Editorial photographer Jason Bell takes us behind the scenes on a recent shoot for Vogue UK featuring the cast of the British-American TV drama, Poldark. Shot on location at England’s Chavenage House, this was Bell’s first shoot using a Phase One XF body and 100 MP digital back.
The shoot begins outdoors, where Bell wants a natural look but feels it needs to look notably different from a production still. He opts for what looks like a Profoto B4 pack and Pro Plus head in a large octabox on camera right, feathered toward an also very large bounce on camera left. The first lens tried is an 80mm, but Bell wants more environment to show, so he switches to 55mm.
Switching gears, the team heads indoors to a dim chapel with a small amount of window light. Bell gets an exposure he likes at ISO 800, 1/4 of a second. It’s worth noting that this is a high ISO for these cameras, and just a few generations prior, ISO 400 was pushing the limits. This is his starting point before adding in the flash needed to get away with that slow shutter speed and brighten up the scene a bit.
The lighting used in this scene looks very similar to that of the first in principal, but on a smaller scale. A Photek Softlighter is on camera left, mimicking the directionality of the window light while the very large bounce fills in shadows from camera right. There is also a bounced continuous light in a softbox which I assume was for the video production, but at 1/4 second shutter speed, it may contribute to the ambient light as well.
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The third shot is a “window lit” portrait of Aidan Turner, Poldark himself, in a very small space, and again, as it’s an overcast day that isn’t very bright, the Softlighter is needed. In addition to bringing more vital light into the scene, it has the added benefit of being able to be positioned for the most flattering lighting on his face. Bell uses a 55mm lens to take in some more of the tiny room than would be ipossible with a longer lens. Keep in mind that 55mm on this is more akin to about 28mm or 30mm field of view on a 35mm camera.
In the final location inside Chavenage House, two final portraits are taken with different lighting. The first is once again the feathered Softlighter and the large bounce on camera left and right respectively. The second is the first and only natural light shot we get to observe in the video, with window light coming from camera left and a reflector held in close for fill on camera right. However, Bell also wants to see the light sans reflector and opts for the higher contrast portrait for the select.