“The Witching Hour”
Shooting at a 12th Century Abbey & it’s gardens
What happens if you live an hour from a 12th century abbey? You shoot there. A lot. It’s one of my all-time favorite locations and I actually got more sets planned, yet again.
But first: let me give you some history! The abbey of Villers-la-Ville: it’s an open air museum/monument of an abbey that started being build in the 12th century and was completed 100 years later. It has a rich history and I highly recommend visiting it if you ever have the chance.
On a previous shoot when I had some time over I decided to take photos of the surroundings in the abbey itself to see if there were any other angles I could work at. For a while already I had another idea I thought I could combine so I wanted to have something visual to refer to when working on the concepts in advance.
Fast forward to a few weeks back and I got in touch with Fine Art Backdrops, who created some gorgeous hand painted backdrops. I ended up getting two amazing sets sponsored (and becoming one of their ambassadors!) and I knew this was the moment to set things in motion:
I’m mostly a studio photographer but as artist and professional I always want to keep challenging myself to try out new things – one of those is a concept that intrigued me for a few years now, which is using backdrops on location and shooting with the scenery around it. And there was no better spot to try this out than at the abbey.
I reached out to some of my favorite people to ask if I could borrow styling and both Church Of Sanctus send me almost their entire new “Poseideia” collection and Eero Hintsanen was so kind to send me three of his designs, including his retired longer-then-life-spine necklace. After posting in my model’s group, I got a ton of response and I set out with one of those badass teams to create magic.
But as one do … rookie mistakes happen still: I realised I didn’t check if there where any concerts planned for a longer period of time, something that happens a lot in the summer season there and I found myself with a huge stage in the middle of the part of the abbey I wanted to shoot, blocking nearly every location I had. I quickly improvised and decided to shoot with my Canon 24-70 lens so I could capture as much as possible from the surroundings and go to the gardens after, which where in full bloom and gave an amazing scenery.
Originally, this blog was intended to be to showcase the entire collection with these awesome models and designers involved – but when processing the files, I realised that a specific set stood out. After long consideration, trying out various ways to process it and finally realising I couldn’t combine them – I decided to pick the one set that stood out. Jasmijn – who goes by the model name My Fragility – and I have been working for 10 years together and there is always this chemistry between us where I just let her do her thing and I capture what happens. It’s awesome and this was no exception.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 50mm 1.4 & Canon 24-70mm 4.0
broncolor Siros 800 l
broncolor Softbox 60x100
Overall colour toning and post-processing happened in
Capture One Pro. Cleaning & final toning happened in Photoshop.
Since I had only very limited time to shoot these, I couldn’t do everything I wanted as the sun was at it’s highest and was peaking through the “windows” . I wanted to capture as much of the backlight and sunbeams as possible so I had to work quickly. For this I used my trusted Siros 800 with a single softbox (60cm x 100cm) to bring in the fill light for both the set in the abbey as outside in the garden. Everything is shot in HS so I could keep the aperture as low as possible so I would get a soft, hazed background so my model would stand out and I would capture as much of the light as possible. The Siros is an absolute beast and I take it everywhere with me, even if I intend to shoot with natural light only. With this it was absolutely necessary as I wouldn’t be able to get a gorgeous light on her that still works beautifully with the natural light to not overpower it.
* Click images to enlarge *
When working in the garden, I switched to a canon 50mm 1.4 lens and kept my settings the same: shooting at an aperture of 1.4 to 2.2 to get this bokeh backdrop. To ensure my images wouldn’t overexpose and become flat – I used the same softbox and my Siros 800 on HS for the entire series of images so my images wouldn’t become flat or overexposed. It also helped a lot to keep a near consistent setting in camera as the natural light was constantly changing due to the storm coming closer.
Some of the locations I scouted earlier - and my original plan. I still hope to shoot this soon! In a week or two I’m back there and I will see what the possibilities are so I can come back shortly after for more of this awesomness. STOKED! Any reason to go there is a good reason as it seriously never gets old.
And some behind the scenes. I have a second set coming up featuring my awesome team & more of the gorgeous designs by both Church of Sanctus and Eero, but that’s for the next blog :)