Archive for May, 2010

On Location Portrait: Holly Miranda

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Holly Miranda

I first heard Holly Miranda opening for Tegan and Sara back in February. I enjoyed her opening set as much as, or more than, the headliners, and bought her album when it came out a few days later. I liked it enough to go back for more when Holly and her band returned to DC, this time in the much more intimate confines of the Black Cat backstage.

I did a quick portrait shoot with Holly before the show; luckily, I had the chance to take a lot of time scouting a good location and setting up a lighting treatment while the band was soundchecking. I came up with a three-light setup using a bunch of folding tables sitting in a freight elevator as my background. In this first shot, I’m nuking the ambient light with an SB-800 through a 1/4″ grid spot at camera right aimed at Holly’s face; this is more or less the main light. For fill I used an SB-600 with a shoot-through umbrella and a 1/2 CTB gel at high camera left; finally, lighting the background is an SB-600 through a blue gel (primary blue, not CTB), flagged to prevent flare into the camera lens.

Holly said, “I like creepy,” and so I also did this:

Holly Miranda

Here, I exposed to bring the ambient way up, though I still intentionally underexposed by over 2 stops and then brought it up further in post to give it a particularly gritty feel. The only strobe that’s really in play is the SB-800, which provides a bit of clean light on her face and upper body. There’s a bit of light from the background SB-600 as well to keep everything from becoming a total orange wash.

And, bonus! Holly tweeted a photo of me taking this shot. The lesson to learn from this (other than, to take interesting photos, get on the floor!): notice the roll of black gaffer’s tape on the stool next to me. This is maybe the key piece of gear at every shoot, aside from the camera and the lights. Never leave home without it!

Holly Miranda

I also shot the show, of course, and while the Black Cat’s lighting doesn’t compare to the Warner Theatre’s (I got some seriously gorgeous photos from that show), I still got some decent stuff and the performance was fantastic. I wrote a few words about it over at the City Paper.

Wien & Vince

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Wien & Vince's Wedding

I had the privilege of second-shooting, with the wonderful Lisa O’Quinn, a beautiful wedding here in DC this past weekend. Wien and Vince had their ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle near Dupont Circle and their reception at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Second-shooting is a luxury for a number of reasons: no post-processing obligations is the chief reason I dig it; but also there’s just much, much less pressure during the day. I didn’t have to worry a ton about getting all the key shots; I was free to roam around a bit and try to be creative. That said, I still did want some of the standard shots (like the headline shot above) for my portfolio, and that wasn’t a problem either. Here are just a few quick outtakes from the day… I’ll likely have a full gallery up later.

Vince getting ready at the Sheraton National in northern Virginia:

Wien & Vince's Wedding

Here’s the interior of the cavernous cathedral that absolutely swallowed up this medium-sized wedding. It was actually pretty challenging shooting in here, despite the ornate surroundings. The best angles were straight-on from the center aisle and we weren’t really allowed to be there except far back behind all the guests. The lighting was extremely dim; at ISO 3200 I was at shutter speeds so low that I generally shot in bursts of three to ensure I got a sharp frame.

Wien & Vince's Wedding

This is the bouquet toss, for which I set up a pair of umbrella’d speedlights to light the bride and the prospective bouquet-catchers separately. I was rushing to keep up and didn’t have time to stop down and add more power to the lights, unfortunately:

Wien & Vince's Wedding

And there was lots of dancing. For most of the dancing shots I decided to use my 14-24 and a flash handheld off-camera. I generally chose to zoom the flash to 70 or 85mm and highlight a specific part of the frame, letting a bit of ambient fill in the rest. I shot at about 1/5 sec, f/4.5, ISO 800 for the most part, with the flash on TTL at -0.7. I almost exclusively shot from the side of the dance floor facing the reception hall, so that the lights from the hall could fill in the frame and I wouldn’t get nasty hard shadows from my flash against the blank wall that was on the other side of the dance floor. I got tons of fun shots here, here’s just one of my favorites:

Wien & Vince's Wedding

Full set eventually. I’m sure Lisa will have a blog post about this wedding at some point, and I’ll add a link to it here when she posts.

Jamie, abandoned train cars, and a camera

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Jamie

I couldn’t have asked for a better setting for a photo shoot than the line of three abandoned train cars that Jamie took me to near Fredericksburg, VA. We got started around 6pm, with a couple hours of glorious setting sunlight, and I shot a number of looks that emphasized location over model – which is often (but not always) my style when shooting portraits like these. The above shot is by far my favorite, with the golden sun warming up the red traincar and a touch of cloud to give the sky some interest. Jamie is lit by a single unmodified SB-800 just outside the left edge of the frame, at something like 1/8th power.

Jamie

Although one generally associates abandoned industrial equipment with rust and decay, there was no shortage of bold color to take advantage of at this particular location. This one is a simple portrait lit by a White Lightning X1600 through a large softbox at high camera left. Don’t remember the power setting. The idea here was simple: use the colors of the background to make an otherwise run of the mill headshot a bit more interesting.

Jamie

Then, after the sun set, we went for one last look, with Jamie putting on her trademark angel wings. I was trying to get a shot where my main light would cast the shadow of her with the wings against the traincar. But, I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this without blowing out the details on Jamie herself. So I went for a different strategy, and this resulted in probably the shot I’m proudest of out of the session, even if it isn’t my favorite. The above photo is lit by two light sources: the White Lightning X1600 at low camera right, and an umbrella’d SB-800 with a 1/4 CTO at camera left.

The catch is, I didn’t actually trigger the X1600 strobe – instead, I used the modeling light at full power as a continuous hot light, dragging the shutter for 5 full seconds to get the exposure on the train. Jamie herself is lit by the SB-800, which was set high enough (again, don’t remember the power, sorry) to overpower that modeling light and freeze any movement in her and her angel wings, giving a nice sharpness to that part of the photo while the train blurs out and almost looks like it’s moving behind her.

All told, I do wish I’d come away from the session with more good photos – it should have been a cakewalk given the amazing location and talented model. But this is why I keep practicing!