Friday, 1 April 2011

Raymond Blanc at Le Maison Aux Quat'Saissons

Choosing exactly where to shoot an environmental portrait when you are on assignment is crucial.

Recently I was commissioned to shoot a portrait of one of the most celebrated chefs in the UK, Raymond Blanc, the proprietor of Le Maison Aux Quat'Saissons, two starred Michelin restaurant and hotel

He is an exceptionally nice guy with an eye for detail which is second to none.

Just goes to show that to be a top Chef you don't have to swear, scream and shout......

Now in addition to shooting solo portrait it had to be a location which could accommodate up to 3 people, which complicated things just a little, as it was piercingly bright sunlight and I wanted to get the frontage of his hotel and restaurant in the background.

At times like this my friends head for the shade.

But just where?

There was a portico across the courtyard which should have been the natural choice, but it was an open pillar construction which at first glance seemed to provide little chance of the shade I was looking for, meaning I was going to get shadows and hot spots on the subjects faces no matter what I did.

But then I looked again and saw that if I was very precise and placed the subjects between the two pillars in the centre of the frame there was a tiny sliver of shade which I could locate them in AND still get the iconic building in the background.

Having done the trickiest part it was just a matter of balancing the light with an Elinchrom Quadra diffused with a Chimera Medium softbox (what else?) which I knew would give super softlight on Mr Blanc but also enough coverage for a group of 3 if I had to, this time I used the Avenger A480BU Stacker stands by Manfrotto (I like the super sturdy square legs) and I jammed this combo into the portico, and I thought it would be enough.

I did a test shot to pre light the scene and saw that while it was nice enough, I could in fact do better by adding a backlight coming in from the left hand side of the frame, so bring on a second Quadra and a Chimera small softbox, flagged by one of those pillars. Meaning the backlight would hit the subject and not the front element of my lens.

Illustration by Jarek Wieczorkiewicz

The key light was on full power, as was the backlight.

All set it would seem, but the next challenge was managing a steady stream of cars and delivery vans which wanted to park in shot.

The trick on these occasions is to ask very politely for them to move.

It is always well worth the being extra nice and polite to people at all times, no matter how much stress you are under.

Staying calm, unflustered and polite while under pressure is one of the best bits of self promotion you can do......

The great bonus was that after all the shunting and cars and positioning of lights the frontage of the building came into full sun.

A bit of luck is always welcome.


Quinny said...

Any reason why you didn't place the back light on the right hand side to match the lighting of the background?

Drew Gardner said...

Hey Quinny,

A good point.

There was one very big reason - it was on the road where the cars drove in, too close for comfort.

It was also on a slight slope too.

Have a good weekend