The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The Lost Chronicles of Gallovidia

'We're running a project about the hidden histories of Dumfries and Galloway. This region is full of the most amazing characters! We’re currently focusing our efforts in Northwest Dumfries, and tying it in with things like "Vikings," "Outlander," and "Game of Thrones." Through various talks, hands-on workshops, re-enactments and live action role-playing we’re helping people gain a real interest and pride in their history. And we need you to help us take a photo that will embody what we’re up to!’

As we sat, slurping our hot chocolates at my favourite meeting place, Debz from Sleeping Giants told me about Warrior Training Bootcamp, banquets, and costume making workshops.

I didn’t need the hard sell to come on board.

Back in my early 20s I used to belong to a Dark Ages re-enactments society where we would dress up as Celts, Saxons and Vikings, hit each other with swords and spears, and get blind drunk at banquets. I also have a great love for historic fantasy – from “Lord of The Rings” to “Game of Thrones” to the legends of King Arthur.

Now would be a chance to create a photo in this genre – something I’ve been itching to do for years.

I went along to one of the launch evenings where among other things Fran Halpin, who is essentially the food designer on Game of Thrones, gave a talk. Every time the characters sit down to eat, the tables and food have to be styled to look authentic and in keeping with the place and characters. So the Lannisters would eat off gold plates, while the Boltons would use pewter. And pomegranates wouldn’t be in just anyone’s fruit bowl. It's one of those things that once said is obvious, but until Fran's talk it had never occurred to me there would be so much work involved in something most of us would be unlikely to consciously notice.

I was more excited than ever.

Characters were being created, costumes made and scenarios discussed, and eventually the plan became to shoot a scene with about 10 different people around a table, campaigning, plotting or eyeing each other up.

Originally we decided to do the shoot at Lincluden Abbey – a beautiful ruin in Northwest Dumfries – but the weather was so unreliable over the summer, we realised we needed an indoor setting. The new owners of Buittle Tower near Dalbeattie offered us the use of their vaulted cellar and we were set to go.

I had the most amazing group of people to photograph in a fantastic setting. Now all I had to do was not screw it up.

Anxiety levels rose when I realised the space was a lot smaller than I remembered. During our recce, there had only been 2 or 3 of us in the room, whereas now there were more than a dozen. With the side walls in shot, it was going to be far more difficult to get the interesting lighting I’d planned.

After several different approaches, eventually I settled on a light on the right with a yellow gel, which gave a candlelight cast, with a light on the left with a blue gel to feel like moonlight coming through the narrow window slit. I also placed a flash with an orange gel into the fireplace to look as if there was a glowing fire in there.

Fran was also on set (the helmeted, chain mail soldier on the right) and dressed the table for me, which was wonderful. She has an eye for detail like no other. For example, I love the curl of apple peal you can see hanging off a fruit bowl if you zoom in.

After I felt I had the photo I wanted, I then set about doing a series of individual portraits of the characters in the same setting, but making changes in the table layouts (again Fran was invaluable) and this time having them looking into the camera with attitude.

Here are a few of my favourites, although you can find the full set on my Facebook Photography page here:

The Monk

The Bard

The Witch

The Priest

With such a great project and a fun set of photos, it was no surprise that it all ended up heavily featured in Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine.

Not only did they use one of the group images for the cover, but inside the main shot was given a double-page spread, while a few of the individual character portraits were used in the article.

I think this counts as quite possibly one of my favourite shoots of all time!


Ponita in Real Life said...

Fabulous photos!! I too love all of those shows.

Kim Ayres said...

Ponita - thank you! I'm a sucker for historic and fantasy shows, although my wife can't be doing with them...

neena maiya said...

It's the tiniest of details, and patience, that make a work professional and great and art!!!

This grabbed me: "the Lannisters would eat off gold plates, while the Boltons would use pewter. And pomegranates wouldn’t be in just anyone’s fruit bowl."

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - I can never look at a banqueting scene in the same way again! :)

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