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Adventures in the Assynt (part 2)

Breakfast at the Inchnadamph Hotel was a real feast after the breezy early morning shoot, I did intend to stink the place out with a plate of kippers but I was swayed by the thought of bacon, sausage and egg. After a hearty feed with copious amounts of coffee we all headed out to the Bone Caves, the weather had warmed up a little but the sky looked ominously gloomy and stormy. The Bone Caves are a good walking distance from the car park and well worth going to see even if you aren’t shooting, our first stop on the way there was lovely waterfall and pool.

Helen Stephens and Keira Lavelle
Helen Stephens and Keira Lavelle
Scarlot Rose, Rachelle Summers
Scarlot Rose and Rachelle Summers

Further up the track there was an old tree that looked ideal for a shoot, however on closer inspection the tree was just too old and fragile for doing much with, sadly it had seen better days and was simply too dangerous to climb etc….however the fallen branches looked interesting.

Scarlot Robinson, Keira Lavelle

It was a bit of a climb to the caves as they are halfway up the mountainside and cliff face, the caves were fabulous but so was the cliff face outside of them.

Keira Lavelle
Scarlot Rose (FIAP Gold)
The Eagles Nest – Keira Lavelle and Helen Stephens

Just inside one of the caves…shapes happened!

Scarlot Rose and Rachelle Summers
Helen Stephens
Scarlot Rose and Rachelle Summers

And inside one of the larger caves I decide to shoot outwards, the lighting was trickier and I ended up using the built-in camera flash for a little fill on occasion.

Scarlot Rose
Scarlot Rose and Rachelle Summers
Scarlot Rose
Scarlot Rose and Rachelle Summers

Meanwhile back on the cliff face, Keira decides to go climbing!

Keira Lavelle

Although it’s a great place for a shoot, it’s also a popular place for the general public. We had limited time there but fortunately we all got more than enough shots out of the location. And we meandered back down the track stopping off at places we had seen on the way up.

Helen Stephens, Scarlot Rose…underneath is Rachelle Summers and Keira Lavelle
Keira lavelle and Helen Stephens, Rachelle Summers and Scarlot Rose

Once we got back we cleaned up, relaxed and headed for dinner. Afterwards there was an image review which was fun, a bit of social time and banter before calling it a night, It was another early start again in the morning. I will leave that for the next blog in part 3.

‘Art Nude in the Landscape’ Workshops are run by Photoclassic/Howard Kennedy, you can find more details at

They run well organised workshops throughout the year and I highly recommend checking them out.

Adventures in the Assynt (part 1)

Spring time on Scotland was a bit of a scorcher, well…relatively speaking that is. Helen Stephens was scheduled to come up for a shoot but an opportunity arose that meant that I could attend a PhotoClassics workshop – Art Nude in the Landscape in which Helen was participating as a model. A happy happenstance, so Helen came up for a couple of days before going up to the Lochinver area. It worked rather well as we had a good couple of days hanging out, with lunch at the V&A and general silliness…which our norm! This also meant we could travel up together, we left early in the morning as I wanted to take advantage of the good weather to take some landscapes or wildlife on the way up. It had been a while since I’d been up that way, I used to travel to Inverness regularly when I was working. We stopped of at Perth for fuel and snacks, cuz like…….snacks are important!

Now the A9 isn’t the place for landscapes and wildlife so we battered on til we got to Ullapool, where we stopped for a break and more snacks!. We also blagged our way into the Ferry Inn without buying any booze just to use the loo…as you do! We had a wee walk around and ended up in the ‘Hillwalking’ shop, where I picked up a bargain. We caught this landscape from outside the Ferry Inn, a pub I highly recommend.

Ullapool – Adventures in the Assynt

The weather was roasting for April and had been for several days, but of course that was bound to change soon. In the meantime we made the most of it and slowly meandered up to Ardvreck Castle near Inchnadamph taking landscapes on the way before the workshop started.

Castle Ardvreck

We were staying at Inchnadamph Hotel and when we got there we were just 5 mins before Keira Lavelle, Rachelle Summers and Scarlot Rose arrived. And of course Howard and Karen Kennedy who were running the workshop. It was a real delight to meet old faces and new ones too.

Once we got settled in and relaxed, Howard ran through the workshop details and some presentations to start us of, all very well organised. The afternoon was wearing on a little and it was decided that we would go a reccy to a nearby location. Stupidly I took my little bridge camera thinking that this was just a simple ‘look see’, I should have known better and taken my usual camera as once we saw the location it was ideal for a full nude shoot. In saying that the little Canon SX50 did a fairly decent job considering. No sooner had we had a look at the location when Keira decided to go for it and it turned into a fantastic wee shoot around the waterfall.

The Sadness of Moonlight – Keira Lavelle (pinhole style)
Moon Child – Keira Lavelle
Summoning the Wolf Within – Keira Lavelle
Call of the Wild – Keira Lavelle

Not to be outdone, Scarlot and Rachelle gleefully joined in, Helen was having a snooze at the Hotel. So it wasn’t long before we got some fabulous shots with all three models. Having three talented top class models makes it easy to get good images especially when you are ad libbing and adapting to the situation/location.

Waterfall Naiads
The Naiads of Assynt – Rachelle Summers, Scarlot Rose, Keira Lavelle
The Fate of Cyane – Rachelle Summers, Scarlot Rose and Keira Lavelle

The little camera did alright as I managed to get a couple of FIAP awards and acceptances out of these images. I have to say it’s no substitute for a large sensor DSLR though.

In the Evening we went for a light painting session near Lochinver (ish), a bit of a trek and an adventure to find the right spot. Tripods, headlamps, slow shutter speeds etc etc…..loads of fun, and exercise.

Scarlot Rose, Rachelle Summers, Helen Stephens and Keira Lavelle

Then bed for an early start in the morning, a 5am wake up call and a drive in the dark to catch the morning light. On the way we saw a huge amount of deer coming down from the hills to graze and drink by the lochside. Sadly the weather had turned and the morning light became morning mist and a cold wind with it. We had to wait for the light to get as good as it can be and for supplies for the models, such as hot soup, towel and blankets.

There was limited time before the models got too cold to work, so plans were worked out beforehand. The stones were like ice and the bog they posed in sucked the heat right out of you very rapidly.

Bog Monsters
Devoured by Life – Keira Lavelle and Helen Stephens

A quick wash and some hot soup for the ladies and we were heading back for a well earned breakfast…and a shower for Keira and Helen who wear just covered in slimy bog goo!

After Breakfast more shooty shenanigans in the Mountains, details in Part 2

‘Art Nude in the Landscape’ Workshops are run by Photoclassic/Howard Kennedy, you can find more details at

They run well organised workshops throughout the year and I highly recommend checking them out.

Ms Diaz

Spring had sprung with an oingy boingy kinda noise that didn’t really wake anyone up, it was so quiet no-one really noticed it until the daffodils came out and the rain turned slightly warmer. On such a day Helen Diaz turned up at the studio, bright and breezy with her usual sunny disposition. We had a bit of a chinwag and a cuppa, a few laughs and many a loud snort of humour while we made funny faces at each other….as you do!

At some stage we got down to taking some pictures with some kinda pointy shooty camera thing.

Helen Diaz
Helen Diaz
Helen Diaz

More funny faces and a light change…..

Helen Diaz

So as it happened I was at the Pitlochry Theatre for there costume sale and managed to pick up a large black dress not long before this shoot, using it here for some moody portraits….

Helen Diaz

Then for a more ‘wild’ look…

Helen Diaz

Time a cuppa and a complete change of theme and lighting…..but more funny faces!

Helen Diaz
Helen Diaz
Helen Diaz

While changing scenes we went back to Art Nude for a spell…more shapes but with more light.

Then some clam shell lighting for portraits and 3/4 length shenanigans ……. and more funny faces!

Helen Diaz
Helen Diaz

So all in all a very jolly day in the studio with much fun and nonsense as we could muster!

Hurrah for funny faces and the ever lovely Helen Diaz

FIAP/d1 – Job Done!

So this year back in April I got my Platinum level FIAP certificate, and I wrote a blog declaring that I would go for the first Diamond level, the first of 3 ‘advanced’ levels. It was a tall order, I would need 50 awards using 15 different images in 5 different countries. Now normally that would be very tricky to do in a year, however it was worse because I had to start in April and submit in the beginning of December which left only 8 months rather than 12. However as of today I can happily report that I finished the requirement in less than 4 months, I attained 50 awards using 29 images in 9 countries, and I still have 6 salons left in the pipeline. Normally I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet but I have to admit I’m pretty chuffed at the result. For those who don’t know the FIAP system…it’s a bit complicated and daunting to start with but basically it’s a numbers game and strategy is needed to achieve the stated requirements without spending a fortune on salons.

The Diamond level is all about awards rather than acceptances, acceptances don’t count at all, though they can give you a good indication to which images are working well. I’ve listed the images that have gained awards, all are nudes/models save one. The list is in alphabetical order with no preference for any image, some got more awards than others but that does not mean the image is any ‘better’. Some have won Gold medals and some have won ribbons, but it must be remembered, it’s a numbers game…it’s better to get 3 ribbons than 1 medal etc etc. In saying that, it’s always nice to get gold medals and blue badges.

A Plea in the Dark – Helen Diaz
An Invocation – Ivory Flame
Attic Life – Amber Castle
Attic Light – Artemis Fauna
Artemis in Orange – Artemis Fauna
Bereft – Ivory Flame
Cancer Survivor – Amber Castle
Dark Angel – Keira Lavelle
Figure Study – Rachelle Summers
Fly with the Wind – Ivory Flame
Gemma in Red Velvet – Gemma Huh
Hold Against the Wind – Ivory Flame
Holding Position – Lilith Etch
How Fragile the Moon – Ivory Flame
How Soft the Heart – Chrissie Red and Artemis Fauna
It was the Smallest of Stings – Rachelle Summers
Magic of a Moment – Ivory Flame
Portrait o f Talli – Talli Lindsey
Prisonnier de Soi – Stephanie Debois
The Ache Within – Lilith Etch
The Attic – Artemis Fauna
The Darkness of Lilith – Lilith Etch
The Fallen – Rachelle Summers
The Naiads of Assynt – Rachelle Summers, Scarlot Rose, Keira Lavelle
The Shape of Darkness – Rachelle Summers
The Shape of Summer – Rachelle Summers
Through the Secret Door – Helen Diaz
To Sleep, perchance to Dream – Jessica Taylor
Twist – Artemis Fauna
We could be Heroes – Helen Stephens
When the Rose Sleeps – Scarlot Rose
While your lips are still Red – Helen Stephens and Keira Lavelle
Witchery – Helen Diaz

And erm…this one which seemed to have sneaked through for an award, really intended as a Nature filler….however…aptly named!

Long Tailed Tit

And that’s it, a big thank you to all the models I have worked with, even if you aren’t listed above you most definitely have been featured somewhere and will be again. So what now then? well there’s still Diamond 2 and 3 to go for…..I think a little break first, plus my finances are needing a breather!

A Winter Flame

Still Winter in early 2019 when Ivory Flame came for a shoot, braving the deep cold forbidding depths of Scotland…actually it was quite warm and sunny for a change when she came up on a tour. We arranged to do a 4 hour studio shoot and a 3 hour practical portrait workshop, pretty much a full day really. So we headed of to the studio armed with snacks and various edibles. For all the time I’ve worked in the studio I’ve never broken a light or dropped anything etc etc. but today was obviously the day for it to happen, and in a spectacular fashion. There is a large over head light with an Octobox which is a real effort to change or work with, today I decided to swap it out and replace it with the spotlight. As soon as I took off the Octobox the whole boom swung round dramatically in a wide arc and the light smacked off the coffee table shattering the modelling lamp….fortunately not the flash ring. The glass went everywhere and we spent a while hoovering it all up and checking for small pieces, fortunately there was a spare lamp and we managed to get it back up and working.

Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame

Time to narrow down the light for some dark portraits….

Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame

And then for something a little Asian in feel…..

Ivory Flame
Ivory Flame

After a quick cuppa and a snack we move on to some clothes and outfits…

Ivory Flame

By this time we needed to get the studio ready for the portrait workshop, we had people from Dundee Photographic Society and a couple of people from the Dundee Photographic Group. So after more snacks and more tea, people started to arrive and we soon got down to business. These are the portraits I managed to get between teaching topics.

Ivory Flame

The workshop was a big success and Ivory Flame wow’d everyone with her unearthly beauty and grace. Hopefully I’ll be having another workshop in the Autumn. After everyone had gone we managed to sneak in a couple more shots.

Ivory Flame

All in all a grand adventure and as usual a great pleasure working with Ivory Flame, if you haven’t worked with her before then you need to ask yourself why not, give yourself a darned good talking to and get with the beat!

If you’re interested in attending a Portrait or an Art Nude workshop then let me know.

Gender Blender – Amber Castle

An experimental shoot with Amber, playing around with gender based clothes and ideas. Basically we dove into the studio with casual ideas and started playing about with tomboy themes and we moved on from there, not so much androgynistic but just mixing ideas around for interesting results using men’s clothes, women’s clothes and nudity.

The ideas trying to be conveyed are the grey areas between manly poses with a female body and female poses with a partly mannish look. Even with nudity and partly nude we can convey a gender mix….

Amber Castle

Just by adding a little lace or men’s jeans doesn’t really separate the blending of ideas because of the look, the drama and the posing despite being partly or fully nude…..

Now to mix things up a little more and to make life even more confusing we can mix the clothes up to the extent that sexuality can be open to interpretation.

Amber Castle – Men will be Men

One of the things I really love working on with Amber is the experimental side of things, some things work, well most things do but on the odd occasion they don’t. I think it’s important to recognise that not all ideas will work and to realise that it’s ok that they don’t, experimenting is about discovery, failing, improving and generally playing around. Of course we have fun with it all and always get a jolly good laugh in the process. Then afterwards there’s always coffee and cake!!

Solitary Grace – Keira Lavelle

December 2018 and its a very mild one so far but still cold enough to run to the warmth of the studio. As an extra I managed to organise a portrait workshop for Dundee Photographic Society at the end of my shoot with Keira. All in all a seven hour shoot for Keira. However on the morning of the shoot I woke up with another idea (as I usually do), I had a notion to do a quick documentary slide show on how to shoot and edit a nude model from start to finish. So I headed down to pick up Keira from the train station, on the way I called her to see if she was ok with doing this idea at the last minute. And Keira being Keira is always up for an adventure and creative shenanigans readily agreed. We took turns at taking pictures of each other in amusing ways and gradually we built enough images for a docu/show. You can see the AV in the 2019 AV section called ‘How to shoot Art Nude’

This blog though is about our regular shoot on that day and the workshop after it, so we pressed on after our usual cuppa tea. Again single lighting to begin with, floor work for the most part,

This image below is the one chosen for the Docu/show called Solitary Grace…..

Keira Lavelle – Solitary Grace

Moving on to some spotlight lighting for some real dramatic content…..

Keira Lavelle – Braids
Keira Lavelle – Silver
Keira Lavelle

Some dark edgy dramatic portraits…plenty of darkness…..and hidden things.

Keira Lavelle – The Darkness hides many Things
Keira Lavelle – No one will Notice

After a good break with much talk and even more cups of tea we move onto some clothes and overhead lighting and more spotlight.

Keira Lavelle – The Heart of Prayer
Keira Lavelle – Keira on Asia
Keira Lavelle – One Last Perfect Verse

And one final nude before the portrait workshop begins…..

Keira Lavelle – Winter is Coming

Sadly our shoot came to an end all too soon, however the workshop was soon about to start, a quick bite to eat and little run through of the proceedings before attendees appeared. I will only add a couple of images from there because this blog is already very image heavy.

Keira Lavelle – Hair Play
Keira Lavelle – The Eye of Keira

Well I think its fair to say that Keira wow’d everyone on the portrait workshop with her unearthly stamina and energy, and they were bowled over with her modelling ability and posing skills. Everyone seemed to love their time and I think they got some stunning images as well as some insights and lessons on the hows and whys of studio work, plus and importantly, how much a professional model can add to an idea or theme.

I think everyone should have the Keira experience, highly recommended to all.

Summers in October

Well into October and it was studio time with Rachelle Summers. By this time I’m still on a shapes and single light project, and I still had some ideas left to try. These took a long time to set up but the results were well worth the time taken. Rachelle did fantastically well at the awkward posing angles. We started off slow and deliberate, warming up into more demanding posing and shapes.

Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers – The Shape of Darkness – FIAP Award
Rachelle Summers – The Fallen – FIAP Award
Rachelle Summers – Figure Study
Rachelle Summers – It was the Smallest of Stings – FIAP Award

Moving on to the pearl skirt for some movement and drama…..

Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers – I am the Journey

The some clothed and lingerie images on the table, outfits from Nix Brown….

Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers

Then finally some 3/4 length portraits using horizontal clam shell lighting….using bits and bobs from a recent vintage clothes fare

Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers – Laced
Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers

Rachelle Summers
Rachelle Summers

Rachelle and I have worked together on many occasions and this is probably our 14th shoot, or maybe more. In this shoot we really did take more time than usual getting angles right and the lighting just so, it was more demanding on both of us, more so for Rachelle as some of the poses were really quite strenuous to hold. Getting the lighting right before Rachelle got too tuckered out was also quite pressuring, many breaks were needed for both of us. In the end it was well worth the effort and we still had time left for ad hoc and experimentation in our final hour of the shoot.

Considering we have worked together so often we can still knock out some creative work and there seems to be no shortage of ideas on both our parts. Top class model, highly recommended.

FIAP blue badge!

So an unexpected result on the first salon of the year, I won a FIAP Blue Badge for best author at Kotor. When I got the results I hadn’t actually noticed, it was only when I downloaded the catalogue in PDF form some weeks later that I spotted it. I have actually won a best author award before but not a FIAP one. Below are the images that were submitted, many thanks to the models who made it possible.

The ‘Woman’ section…

Cancer Survivor – Amber Castle
Fly with Wind – Ivory Flame
Men will be Men – Amber Castle
The Oracle – Artemis Fauna

The ‘Portrait’ Section….

Hold Against the Wind – Ivory Flame
Portrait of Talli – Talli Lindsey
Red Lips Wet Hair – Jessica Taylor

The ‘Nudes’ Section…

A Flame in the Light – Ivory Flame
Attic Life – Amber Castle
The Fallen – Rachelle Summers
The Turn of the Feather – Tillie Feather

The ‘Open Colour’ Section….

Blow Away the Gray – Ivory Flame
I am the Journey – Rachelle Summers
The Lure of the Hedge Witch – Ivory Flame

The ‘Open Mono’ Section…

2000BC – Artemis Fauna
Crevice – Artemis Fauna
Prisonnier de Soi – Stephanie Debois

Anyways, off to a flying start, let’s see what the rest of the year brings!

Lilith Etch

I can’t remember how Lilith and I managed to organise a shoot together, I recall her getting bookings before her West Highland Way hike, anyway I am very glad we did. I also remember it being an evening shoot which is unusual for me, however it was very much a fun shoot with laughs and friendly banter along the way. I picked her up from the station and as I was putting her bags in the boot of the car she went round to the drivers side of the car, as she was from Sweden this would have been the passenger side. I asked if she was driving, she looked confused, looked at the steering wheel then laughed and we swapped places. The whole evening went along in the same jocular and jovial fashion. First some art nude shapes.

Lilith Etch

A little more shapes using the cylinder props…..

Then adding some raggedy clothes to add textures and flow….

Lilith Etch

Some more colour and textures and floor work….

Lilith Etch
Lillith Etch
Lilith Etch

And finally when time was marching on we did some three quarter length shots before packing it in for the night….

I know this blog is more image heavier than normal but there were so many varied images that I felt needed shared, this is indeed a testament to Lilith’s versatility and modelling ability. The time was up on our shoot and yet I felt there was still much left to do, perhaps some other time I hope. Lilith is a lovely person, very much a free spirit grounded in reality and experiencing whatever the world has to offer. It was a delight working with her and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to get the Lilith experience when they can. Highly Recommended.