English Heritage’s Wrest Park is only a few miles from my home in Hitchin, and hence a location I regularly use. In May I visited Wrest Park with some friends and took a series of informal portraits and some shots for myself around the magnificent grounds.
A beautiful sunny day is always a mixed blessing for a photographer. The bright sunlight and clear blue sky make for some fantastic colours, however the strong sunshine often causes issues with dark shadows especially for portraits. I normally use 3 different solutions to this problem (often in combination). Firstly I try to shoot in the shade, however that’s not always possible or desirable so second option is to use fill-in flash to push some light back into the shadows, and finally Photoshop and Light Room can be used to subtly lift the shadows. The portrait on the right shows both flash and Light Room being used together, along with a wide aperture to ensure an out of focus background.
One of the areas within Wrest Park that’s always interested me is the walled orchard. Within one of the walls is a gated-door into the next part of the garden, and I’ve always known there was a shot there. Today I was able to find that shot using the meadow flowers as a lead-in to the wall and placing the door on the “third”. I’m really happy with the use of focus in this shot, with the flowers slowly coming into focus as you move though the image, until the pin-sharp door and wall, bringing out all of the detail and texture.
With the sea of wild flowers in the orchard I knew I also wanted to take a pattern shot with the daisies coming in and out of focus. Here there was only one choice of lens… my 50mm F1.4, which gives a razor thin plain of focus and then allows the background to drift into a dreamy soft blur.
Another of my favourite locations within Wrest Park is the bridge. Here the strong sunlight worked in my favour providing bright sunshine for the grasses and path leading up to the bridge, but allowing the trees behind to fall into shadow. For me this image works really well as your eye is lead along the path to the bridge, but doesn’t go any further because of the shadows.
Another shot I was really pleased with, was a tight shot showing the detail of the bridge. By shooting at a very acute angle, I was able to emphasise the shape of the bridge and control what parts were and weren’t in focus. Here again the bright sunlight helped to show the details and textures of the brick work by strafing across the sides of the bridge. Look out for this shot in the gallery below.
For the last of my shots during the day I took some more portraits, however this time I choose to shoot in the shade. For this first shot we used the dappled light coming through the trees as a hair light to help give some separation between my models and the background, however the greenery itself caused a problem – a very strong green colour cast to the light. This would have been difficult to correct out within Light Room since the results would never have been quite satisfactory, so a simple solution was turn the image into black and white, which I find gives a very classy and timeless look for portraits.
These are a selection of images from the day. If you’d like to see the full set or order copies of the these images please click here, to visit my Pro-Gallery.
One of the services I’m able to offer is location portraits, so please contact me if these types of informal portraits appeal to you. Click here to send me a message.