October saw us put on a fantastic fashion flash course at a wonderful location in Liverpool. Due to the amazing success of our France courses over the last few years we thought we would mark the anniversary of the last France course with a very special day of training at a very cool yet creepy location. I had been looking as we always are for a location for quite a while and stumbled on this place by chance through a ghost tour web site ! After finding out who now owns this venue I made a short call to the owner and a day was set for me to go and take a look, lets just say I wasn’t disappointed! This now closed down former hospital | orphanage | asylum is now privately owned and offers some great shooting if you look in the right places.

The date was set and the course went out to our facebook group and then onto the site for general release. As the places filled we started to plan the day – these courses take  a lot of planning and meticulous styling. We knew that our resident makeup artist | Stylist & hair dressers Zan Atkinson was to be onboard on this one and we set to work looking for period outfits and pieces that would compliment the shoot. It is a fine line when shooting in a place like this that you want  to do it justice and not just dress people in theatre or bikinis! So when we stumbled across an amazing shop in Coventry in the newly opened Fargo village called Heaven Vintage we knew the owner Angela would understand exactly what we needed and she wasn’t to disappoint. We had some great pieces , a 1920′s wedding dress, original Edwardian hats and clothing from Victorian era aswell as some more modern pieces that we could ad to the mix including a very vogue like underskirt that Zan had made from a wedding underskirt! Models were Jen Brook who I hadn’t worked with for  a few years but we knew that her look would be perfect for a job like this and she didn’t disappoint. Model Milly from Nemesis model agency in Manchester was also onboard with a unique look that would also work great with the environment. So the day crept up on us as fast as the days are getting shorter and we were ready to go…

The kit was sorted a few days before making sure we had ample batteries and lights – with help from The Flash Centre lending us the equipment that we didn’t have we were set to go. After filling up my car & James’s car – my assistant with coffee machine | sandwiches | cookies oh and yes the lighting equipment we headed off to Liverpool to start our epic day. After arriving we had a little time for myself and James to take a look around and make a plan , although plans are there to be broken! Whilst Zan started work on our first look with Jen the photographers started to arrive  and over coffee and cookies & doughnuts ( thanks to neil!! ) we went through the equipment and then went for a walk around so that they could get a feel for the place and we could start to plan our shots out a little.

The first look was ready with Jen looking the part we took our time with the first look showing the photographers how to plan a shoot and to look at layering the lights, to give the lighting purchase and meaning not just on the subject but around the subject too.




Lit with a large 6ft Elinchrom Octa bank and two small beauty dishes, with the help of a little orange gel and a haze machine we had this one licked!

After setting up shot number two in the corridoor we came back into the main hall where our kit was and thanks to haze machine the sunlight was streaming through the window in such a way that you only ever see on huge movie sets! So needless to say we took Milly from her set to this to not waste this opportunity! Using the sunlight as our main light we made sure the shadows of Milly were nicely filled in with the 6ft Octa which is my main weapon of choice for fashion work!


Make sure you get down to the end of the post for some great behind the scenes shot by my assistant James and also numerous photogs on the course. With the room buzzing with excitement from this shot and the great start we had made to the day everyone grabbed a coffee and a sandwich , a few of the photographers going for a walk around to other floors to see what they could find!

After a quick lunch our model Jen was ready with her second look and we headed off down to the lower floor of the asylum where the laundry rooms were. Using very feathered lighting we shot Jen against an old ironing station with an old stretch dummy body used to steam shirts over. This made a great background and went with the edwardian – steam punk look we were going after. Using a strip box with Elinchrom Ranger RS Speed AS pack  & one small beauty dish with a shower cap on to diffuse the light.



After a super quick change we went off track and went into the tiny room next door where they used to dry the clothes with the old hangers still roped to the roof. Jen quickly on set changed into an amazing 1910 | 1920′s wedding dress  - very fragile dress too from Angela’s own collection at Heaven Vintage. Using one Elinchrom Ranger RX pack and one light with a 70cm softbox we put one light next door through the window and one light in the room itself with a beauty dish – gridded to give a little bounce back and edge light to the model. Jen worked this to perfection and in the near pitch black everyone took their turn to shoot how they wished.




We then left the room and headed off for a coridoor where some natural light spilled in and took model Milly with her second look. This was a simple shot with no flash , finding an old mirror work perfectly – shooting wide open on a Canon 50mm 1.2L lens made for a super soft look to a very eerie image!



Working our way down the coridoor we used another simple background for effect , then giving the modle a breather as I think the haze machine used previously had got to her a little! This time shooting through an old smashed glass doorway , using simple doorway light to one side I used the doorframe to frame the subject.



We then took Jen outside who was now ready with her 3rd look. Zan was working as fast as she could to get the girls ready for us so we could keep on going. It is a challenge when you are teaching in such a place as you want to teach people what you are doing but you also want people to be able to shoot for themselves. At the end of the day it is a day of teaching, a day to watch, shoot, listen and take inspiration to go away and practice these techniques to do this for yourself in your own way and style.

We headed off outside for Jens look using an old doorway with elaborate ( cobweb) style glass above,keeping this one simple as we could with just one light , a 70cm softbox to override the ambiance.




With the day quickly getting away from us we headed off to probably one of the most eerie places of the whole site. A room where the main oven for the hospital was situated and I’m not talking food either! The main cremation ovens sit in a unit by themselves and were heavily used in there 35 years of service. We used the room next door to them. A place where old gurneys were stacked up and a chapel sat untouched for years. Our model Milly stood motionless and stared straight ahead going for  avery strong look Zan our stylist draped a long piece of black lace over her to give a unique feel to the image with bright red lips completing the look. With time running out we took turns with the light again using just one head with a gridded softbox on it.



I knew the deadline was coming thick and fast for us to leave so we headed off to the old swimming pool house for our last look. Jen was ready and stood in the middle of the room. With  the floor slightly wet and muddy from an open roof the light offered a little reflection on the ground in front of her which was great. Using the large 6ft Octabank and again a small beauty dish for separation, a little haze from the haze machine which James had managed to wire up with a few extension sockets from the main hospital! I could have stayed in this room forever as the scene was perfect. Zan had crafted a hand made boned underskirt with original vintage corsets from Heaven Vintage completed the look.




A simply amazing day that I would say will go down as one of our best training events ever. On par with France for sure! Everyone chipped in to get all the kit outside of the venue with our 6pm deadline ( strict deadline) approaching. A huge thank you to all that made it down to this event and as well as getting some great images I hope you all learned some different techniques to take away and use for your own work. Although this was a one off course we are currently looking at another venue for a possible Fashion II course that will again push the boundaries of what is achievable on a day of photographic training.

A huge thank you to Angela from Heaven vintage, to Zan Atkinson for the hours she put in before and during the day. To James Davies for assisting on the day and being  a human donkey!  To The Flash Centre for suppling us with some equipment for the days events. A great team up there in Leeds and if you ever need anything talk to Russ or Graham and they will sort out! Thanks to models Jen Brook and Milly from Nemesis model agency in Manchester. Watch out on the training page | courses for our next set of training days that you won’t want to miss.

Join us on our fantastic closed Facebook Training group – a great place to be and be inspired! Join me on Twitter @brettharkness and also on Instagram as Brett Harkness to see what we get up to here at BHP headquarters and on our daily shoots. If you were on this course then leave a comment at the bottom to tell others of your day!

Here are some behind the scenes images from the day and also a little video shot by one of the photographers on the course. Thanks to the photographer on the day that have let us use some BTS images below.









Thanks to Neil Proctor for snapping some video throughout the day whilst shooting!

  • Glenn (10.07.2014 | 10:48)

    A thrilling, entertaining and most educational experience. One from which I will draw much inspiration. Thank you to all involved!

  • Jen Brook (10.07.2014 | 11:04)

    A brilliant day made all the better by exceptional styling in an incredible location with people that would go above and beyond to create a great photograph. Of all the training days I have been a part of, this certainly sits amongst my most favourite ever.

  • Cathy Higgins (10.08.2014 | 12:01)

    What an amazing venue. You can do sooo much with it. Love the styling and the compositions of the images. Very fitting for the location. Great work Brett. Would love to attend the next one. Will bring Brian too.

  • Neil Proctor (10.08.2014 | 06:05)

    Awesome describes everything about this day, from the location to the models, MUA and stylists

    Awesome experience, a day packed with information and techniques from one of the best photographers in the business, set in a location to die for.

    Of the training courses that I have been in, this is right up there at the top. I would love to do the whole day again.

    Nice one Brett and James, you guys are exceptional

  • Matt Selby (12.10.2015 | 03:27)

    Looks amazing! Think I need to get on the next asylum course! :)

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It has been a few weeks since I had time to write any posts but that doesn’t mean we have been twiddling out thumbs with nothing to post. Quite opposite. In the last three weeks, we have driven to France & back, Barcelona & Glasgow, oh and three trips to London!! It is back to the first place that this post is written about. So as there is a lot of content I will probably split this post up into two or three parts!!


So,on October 9th after shooting a wedding in Devon we headed off for the Channel tunnel and our trip down to Bordeaux in France. The Channel experience was great and we arrived in Calais only 28 mins later! A rainy and foggy Calais it has to be said but the weather vastly improved the further South we travelled. Our destination was the beautiful Chateau Rigeaud in the St.Emillion area. We had hired the chateau for 3 days for our course. We had been planning this course for many months and it was very important that we looked at all the finer details of the 3 night course. We are known for putting on a good show and have put on courses in Newcastle & 3 in London over the last year. When you are dealing with models abroad and organizing from a far it’s always hard.

I had photographed my sisters wedding a few years ago at the Chateau and we knew that this was the place to use when the right time arose. A big thank you to Anna from the chateau for helping us source flowers & make up amongst other things. Moment to thank them, flowers by Hayley Sutherland & make up by Laura.

It was the first time we had driven to France using the Channel Tunnel and it was a great experience and we will definitely do it again. Like a typical man I did get rather excited!!

So, after a 10 hour drive, a few stops, many coffees and a load of chatting and planning for future projects Kris & I made it to St.Emillion. Here are a couple of shots of our very very full car and all the kit before hand in the studio..


Most of the kit was mine but may I take this opportunity to thank The Flash Centre for loaning me some kit for the course also. They are are a great bunch and I choose them for all of my lighting kit needs. Here is a brief list of the kit that we took:

  • Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS pack ( 2 heads )
  • Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed pack ( 2 heads )
  • Elinchrom Quadra pack x 2 & 4 heads
  • Elinchrom Deep Octa / 2- 70cm softboxes
  • Elinchrom High performance reflector 48˚
  • Elinchrom Beauty Dish 44cm
  • Elinchrom Indirect Lightbank Octa 190cm
  • Elinchrom Snoot reflector & grid
  • Various batteries
  • Canon EOS 1ds Mark III & 5D mark II for video
  • Avenger 10ft stand with 40″ boom / An amazing Boom arm that goes to over 11 ft
  • Canon 70-200/ 50mm 1.2 / 16-35mm 28 /
  • Think tank belt system & travel bags
  • Lexar 16GB 600 speed CF cards



When Kristie & I arrived at the chateau we were greeted with champagne and cake!! Music to my ears!! After freshening up we went for a walk and a drive around the chateau looking for places to plan out for our shoot. Finding some very cool places. We then set up most of the kit and got all the clothes ready that we had bought or borrowed, matching up the outfits with the backgrounds that we had already scouted out.. Kristie modelling some of the clothes to give me a visual idea of how to piece things together…



May I also take this opportunity to make a big thank you Kate Edmondson for the loan of her beautiful wedding dresses, you will be seeing them in the next post & to Victoria Mary Vintage for her wonderful hair accessories. Also to Denis Hope for the loan of a great suit that fitted our male model perfectly!!

The aim of the course was not only to teach people how to use lights but also how to style, look at exposure and to create gorgeous images. We also wanted the course to be about more than learning. Whenever a group of photographers get together like this in this kind of environment it is a recipe for success. And the ingredients were all there! Everything we do at our studio whether training or our own shoots we do to the best of our ability. From our customer service to pushing the boundaries on our shoots; we live for what we do and this shows in not only the images that we produce but also how we feel when we are doing it!

Monday morning Kris & I set off in the mini bus to Bordeaux airport to pick up all of the photographers which were mostly flying in on the same early morning flight. We knew that it would have been too much to expect the delegates to start shooting as soon as they arrived so we laid on champagne and cake upon arrival and the photographers had the rest of the day to play with our equipment, take a book and a drink under the large tree at the front of the chateau, take a dip in the pool or rest in one of the beautiful rooms in the chateau, ot go for a walk around the vineyard…which many did, whilst a few made a splash in the pool!!

This is the first time I have ever used the 5d for video,we had no equipment with us for video or indeed any hands spare to do it with! It is an art by itself but we had fun trying when we could, the camera was usually left on a tripod and when people got the chance we all had a go! We also used mobile phones on occasion just to document our day, so the quality isn’t great so all you video buffs out there don’t judge us on our video skills! Next time I will certainly take a stabilizer rig with me but the course was about photography and for the time being we will stick to that!!

First group shot taken on a crappy phone, it’ll only get better!!


So the first day ended with us all having a great meal cooked by our own personal Chef Tom who also has his own great business The Flavoursmith! Who we all thank so much for feeding us over the 3 days, it was amazing.Waking up to a great breakfast every day, cake & cookies in the afternoon followed by 5 star food & service  every night. The talk was not only photography based but also many other topics floated around the room. The atmosphere was very easy going from the moment everyone arrived at the airport. With a great mixture of photographers and characters.

May I also thank Fiona and her team for looking after us at the chateau and for making our stay even more special. The night was spent drinking, chatting , laughing and planning the first days shooting to come….. Some chatting into the night with numerous bottles of wine being drunk! Here are some of the video highlights from the first day. I will be posting soon on day 2, our first shooting day!! Watch this space….

  • Ross Holkham (10.29.2011 | 11:00)

    Good times with great people. look forward to day 2 and 3.

  • Paul Mannion (10.29.2011 | 11:48)

    Well put together Brett loved watching it, I really miss all the people and the great time we had over there!!!

  • Jade (11.02.2011 | 11:14)

    All looks amazing, hope you guys do another one next year!

  • Sharon (11.07.2011 | 11:50)

    Hello! I've really enjoyed watching all the clips !
    I must do something with my hair next time! Ha. Thanks again for the best course EVER ! I learnt SO much and am enjoying putting it all into practise. Put me down for next year and i hope to see the same people again... It was great spending three days with everyone. Sharon x

  • Red Chilli Photography (11.22.2011 | 10:39)

    Just packed up the car for a shoot this afternoon, 3 miles down the road and I'm glad you take too much stuff !! it's not just me then. Having said that the images from the shoot are worth it looking at your blog. James

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We have been using for just over a year now, the Elinchrom Quadra & Ranger lights. We still use Canon 580ExII flash guns for some things shooting through the Ezy box system. In choosing the Quadras we were looking for a system which was a little more reliable, faster recycling or equivalent and also a little more power was on the shopping list.


So onto the Quadras! There is a lot of punch in such a little package that’s for sure. With over 400ws of power it is more than enough for most situations.I also wanted a kit that would easily over power the mid-day sun with fast recycling and waterproof and that is why I also purchased the Elinchrom Ranger RX speed AS kit, more on that later! So far I have used the Quadra kit at a wedding, a pre-wed, a food shoot on location, a family shoot on location, a fashion shoot at the studio & on location, even ovrer powered the sun at numerous weddings in Canada. So versatile. The kit comes with a pack/battery/pack/2 RQ A speed heads/sykport/cable/case & caps. Incidentaley the pack/battery & head weighs only around 3kg, with the head alone weighing less than a cup of coffee! When I purchased the kit I also purchased 3 extension cables to “daisychain” the lights to stretch out the distance a little more, which has been invaluable and numerous lighting modifiers (which we will cover later.) I have used it in light rain and it’s been fine, it is not reported to be waterproof but as long as you dont keep it out too long it should be ok. Nothing a few plastic bags wont fix! The heads also have daylight balanced modelling light which can be great for using as a focus light or even a video light at weddings.

Also with the RQ-EL adapter you can use all of the Elinchrom light modifiers which opens a world of new creative possibilities. Without getting too techi! The packs are Asymmetric, which means that the pack splits the power between the two output channels. If you are using just one head in the A socket then you have the full 400ws of the kit at your disposal, if you are using both lights in A&B sockets then the power is split, 266 ws & 134 ws respectively. Although I have yet to shoot through a full battery it is reported to last approx: 2000 shots on minimum power ( slow recycle) & 150 shots on full power ( slow recycle). It is worth getting an extra battery with your kit as you don’t want to get caught short on the shoot. One question that I have been asked a lot is, ” Can the pack overpower mid day sun?” Well it would have to be pretty close to the subject to overpower mid-day sun but it will certainly overpower afternoon or evening sun. If you look at the blog post from a couple of weeks ago the last shot at the wedding was taken with the Quadra, CLICK HERE TO SEE or scroll down the blog postings.The sun was directly behind the couples heads so you can get an idea of how strong it was, still very strong even at 8pm.We still had one stop of power to use so weren’t using it on full power.

To see more and read about the technical aspects of the Quadra system please download the brochure from HERE.

In conclusion I think it is a fantastic kit. Very versitile. Great for using at weddings, the portability is very good. You can also use flash guns at the same time with the kit if you are using the same radios triggers for them all. If you are doing any commercial work then they can be easily taken on location, powerful enough for most jobs including lifestyle, food, fashion, products etc…Any pack like this will have a few limitations but apart from the power I can’t see any more. If you want a kit that can do most things, very portable, reliable, well made then this is the kit to go for. You should be looking at around £1500 inc vat for a two head kit, when you consider that two 580exII flash guns are around £350 each then it’s a pretty good deal.As I mentioned before I also wanted a kit that I could use with or instead of the Quadra kit with more power that I could take on location and use for training. This came in the form of the Elinchrom  Ranger RX speed AS kit. With almost 1200ws of power it will blow away the afternoon sun!!

The bigger, heavier pack weighs in at almost 8kg. It is quite heavy but considering it’s amazing performance you quickly forget about this! We have been using this kit recently for fashion shoots, inside the studio and on location. The kit comes with one head so if you want another you will have to ad it to your list. At the shoot we had last night we shot over 720 images in and out of the studio at powers of 2.8-6.2 the unit goes from 1.5-7.5 stops.The battery display was still on around 75%!! So pretty amazing battery life. The recycling time is what amazes me the most, I only once shot faster than the pack could keep up with me, when using it on 6.2 power directly into the sun. The amount of shots will also differ if you are using the fast or slow recycle channel.With a little over 2s recycle on full power is amazing.With an fstop of 64 at 1m at 100iso.

I can honestly say that since using this kit it has changed the way in which I shoot. It has allowed me to keep going even when the sun goes down or is too bright, raining etc… No situation is too much and no dark corner remains unlit! Although the larger RX pack is quite heavy we don’t treck the earth with it, not yet anyway! It is super reliable as is the smaller Quadra pack. The smaller Quadra is perfect of small jobs, head shots , first dance, cake cutting and weddings abroad. It fits snugly into a carry on and gives me the confidence to perform any flash job when I can’t take the larger RX pack with me.

Image shows the High Performance reflector being used



I use a mixture of modifiers with my Elinchrom system but regularly go back to my favorite 70cmx70cm softbox & my Deep Octabox 70cm. I also have strip boxes, Snoot & grids, beauty dish and numerous gels & screens.


To see a couple of great shoots using the Elinchrom kit please click on the links below:



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A true photographic phenonemon.Brett Harkness is a man in demand— Dan Lezano. Digital SLR Photography