Spotlight on…Sense & Sensibility poster location shoot.

Getting close to nature and slightly too close to sunset for comfort on a poster image location shoot for Sense & Sensibility, opening soon at the Watermill Theatre.

Sense & Sensibility poster image © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

Sense & Sensibility poster image © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

Ah Nature! There really is nothing quite like getting out of the studio and into the great outdoors; all the virtues of the greatest light source man knows – the sun – at your ready disposal.

Not that things necessarily work out quite so idyllically in a South London park in October. But then that’s when a little location lighting comes to the rescue…

Theatre Briefs

I was shooting with writer and director Jessica Swale for the Watermill Theatre, creating promo shots to make up the poster and marketing for her adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Sense & Sensibility‘ which opens in early April 2014.

As Jan Ferrer, marketing & sales director at the Watermill,  observes, from a theatre’s point of the view, a poster image needs to cover a lots of bases:

[important] ”Trying to find something that captures the attention can be challenging, and combined with this is the need to create an evocative image that meets both the aspirations of the director and the marketing requirements of the theatre: in this case, capturing the period and appealing to our audience, Jane Austen lovers and both men and women.” [/important]

Currently in rehearsals, directed by Jessica, back in October there was not a role cast and the adaptation was its first draft, so our job was to create a striking image, capturing at least a flavour of the key narrative relationship between sisters Eleanor (the  ’Sense’ of the title) and Marianne (‘Sensibility’), not to mention foregrounding a classical period drama vibe.

Making Perfect Sense…

Idyllic soft sunlight on the test shoot © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

Idyllic soft sunlight on the test shoot © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

Agreeing a moodboard of images and zeroing in on the idea of a slightly wild and filmic version of rural life, we sourced costumes and found some willing models (ace actresses Helen Sorren and Michelle Fahrenheim), who could pass as sisters, while Jessica’s longstanding period-drama directing expertise meant she became de facto hair and makeup bod.

The sun making life easy on the test shoot © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

The sun making life easy on the test shoot © Michael Wharley Photography 2014

On a scouting shoot in Brockwell Park, SE24, the day before the shoot proper and  at the golden hour of late afternoon autumnal sun, things had looked truly perfect.


 …Insensible with cold.

The next day, as we dashed into the park to shoot at a similar time, with similar weather forecast, leaden skies, flat grey light, and a chill wind presented a rather more sombre shoot in prospect.

Alas, a brochure deadline meant no option but to shoot that day.

Thankfully, blankets for our good humoured models kept them from frostbite.

And a pair of frankly amazing and life-saving Elinchrom Quadra Rangers provided the illusion of soft sunlight that had appeared so naturally less than 24 hours earlier.

 From Dusk ’til Lawn

Regency reportage, flash standing in for low sunlight ©Michael Wharley 2014

Regency reportage, flash standing in for low sunlight ©Michael Wharley 2014

My personal favourite , no flash in use. ©Michael Wharley 2014

My personal favourite, no flash in use, though natural light a little flat ©Michael Wharley 2014

Shooting quickly to keep the models playing off one another (and not too cold), we got a range of set ups, to offer the theatre as much choice as possible.

But it was practically dusk, with light failing rapidly, when we took the shot that ended up being the poster image.

That’s the image that stands at the head of this post, and without those battery-powered Elinchrom location lights, providing low-angle highlights on the models and grass, there’s no way it would have been possible.



Posters, flyers, brochures, book covers…

Sense & Sensibility flyers

Sense & Sensibility flyers

We chose this particular image because the model looking into the camera, and therefore, out of the picture at you, is immediately engaging.” Jan Ferrer, Watermill Theatre.

The choice of shots seemed to go down well with the theatre, with the ‘winner’  being a shot that I hope captures a classical vibe, something of the sisters’ relationship, and the atmosphere of the novel and adaptation, while catching the eye too

If it does, that’s as much down to the sterling efforts of Helen Sorren and Michelle Fahrenheim as models, the artistic direction thoughts of Jessica Swale, and the light-wielding antics of assistant James Butterworth, as my work.

Certainly, the image was used not just as the poster/flyer for the production, but also as the cover for the Watermills’ Spring / Summer Season Brochure.

Plus – fingers crossed – there’s some prospect of it featuring on the cover of Samuel French‘s forthcoming edition of Jessica’s script.

So it was well worth scrabbling round in the gathering dusk; and, though I’d far rather have used the light than fought it, I do enjoy knowing that despite feeling like a bit of late-summer’s-eve desolate Devon (and thanks to those trusty Elinchroms), really it’s SE24 in the gloom!

21/03/2014 MW


Adapted and directed by Jessica Swale

Book here

THU 03 APR 2014 – SAT 10 MAY 2014

Performance Times
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday matinées at 2.30pm
(no matinée performance on Thursday 3 April)
Saturday 10 May performances at 1.30pm and 6.30pm

Monday evening, Thursday and Saturday matinées £15 and £14.50.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings £24, £22, £15.
Friday and Saturday evenings £26, £24, £16.50.

First Week Special
On the first Thursday and Friday seats are £15 and £14.50. (no other discounts apply)


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Spotlight on… a ghostly location shoot in London

Getting the feeling we’re not alone on a location photography shoot in London’s Brick Lane…


I was shooting for a client recently at the wonderful period property 4 Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane in London, and got the feeling I wasn’t alone..

I wasn’t, in fact. Because it is so versatile, this early Georgian gem is forever popping up on TV and film – last spotted yesterday on an episode of ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ – and I had such a great team with me that it seemed a waste not to shoot a personal project too.

I’d been playing round with the idea of a haunted house, and was envisaging creating something to suggest past events by combining two shots of a room, but when I saw the mirror, the vague ideas coalesced rather nicely.

Top improvisation marks must go to the model & actress Alexa Brown, who brought my vague direction to life beautifully, and the supreme makeup skills of Chris Dennis, and hair skills of Petar Dragicevic, of  Glass Hair Salon, who created mystery and magic from a few Wharley mumblings.

Thanks also to the invaluable assistant Vincent Whiteman, who wielded lights and always has a creative thought to share when I run dry, and to Tom Lovatt, who worked the wind machine to perfection!

Check out the gallery below for some of the other shots from the day…

For any  technically-minded reader, the room’s shot with the ambient light, and the model with a a beauty dish key light, heavy on the wind machine, and a snooted effects light for hair.


20/01/2014 MW


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