Caroline Plummer

It has been an incredibly busy week at work for me, so the hour and a half grabbed on Tuesday evening to photograph Caroline was particularly welcome! Caroline is a painter, mainly specialising in powerfully vibrant and textured landscapes. Caroline’s approach to colour particularly appeals to me, with splashes of impressionist colours appearing for emphasis throughout her paintings; I love them. Caroline takes much of her inspiration from nearby Carsaig by Tayvallich, so we agreed to do our portraits there. Just for a pleasant change there was no rain, and a warm low sun adding drama to the sea. In this image, the contrast between the sun placed behind Caroline and her skin was huge, even with fill flash from my left. The 5D’s full frame sensor copes well with this, but still needed  a lot of careful post-processing. When you have dramatic sunlight, it is always worth trying it as backlight with fill flash, but it gets tricky when the general light level is falling as the noise levels on the subjects skin can be too high as you bring the exposure levels up on the face and skin.

This image is full of drama, and places Caroline powerfully in her landscape.

This one simply repeated the approach from the previous one, but without the sun being directly behind. With fill-flash to my left the contrast was much easier to deal with and Caroline’s face was perfectly exposed but retaining the backlit drama. This one is really lovely and Caroline’s smile is perfect.

This one of Caroline is very powerful and seems to hint at a story. It breaks the lighting rules though and I’m aware that it might be irritating to some. When using fill flash, you should really avoid placing it opposite the natural light source, unless the sun is directly behind. This leaves a darker band on Caroline’s face, and I nearly rejected this one because of that. It still appeals to me however, and is a good reminder that sometimes pictures work, even if the rules are broken. In any session you will make some mistakes, and it’s wise to reflect on them, and not to “beat yourself up”. Learn and move on; if you get lucky, enjoy it! There is a nice depth to this one, with Caroline “popping” out from the softer background.

This one is just perfect. Caroline is relaxed and looks wonderful, the light, is warm and soft, fill flash (dialled down to be subtle) removes the shadows from the left hand side of Caroline’s face, the background is soft and in complementary shades. The only criticism is that I might have made Caroline look like a model for a designer knitwear catalogue rather than a bohemian and edgy artist. (Hopefully she’ll forgive me just this once).

Phew, artistic equilibrium restored, confident and challenging artist touched by genius! Check the goddess-like halo!

In this final picture, the light had lost it’s perfect warmth, but there was still a nice rim-lighting available from it. All the other pictures used the 50mm f1.4 but this one employed my 85mm f1.8, and it’s classical portrait perspective. I went in a little closer to really emphasise Caroline’s eyes and the results are direct and simple. The colours were uninteresting in the light that remained at this point so a heavily desaturated treatment restored the simple power of the picture by removing the now distracting colours.


Caroline’s session was really enjoyable, and despite her claim that she doesn’t enjoy being photographed, she was great company, fairly relaxed in front of the camera, and a joy to work with. I hope she is as pleased with the pictures as I am. When we enjoyed a cup of tea with Caroline afterwards, we had a proper chance to admire her paintings. They are simply stunning and you must check out her work if you like landscapes in a modern style. They are wonderful to see on her websites, but you have to see the textures and vibrant colours up close to appreciate them; just be prepared to fall in love with them!

Thanks to Julie for assisting me on this shoot.


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