Muncaster Castle Test (Part One)
I’ve been working with stylist Maggi on a few commercial shoots recently. A while ago she mentioned that she had been loaned a stunning, genuine 1940s couture silk dress by Jean Dessès. Obviously, we had to shoot it. We had to organise a test. Maggi put together a bunch of other outfits (a few feature here and more to follow in Part Two of this particular adventure). We juggled diaries for a while and found a date that the whole team was free.
I had a different location in mind originally, but they let us down and we, very happily, ended in the awesome Muncaster Castle. The thing I love most about testing is the freedom to just make it up as you go along. There’s as much pressure as a commercial shoot, after all the whole team are giving a huge amount of time and energy to get something amazing for their portfolios, but there’s no specific brief.
Muncaster Castle is sensory overload for a photographer, a stunning set, full of the kind of detail that only comes from hundreds of years of history. The biggest problem I had was deciding where to start. The next biggest problem is that a big part of being a castle is having very thick walls, small windows and acres of dark wood paneling. It is Dark in there. While Jess and Hollie were in makeup, I ran around with Katie setting up a lot of lights that overwhelmed all available light and basically ruined the entire look of the place by trying to recreate the look of the place with several thousand watt/seconds of flash.
Katie found an amazing bedroom two minutes before Hollie was ready to shoot and I made a snap decision to completely abandon everything we’d set up. We dumped pretty much everything and headed for the King’s Bedroom with one strobe and a honeycomb. The trick with lighting this place, it turned out, was to very subtlety augment the available light, with just enough flash to allow for hand-holdable shutter speeds. Which I knew already, but sometimes it’s easy to get over-excited and overlook the obvious.
Huge thanks to the team at Muncaster Castle for letting us into their fairytale…