Rachelle and Keira bathing in Loch Assynt.
180mm, ISO-1250, 1/160th at f2.8
Our Easter 2015 Artistic Nude in the Landscape Workshop was every bit as special as previous years, despite the many hiccups in the run-up. With accommodation booked at the excellent facilities of the Assynt Field Centre at Inchnadamph Lodge, vehicles booked for all the photographers, models and equipment and brochures updated and sent out, things began to unravel around six weeks before. First one photographer who was planning on flying in from Europe cancelled because he couldn't find flights without having to pay much more than the cost of the workshop. Then with four weeks to go one of the models had to withdraw, which meant a desperate search to find a replacement model of similar reputation, experience and ability at short notice. Two days later a second photographer cancelled and then with just a week to go, another photographer was forced to cancel after seriously injuring his leg.
Discussing the situation with the remaining model, the always amazing Rachelle Summers, Howard quoted Robin Williams in The World According to Garp: "It's been pre-disastered, so everything will be perfect from now on": and so it was. Riding to the rescue in the nick of time, just like the Cavalry, the beautiful Keira Lavelle stepped in to fill the model void. Keira proved to be an inspired replacement, who gave a virtuoso performance and got on marvellously with Rachelle and the rest of the team. This was the first time these two top artistic models had actually worked on a full shoot together but you wouldn't know it: their two different posing styles gave individual variety but when working together, they just gelled beautifully. Although we were unable to re-sell any of the vacant spaces at such short notice, the remaining photographers all got on like a house on fire and the whole weekend was filled with laughter. The weather produced a variety of lighting and landscape conditions to challenge us over the weekend, which was ideal to emphasise some of the points being made in the lectures.
Keira beautifully backlit as she makes a bridge on Loch Assynt
160mm, ISO100, 1/60th at f7.1
As usual, we arrived at the Lodge in time for our 4pm welcome meeting and shared a dram of Glenlivet (Howard was on the Irn Bru, as he had to drive later in the evening). Karen cooked a lovely group meal for the first night and then we adjourned to the cottage for the first lecture "From Concept to Completion", exploring every aspect of how you can plan and carry out your art nude in the landscape shoots to ensure you get the best possible outcomes. After a tea break, there were two further short talks: "Legal Issues" and "Safety Considerations".
Around 9pm, we headed out for the first shoot, an introduction to light-painting at the ruin of Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt. Thankfully the drizzle and light rain that had been virtually constant all day eased off as we approached the castle and the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees Celsius. We use the light-painting exercise on the first evening as an ice-breaker more than anything else on this workshop but we do try to add something a little different each year. This year we started with an homage to Michaelangelo's Cistine Chapel roof, with a lightning bolt shooting between the two models' fingers and the backdrop painted with coloured gels on a powerful torch. After this, we did a little set with the girls' initials painted in the air as if they were holding them up. The best of the lightning bolt images was taken by Tony and he has kindly given permission for us to share his image on the blog.
Light-Painting at Ardvreck Castle with Rachelle and Keira © A.B. Wadham
55mm, ISO400, 62 seconds at f8
Saturday morning began with an early start at 5.45am and a short drive to a lay-by on the road to Kylesku, where we trudged across the bog towards Quinag. The plan was to use one of the small lochans as a foreground setting for the models whilst the morning sun lit up the mountain behind with a beautiful golden glow. However, the weather had other ideas. The thick drizzly cloud was so low that not only could we not see the mountain, there was also no way the morning sun was going to penetrate through to give us the light we wanted anyway.
One of the things we emphasise in the first lecture is planning for problems and having alternative ideas to work on so that problems with your primary objective do not scupper your whole shoot. This gave us the ideal opportunity to demonstrate a "Plan-B". Prior to the shoot, Howard had discussed alternatives with Rachelle and Keira and the alternative most suited to this dreich and miserable morning was the "Bog Monster" option. As soon as there was enough light to shoot, both models bravely stripped off and rolled around in the bog, giving everyone a totally different side of artistic nude modelling to play with. At one point, Rachelle moved her leg and a loud farting sound echoed across the gloomy landscape, accompanied by a rancid foul smell. Rachelle insisted this came from the bog and in the interests of group harmony we all agreed. The girls christened it "The Bog Of Eternal Stench". After a flurry of shutters it was over and we headed back to the lodge for breakfast and a shower for the girls. They certainly earned their cooked breakfast that morning!
As with all shoots like this, safety has to be paramount and the whole shoot lasted less than two minutes before the girls returned to drier land to clean off and get dressed. We had tested the area of bog they would be using in wellies beforehand so that the girls knew the limits as to how far they could go and we had towels, wet-wipes, hot soup and tea and extra layers of warm clothing for them as soon as they came out.
Rachelle and Keira in the Bog of Eternal Stench
Even though they must have been frozen, the girls couldn't resist a wee celebration of their victory over the Bog of Eternal Stench before getting cleaned up and dressed.
After trekking back to the vehicle, we returned to the Lodge for breakfast and arranged to meet again in the cottage for a short talk on effective communication, followed by a review of images so far. There was plenty to talk about, with some interesting images from both shoots and a fair few hilarious out-takes to laugh at too.
After the review session, we had a lunch break and then headed out to the path up to the bone caves at Beinn an Fhuarain, stopping along the way to shoot at waterfalls along the Allt nan Uamh, several rock formations and the wonky tree. At the waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh, we had to shout to Rachelle to wipe off a lump of peat that had stuck to her butt and made her look like she had pooped herself. A few minutes later, when it was Keira's turn to model at that spot, we also had to shout to tell her a couple were coming down the footpath and she needed to cover up. Initially she couldn't hear us and was searching her skin for muck to wipe off before she looked behind and saw the couple. The man said "Don't stop on my account" and his wife just laughed.
Keira on a rock beside the waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh
70mm, ISO-800, 1/400th at f5
Rachelle and Keira together on a rock beside the Allt nan Uamh
200mm, ISO-800, 1/250th at f5
Keira and Rachelle posing on a moss-covered rock
We carried on up to the wonky tree but the cloud was so low that the caves in the cliff above were enveloped in cloud, so we decided just to spend a bit longer at the wonky tree and make our way back a little earlier, giving folk time for a rest and shower before dinner. Our second review session was scheduled for 7pm, so there was plenty of time for people to relax, shower and sort out dinner. Poor Tony was so knackered when he got back that, despite setting an alarm for one hour, he slept right through until 11pm, missing his dinner and the image review session.
Rachelle at the wonky tree
70mm, ISO-800, 1/320th at f4
Rachelle makes a great model but hasn't quite grasped the concept of nude photography!
Sunday morning began early again, as we headed out at 5.45am towards Achmelvich, where we planned to climb the small hill beside the village to get the dawn light on the five iconic peaks as a backdrop. However, when we arrived, the cloud was still very low and there was no point in climbing the hill, as we would not have seen anything but cloud as a backdrop. Once again we were forced to switch to "Plan B" and headed back towards Loch Assynt, where the still air was giving some lovely reflections in the cloud-softened light.
Reflections on Loch Assynt
200mm, ISO-800, 1/100th at f3.2
As we headed back towards the lodge, the reflections around Ardvreck looked stunning, so we stopped for a daylight shoot at the ruins with some reflections in the loch by the remains of the old castle jetty.
Mind the gap! ~ Keira and Rachelle at the castle
200mm, ISO-822, 1/320th at f3.5
After breakfast, we packed and checked out, then headed for the gorge below Loch na Gainmhich, where a tricky track leads through to the waterfall beneath the loch. We handed walking poles to those that might need them for extra balance on what can be a tricky trail and started up the track. Around three quarters of the way along, Tony slipped and gave himself a dead arm and a nick on the forehead. After patching up the nick on his forehead and making sure that it was a dead arm and not something more serious, we continued to the spot at the bottom of the waterfall, where you cannot help but love the scene.
Keira gets creatively inspired by the location at the waterfall
Rachelle using the amazing waterfall to produce some beautiful and dreamy images
As most of us were trying to capture the amazing images that Keira and Rachelle were providing in this spectacular backdrop, one of the photographers was quietly removing her clothing. Helen had modelled on this workshop last year and had done a marvellous job but this year she had booked herself on the workshop as a photographer to work on creating images from the other side of the lens. However, seeing the stunning images before her, she couldn't resist joining in to model with the other girls.
Three of a kind ~ Naughty Helen decides to join in and model
55mm, ISO-800, 1/200th at f5.6
This not only gave the photographers an added bonus but also gave us some images to advertise next year's Art Nude in the Landscape Workshop, as the team for next year will include all three of these ladies modelling.
They'll be back! ~ All three ladies will be modelling on this workshop next year
70mm, ISO-800, 1/200th at f5.6
...and just to emphasise that they will be back, Helen and Rachelle did the Terminator pose
35mm, ISO-800, 1/160th at f5.6
We had one more shoot planned for the day, which involved a steep trek up the foothills of Stac Pollaidh for a view across the landscape to Suilven, which would have provided a spectacular backdrop. However, the waterfall had been so inspiring, we had spent longer than planned there and did not have time for such a long trek, so we decided that we would once more use "Plan B" and have the reflections on Loch Assynt from its islands as a backdrop for one last time instead.
Things changed when we got to the islands, as the weather had finally begun to lift. This gave us some lovely backlighting, which the models were determined to make good use of. Keira immediately crossed the mirror-like loch to the islands and the other two girls were not far behind. This gave everyone some spectacular photographs to wrap up a very enjoyable Easter weekend's photography.
Keira crossing the mirror-like loch
30mm, ISO-800, 1/5000th at f5
Keira backlit beautifully
Rachelle backlit against the reflections on the loch
105mm, ISO-100, 1/100th at f6.3
To finish off, the girls decided to create some sculptures; one rather acrobatic and the other...well...see for yourself!
When the final shoot was over we headed into Ullapool for lunch, which Karen very kindly decided to pay for everyone! We dropped Rachelle and Mark in Inverness for their train, Tony at his hotel and then headed back to Aberdeen with Jason, Helen and Keira. Despite all the trials and tribulations before the start, this years's Art Nude in the Landscape Workshop turned into one of the best. Massive thanks to those who attended and a huge thank you to Rachelle Summers and Keira Lavelle for their creativity and willingness to work for their art (plus Helen Stephens for getting carried away in the best possible way).
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