About Hywel

Particle physicist turned fetish photographer, producer and director. I run http://www.restrainedelegance.com and http://www.elegancestudios.com together with my wife, who is variously known as Ariel Anderssen or Amelia Jane Rutherford, depending on whether she's getting tied up or spanked at the time.

Ariel’s Thoughts

I asked Ariel to share some of her thoughts on today’s update featuring the work of Drago B, and on 18 years of Restrained Elegance.

This is what she said:

To celebrate Restrained Elegance’s 18 Anniversary, we’re very happy to welcome a new artist to the Restrained Elegance family, and to show you what I hope will be the first of many of his lovely movies to appear here. Welcome, Drago B.

I’ve been working with Drago since 2014, when he first hired me for a stills shoot. His interests include corporal punishment and exploring Dom/sub dynamics, so naturally, I loved working with him, and was delighted when he moved into movie production a couple of years ago. In the intervening years since we first met we’ve become friends, and I’m a huge fan of his work.

Initially, Drago made his films available for free on Vimeo, but like Hywel before him, his account was shut down for being too pornographic. I was offended on his behalf, as I’d been on Hywel’s. Though both of them are, I’m sure, perfectly capable of shooting excellent porn, neither of them had uploaded anything onto Vimeo that’d have been out of place in a Hollywood film. Hywel, of course, has Restrained Elegance to host his work, conveniently behind a paywall, and under his own control where it can’t be censored. Drago had no such place to for his movies. So both Hywel and I were grateful and honoured when he offered his films to Hywel, to appear on Restrained Elegance.

I’ve always been impressed by the way in which Hywel has welcomed contributions from other artists on Restrained Elegance. It reminds me of what a decent, collaborative and community-minded human being he is. And it speaks very highly of Drago, that he offered his work to Restrained Elegance for free, because he wants it to reach an appreciative audience.

And I do hope that you, like me, will be part of that appreciative audience. Drago’s work doesn’t feature a lot of bondage, since it’s more focused on CP, but to my mind, what he does especially beautifully is to make work that conveys how BDSM feels from the inside. The way in which it can feel like the most complete, satisfying form of communication. The sense of connection, warmth and affection between the participants, which is easy to overlook in favour of the more obvious elements of BDSM. I especially like the way Drago concentrates on the enjoyment of the submissive, which is an almost entirely absent theme in traditional CP productions.

Drago’s work is romantic, and sensual, and he’s one of my favourite people to work with. As, of course, is Hywel, who has carefully piloted his little personal project to commercial maturity over the last 18 years, with all the integrity of an artist, and with the bare minimum of business sense (Really. We have a lot of lenses. There’s no possible commercial justification for them. Ditto all the extra cameras. It’s a puzzle). Restrained Elegance was one of the first websites that gave me the feeling that my sexual identity was ok, and over the years, we’ve heard from many people who’ve said the same. That feels valuable, and I hope that we can continue to help people feel this way for many years to come. Censorship and regulation have been an ever-increasing threat to Hywel’s venture over the last few years, as has industrialised video piracy. The support of honest people like you who’ve been prepared to support our shared vision of romantic, beautiful BDSM, is the reason that Restrained Elegance has reached the age of 18. Thank you to you all.

And with Drago joining Hywel, Kate, Steve, Merlin, Sheep, me, and our other friends and colleagues from around the world, we’ll hope to keep bringing you work that will delight you, as it delights us.

Happy Birthday, Restrained Elegance. And congratulations to Hywel, who is braver, and kinder, and more full of integrity than any man I’d ever have dreamed of being able to marry. And who is, I think you’ll agree, a remarkable BDSM producer. May Restrained Elegance enjoy journeying towards middle age, just as its crew are.

Ariel Anderssen

Tutorials for 2019

Hi Everyone!

Many thanks to everyone who filled in our survey on bondage and photography tutorials. The survey is now closed and we are setting to work to create new photosets, videos and documentaries to fulfil your requests. I thought you might be interested in knowing the survey results.

First of all, we were very encouraged by the sheer volume of responses. We had 71 in total, of whom 66 people were interested in tutorial materials on RestrainedElegance.com.

This in itself is a huge boost for us- that’s a significant fraction of the membership, something we didn’t really know about before running the survey. It is great to know that people are really interested and it has definitely encouraged us to put significantly more time and energy into the tutorial material on the site this year.

I’ll aim for at least one tutorial feature a month, two if time permits.

Tutorial Subjects

(On this chart 1 = everyone hates the idea, 3 = everyone loves the idea. Sorry for the odd axes, blame Survey Monkey or me for being too cheap to pay for upgraded presentation options).

From this I take away that pretty much everyone is interested in tutorials on bondage ideas, how to tie and bondage techniques.

There’s a strong interest in stills photographic technique, model-related technique (posing, makeup, how to direct a model, etc.) and in post-production.

There’s some interest in video-centric tutorials. For some people that’s their main interest (reinforced by individual comments) but quite a few people are only interested in bondage and still photography.

The least interesting overall was industry-related technique like selling your work, hiring models, etc. but even that had plenty of people who would be very interested if we did do something on this.

Action points:

We will aim to prepare tutorials all of this in due course, since nothing proved absolutely uninteresting to everyone.

We will prioritise bondage technique first, then stills photo technique, then video specific tutorials.

I’ll try to cross-over video technique and stills technique where I can (eg natural light lighting and equipment is useful for both) to broaden the appeal.

It’ll take a while to prepare some of this eg some tutorials require a day’s shooting, where others (eg equipment advice) just needs me to sit at the computer for an afternoon. But thank you that sets our broad agenda for 2019!

Style of Presentation

Slideshows are clearly the least popular. I will continue to put up slideshows where we have given invited talks but will not use them otherwise.

All the other formats have their adherents, but people clearly value a better-constructed tutorial video or behind-the-scenes over a video-log talking head YouTube video style. In some ways that’s sad because talking-head videos are easy to churn out quickly. But I shouldn’t be surprised that RE members would prefer us to do fewer tutorials but make them more comprehensive and better presented!

Annotated stills sets with text are clearly appreciated too, which is nice for me as that’s often the most natural way for me to discuss technical issues like the aperture/depth of field series.

Action Points

A mix of materials is good, so we can choose the format that most suits the subject. Behind the scenes, documentary-style videos and annotated photosets will be the three main formats.

Can the Model sometimes be untied?

We are conscious of course that we are primarily a bondage site, so where we can have the model tied up we will. But sometimes if a technical series is being done with explanations or with us shooting documentary video, that could take a very long time and require her to be bound for longer than is safe or efficient.

For example, the recent Paul McRope/Ariel series. The early technical lessons involved a lot of fiddling around with lens changes and f/stop changes – there was too much going on, and each series took too long to shoot, for me to really be comfortable having Ariel tied up for all of it.

But once we stopped doing the methodical learning exercises with lights and camera in each of six places and were putting it into practice, something more like shooting a normal set, of course we went back to having her in bondage.

So thank you for this, it’s a significant consideration in shooting some of these tutorials. Especially the popular documentary-style videos. It means we can continue to do stuff like the aperture tutorial series and the lighting tutorial series without needing the model to endure potentially two hours or more in bondage.

A few highlights from individual suggestions

Thank you to everyone who contributed suggestions as well as just answering the questions. We’ll try to cover as many of them as we can. I particularly plan to cover:

  • How to achieve sharpness in your photos
  • Shooting on a shoe-string budget
  • Shooting on a camera phone (ironically, I’m not qualified to shoot this one. So it’ll be more of a “photographer challenge” – spend the day shooting with my iPhone, can I get anything worthwhile? I’ll film it and let you know!)
  • A basic all round videography tutorial
  • A basic all round stills tutorial – which I’ll follow up with more advanced videos on sub-topics
  • A basic all round bondage technique tutorial
  • A basic all round bondage safety tutorial
  • A basic all round working with models tutorial
  • How to approach post-production (one for stills, one for video)
  • Using light and shadow to make it seem real
  • Showing emotion
  • Sets, equipment, environment and production design – how do they contribute?
  • The hogtie (multiple requests here!)
  • Posing ideas for models in bondage, especially when the bondage is not so restrictive (eg collared and chained, but quite free to move)
  • Developing mutual understanding with models (suggestion mentioned studios and other photographers, too, but I think there will be less interest in that)
  • Effective shooting methods – which I’m going to take to mean “I have a model booked for a few hours. How do I make sure I get some good shots?”
  • Building up – from full auto to manual on the camera
  • Metal bondage technique
  • Moving from simple floor bondage work to more advanced ties
  • Doing your first bondage shoot
  • Doing your second bondage shoot
  • How to step up your game with some basic extra equipment
  • Progressive ties – ties that can start as one thing and turn into another without untying

That’s already WAAAAY more than a year’s work to cover everything, but I’ll do the best I can!

There are a few things that I will not be covering any time soon. Self bondage – while Ariel does sometimes tie herself up, and models do it on camera with metal bondage, it isn’t our area of expertise, especially since we ALWAYS have other people present when we do it. So I’m not qualified to speak about this I’m afraid.

Suspension – we don’t currently have a safe suspension point in our house/studio, and we’ve always been very cautious with suspensions anyway. So while we could put something together it would need a lot of resources, and I’ve already got my work cut out for me covering the above!

An updated lexicon – I think we can update the pages, but doing a whole extra lexicon shoot is a massive undertaking, so may not happen any time soon.

And Finally… Tutorials in Person

We have a very small number of slots for one-on-one dedicated tutorials this year. Take a look at the sort of thing we laid on for Paul McRope in the recent tutorials with Ariel. If you really want to kick-start your bondage photography or level-up your skills, this is by far the most effective option. We will construct a tutorial program to your individual specification, for one or two days.

We won’t have time to offer small group tutorials this year (although if you wanted to book us for a dedicated tutorial with yourself and a friend or partner we could totally put together a dedicated program for you).

If you are interested email webmaster@restrainedelegance.com. And if you happen to be interested in some of the above topics and are willing to let us use the resulting shots to put together tutorials for RE members as Paul did, we can definitely give you a break on the costs of the tutorial.

If you are interested don’t hang about, as we will likely only be able to fit in two or three people at most as we’ll fit them in around existing RE shoots and Ariel’s modelling, so we’ll need to get dates in the diary SOON.

Please don’t post our stuff to tube sites

I am writing this because there is someone who is an active member right now posting each of our videos onto pirate tube sites as they come up.

PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!

It probably won’t make any difference putting this notice up here. But just in case the person doing this doesn’t realise that what they are doing is wrong, I’d just like to go over it once again.

A typical RE video represents AT LEAST a day’s work. Even a 10 minute video takes over an hour to shoot by the time we’ve set up the lights, camera, microphones, the model has repaired her makeup, changed her outfit, we’ve done the typing up and the filming. Then we have to back up the footage, edit it, colour grade it, do an audio pass, export it, transcode it to MP4, upload it, write the storyline to go with it, post it to the shopping cart, queue up a few of tweets about it to let people know it exists, etc..

We get about 5 short video shot in a day. Some longer videos take a full day to shoot, and up to a week to edit.

They represent a LOT of work. And a lot of YOUR money.

Why YOUR money? Because all of this work is bought and paid for by YOUR subscription fees. Several hundred of you kindly club together to join the site, and this is where the money comes from. The money to pay the model – comes from you. The money to buy the camera equipment, lights, bondage gear, hire the location? All comes from you. They money to make it possible for me to live and therefore devote my time to making these videos? Comes from you. The money to get Ariel to help out with the rigging and the editing? Comes from your subscriptions.

So in a way, the person posting our videos on tube sites is stealing from all of us.

Because this whole deal only works if everyone sticks to the bargain. Each of us can have the full fruits of the work we do to make these videos, for a very reasonable price. If you’ve ever ordered a custom video you know how much more expensive they are than a website membership. That’s the power of crowd-funding.

Posting the videos on a tube site is cheating ALL OF US, the people who have paid for the video to be made in order that we can all enjoy it, securely and safely, in high-resolution, on a nicely-built website that doesn’t bombard you with ads or slurp all your personal data against the day when they decide to blackmail you with it (or whatever the end-game business plan of the tube sites actually is). I enjoy my job- it is a privilege to be the one at the sharp end who gets to spend my time creating BDSM erotica. I do it because I love it- I love looking through the stuff you have generously allowed me to have my part in creating!

If fewer people join the site as a result, we will have less money to pool together to do the next shoot. Which means we maybe have to be less ambitious. Shoot faster, churn out an extra video in the day rather than making the ones we shoot the very best they can be. Fewer two model videos. Fewer locations. Lower quality, generally.

A website membership allows you to access content which would have cost a hundred thousand pounds or more to have shot for you as custom commissions. It’s the bargain of the century- Netflix for bondage. Except we are much smaller.

So when we have to pay money to DMCA agents to get the content taken down, it comes from YOUR money and it leads to less money for future shoots. When I have to spend a morning compiling long lists to get it all taken down, that’s time I’m not spending writing scripts or editing or filming. That’s just not efficient!

I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me here. I’m trying to point out that the asshole who is posting our stuff is stealing time, energy and attention from the core mission of Restrained Elegance- which is to pool our resources to make exceptional, high quality BDSM erotica. I can and I will chase it down and get all this stuff removed, but it is a stupid, unnecessary distraction.

Hywel

KinkyElephant.com update – invitation only

Hi Everyone

A few months ago I created KinkyElephant.com, a social media “instance” on a network of Federated social media sites called Mastodon. My intention was to provide a space for fetish producers, models, amateur photographers and fans to meet and post which would be safe from shut-down by corporate social media operators like Tumblr and Twitter.

Well, this week Tumblr dropped the news that they were banning all non-work-safe postings. And in the two days since that happened, membership at Kinky Elephant has exploded.

In one way this is great. But I’m paying for KinkyElephant’s hosting out of my own pocket, and the numbers risk overwhelming the server. I don’t mind paying some of what is effectively YOUR money from RestrainedElegance.com and SilkSoles.com purchases to provide a social space for us, but I can’t afford to take over the whole of sexual Tumblr as a public service.

I’m upgrading the hosting plan for the instance, but I’ve had to temporarily suspend public sign-ups for the service whilst we decide what to do.

What I would like to do is to revert to the original plan of providing a space for bondage and kinky people to post. Everyone can follow what we post from other instances – for example, from Mastodon.social or Switter.at which are bigger, publicly-funded instances.

But for the actual membership of KinkyElephant.com I may restrict it to Bondage industry types, models, amateur bondage photographers, and fans who are customers of RestrainedElegance.com, SilkSoles.com, or have bought from our eStores etc..

If you would like to join in, please contact me and I will issue you an invitation so you can join while public signups are closed!

All the best, a still very-post-viral Hywel

Tutorials Survey for 2019

Hi Everyone!

When I was starting out, I was greatly helped by bondage producers and models sharing their expertise online. Our tutorials are a way of paying that back.

But what topics should we cover? What is the best way of presenting it? Are you even interested at all?

I’ve put together a quick (3 minute) survey to help me plan our tutorials for 2019 and I’d really love to know what you think!

Take the Bondage Tutorial Survey here

Thank you!