To a very limited extent, by this point, I’d got the hang of contacting potential models and asking if they’d be interested in being photographed. This was a new one on me, though – someone contacting me to ask if I’d be interested in photographing them. Ellie was keen on the idea of doing a fire shoot, which also took me a bit of processing!
She does flow arts – hoop and leviwand performances, but also fire performances. I was intrigued, but practicality got on the way somewhat. By this time of year (it was rapidly heading for June) sunset was getting late, and she’s based in Plymouth. Being in Plymouth after sunset to be able to get decent fire photos would have meant a very late drive back.
Also, at this point, I had the Sony A7, which wasn’t great in low light. I’d do a lot better now with the A7iii.
But while the fire may have been put out, the leviwand and hoop were still very much in the air.
As an aside, I’d tried to make more of the day, planning two shoots in Plymouth, so I could get two shoots for the travelling. The model I was arranging the other shoot with had a minor accident, though, and had to cancel. It ended up being a lot of driving for one shoot, which we had to cut a bit short because it started raining. But hopefully you’ll agree that it was totally worth it for just how good Ellie looks when she’s in the flow, and when doing yoga poses.
Oh, and the other model? Elizabeth – you’ll be seeing more of her soon, because we rearranged later. I’ve also done another shoot with her, and more with Ellie since, so there’s more to come of Ellie too. Oh, go on, a sneak peek of Elizabeth:
Anyway, to get back to the story, Sam and I met up with Ellie and her partner Kai at the Plymouth Life Centre, a leisure centre in Central Park. They were both really easy to get on with, and we were quickly chatting about Pokémon and Studio Ghibli films as we wandered looking for a place to start.
We found a tree stump in otherwise open ground, which we decided to turn into a tiny stage. Fortunately, Ellie has impressively good balance, and managed to spin a hoop all around while standing on this tiny platform.
We wandered on into the more wooded parts of the park, and went for a few straightforward portraits next.
But as good as Ellie looks there, that wasn’t what we were there for. We were there to hoop. And to wand. Well, Ellie would hoop, I’d photograph the hooping.
I was familiar with hula hoops. Not just the crunchy potato snacks, though definitely those. But yes, the plastic hoop. They’ve been around a long time. You put them around your waist, and spin them around. Well, some people do. I’m pretty sure if I tried it the hoop would either drop to the ground or maybe get stuck. This was a bit different. I’d had a little taster at the tree stump, but now Ellie went into full flow. It’s hard to explain, but the flow arts version of a hoop performance is varied, with spinning and sliding and waving, a full dance with a hoop.
I found myself both loving the photos I was getting and yet being really tempted to stop photographing to just watch for a while. But I didn’t, so there are a lot of photos.
Then Ellie switched to the leviwand. I’d had to look up what a leviwand actually was before the shoot, I’d never heard of it. It’s a stick on a bit of string. Sort of. A thin pole on a thin length of what’s probably fishing line, so the ‘string’ becomes almost invisible as its moving, and the stick just appears to hover and fly around. The performer, if they’re good, gives the impression they’re directing its flight, not swinging it around on a string. And Ellie is good.
The bit I haven’t mentioned is that much of this performance was done while standing on a log, adding an interesting balancing act to the whole thing.
The log was carved into the shape of a lizard, head and tail at the ends, held up above the ground by wooden legs. A nice bit of sculpture in the park, next to the footpath. We used the lizard for a few more portraits.
A little further on, there was a handy wooden bench, and Ellie decided a few yoga poses would look good. She was right.
The bench wasn’t far from the footpath, and it was a popular spot for people walking dogs, so there was a steady stream of people and puppers passing by.
One particular pupper was very interested in what Ellie was doing and jumped in mid-yoga – an interruption, but an interrupting dog is usually a welcome thing.
With that, it had started raining, and we headed back towards the leisure centre for shelter. It showed no signs of letting up, so we decided to give up at that.
Just one more shot – I attempted to turn one of the early shots with the hoop on the tree stump into Ellie emerging from another dimension. Not sure I love the result, but it’s kind of interesting.