grab parsnips or do battle with poultry carcasses for a change.

It’s rather a pleasant way to ease into the Christmas period, and given the meandering moods I have been having, it’s a much more pleasant alternative. Lady M will no doubt join us soon, once she’s finished sneaking one more spreadsheet in, and the distractions can continue in true holiday mood.

One of the quiet joys I’m observing is my daughter’s new photography blog, which she has begun to publicise and use for networking. Every now and then, there’s a little grin as another professional photographer links to her page or offers feedback. She aspires to a career in photojournalism, so every encouragement and affirmation is valuable. I’m enjoying seeing her talent and confidence unfurl. Go have a look if you have a moment.