Categories
Other Product Projects

Retrospective: ọkọ̀ Product shoot for Setovilla

While I am away resting and relaxing, I am also enjoying dusting off some older photo collections I had good fun shooting, including this great shoot from around a year ago. Enjoy!

One of the best things to find in work is something you love doing, and something that works to better the world at the same time. For me, working with the wonderful Setovilla on their new range of ọkọ̀ hibiscus drinks was just that.

Bottles of OKO by Setovilla Sitting in an ice bucket with lemons

A few years ago, when I was just starting my business, I worked with Temi on getting some portrait photographs in a mixture of different styles, and we stayed in touch. Since then, she has gone on to help develop a non-profit organisation Setovilla to support the people who need it most.

OKO hibiscus drink by Setovilla in a bottle and a glass, with lemons, Yerba Mate, a jar of hibiscus, and a pineapple in the background

In the early stages of my business I worked with Temi, getting a variety of portrait shots for professional and personal use, and we stayed in touch! She has been busy working with Setovilla to support children and young people who need the support most. (This was my favourite shot, taken in a lift on the way to the actual planned location, naturally).

In the words of Setovilla:

We are on a mission to help children and young people succeed! We sell ọkọ̀ drinks online and in-store, pledging 60% of our profits to improve education and employability skills for young people from low socio- economic backgrounds. We launched in July 2021 and in the next 5 years, we aspire to distribute 500 Setobags (educational kits, each valued at £50) to children in need around the world. Also, we aspire to engage an additional 250 young adults to support their pathways into work through CV clinics and workshops. We exist to make education and employment more attainable for disadvantaged children by giving them the basic tools to excel.’

After sending over some sample drinks, and looking at some branding and colour ideas, I raided about 30 charity shops for small interesting things to add to the shoot and matched what we had in mind, alongside some of the key ingredients of ọkọ̀.

An overhead view of a glass of OKO by Setovilla with ice and ingredients nearby on a wooden board

After finding everything I needed, I started to build the set and the lighting. Working with real ice under hot lights is always an interesting experience, giving you a suprisingly short time frame before it melts. As a result, it was a process of setting up the shots just right, and then running to the freezer, grabbing some ice, and trying to fit it all together before it melted completely.

A close up on the zero sugar OKO drink surrounded by cinnamon sticks, lemons, and a glass of the drink

Using a mixture of the core ingredients (Hibiscus, Yerba Mate, Cinnamon, Mints, and loads more), some of the parts found in charity shops, and other items I already had from previous projects, it all came together, and I am really happy with how the images turned out.

The best part, afterwards I had about 6 bottles of ọkọ̀ to drink in the middle of summer, which kept me going for a few weeks! If they sound good to you, check them out here.

Categories
Business

Working with Iona Fyfe & The Auldeners

While I am away resting and relaxing, I am also enjoying dusting off some older photo collections I had good fun shooting, including this great shoot from two years ago. Enjoy!

One of my favourite jobs is shooting stills for video productions. It’s not the most glamorous role, but working as part of a bigger team is always great fun. It also allows me to exercise my creativity more (check out my work on the documentary Racing Stock). Working alongside video and audio recording also means stray elbows or camera clicks can hinder someone elses work, so it requires a high level of precision.

Sound Engineer Ludo testing audio equipment connections in front of a microphone on set of music video

Working with the Filmmaker Tom Alner & Audio Engineer Ludovic Barrier on their production for The Auldeneers was one such an occasion. Composed of Iona Fyfe, Callum Morton-Teng, and Ellen Gira, The Auldeners are a Glasgow-based trio performing reinterpretations of Appalachian ballads and American old-time tunes.

Barn outside from inside window in Scotland

Before the main event, there was also an opportunity to explore and find some interesting locations in the farmhouse, and get some good pictures for the band. Full of old farm tools, christmas decorations, and lots and lots of spiders!

This particular shoot was challenging, because it was filmed during the middle of a renovation effort. As a result, we had to negotiate timings very carefully, capturing audio with loud machines smashing through concrete is less than ideal.

A great location, a great group of musicians, and a lot of fun had all around.

Filming Crew Tom Alner, Ludo, and the Auldeners smiling together

And here is the final video:

Video and recording by Tom Alner and Ludovic Barrier

Categories
Other

On the value of rest

The past three years, like for most people, have been a bit of a journey for me. I have lost a parent to cancer, I have separated from my partner of six years, I have realised a lot of things about who I am, and who I am not.

On top of this, the pandemic complely destabilised my sense of normalcy, and the buisiness I spent several years building had to nearly completely go on standstill, throwing me into a position of financial insecurity, something which I am only starting to recover from now.

In January, I spent the majority of the month paring down my possessions and moving them piece by piece to my new flat, and was lucky enough to be given space by friends while I sorted out a lot of complex issues.

It was around this time my stepfather Rob told me he was moving to France for a while. He had bought a piece of land with a house on it in various states of disrepair, and planned on spending a few months living in it, and getting it back into a liveable condition. After five whole minutes of thinking, I decided to go with him, and help with the work.

And so, at the end of January, we took off in a car, and drove to Central France, and thats where I have been living and working for the last two months. I have been breaking through walls, chipping away at floors, cleaning decades old mold, painting, heavy lifting, and taking our dog Teddy for walks.

At times, it has been pretty brutal. For the first two weeks the heating was broken, so work was often in sub zero temperatures with six layers of clothing on, and sleeping wasnt much better. Right now, I am writing this a few days from leaving, in the sunny spring weather, wearing shorts outside. There is still a chill in the air, but feeling the sun directly on your skin more than makes up for it.

Being far away from my routine, from my home, from my work, and in many ways from myself, has given me a lot of time and space to reflect. It has given me an opportunity to work hard physically, but to rest mentally, and prepare myself for where I want to go in the future, as a person, and with regard to my creative work, and my business.

By resting the parts of my brain that are normally active, and by engaging in things I normally dont spend much time on, I have the opportunity to reflect and change, and be more honest with myself.

I have a few reasons for sharing all this. The first, and most important, is that I want to take down many of the boundaries I have put around myself, both personally and professionally. I want to create artistic work that reflects me honestly, and I cannot do that without making myself vulnerable.

For me, that has meant opening up myself to a lot of complicated feelings about myself. About loss, queer identity, body image, personhood, and trying to process a lot of the past few years. Part of that process, I am sure, will be creative projects, part of it will be less explicitly visible.

I am not the same person I used to be, and I am sure that will reflect in my work, and my relationships with other artists, clients, and the business as a whole. However, I feel a lot happier, and a lot healthier, than I have done in a while.

The second, is that if you are reading this, I want to encourage you to take a break, if you can. Maybe reflect on something important to you, maybe just relax, and enjoy the moment you are in.

I love a lot of the work I do, and I find it artistically satisfying. I enjoy spending time working hard on projects. However, it is important to differentiate that, to me, from the need to produce labour. None of us exist first and foremost for the purpose of selling our labour. Especially with increasing economic precarity, political instability, and a climate crisis already unfolding, it is even more important to remember the importance of community and care, familial and social bonds. These things are older than the current economic system, things older than the divine right of kings, and older than organised civilisation.

Take care of yourself, and of others. Working as a photographer, as programmer, a day labourer, an accountant, may be a means to an end, but it is not as important as resting, taking care of yourself, and taking care of each other.

Categories
Film Projects

Blood Moon: Ritual and Menstruation, A Short Film

Content warning: Imitation blood, themes of menstruation

A lot of my day to day work, event photography, wedding photography, has unsurprisingly been a lot more challenging during the pandemic period. However, with that cloud, comes the opportunity to use the time to work on some ambitious personal and colloborative projects, and that is what this is.

Blood Moon, is a short film I have created in collaboration with Katrin Blackwater, and many other talented creators, inspired by the early rituals around menstrual bleeding, produced for the Beltane Online Fire Festival, BonFire 2021.

Katrin and I have worked on a number of projects before, but this was probably our most involved, and I am incredibly proud with how well it has turned out.

(Katrin also has an amazing exhibition at time of writing in the Greenwood Cafe, in Edinburgh, I highly recommend checking it out if you can.

As with my Fantasy Photoshoot with Stephanie, and several other projects, Roslin Glen was the location for the majority of the filming, and as always is the most etherial, wonderful location for photography and video.

As someone who is less biologically connected to the subject matter than others, I took more of a technical and logistical role, operating cameras, editing, sorting equipment, and file management. Despite that, I felt very invested in the piece, and I am really excited to share it with everyone!

There was a huge amount of creative energy that went into the festival, and it is absolutely worth checking out as a whole, which you can do here:

Enjoy, and happy Beltane!

Jacob

Categories
Other Wedding

My First Orkney Wedding!

Last summer I had the great honour of photographing the wedding of one of my oldest friends. Jack is my former bandmate, co-conspirator, business partner, and about a dozen other things. It was incredible to photography his wedding to his wonderful now wife, India, up in the far reaches of Orkney!

It was an interesting trip, as I made the decision to try to get from Edinburgh to Orkney using a combination of public transport, biking, camping, and the ferry. This involved lots of taking apart my bike frantically at stations, very nearly missing the ferry both ways, and generally being incredibly stressed. I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Part 1: Getting to Orkney

After managing to get to the ferry across,  I arrived in late evening into Stromness. My perception of Orkney was one of vast beaches, wide open fields, and easy camping, which it definitely was not. 

Picture of Northlink Ferries Terminal

I spent about two hours trying to navigate side roads and fences to find somewhere near the beach to camp, eventually ending up very close to cows, and very close to the sea, sleeping on hard rock.

Camping with Feet in Stromness Shore, Orkney

After a rough sleep, and some breakfast, I spent two hours fixing my bike, because the hasty assembly and disassembly had left it pretty loose and barely working. Loading my tent, bags, food, camera equipment, and myself onto the bike, I set off. I took a break about every 30 minutes to rest, take a photo or two, and wonder why my bike was making strange noises. 

Jacob, Looking Tired, Cycling Across Orkney

As the weather turned, I ended up in hard side winds, cycling down a main road, heavily weighed down, with lorries passing frequently both ways, leading to near fatal situations quite often. Thankfully I managed to get out of this section within an hour, and was back on my way. 

In Orkney, at the height of summer, night is more of a suggestion than a reality. This meant I could, in theory, go on indefinitely. I went to see the Standing stones of Stenness, and eventually, by late evening, found myself at the place I wanted to be, and set up for camp. 

The darkest part of night, in Orkney Summer

The next few days were a bit less gruelling. Lots of sightseeing, visits to Kirkwall, helping prepare the venue, and catching up with Jack. I did get really horrible sunburn on my legs cycling to Kirkwall, which didn’t help, and was entirely my fault. 

Part 2: The Orkney Wedding

Finally, the day of the wedding came. I had properly showered and cleaned up the night before to make sure I was presentable, and got to work! 

It was a beautiful day from start to finish, and I was incredibly happy to be part of it, as well as to immortalise the occasion for the future. 

Part 3: The Aftermath

After helping set down the venue, I headed on my way, meeting up with my friends and Prometheus Circus Group Co-Performers Camilla & Kacper. Travelling in the wonderful van Coco (RIP Coco, we miss you!), we travelled across Orkney.

We spent two days walking across the island of Hoy, visited the Old Man of Hoy, and scrambled up to the peak of the mountain.

We saw some incredible sights, got bitten by a lot of midges, had good fun and eventually I headed back over the water to mainland Scotland.

Trail walking on the Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Across nearly a week of camping, I was incredibly lucky that it didn’t rain a drop the entire time. Especially considering I learned a few weeks later, my tent was absolutely not waterproof, and would have been completely destroyed. I promise I am more forward thinking in my work than in my own time, and will probably take an easier route for my next Orkney Wedding.

Thanks for Reading!

Jacob

Categories
Business

Adventure Yoga in Holyrood Park

After a challenging year it feels amazing to start to get back to work! This has been my first photography for a business shoot in a good while, and it was really good fun. Working on some promo images for Adventure Yoga Edinburgh was a treat, and I am really happy with how they turned out!

I took these photographs in a hidden little forest just on the other side of Holyrood Park. I haven’t spent much time around that side, so it was great to find some new spots, and getting the chance to see the forest just as spring really started was a gift, as was the really lovely weather.

Thankfully all of the participants were very patient, and I didn’t disrupt the session with my camera clicking away. Picking my moments carefully, and making sure not to shoot during the moments of relaxation and meditation led to it still being a really lovely session.

Really happy with how the outdoor yoga images turned out, loved collaborating with Adventure Yoga Edinburgh, and excited to get back to more indoor and outdoor work, and more fun projects!

Thanks to Jemima for the lovely review!

‘Jacob took some wonderful photos for my business recently – I was really enchanted by the shots! He was also very easy to liaise with, friendly, helpful, flexible and professional. I definitely recommend him as a great professional.’

Categories
Film

Racing Stock: Entry in Glasgow Film Festival

A few weeks before the first lockdown in March 2020, I was lucky enough to work with Fat Toad Films and Hailstone Films on getting stills for promotion and joining them working on the Bridging the Gap funded documentary Racing Stock.

Racing Stock is Premiering at the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival! Link Here for how to see the whole thing.

’15-year-old Taylor Borthwick is a stock car racer, like her father and her grandfather before her. As she turns 16 she will move into the adult leagues, racing bigger, faster cars against men twice her age. It’s a dangerous sport, does she have what it takes?’

It was a great day covering a really heartfelt and personal story, and I am really happy with the images from the day. Here is a selection of some of my favourites:

Big thanks to Patrick & Charlotte, who were great to work with, as well as Taylor and her family, and the whole racing stock community we spent time with, and were very hospitable and friendly. I am excited to see the full premiere!

If you are interested in seeing some of my own filmmaking work, check out my blog post on our most recent film, Moon Blood.

Categories
Projects

Black Fantasy: Elf Photoshoot In Roslin Glen, Scotland

About 4 months ago, I had a conversation with my good friend and former flatmate Stephanie, about finding elf ears that actually matched her skin tone. Almost all of the available products were exclusively for white skin tones, and how much fantasy settings and shoots focus on white folk, and there are almost no black fantasy characters (Note, its not for historical accuracy, premodern europe in general was not nearly as homogenously white-skinned as a lot of media tends to present) (Also elves are not historically accurate either unfortunately).

black fantasy elf woman in dark forest holding a candle under the trees

We got chatting, and decided that we may as well make the most of the ears, and settled on a fantasy elf photoshoot in Roslin Glen. Roslin is probably one of the most magical places I know within an hour of Edinburgh, and a definite favourite for photoshoots (as well as shooting our short film Moon Blood). I also had recently taken some photographs with the Cailleach of Samhuinn 2020 for Beltane Fire Festival in the same area, so I was excited to use it again, and see what different spots we could find.

black fantasy elf woman reading in an autumn forest of Roslin Glen, Scotland

I brought a few props, Stephanie designed the costume as a combination of euro-centric fantasy with aspects of her traditional, Ghanaian cultural heritage, and we set to work! We found a few different locations that worked well, had a good time and a catchup, and I am really happy with the results.

We were pretty limited in terms of daylight, so we had to make use of the precious hours we had, but I think it turned out really well. Hopefully we will be able to do plenty more model photography exploring both black fantasy and more high fashion with Stephanie when it becomes sensible and safe to do so.

Big thanks for Stephanie for coming out!

Jacob

Categories
Projects

Blacklight Photography

I have a bigger post planned talking about how I first started Blacklight photography (Also known as UV photography), but for now I want to talk about the most recent shoots I did, back in September.

This was a really fun time, I worked with three models on different days, and ended up with quite visually different results with each, focusing on a different style, and use of the UV paints. I think that Blacklight photography is really under-utilised in a lot of ways, mostly ending up associated with party and rave aesthetics, and very rarely used outside of that. (One of my favourite photographers for using Blacklights is the amazing Lasse Hoile, I encourage you to check out his work).

The First Shoot: Katherine

The first shoot was focused on using UV to embody the Cailleach, and I had a great time working with Kat more extensively producing short films later on with a more developed concept, which I will add a link too when they are available.

This was the first real test of the setup I had used in a while, and figuring out any issues that were going to come up, and how to resolve them. One of the bigger issues naturally was social distancing and safety precautions, which meant using longer lenses, and maybe having a slightly more impersonal look as a result. The other issue, is that model had to apply the UV paint herself, instead of me or a Makeup Artist. For the first shoot we kept the UV use limited, and used other props and costuming to complement it, and here are some of the results:

Although we were a bit tight on time and ran into some issues, I am happy with how these turned out overall, and they helped me troubleshoot and think more about different ways to use the paint to create different looks, and how I can complement those with the lighting setup and the camera placement.

(Edit: Kat and I would later go on to do a lot of filming together, for our most recent work check out Moon Blood)

The Second Shoot: Katarina

With the next model we had a lot more time to experiment with different looks and styles, as well as secondary lighting to bring out more than just the UV, and tried a few different application approaches for the paint to see where we could go with it, and I am really happy with how these images came out.

One thing I started thinking about during this shoot, was using UV for video, as well as blacklight photography. While I know it has been used here and there, I would be interested to do some tests and see how to make it work in that visual medium in a way that would be compelling.

The Third Shoot: Olivia

While the first two shoots mostly used the paint to highlight small areas of the face, or allude to it without showing it totally, the final shoot was more of an experiment in painting the whole face, and seeing how that could be utilised with different lighting and angles.

I think all of the different models, painting styles, and approaches bring with them different looks and ideas, and it was great to dig further into exploring those territories, and seeing what can be done.

Conclusion & Advice

I think one of the biggest limitations, is that none of the models or me have a background in makeup, and it would be really interesting to see what could be done if the application was done by someone with a bit more experience. Also use of UV powder, or more UV props, liquids etc to add more depth to the otherwise black background, and more flexiblity with the set in general would add a lot to the images, but I am really happy how they came out all the same.

UV blacklight portrait of young woman with painted face and hands outstretched with messy hair

If you are looking at doing some Blacklight photography, here is some thoughts I have on getting started:

  • Powerful UV cannons are expensive, you can do fine with the cheaper bulbs, just make sure to remove any other unwanted light sources. (Just make sure its a real UV bulb, not a regular bulb with a purple tint!)
  • Decide beforehand what kind of style you are going for, once the paint goes on, it is really hard to completely wash off, so work from more minimal looks to bigger ones to make the most of your time.
  • Light meters are not really made for this kind of lighting situation, manually exposing is pretty neccesary. Exposing for the highlights is even more important than normal here, as what will be overxposed will be all the key points of visual interest.
  • UV paint can produce a lot of different textures and looks based on how long you leave it, if you mix it with different liquids, if you scrape some of it off, think about aspects like texture and colour, and how to use those with other factors to produce unique images.
  • Make sure to get non-toxic UV paint that is created for the purpose of being used on skin!
  • Have fun! Experiment, communicate with your model, make sure they are having a good time as well, play with textures and moods and lighting and props, and see what you can produce.
UV blacklight portrait of young woman with painted face and red background light and empty eyes

Big thanks to Katherine, Olivia, and Katarina for being such amazing models!

All the best,

Jacob

Categories
Other

First Proper Post!

There is definitely something at least a little intimidating about writing the first proper post for the site, but exciting as well! Its not been an easy year for anyone, including me, and my business has suffered a lot under lockdown. With a new strain of Covid-19, the run up to Christmas now looking increasingly bleak, and spending the start of the new year in lockdown, it does feel like the challenge of this year is likely to follow us into the next.

That said, there is also a lot to look forward to as well. On a personal level, we have finally put down a deposit on our engagement ring, and hopefully will be able to start wedding planning in earnest next year. On a business level, I have a few exciting projects in mind (more to come on those soon!) and a few collaborations which will be paying off in 2021. On a wider scale, with the days getting lighter, vaccinations underway and the promise of warmer weather and sunnier days, it does feel like there is something to look towards, even if it is a while off for the time being.

So while there is plenty of challenges ahead, there is also plenty of good times as well hopefully in 2021, for now we just have to see.

All the best and merry christmas!

Jacob Forsyth-Davies