For years, I dreamed of attending wizard school – Hogwarts, and then St Trinian’s (less wizards, more rebelliousness).
When I was invited to photograph Bothwell School of Witchcraft (sadly not by owl, but I did get to cuddle Bramble the owl while I was there!), I was excited. I imagined a typical magic school setting, maybe some new friends, while taking lots of lovely photos for them to use in their marketing.
Bothwell blew every expectation I had completely out of the water – and has eclipsed St Trinian’s and Hogwarts in my dreams, too.
There’s no other word for it – it was magical. Truly magical.
The reality of wizard school, in a real castle, surrounded by people who got me, instantly, is like no other experience I’ve ever had. I was photographing rather than being a player, so got to see the action unfold as well as feeling part of it, which was really rather wonderful.
Back up and a bit of explanation, if you’ve not heard me rave at length about this! Bothwell School of Witchcraft is a larp, a live action role play event for adults, based in a castle in Sussex.
It’s owned and organised by Rogue Events who are a brilliant, immersive experience production company. It’s run at Herstmonceux Castle, which is normally open to the public (and some of them saw us and did some amazing double takes).
Larp roughly translates to an enormous game of pretend for grown ups, though often with much darker themes – one of the things I love about this particular game is its lightheartedness, its friendliness, and how accessible it is for first time larpers.
The costumes, set dressing and attention to detail are incredible, as is the commitment of the players. As events go, larp is right up there with my pure joy activities, but it’s also an extreme version of event and branding photography.
With a castle (not renowned for its glorious indoor lighting), acres and acres of land, intricate costumes and anywhere between 80 and 150 people running around between lessons, duelling in the courtyards and battling giant monsters, it was a glorious challenge in terms of photography.
Obviously, in a wizard school, there are spells:
And some unexpected beasties in the forest:
There are falconry classes (and owls! squee!!):
And there are night time antics and initiations:
Classes and costumes and glorious little details are everywhere:
There were candid portraits:
Not so candid portraits:
And there was also time to look up at this view, and squee with delight at just how gorgeous life can be.
Imagine standing there at midnight, with just moonlight for company, and knowing this is your ACTUAL LIFE and actual job now?
Yep, I was excited too!
I’m heading back in August and can’t wait to see what the players and organisers cook up.
And while event photography has been part of my services for a while, now I’ve covered Bothwell, I’m fairly sure no lighting situation will ever faze me again!