joanna bordon

Joanna Bordon South Bank dance concept photo shoot


Prior to this shoot, I was at the annual Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographer convention in London. This largest photography convention in Europe. I am a member and have attended the event for the last four years. During that time I have seen my views and beliefs about photography change because of it. Most importantly, as a result of this I am a much better, creative and competent photographer than I was when I first attended it. I will write a more comprehensive blog on it in due course.

When I arranged to meet up with Joanna 'Jo Bo' (as I call her) Bordon in London after the convention, I thought we would sit in a coffee bar and catch up. Instead she had ideas and suggested we take some photographs. This would mean hauling down my camera and a few other bits of equipment on the coach from Leeds to London.

For my last shoot in London with Flow Foster I brought a case with gear full of photographic gear, but I also drove down to London in my car. This time I travelled down my coach. I had to very picky about what I brought down too. There was no assistant either, so the options were curtailed. Then again a good photographer should be able produce stunning photographs with the tools at hand and not have to always rely on a suitcase full of gear. Creativity inspiration would have to come from thinking outside of the box!

The shoot

Coming off the back of the convention meant I had a few ideas I wanted to try out if I could cobble together the necessary gadget within a space of a few hours before the shoot. This proved much easier than I thought. I found the LED lights in the first shop I visited. It is pictured t the end of the blog. The idea is to spin the chord round and rotate at the same time and create a 'light sphere'. This was prove to be harder than it sounds.

Whilst I was at the convention, I became aware of a photograph featuring a couple standing next to an arch with the Tower of Westminster framed within it. It was my intention to find the location and use it in the shoot. It was not hard to find (photo 1 below). We tried a few shots, but there was movement in all of the shots because the shutter had to stay open for a while to capture the available light. Using rear sync flash did not work very well. We will have to return during the day and try again.

tower of westminster

1. The Tower of Westminster framed by an arch. Aperture priority, tungsten white balance, f/2.8, 1/15s and ISO 4000.

Even though this did not work, Jo Bo spied fountain on the other side of a metal grill. So, we went in search of it. We found it outside Guy's and St Thomas' hospital. No one was in a garden so we set up there to see if the LED chord would work. I wondered if the fountain and the Tower of Westminster would be good backdrop. It did, but trying to create a light sphere proved to challenge.

How hard can it be to spin a chord in circle whilst turning slowly around? We were soon to discover we were both rubbish at it. It was a surprise when Jo Bo ended up hitting herself with it on a number of occasions. Anyone one would put money on her being able to pull this off rather than me. It turned out my attempts proved to be more successful although far from sphere looking.

I just had another go at twirling the LED chord and I had no problem with making regular circles. Jo Bo blames it on the wind. I still blame her ;-).

Hubert Hung

2. This was our best effort. The others were pretty grim. This is also me in the centre. Shutter priority f/20, 5s, ISO 500 and -1.3 EV (to stop the clock face from completely burining out).

If something does not work, move on and try something else. We did and came up with this. All of the ideas are Jo Bo's. I just set up the camera, told her where to stand and when to start moving. That is how I work. I set the stage and give the dancer the space and freedom to express themself.

Joanna Bordon

3. Jo Bo's idea. You can see the spray coming off the fountain in the middle.

Joanna Bordon

4. Another one of Jo's ideas. It took three attempts to centre the circles around fountain and the Tower of Westminster.

Joanna Bordon

5. Jo let loose to do whatever she wanted to. I think this looks like a small child is trying to write their name for the first time. The detail around the fountain and in the background was enhanced during post processing.

Joanna Bordon

8. Here she moved downwards to create this effect and not hit herself with the chord in the process.

From there we went to Leake Street under Waterloo Station. Artists are allowed to graffiti walls. We had a look around and I let Jo Bo found choose the background. Having only one flashgun and a tripod limited what I could do. I thought about just flooding the scene with light, but I quickly dismissed this because it is would create flat, unimaginative and boring light.

I wanted shadows, movements and something a bit different. Without anything except a diffuser cap to modify the flashgun, I had to think not so much what I could not do, but what could be done. What kind of light does this flashgun produce? The answer to that is dark, strong and dramatic shadows. By placing in on the tripod and triggering it remotely we came up with these photos.

Joanna Bordon, Leake street

9. The flashgun was placed to the left of the shot about waist height. Jo Bo's hair gives the shot a sense of movement. If I had another flashgun I would have added a flashgun to light the back of her hair just a little bit.

Joanna Bordon , Leake street

10. A leap shot with bags of energy from Jo Bo Minion. I love the way her hair explodes outwards. For once it is not covering her face! In previous shoots we would nail an amazing jump, but would have to bin it because her hair would be covering her face! The lighting pattern on her face is known as split lighting and not recommend when photographing women for portraiture. In this case this is more about dance and movement than making her face look beautiful.

Joanna Bordon , Leake street

11. I asked Jo Bo to start low and throw her head back. We tried this a few times trying to capture a shot with lots of explosive movement. I applied a small (subtle) amount of 'wind' effect so there is a bit of motion blur. You can see this on her front foot and around her finger tips.

When we first arrived in Leake Street, I had a look around at the graffiti art on the walls. What I failed to notice what was higher up and on the ceiling. It was a good thing I spotted this to the left of where we had been shooting. As a dance photographer this was too good a chance to miss and incorportate this into the shot.

Joanna Bordon , Leake street, david bowie

12. A Lego David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust make-up. I wondered how a strong and hard shadow would look against the wall. The flashgun was placed further back to increase the size and strength of the shadow.

Joanna Bordon, Leake street, david bowie

13. I then wondered if we could pull off the shot without Jo Bo in it and try and fill the frame with shadow. To achieve this shot we took a number of photos of Jo Bo standing still to see where the shadow would cast and its size.


A full-frame camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens was used throughout the shoot. A tripod and a flashgun were also used. For the long exposure shots, a remote shutter release was used to reduce camera movement.

All of the Leake Street photographs were taken at f/2.8, 1/400th s and ISO 400. The camera and flash were in manual mode so the exposure would be consistent each time.

LED chord

The LED light chord made from a bungee and some Christmas tree LED lights with a battery pack.

Post processing

Most of the post processing was done in Lightroom. A bit of cropping, lens correction, gradient filters and applying a few film emulations.

The rest was performed in Photoshop. This was mostly dodging and burning (lightening and darkening specific areas) and sharpening the detail.

Final thoughts and thanks

I could of pulled off the photographs of the Tower of Westminster if I had created a composite photograph. If this were the only chance of capturing it I would have done this. Jo Bo and I will try this again the next time I am in London.

Working with Jo Bo is so much fun. This is the fourth time we have done this. One studio portrait shoot and two dance related ones. She is also very creative and can think quickly on her feet too. There are links to our previous shoots below.

If she had not climbed up to peer through the bars we would have never seen the fountain. Thank you for your time, talent, sense of fun and general silliness. I am sorry I forgot to bring any cake.

Thank you to Alison Carlino for introducing the light sphere idea to me.

Jo Bo did not sustain any injuries or damaged in any way during the shoot especially during the LED chord session. She also makes a great hat stand.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the photographs especially if you are related to Flow or know her well. I would be interested to read your thoughts.

Your thoughts


Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

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