The Fisherman of Leigh Woods
Ever since first hearing about Luke Jerram’s Withdrawn Art installation, I had an idea in mind to set up a photoshoot using the fishing boats to create a picture that runs alongside the story of the install about global warming and rising sea levels.
My image would tell a story of a fisherman that had run aground in the woods as a big storm and massive high tide had swept him and his boat in from the sea and now he’s trying to find help.
A few weeks ago I set up the shoot with the help of Mark Letheren who would be the Fisherman in my picture. I knew of Mark only through social media and Flickr, often seeing well photographed selfies of his rugged complexion which fitted my requirements perfectly. Thankfully he offered and my bargaining price of a few good beers sealed the deal.
To my surprise, when we met on location Mark told me that he’s an actor and has starred in such programs as The Bill, Casualty and Wire In The Blood. Firstly, this was good as I knew Mark could do his thing and fall in to character. For me though, the pressure was on to really nail the shot now I was working with a seasoned professional. He had also brought along a duffle bag full of fisherman-like attire and a lantern.
I had a fishing boat in mind; at first I thought about using them all in the shot but it might have seemed too crowded plus there was something I really liked about this little fishing boat in particular.
I wanted to create some atmosphere in the shot; I knew there would have to be smoke lingering through the trees for a slightly haunting feel but smoke grenades would be too much. Luckily, my cheap smoke pellets did the job well although it meant me randomly placing them around Mark to get the desired effect; 10 smoke pellets later and poor Mark was a little smoked out.
Lighting was another issue. It couldn’t be too dark and yet it couldn’t be too light, I wanted just enough light to keep the shutter speed high enough to keep Mark sharp, but still wanted the picture to be dark enough so the light in the lantern would shine brightly. I had brought along two flashes but personally, I like using one flash just to cast enough light for detail. I didn’t want to overexpose the picture as I knew I could bring out the darker areas in post processing.
I started shooting by using my trusty 50mm lens, it’s probably one of my favourite lenses for portraiture. It was good but it wasn’t to be the choice this time; I switched to using my very wide 14mm the only problem with this was it was manual focus and with the light fading it was getting tricky to focus on Mark.
When I can see the picture in my head, there’s always a doubt in my mind that I’ll be able to create it in real life. Sometimes a picture you see in your mind can not always be created through the lens of your camera but luckily we pulled this off and it looked just as I’d imagined it would, many months ago.
Words & photos by Jim Cossey