Shot of the Week 2019/11 – Red Queen

Posted on 27th March 2019 by Admin under Comment, Equipment, Event, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Technique


When going through the week’s images looking for “the one”, I had a number of options.  I could have shown the latest in the series of flower images I have been making in the past few weeks.  They are good, to my eye at least, but would repeat what I have done previously during the project.  I also have some family shots which are personal and not for sharing.  Eventually, the choice came down to some shots of herons in flight taken at a local park and the one here, “Red Queen”.  The decision made simply because this is a set-up which will not be repeated.  The park I can visit at any time and maybe get some better light than I experienced previously.  When doing a project such as this, variety as much as quality can be the ultimate arbiter.

The Image

This shot was taken on the Fuji stand at The Photography Show held at the NEC in Birmingham.  For the past few years, Fuji has always had something to photograph.  This time there was an “Alice In Wonderland” theme.  Initially we only had the Mad Hatter, who was suitably eccentric both in dress and manner.  Later on, the Red Queen* joined him.  Not exactly the harridan Lewis Carroll depicted in his book.  While the setting was picturesque and handed to onlookers on a plate, photography was not necessarily straightforward.

A portrait of the Red Queen.  Or should it be the Queen of Hearts?

Firstly, there was the light which consisted of the standard illumination in the hall.  Flat and even, great for looking at everything on display at the show, just not much of it.  I wanted a high shutter speed to counteract subject movement and a reasonably wide aperture.  That meant my shots were all at ISO 3200 and f/2.8.  Then there was lens choice.  I had only taken a couple to the show, both from Fuji.  I had made my selection to keep the weight down on a day when I did not expect many shots.

There was the 18-55 for versatility plus the 56 f/1.2.  I chose the latter for its speed and ability to isolate subjects from the background.  That was the one which ended up on the camera.  The problem was that it was just a fraction too long and it was not always easy to get everything into the frame.  Then there were the models who were left to do their own thing.  With so many people wanting shots, direction was not a practical option.  As so often happens with photography, chance played its part in the final result.

Hatter and Red Queen

A shot of the Hatter and Queen together.

The "Mad" Hatter and Red Queen together.

* Queen Confusion

Lewis Carroll wrote two books featuring Alice as the heroine. The first was “Alice In Wonderland” with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” as its sequel. Each book has a character who is a queen, but the two are very different in personality. Alice In Wonderland has the Queen of Hearts to whom the desctiption of termagant could apply. The Red Queen appears in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Although formal, she does not share the other’s anger and is not unkindly.

In common culture, the two queens have become conflated into one. The setting for my shot is almost certainly the Hatter’s** Tea Party from Alice In Wonderland. Yet the queen is dressed in red and without any emblems suggesting she could be the Queen of Hearts. Moreover, she is holding a flamingo. That, too, is a reference to the first book when the Queen and Alice play a game of croquet using flamingos instead of mallets. Given I had to opt for one or the other when titling the image, Red Queen seemed more apt due to the model’s costume.

Wikipedia has more about the two queens and how they are often mistaken for each other at this link.

** Yes, a footnote to a footnote. Lewis Carroll simply called his character the Hatter. The “Mad” epithet did not feature although it was a term routinely applied to those who made hats. The primary cause was almost certainly neurological damage due to the use of mercury in the felting process. Again, Wikipedia has additional information.

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