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A Model Student

Updated: Feb 18

I am not sure where this photography themed post sits in a James Joyce appreciation blog, it seems more Millie Bloom in Mullingar than anything else from Ulysses but here is the news from a photography studio in Westmeath.

A Model Student

I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, and I have often tried to photograph them, I´ve been underneath the undercarriage of Air Force 1 as it crossed the threshold of Dublin Airport for example, one of the many times where a great photo was missed due to technical problems or not having equipment ready or a camera pointed at the right place at the right time.

It is easy to push the button on a digital camera, and it is easy to get the settings wrong.

Sébastien Rolland invited me to join Athlone Photography Club, and I decided to take him up on his suggestion, and quickly found out that there was a model photoshoot being organised, and was immediately impressed with the club’s professionalism, and enthusiasm for educating other photographers.

They offer hybrid-classes where I went to one discussion in Abbey Road Studios and then logged into follow them online for their next course on studio lighting by Paul Grogan.

On the morning of the photoshoot, I was exhausted and barely able to get out bed and questioned what I was doing as I don’t have much experience working with models, and less with studio lighting. I have asked plenty of friends to be my models over the years but never for studio shoots, and the one time I photographed a bikini glad model by the banks of the grand canal for a launch, I was left wondering why we were photographing someone in a bikini by a canal in Ireland even though she was such a professional you could have photographed her by a bog, and the pictures would still have turned out great.

When I saw some of the lighting being set up, and all the amazing cameras and lens being handed to me to carry into the Shamrock Lodge, I felt a little inadequate and underprepared. I had brought a small DSLR with a broken lens along with me.

I always say that the best camera in the world, is the one in your hand, and despite feeling out of my depth, a few minutes awkwardness with our first model Agne Kuz, and I was taking some fantastic pictures, thanks of course to Paul Grogan who was showing some photographers lighting tricks.

I tweaked some settings, calibrated to the equipment he was using, and decided to shoot RAW for the first time, as I have never needed large RAW files to edit in the past. Paul also added a pink filter.

Always resourceful, I borrowed a camera as a prop and robbed a rose from a vase but I think I will have to invest in my own studio lighting equipment in the future.

Not normally very shy, when they asked who wanted to go first, I said that I wanted to go last, but being the first to speak up, I was inevitably first up.

I remember once bing invited by a newly launched and dreadfully run magazine, to go and take pictures of Rafa Nadal at some launch in Madrid, and I had to respectfully decline as I didn’t want to show up at a sporting event, surrounded by sports and press photographers, and be expected to ask some intelligent questions in Spanish about tennis or get some great photograph of a celebrity on my entry-level camera.

Photography is incredible, and so was the photo session, the club organised a fantastic day, and while Sébastien shied that he hadn’t done anything special for the day, I pointed out that he had encouraged me to join, emailed membership details, followed up with bank details, and all the things needed to get me in the room on a Saturday morn.

There are always people behind the scenes making things happen, and it is worth pointing out the make-up artists and their brushes, the photographers who organised models, and the models, some came with little experience but great presence and a wonderful attitude.

One of the photographers jumped in for photos, later one of the make-up artists stunned me with her beautiful poses, and at the end I tried to organise a group picture of the photographers, models and make-up artists, which only came together thanks to the help of Liam Kidney who had already done a lot to organise the day's shooting.

How often to you see a group of photographers being asked to sit and have their picture taken?

I am not about to start modelling or applying make-up on anyone but it was great to see the role reversals as the photographers posed for a picture, and I thought a mother holding a baby was going to be left taking the group picture for a moment which would have been strange to see a baby taking pictures of photographers but in the digital age, anyone can enjoy photography, at any age. Clicking is easy, and thanks to people like Paul and Liam, and club secretary Sébastien, to name just a few, you can learn a lot.

I moved a little out of my candid photography comfort zone but one of the models who looked like she walked off the cover of Vanity Fair explained to me that she didn’t consider herself photogenic beforehand but loved the experience. She was invited by one of the photographers Ciara Kinnarney who saw her in Lidl.

It was wonderful to see so many people in the club, shooting and sharing knowledge, some sets back to back with umbrella set ups, studio lights and plenty of cables. I tried to take lots of photos behind the scenes and I hope this insight has helped you imagine the flurry of activity as models changed outfits, photographers snapped constantly, and I realised that my small DSLR with the broken lens, is actually the best camera in the world even if I am not ready to start knocking on Rafa Nadel's door.

The question is, who wants to me my next model, who wants to join Athlone Photography Club, and how do I edit hundreds of pictures taking in RAW?

Kindly supported

by UNESCO City of Literature

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