‘Created By Connie’ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
Today’s blog post is sponsored with affiliate Amazon links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may get a small commission if you click through and buy an item. Thank you for your support!
I’m sitting here, frozen in thought, attempting my 2nd rewrite of this blog post. Final shots from my latest collaborative photo shoot with Louise just went live on her Facebook page and the reaction has completely stunned me.
The images are, of course, exceptionally beautiful – there is no denying Louise‘s skill and artistry. And when you throw in a spectacular waterfall, a fully committed and passionate first-time model and friend, AND the enthusiastic energy of a fresh graduate as a photographer’s assistant, it’s inevitable that something magical will happen.
It has to be said that 2018 has been a stonker of a year so far – a year of many extremes (and that’s just the weather). Creatively, pieces have been falling in to place for me; Business-wise, I have found my stride and things are ticking over in some semblance of a routine. If you have spoken to me recently, you’ll know that I see this as the first year I have gone “full throttle” on festival season. If only my bookkeeping was the same. But we will not be discussing that here today (!)
Earlier in April this year, Louise and I took ourselves to Esholt woods for a fresh attempt at a river photo soot – a reboot of our original ‘Cold Feet’ shoot which was over two years ago – how time flies! In the woods we found the lovely babbling brook, atmospheric woodland backdrops and plenty of wild garlic for me to dig my bare feet into. The water was typically cold as you would expect in April, and we confused many a dog – and their respective dog walkers. I changed outfits under my outfits, and waited for hikers to pass before switching to another new outfit. At one point we stopped completely as Bella the dog was totally and utterly thrown by our activity, barking maniacally in confusion and subsequently running off with one of our flower crowns in her jaws. Louise was unimpressed. It was retrieved with no damage – thankfully.
The resulting shots from this low-key crazy spontaneous photo shoot were a wonderful surprise. Given how understated our planning had been, I think even my expectation levels were calmer. But Louise, as ever, delivered the most gorgeous album of photos. Truly. Yet, she was determined that we could do better. When the anniversary for ‘Cold Feet’ came up, she was super keen on a re-shoot by the river. And so, I started checking everybody’s calendars and availability.
We scheduled a date for June with a plan to reunite the original threesome from the River Wharf shoot in Ilkley. Everything was set to go ahead until I threw a spanner in the works by spending an afternoon at the BIASAN Eid party, donating henna artist services from four artists representing the Home of Henna CIC. I felt that the likelihood of rescheduling the river shoot was slim – but consoled myself with the beautiful Esholt pictures.
Then, two nights later as I lay in bed scrolling through my Instagram feed at crazy o’clock (don’t lie, I know you’ve done it too) I came across an image from an account called the California Witch Camp. Impulsively I wanted to send it to Louise immediately. I tempered my enthusiasm, clicked ‘save’ and then sent it to her it at 7:53AM instead (which is remarkable restraint if you know me at all).
An hour later, Louise responded:
“Oh come on!! Let’s do this!!! Summer is calling and that water would be lovely and warm**”
So, on 24th of June the wheels began to set in motion and my organisational hat was *on*. We set the new date there and then: 6th July, a mere 2 weeks after the original date that I had cancelled. It was then a race to get all the pieces aligned for the shoot. Our first obstacle was that Helen was sadly unable to make the reunion shoot. It began to look like I would need to self-henna and be the lone model, which really didn’t feel like good enough for something that I had ambitious plans for. I had to engage more brain cells in finding another adventurous solution.
And then I remembered Tegan.
I met Tegan a few years ago – at our Onna Ju-Jitsu dojo. She was, as long as I knew her, training for her black belt – Junior, Senior and also 2nd black belt. As far as I know, she has always been a black belt – maybe she was born a black belt (it honestly would not surprise me). The reality is that she started training as a 6 year old. Our Sensei often described her as seeming like a 40 year old in a child’s body, and it’s true – if you have ever spent any length of time with Tegan, she does seem like an old soul. Or at the very least, it feels like she has been here before. Intelligent, mature and bright, a scholarship student at our city’s grammar school and an aspiring lawyer, she was also *my* black belt uke. This means she assisted my black belt grading by [happily] being thrown by me, no less than 25 times using a variety of methods. Actually, maybe it was 32 times since there were 7 combination throws after that. With each throw she would spring back onto her feet and throw some encouragement back my way to keep on keeping on. This is someone whose hair I have braided for her first National Ju-Jitsu competition in a sisterly-like fashion. She is less than HALF my age.
I should warn you incase it isn’t clear already that you should never be fooled by Tegan’s 5’3″ stature and unassuming presence though – this woman will move mountains. Now 18 years old and a trainee lawyer & student in Sheffield, AND a lifeguard at the weekend, Tegan had actively notified me back in March that if I would ever be in need of a model, she would be very happy to help. A few hours after re-arranging the date with Louise I then sent the inspiration images to Tegan and asked:
“Lemme know if you’d be up for a shoot like this during school hours on the 6th July (and if so, available to be henna’d on Mon/Tues before the shoot)” [I had given her 7 days notice]
Within 60 seconds she had responded – “Absolutely!”
The levels of excitement were beginning to mount.
We had just passed lunchtime when I informed Louise – I was internally squealing. The following day sent her a link to a pop-up changing pod as an investment piece of equipment for location shoots recalling the struggle of getting dressed out in the open in Esholt woods. It felt like things were coming together and my mind was racing with excitement and anticipation. Louise was making plans to scout out another location in Bingley when a moment of inspiration hit me: A Sun and Moon / Light and Dark theme for the henna designs would be PERFECT. I was SO excited, I squealed loudly – on my own, in my home. AND I did a lil hop/jump and a few excited claps. Yes. I was definitely alone. I had left my designs sketch book in the studio (my fellow notebook addicts will Feel My Pain), but ever determined I drafted designs and layout in whatever drawing book I had to hand. The levels of excitement were dangerously approaching unsustainable levels.
The 2nd day, I made a quick trip around a charity shop for anything suitable for the shoot and also picked up some temporary hair colour sprays: Red and copper for Tegan’s fair hair, and grey for myself, in keeping with the sun and moon concept. As timing would have it, my bi-monthly hair appointment was also on this day and my poor hairdresser Joanne – who had intended on giving me strawberry/peach blonde tones – had to re-plan the entire colouring scheme for my hair when I specified I needed grey for the photography concept. It turned out that when I told her I was aiming for a “Witches in the Woods” feel, she envisioned black pointed hats and green skin. Err. No. Fast forward many hours (actually 5 hours) and my hair had never been so white/blonde/grey. Lunar Witch step 1 completed in time for the festival-filled and henna-mixing weekend.
Henna application day rolled round in what felt like SECONDS thanks to the distraction of the Shipley Street Arts Festival. Soon Tegan was parking up in our driveway by the Creative Arts Hub after a 2 hr commute, armed with fresh pizza for our sustenance. With my very freshly mixed batch of henna paste containing Rajasthani henna powder, a splash of Jamila henna powder, lavender Bulgaria essential oil, rose water, maple syrup and a few drops of sweet orange essential oil we cracked on with making her henna-fied. Despite turning up with some very fresh sunburn damaged skin and radiating heat from her chest (no joke), she was an absolute JOY to henna. Tegan was a super still and relaxing model. After over 4 hours of application, she was the instigator for *more* henna on her upper arms when I hesitated, citing “I just think that when we’re shooting on Friday, you’ll wish you put more henna there.” And she was absolutely right. In the end, we were in the studio for 6 hours, which included the taping and wrapping of all the henna using a variety of mefix, tegaderm and vet-wrap. Once she was safely wrapped she could finally make the 2 hour drive back home (!) She had attempted to assure me that her previous experiences with natural henna had resulted in deep and long lasting tones, but I was never truly comforted until I learned that she had 100% committed to perfect aftercare procedures having familiarised herself with ALL my aftercare requirements before we had even arranged the shoot.
When I woke the next morning, it was time to begin my own henna designs. Having taken many, many notes from the experiences of my fellow henna friends regarding self-henna on the chest, I prepared by straddling a stool, and facing a wide, full length mirror and ensured good lighting, The key advice for self-chest henna is to not look from the mirror to your own chest as it confuses the brain – true story! I tried it!
The next part of the body I tackled was my right arm – which involved applying henna using my non-dominant left hand. So here’s a key tip – when applying self henna and you want matching designs on both sides, try using your non-dominant hand first as your dominant hand will have far fewer problems mirroring/reflecting a design. Expecting your non-dominant hand to match a design you created organically with your dominant hand is a very frustrating learning experience. Once both my chest and right arm were fully dried and wrapped for protection, I continued with my usual school run duties and evening duties until the henna could re-commence after the bedtime routine. As I sat awake that Tuesday night, waiting for my henna to dry for wrapping I began my usual scrolling habit which is how I discovered Yorkshire Waterfalls Photography. “OMG” I thought to myself, “A WATERFALL WOULD BE EPIC!” And proceeded to spam Louise on messenger with multiple links to potential waterfall locations that we could use. The time stamps on these links are roughly 1:50AM… Oops. But! It was totally worth it as by 11AM, Louise had opted for Goit Stock, a hidden gem of a waterfall right here in Bradford. If you thought our excitement levels must have been high, they went stratospheric after this decision.
In the end my self-henna was not finished until Wednesday night. I even managed to experiment with henna designs dried onto mefix tape and then applied and rehydrated to my back and backs of my legs by employing the assistance of my husband for positioning. He was thrilled to be faced with the pressure of symmetrical alignment (!)
It dawned on us at this point that we really needed a photography assistant. As Helen was unable to join us, we were one team member down. Louise and I agreed that an extra pair of hands was really essential for more creative freedom. Having asked around with no success, Louise resorted to a public call out on her page for an enthusiastic volunteer, not knowing what on earth to expect from the potential responses. Luck really must have been on our side as the call-out brought Charlie to our project 2 days before the shoot. A recent graduate in Business Management with a burgeoning skill and enthusiasm for photography, primarily in landscapes Charlie offered us not only his helping hands with a willingness to get his feet wet***, but THEN on the day before the shoot he suggested he bring along HIS DRONE.
Louise: “Hell yes let’s bring it along!”
With pinterest boards pinging back and forth between us, plus henna stain updates, plus dress and hair ideas flinging around and then THE POSSIBILITIES of drone photography I chattered excitedly to Georgina during my lash extension appointment (also remarkably well timed for the photo shoot) and it was virtually impossible for me to fall asleep the night before the shoot…
(continued in part 2, coming soon!)
***He brought wellies – his feet did not get wet.