The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Photographing a Kimono

I have to confess to enjoying something of a wee smug moment during the photo shoot.

I was photographing artist, Ewan McClure, modelling a Kimono designed by Morag Macpherson, in the gallery of Broughton House in Kirkcudbright.

Overhead lighting is rarely great for portraits and this one had quite a strong yellow cast which wasn't doing much for the colours of the material either.

Primarily I solved the problem with a combination of an off-camera flash with a coloured gel and adjusting in-camera white-balance. And at this point I could write several paragraphs about the technique.

In fact, I did, but have just deleted it as it was too full of photographer nerd talk. If anyone is particularly interested I'm sure I'll be chatting about it in one of my video podcasts sooner or later.

However, the solution came from recalling a Facebook post by King Douglas (who I interviewed on this blog - see Chasing Shadows: The Photographer Interviews - King Douglas) from several years ago. I'd understood the theory, but never put into practice – until now.

I love it when my brain works.

Although I don't doubt the super-strong coffee Ewan made us before we began helped considerably.

But probably of more interest to non-photographers is why we were doing the photo shoot in the first place.

I've done several shoots with Morag over the years (for example, see Photo Shoot at the Rural Mural and Bald, Bold, and Covered in Paint), so when she told me of an interesting commission she'd been given, I was more than happy to take some shots of it for her.

Lynne had a beautiful silk dress of her mother's from Hong Kong in the 1950s, but it had been packed away for years. She had no desire to wear her mother's clothes so wondered about repurposing it into a kimono as a gift for her son, who lives in Switzerland.

Morag regularly makes kimonos using printed fabrics of her own design, although they are almost always for women. However, she did have a pattern for a male kimono, which she had taken from one in a collection of Japanese artifacts stored and displayed at the National Trust for Scotland's Broughton House.

The idea came up that perhaps we could do a shoot at this location and the connection might make an interesting press release.

Although Broughton House was closed to the public in February, she called round and discovered the artist Ewan McClure was working out of the studio there.

The building used to be the residence of Scottish impressionist artist E.A. Hornel, and at the back of the house is a large room – 2 storeys high, and where half the roof is a north-facing skylight, letting in a wonderful soft natural daylight. Ewan has been using the space as artist-in-residence for the past few years.

So if we could get Ewan to model the kimono at Broughton House then that would add another dimension of interest to the story.

Fortunately he was up for it.

The gallery was the obvious place to take a photo, although it did have problematic lighting from my perspective – hence the need to creatively solve the issue, which I did, and then enjoyed the smug moment I mentioned earlier.

The rest of the photos - see below - we decided to take in Hornel/Ewan's studio space – and with the large roof windows allowing the natural light to flood in, I decided not to use any artificial lighting on this occasion (although I have tucked away a couple of ideas for potential future shoots...).

As Morag and I are both appearing in the Spring Fling Open Studios event at the end of May, this combination of photos and story was picked up by Matthew Shelley of Scottish Festivals PR, and has since been used to promote the event in various local and national press.

Kimono: Morag Macpherson

Model/Artist: Ewan McClure

Location: Broughton House

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