Without a doubt, the coldest photo shoot I’ve ever done. Wearing layers, gloves and a hat, I arrived on location to find Lauren hardly in a coat. No one ever said looking pretty meant being warm! We had to work fast as the point of diminishing returns was going to come fast. Aside from a near vicious dog attack and my numb hands, it was a good shoot and the first Modelmayhem shoot of 2010…better late than never.
Everything I shot involved either natural light or the use of one speedlight. For all of the shots below I used the Sunpak 120J flash unit, 28″ Apollo softbox, a 60″ convertible umbrella or a 20 degree grid. Thankfully there was enough of an overcast to kill all the ambient light for some of these shots as waiting until dusk wasn’t an option.
Instead of just presenting the photos as with previous blog posts I thought I’d give more of the thought process behind each one, how I composed it and how I decided to light it.
Before I took this shot I knew I wanted to create some separation between Lauren, the foreground and background. The field had some tall grasses which gave me some foreground to work with. I asked Lauren to stand next to some trees that had a few protruding branches sticking out which I wanted to be on the same focal plane as she was. Everything behind her, at varying distances provided nice background separation.
I selected the Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 VRI and stood a good 25 feet from Lauren, set my exposure and simply asked her to stand still with her hands in her pockets….she did great didn’t she? This shot is actually 10 or 12 shots which I later stitched together in Photoshop to create one image. If I’ve confused you, let me explain. Look at the above image and picture it as a blank canvas. Now in your mind, divide the canvas into 12 equal areas in a grid pattern. As I compose the image, each individual area (12 total) is 1 photo. This technique has been called a couple of different things such as the Brenizer method, after NYC Wedding Photographer Ryan Brenizer, who reintroduced the technique.
Are you wondering why I’d choose to take 12 photos to create 1 instead of just taking 1 photo? In short, it gives the image the look as if it were shot with a medium format camera. Using a telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field we make it appear as if it were taken with a wide angle lens. A wide angle lens on it’s own simply cannot produce these results on a DSLR. If you want the full technical write up, I’ll refer you here to read Ryan’s explanation and directions. Some like the results, some don’t. I sometimes do it because it’s different and I like the way it looks.
No crazy photographer tactics on this one! I still had the 70-200 lens on my camera so that’s what I went with here. As I looked around for different areas that would make interesting shots, I asked her to stand in the center of a very small patch of waist high grass. Again, hands in the pockets for a more casual look, plus it was only 22 degrees. Although this shot wouldn’t lead you to believe it, to the immediate right was an ugly tree stump and to the left was a dwarfed evergreen tree. I kept the framing nice and tight and the end result is the much overdone girl in the grass shot. I like the way her jacket contrasts against the rest of the image and the light shadow under her neck to help define her face.
Time to do a little off camera lighting. One of the jackets Lauren brought with her had a faux fur collar. As soon as I saw it, this shot popped into my mind. I asked her to pull the hood up over her styled hair (darn photographers) and pull it in close to her face. She later dubbed this shot “Chewbacca”. For this shot I used the 120J speedlight fired into 60″ umbrella. As I took a few test shots I wasn’t getting quite the amount of shadows I wanted because the umbrella was such that it filled them all in. To fix that, I partially closed the umbrella and tried again. I needed to make sure that the shadow from the nose wasn’t intersecting the lip and the shadow from the eyebrow wasn’t preventing the light from lighting the left eye. After a few more adjustments, I got what I was looking for; catchlights in the eyes, a few shadows to give her face some depth and the big furry collar to bring it all together. I would have liked for there to be a little less light on the far (left) side of her face. Something for next time.