It’s been a little while since I updated the blog, lately I’ve been busy with work, and in one case, not work. I took a week long trip to Seattle with my cameras and spent the entire week shooting and relaxing. To make a long story short, it was a much needed vacation. I’ve developed all of the rolls from the trip but I have yet to scan anything, so there will be an update on that later once I get around to the scanning process and actually have everything up on my computer.
In the meantime, I’ve spent my time doing photography of a very different sort from what I usually do. For the past month or so I had been planning out a studio shoot to capture dancer movement, and other similar ideas to that theme. Given that studio photography is almost the polar opposite of my typical style of street and journalism for work, my working style changed considerably. I knew that I had to actually plan this one out in advance, figure out lights, find a model then coordinate with her as far as outfits go and the actual timing for the shoot, etc. I actually found myself having a lot of fun doing all of this, getting involved in that kind of planning is easy, and I found myself easily spending hours at a time some nights planning and talking with fellow photographers about my options.
Luckily enough for me, all of the planning and coordinating fell into place seamlessly, which gave me more time to work out the fun part of the shoot: lighting and other such details. I began my quest for good lighting inspiration in two forum threads I came across: One Light Setups and New One Light Setups. I also did some searches over on deviantART to find what I wanted. I ended up settling on two main light setups, shown here:
The distances shown aren’t 100% accurate, but you get the idea. The lights can be moved farther from or closer to the subject as desired, the files are only for reference purposes. On a sidenote, the file used is very, very handy for creating lighting mockups such as the ones above. No more drawing things out on paper or however you do it, the link to the file can be found here. Take note that I did not make this file.
The first setup is as simple as can be: a 100ow halogen bulb with a softbox and a dimmer camera right and a foamcore reflector camera left. Simple, yet very effective. The second setup is 2x300w halogen lights/barndoors on either side and a 500w hairlight overhead.
The next step was to find a model. I decided to ask a friend instead of having to deal with a professional model for multiple reasons. The model I chose to work with is a friend from college, and is very comfortable in front of a camera. She’s very respectful of equipment and willing to help with the actual studio setup prior to shooting. I would’ve been happy to set everything up myself and don’t like to burden others, especially when that other person is your model, but she ended up helping substantially and sped up the whole process of setting up taking down equipment. Multiple times throughout the shoot when things needed to be moved around she would ask how she can help out, or when a problem arose she contributed ideas as to it’s solution. She has a very positive and energetic personality, and never once complained about a single thing. Overall, she’s simply a joy to work with.
Throughout the month I touched base with her on any new ideas I had developed so there would be no surprises come the day of the shoot. Any clothing ideas, any light setups, etc. I made sure she knew about. In retrospect, I should have everything planned out so I can simply send one large chunk of info instead of sending it in pieces over time, that will be remedied in the future.
Once everything was set into motion, studio rented, model found and ideas flowing, the next step simply was to wait until the day of the shoot. Come the day of the shoot, we arrived at the studio at around 1pm or so. The first thing I noticed: no boom. Well, shit. There goes one setup I had planned out. But wait! Not so fast, turns out the owner of the studio runs a mini hardware storage in there as well. We found all sorts of things like PVC piping and steel rods, clamps etc. that were available to us at our disposal that were hidden away in a closet. Once I confirmed that I can indeed play around with the parts in the closet, I decided to deal with the second light setup later and start shooting right away. I put up the first setup, she changed into her outfit, we got some dance music going and began working.
We spent quite a bit of time with the first setup, I knew that simple was effective, but I didn’t know how effective that could be until I started using it. The possibilities with one light are seemingly endless, and I wanted to make as much use of that as I could. Two of the three outfits we ended up using were shot with the one light setup, the last outfit was done entirely with the three light setup.
When the time came to change setups, the improvisation with the found parts in the closet began. We found a steel rod that spanned just as wide as the seamless background was and two extra light stands that rose up to 13 feet. Rod + stands = solution. We started working on clamping the rod and taping up the clamps to the stands so they would hold their position, making sure not to forget to hang the light from the rod by it’s handle before taping down everything. Due to the decrease in height that I would’ve been using, the 500w was out of the question. I tried it out anyway, and as I expected the light from above was far too strong. I swapped out the 500w with a 300w light that’s identical to the barndoors that are placed from either side in setup 2. After some test shots, I picked what worked and once again we got down to shooting.
The improvised overhead light worked out very well, leaving us pleased with our work. While I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for from it, I feel that if I were to set it up again I could get more out of it, and more consistent results. Given the physical space of the studio and the time frame we had to work with it, the three light setup definitely didn’t disappoint, and some beautiful photos came out of it. It’s a setup willing to work with more, and hopefully will be once I have time to spend in a studio again.
Overall, a month’s preparation for one short day in the studio culminated into some great photos, and of course some great times in general, the interaction between a photographer and his subject is something one must experience for him/herself, and if there’s anything I have learned about this stretching of my boundaries, is that even though two styles of photography may be polar opposites as to how they are done, but when there is a person involved as subject, the connection made between the two people to capture the moment is priceless, and that’s what I loved the most about the entire process.
A few more shots from the session:
Camera equipment used:
- Nikon D60 (Sadly, I couldn’t borrow the D700 from work so I used my own body)
- AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
- AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (borrowed from work)
- AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D IF-ED (older, heavier version, borrowed from work)
- Voigtlander Bessa R3A
- Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 SC
The Bessa setup was an experiment as well. Not exactly a studio camera but I thought why the hell not? The rolls from the Bessa have yet to be developed, but I hope to have that fixed soon. I used Tri-X exposed at multiple speeds and it will be developed in Diafine.