This week in Photoshoot Diaries, I would love to share this particularly memorable shoot with photographer Krystal from Clarity Photography and makeup artist Freilyn from Makeup by Frei. Preparation started weeks before, we had never met and were put together through a program PPM on Facebook that teams up creatives with an inspiration image and send them out to create something stunning.
I made the dress, sewing the bodice and sash out of satin and the skirt was created with a second hand lace curtain overlaid on top of a satin skirt base. The dress was quite long, but this seemed to work well. The morning of the shoot it had been raining, and we almost called it off but I am glad we didn’t. The clouds created a whole extra dimension to these shots and the whole time we were out it was lovely weather.
We shot at the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, Blue Mountains. It was closed off for refurbishment but we climbed the fence (yes, I climbed the fence in that dress!) and went around the back. The stairs are my favourite part of the building. It feels like you are in another world. Absolutely perfect for our shoot.
We were there quite late in the day, so we managed to catch the sunset in this last photo. As always, I learnt a few things on this shoot:
1. The potential of weather – we were so close to cancelling, but the weather actually contributed to incredible photographs.
2. When making your own costumes, you don’t have to spend a mint – this costume was effective and cost me about $20!
Read part one and two of the Photoshoot Diaries here.
One of my favourite shoots so far was this one! It was a shoot based on an inspiration image and it was just so much fun!! I worked with the amazing Ceri Foster from ArtOf2 Designs and hair and makeup was created by Bekka Handley. Cindy Lim made the stunning headpiece and I made the blue cinderella-esque gown and sourced the other pink one.
It was a dream team! I arrived late afternoon and went straight into hair and makeup. It took forever but Bekka and I chatted the whole time and it was really relaxing. When it was time to do my makeup she painted my whole upper body with a translucent white body paint to give more of a porcelain feel.
The shoot was great, we played with smoke machines and lighting and I really felt like a puppet – we decided to play with this concept further and incorporate the strings. In the shot below, the photographers cat wandered into the shot – I absolutely loved it, the cat just gave it a whole new dimension of mystery and randomness.
We shot late into the evening and everyone was exhausted by the time we were finished but we were all so thrilled with the results, it was worth it!
What I learnt from this shoot:
1. Be flexible – you never know what ideas and opportunities will pop up during a shoot that can result in amazing photographs.
2. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with the camera and likewise, relish in the moments when you retreat back into yourself, closing your eyes.
3. Have fun with the people you are working with, you can see the team below!
The heart palpitations. The nervous sweat beading around the back of your neck. You’re hot and flustered – it’s like you have a fluffy scarf wrapped far too many times around your neck, while standing on the beach in the blazing sun in the middle of summer – suffocating. Your belly feels like a jumbled mix of unidentified things and if you closed your eyes you’d swear you were sea sick. And the a headache – the kind that feels like a needle is being hammered into your skull by a drunk guy; some times he would hit it but generally he would miss and you would feel the brunt of the hammer on your noggin.
This is public speaking for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are a few of my top hints and tricks as someone who essentially public speaks for a living:
1. Know your material.
This is my number one piece of advice. When you know what you are talking about, and truly comprehend it, then you will feel more confident. There’s only one thing worse than the person who gets up there and wastes your time through lack of knowledge – and that’s being the person that’s standing there stumbling through information that could have been prepared better. There may come times when you have to speak about something you are less familiar with, and that’s ok – there are strategies for that too. But generally speaking, know your shit. And if you get a chance to practice in front of someone, even your dog – take it. It will help more than you realise and will be worth feeling stupid standing in your PJs, rehearsing with your teddy.
2. Pay attention to your body.
For goodness sake, BREATH! It is amazing how many people forget to breath. Just take some deep breaths. When you are nervous you can also tend to move and fidget a lot, like you have ants in you knickers or something – this is a dead giveaway that you are not feeling confident. One way to combat this is to put your weight on the toes of your feet. This will help to stabilise you and reduce your movement.
3. Watch you language.
If you “ummm….” one more time, I swear I will come up there and…! Don’t “umm…” – it ruins lives. Another fatal error is attempting to use language that you are not comfortable with. Perhaps they are technical terms in which case you need to practice saying them out loud, but other times people try to be fancy by using words that they normally wouldn’t and it just comes across disjointed and unauthentic. Try working new words into your every day vocabulary before you start pulling out the big guns in front of a crowd.
4. Sort out your sight lines.
One thing that can happen when nerves kick in, is rapid eye movement. I like to skim the rooms in the last few moments before I begin and in those first few seconds of a presentation to see who is looking particularly attentive and/or supportive. I like to find three-four people in different parts of the room and I alternate between each, essentially speaking to them. Making eye contact with those particular people. If at any point the person you are talking to seems to lose interest, let them go – find another anchor person who is being encouraging. And whatever you do, don’t just keep your eyes down the whole time – this drives me nuts – look up from your notes frequently – or better yet, don’t use notes. People want to see your pretty face and it will help for your audience to hear you better.
5. Final things to remember.
Contrary to popular, and some what ridiculous, advice, don’t try to imagine them naked – why would that ever make anyone feel better? That’s just insane. The main thing to remember is that you know more about this topic and the approach you have taken, than anyone sitting in front of you. That’s why your glorious self is up there public speaking and individuals in the audience are not. And finally, my last nugget of wisdom is that the more often you speak in public, the more natural it will become – hang in there – it gets better!
I was going great, being super productive and organised. I had just returned to work, teaching at the University, when the night of my first day back I suddenly felt a terrible pang of pain in my side. I thought I had done something to my back, but it kept getting worse and worse. The sleep that night was rough and by the morning, I was in agony. I decided there was no way I could work that day, and consequently had to cancel 5 classes at the last minute. It was not ideal.
I had planned to go to the GP but after calling my Rheumatologist, it was clear I needed to go to the hospital. Again, not ideal. Gav left work and came to pick me up, taking me to the hospital that my doctor had instructed. The following hours were full of pain, needles, medication and tests. I ended up being in there for four days. Turned out it was a kidney infection. It got me thinking about a few thing, mainly my lifestyle.
For those of you that don’t know, I was also in hospital six weeks ago with another infection on my larynx. I was told that the infection was caused, in part, by high levels of stress and so in the weeks to follow I tried to reduce stress by focusing on time management, meditation and organising my work. But I realised this hospital visit, that this simply isn’t enough. Here are a few things I learnt this time round:
1. The importance of a holistic approach to you lifestyle.
About six months ago I was on top of my game. I was going to the gym daily and eating a clean diet. However I was lacking productivity and stress management then. Christmas happened and my diet went belly up and I started to slack off with the gym to the point where I wasn’t really going anymore. After my abrupt trip to hospital the first time this year, I decided to really focus on stress management and productivity, not really committing to the gym and clean eating. Here I am again, in hospital and I realised that exercise and diet are vital to remaining healthy!
2. Don’t overload your life.
I am really good at not doing this – I book every part of my time up until I am overwhelmed and then suddenly everything is too much. I then cancel a bunch of things to make more relaxation time and then I find I feel empty and on the verge of bored so I start booking up my time again. I do think having down time, where you actually have to think “What am I going to do this afternoon?” is important. I want to be less booked up so I can have a bit of time to reflect and relax.
3. Have a little compassion.
While I was in hospital I noticed just how many people I come into contact with as a patient. These nurses, doctors, hospital staff etc vary in compassion and empathy levels. It ranged from the nurse that will go out of their way to ensure you are comfortable, have everything you need and understand what is happening to those who rip needles from your arm, blaming your pain threshold when they can’t find your vein and you are squirming because they are digging in your arm with a sharp pointing thing (yes that happened). Compassion isn’t so hard. Just treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Sorry for the lack of proper blog updates, they will be back on track from here on. Hopefully no more hospital visits!
One of the things on my life list was to attend a meditation class. I was always a strange mix of skeptical and intrigued when it came to meditation, but after my recent hospital stay I am becoming increasingly interested in stress management techniques and meditation was one that keeps coming up when I talk to people. For those of you in Sydney, Australia – I went to Glebe Meditation Centre, they were really friendly and it was a welcoming drop-in class that I attended.
So a week ago, Gav and I went to a meditation class. It was specifically for managing and reducing anxiety, and honestly, it has really helped. I just didn’t realise how much straight away.
During the class, I was aware of pain through my whole body – my back was aching, the chair was uncomfortable, my feet were hot, the room was stuffy. I felt uncomfortable. As we started the first meditation – a breathing meditation – I was keen to shut my eyes simply so I could shut my eyes. I had no idea what I was doing but I just focused on my breathing. I struggled not to wriggle around, thinking over and over “This is not working. Sit still, Sam!”. I just felt like it wasn’t happening until suddenly it did!
My mind started racing. A bunch of random half-developed thoughts were popping into my head like fireworks. I had to keep reminding myself to focus on the breathing. Suddenly the teacher brought our focus back to the room and asked us to open our eyes. I realised then that for those last few minutes (or how ever long) I couldn’t feel any pain. I couldn’t even really feel my body. The first thing he said is that if we found our mind racing we were doing it right! Me, doing meditation right on my first time – that’s crazy!!
The class also involved a verbal lesson about reducing anxiety – it all felt so relevant to me! Some of the key things I learnt:
Negative thoughts in your mind are like a storm. They can be can be violent and raging but they will pass. Just like the storm doesn’t hurt the sky, negative thoughts won’t hurt your mind and body. The words of others, your worries and concerns, they are like the storm. They will pass.
When you have negative or anxious thoughts, stop and think “Don’t panic. This will pass. I am just one.”
The actions of other people can only impact on you if you let them. It’s how you look at the situation. Everyone has their own problems and their own journey. If someone is rude or negative to you – it is not about you. It’s something in their own life and that is not your concern.
I have felt much calmer since the session. I have noticed that I am reducing my negative thoughts quicker – I had a slight setback on the weekend where I did get a little overwhelmed by negativity but as quickly as it came I was able to rationalise it and send it away! I would like to do another class in the future but for now I am going to try to practice what I have learnt!
Have you ever tried meditation? What was your experience? What other stress management techniques should I try?
I have decided to start a brand new series: Photoshoot Diaries and I am so excited to share this with you. I am not sure if people are interested in these kinds of posts, so pretty please leave me a comment and let me know if you want to see more like this. I thought that each fortnight I would share with you a photoshoot I have done and give you an insight into the process and things I have learnt along the way.
This shoot was my very first shoot with a professional photographer – Zoran of Dream Photography. I was so nervous and in retrospect, quite under prepared. I basically threw a bunch of costume pieces into a suitcase, curled my hair and turned up to the studio with only this reference picture as a que for Zoran as to what type of feeling I hoped to achieve.
Zoran was amazing to work with. He gave me great directions and helped me to understand angles and the direction of the main light. The costumes I wore were mainly purchased without the intention of this shoot in mind – I just found the majority of the items in my wardrobe. The floral necklace in the first two shots was specifically purchased for the shoot from a small Sydney boutique that no longer exists. The hat in the third picture is a vintage piece.
I learnt a few things with this shoot:
1. For me, looking upwards to the right is a good angle for my face – I have gone on to use this angle in a lot of shoots.
2. Understanding the way the lights work is paramount. If you face the main light, your face will be lit up. If you turn away from the main light your face will be in shadow – makes sense, but this is something beginners don’t think about when they are on set!
3. When going to a photoshoot it is important to be prepared and know exactly how costumes will fit together. You need to know what you want to achieve in each frame – leaving it up to the photographer to direct you is not good enough.
4. You can never have too many inspiration pictures!! For this shoot, I only had one and it wasn’t really something I was willing to recreate because I didn’t want to be nude. Make sure your inspiration images are realistic!
Still to this day, this shoot with Zoran remains one of my favourites. I would love to shoot with him again some time!