by Gavin Hoey

One of the reasons I love working with Olympus UK is their willingness to run workshops in unexpected places. So when they asked me to find a portrait workshop location and I suggested a sewage pumping house, Olympus said let’s do it!

To be fair, Crossness Engines is a Victorian former pumping station now being restored by volunteers and it is simply stunning. Mixing brightly coloured Victorian decorative ironwork with rusting staircases and columns, the whole place is a photographers playground.

Of course, you need more than just an interesting location to make great portraits and we were lucky to be joined by two models, Rory and Charlotte. The styling for the models was arranged by Sam (my wife), who had Charlotte dress in a steampunk style and Rory taking on the role of a stylised Victorian engineer.

Not surprisingly the 24 places for this workshop went very quickly and with two sessions and two models, we were able to work in small groups of just six photographers per model. Clare Harvey-May from Olympus was on hand to make sure everyone could try out some Olympus kit. The new OM-D E-M5 Mark III and all the fast f/1.2 M.Zuiko prime lenses proved very popular.

So we had plenty of camera gear, a good location, great models and excellent styling, all we needed to complete the day was the perfect light. Luckily Crossness Engines had plenty of that too. Clare and Rory worked together to create amazing photos using either natural light or by adding a little extra light with a Pixapro 100w LED light.

Charlotte and I took a different route. When the natural light was good, that’s what we used but as we explored the darker recesses of the location, the flash was the tool of choice. Even when the light was OK, it was great to demonstrate how a single flash can completely change the look and feel to the scene. My flash of choice was the PiXAPRO CITI600. It’s a very powerful mono light but I ran it at low power so up to three photographers could shoot at the same time without the flash missing a beat.

By the end of each session, it was great to see lots of very happy photographers proudly showing off their amazing portraits of both models.

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