Creative abandoned nightclub shoot in Essex
An abandoned nightclub from the 1980s was to be our location on this occasion. Situated close to the A127 in Essex and opposite the halfway house, the building stands decaying and untouched for over 20 years. This kind of shoot is in stark contrast to the beautiful wedding scenes I regularly encounter See wedding port folio but dark and dramatic really appeals to me so I was eager to get models Chloe & Rachael inside the nightclub and seeing what we could come up with.
I noticed that the late morning sun was shining through the open roof in the upstairs room so I decided to take advantage of this and start with some close up backlit shots. A simple reflector was used to bounce some of the sunlight back onto Chloe's face (camera right) which was a great start to the shoot.
Using that same section of the upstairs room in the nightclub, I got my professional photographer friend Steve Hobart to throw some talcum powder into the air to add some drama and mystery to the shot. Rachael's choice of clothing worked really well for this shot and I allowed the harshness of the sunlight to soak through and render the subject into almost complete darkness. I love the grittiness of this shot and it was something I had in mind before we started.
Just to the left of the opening where the sun shone through for the top 2 images was this wonderful wall of graffiti. It was crying out to be used so we made this the next location. We used Rachael again and introduced an old weathered chair we found in the corner of the room. A slightly more complex setup was constructed because we really wanted the model to ping off of the background rather than be part of it. You can see Rachael's gorgeous red hair has been lit with a speedlite which was grided camera right and slightly from behind. We then feathered another speedlite onto the background to the left and put a blue gel on to enhance the colours further. The final piece of the puzzle was to light the model from the front and again this was a gridded speedlite to control the amount of light hitting our subject. I didn't really use the ambient light that you see in the opening above Rachael but I did like where it was in the scene so I added some rays in photoshop afterwards.
Moving around the room further still and we come to a nice circular window which leads to stairs on the outside of the building. The sun was still on the other side of the nightclub so we had an evenly lit shaded area to work with for this shot. After a few test shots and various poses, I settled on this one as the most pleasing. I used a medium sized soft box with a single speedlite inside just to add a touch of light on the subject.
Digging deeper into this interesting piece of Essex history, We discovered a doorway with rubble and an unusual frame for my next shot. I wanted the breeze from the doorway behind Chloe to blow the dress and add a sense of movement. It didn't quite work the way I had imagined but as you can see there is some movement in the lower sections. The things I think worked really well for this image was the subtle light on the models right arm coming from the doorway (actually a toilet which has been exposed to the elements over the years), and the way the crumbled wall on Chloe's left bends in to form a nice frame for her. I love having a beautiful model in a decaying environment :)
Well this is a little different to the other images and it's now downstairs in what was the bathroom area on the lower part of the nightclub. I placed my model on the sink area and created a place for her feet using a stack of breeze blocks. There is a wall immediately out of frame to camera left which is what I used to bounce the speedlite off of for a softer look. I'm loving the catchlights in her eyes and her expression. I'm not too happy with the placement of the hand on her chest. If I could do this again, I'd make it more feminine and perhaps have the hand side on to the camera for added elegance. I was quite intrigued by the stencil work behind Chloe. I couldn't work out what it said but perhaps this was part of the original decor to the nightclub? Maybe someone could let us know in the comments below?
My final image was an experiment of coloured gels to make a rather bland looking area appear more interesting. Photographer Steve Hobart helped set the scene up with his knowledge of lighting and he did a great job. We started with using a blue gel for a majority of the scene which made a big difference right away. There was then a window to camera left which allowed us the place a speedlite with an orange gel outside the building and firing back at our model. The mixture of blue and orange gels always work well together. Another trick you could try is changing your white balance to tungsten on a cloudy overcast day and then add an orange gel to your light to make your subject really stand out. Give it a try and let me know how you got on in the comments below :)
I have plenty more creative images in my portrait folio so please take a look and comment. I always appreciate your feedback. If you have an idea or an interesting place in Essex that you think may serve as a cool location, I'd love to hear from you too. I'm always looking for inspriration.
Thanks for reading guys. Until next time - keep that shutter active!