A creative portrait of a young lady in a red flowing dress running up the steps of a ruined abbey during a clear moonlit night.
Just like all my portraits, this image was taken in a home, not a studio. The image is a composite of a number of different elements to give the overall effect that the woman in the red dress was really running up the steps at midnight and I was really there to capture it!
The background is of Newstead Abbey in Nottingham and was captured just a few days before I met with the young lady for her portrait. I visited the abbey on a hot sunny day around noon. This would give me similar harsh shadows that you would find on a cloudless moonlit night.
The abbey is a really interesting place and I would thoroughly recommend it for a day trip. The facilities are great - the abbey itself, a large park, museum, varying walks, a lake, a number of gardens, some nice toilets, a restaurant and the gift shop. The only drawback I found was that on a hot sunny day there was very little shade in the gardens and along the surrounding walks.
Today the abbey is owned by Nottingham City Council but it started out as an Augustinian priory in 1170. In fact, it never has been an actual abbey!
The priory was founded by King Henry II as a way of making penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. Another King Henry (the eighth) gave the abbey to the Byron family as a country house. The famous poet Lord Byron (the 6th Baron Byron) lived in the house and there is a museum on site filled with memorabilia surrounding the Bryon family and Lord Byron in particular. There is a memorial to Byron’s dog that died of rabies and was buried on site.
The background to the portrait I created is comprised of many individual images of the abbey that have been sewn together. The difficulty in creating such a wide panoramic with a building in the foreground is that straight lines become curved due to lens distortion. This is not such an issue when taking a landscape panoramic as the human eye does not really know that the scene is curved. But buildings (and roads) and anything straight can be a bit of a pain.
Usually to get a wide image a short lens is used. To get this photograph to at least look like it has a normal perspective I needed to use a longer lens. This reduces distortion due to perspective but increases the number of individual photographs needed to complete the final image.
Once the background image was completed I needed to capture the woman running up the steps.
To get the effect of running up steps I laid out some wooden boxes for her to climb. One assistant blew air to get the hair moving and another held the back of the dress to make it look like it was flowing in the wind too.
Once the image was captured it was a case of blending in Photoshop and using a colour lookup table to convert the image to nighttime.
Peter Nutkins is a full time professional portrait and wedding photographer.
Telephone: 01773 432 007
Serving the UK
Location: Newstead Abbey.