Halifax Portrait Photographer - Outdoor Portrait Secrets Part 3

Craig and I are at it again!  We filmed the third installment of the Outdoor Portrait Secrets videos for YouTube on Sunday, and man, did we ever have some fun.

We went back to the same location, the cave, with the intent of coming up with something new.  Since it was mid-morning there was a lot more light, giving us the ability to explore the cave a little bit.  The only issue we had was shooting in the actual cave provided too much of a low-light situation for Craig to get a lot of video.  Luckily I was in there long enough to snap a few photos with the Westcott Apollo Orb Softbox as my key light, with a 600EX-RT inside on low power.  Here's the result, processed with a sample pack provided by Totally Rad's Replichrome Lightroom Presets:

The Totally Rad Replichrome preset for Fuji Pro 800Z Film looked pretty nice for this image. 

Here, I used the Kodak BW400CN preset for a nice crispy black and white look. 

We moved outside the cave and got a few more shots there, though they looked a lot like those I took in the last video.

The real keepers came from another tunnel we discovered in the bowels of York Redoubt.  A long narrow staircase would provide for a cool backdrop, lit with a zoomed in flash with a green gel.  We placed the light at the top of the stairs, shining downward. To cast the shadow on the wall, our assistant Rob stood in front of the green flash and attempted to look menacing.  

Brittany, beautiful as always, kept the outfit simple in keeping with the story of the shot.  As the Intrepid Reporter, she explored just a little too deep in the darkness and is now trying to get away from what she found...

The key light in this image was provided by a single flash, zoomed to 200mm and with a couple pieces of tape covering the front.  This narrow strip of light gave a very dark and moody feel, letting me light just Brittany's face while having the rest fall to darkness.  It was a motivated light, similar to a small window, or perhaps a torch on the wall. 

All of the photos above were created using the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, a focal length that gives an almost "cinematic" quality (since that's a popular movie camera focal length), and while being wide enough, doesn't look too wide.  

As Craig mentioned in the video, please leave a comment, or at least hit the "Thumbs up" Button on the video.  We'd love to hear from you, and feel free to ask any questions about the shoot!


Momentum - Shooting a DalDance Poster

Back in February I shot a series of poster images in an afternoon for the DalDance society's recital poster.  The theme for the year was "Momentum", and I wanted to create something that showed fluid motion and captured the dancers in the middle of something beautiful.

This was a very interesting shoot.  Consider it a proof of concept, since I'd done nothing like it in the past:  mixing light sources to create something that showed motion but still stopped the movement to freeze the subject.  Then I thought about Joe McNally and the excellent video he did showing how to freeze a dancer with the motion in between...I can try that!

For this setup, I needed multiple flashes, remote triggers, a continuous light source with varying intensity and a tight directional quality, a good assistant, a blacked-out room (no light entering) and lots of dark fabric.  

We booked a room at the Dalhousie Student Union Building and set out to shoot, hoping for a room without windows, dark walls and a high ceiling.  Rats.  The room we got was basically a box, white walls and floor-to-ceiling windows.  Yeah. From Floor. To Ceiling.  

When we arrived, we used some black garbage bags to cover the windows in the room to prevent any light getting in.  A setup like this calls for near-pitch darkness.  The reason? My shutter would be open for as long as 2 seconds.  That's more than enough time to soak up anything coming in from a window and turn my black background into a grey mess. 


This is the first image we took, starting with a black sheet on a background stand.  Yeah. Panicking a bit.  The concept was sort of there, and although I had the faint light trail in the middle with motion frozen on both sides, this wasn't what I wanted. Push harder.  this image also showed that the large Par light I had rented was throwing light everywhere, so I fashioned a snoot using an old cardboard box to keep light from spilling onto the backdrop. 

We wound up finding a lot of black fabric tablecloths and covered the wall and floor to get where we needed to be.  there were a few holes, but I could fix those in photoshop. Then came the matter of balancing the flash with the ambient light.  

I needed the motion to be visible on the black bacground so I opened up the aperture to let in some more light.  I also turned down the flashes, and relocated them so that I had both of them on one side, one low and one high.  This meant that I was freezing action only on one side of the motion, but we could work with it.  

Shooting was tricky.  I worked off a tripod, in Bulb mode on the camera, meaning I had full control over the shutter duration.  The dancer found his/her position, then on my mark I opened the shutter and they began to move.  My assistant Jacqueline used the radio trigger off camera to pop the flashes and catch the dancer in mid-flight and as soon as that happened I closed the shutter.  overall exposure time was typically around 2 seconds. 

Here are the images we used:

The poster layout came together quickly, I would use the motion of the dancers on the top and bottom with the title and details in the middle.  I'm quite pleased since I'd never done this type of design work before.  


The simplest things...

I was pretty freaking nervous for this shoot.  Karen is someone I've hoped to shoot with for quite some time, and I was a little star-struck to be honest.  Either way, the concept was simple; a sensual, soft kind of look with minimal clothing, beautiful hair and makeup and the focus on the atmosphere.  Oh, and we were going to build a living room in a studio.

Model: Karen Murdock, Hair styling by Laura Lewis, Assisted by Jacqueline Smith

This meant that I had to bring along a few things, including a picture frame, painting, and a lamp.  All that in addition to my speedlites, stands, modifiers, and cameras.  Truth be told, I could have shot this session with my camera body.  I could have walked in with the lamp and my camera body and that would be all.  

I was pulling my hair out over the lighting setup we built while Karen did her makeup and Laura Lewis created yet another brilliant hairstyle.  Big softbox, fly it in upward and to the left that could be cool!  Try it out!  Oh, that's...bad.   Nope.  Okay, how about if we put some tape on the picture frame, throw a speedlite through it and make a window-like shadow on the wall behind Karen?  That does look cool, but where are we going to support this stuff?  Okay, let's come back to that.  Try this modifier.  Ugh, nothing is working.  

I'm sure I instilled a vast amount of confidence in Karen when she asked "How's it going?" and I replied, very much like Tina in Bob's Burgers"...Uuuunnnnngghhhhhhhhhhhhhh...."...we're okay, we'll make it work...

Then she stepped into the set and stood by the window. I saw how the window light was just bathing her in a glow that would inspire a painter.  My lamp was in place providing a wonderful rim light. Good thing I learned how to look for light, because it was right in front of me.  I abandoned all the strobes and grabbed the studio's 85L f/1.2 (wouldn't you?) and started shooting the ambient light.  

Karen was a superstar.  Every position was thought out and elegant.  I loved that we were working toward the same end goal, each feeding back off the other.  We tried a few variations on the theme we had discussed, and though they looked good, nothing really compared to that warm window and room light.  It just glows.

Model: Karen Murdock, Hair styling by Laura Lewis, Assisted by Jacqueline Smith

Model: Karen Murdock, Hair styling by Laura Lewis, Assisted by Jacqueline Smith