Friday, October 30, 2009

Night shoot

Even though I've been doing a lot of photography work lately as a poorly-paid assistant to The Wife, I haven't actually done any photography for my own amusement in quite some time. That includes work with models or infrared, which is unusual. My work on the Chicken Ranch book, and the Turkey City workshop story took up a lot of time and energy, yes, but shooting the Strutters reunion for Texas State and various wedding events are more to blame, I believe. In light of that, and The Wife's upcoming photoshoots where I'll be a busy assistant but doing little in the way of actual image capture myself, I set about to schedule myself a photo session with an actual, living, breathing model to whom I am unrelated. You know, to shake the rust off and try something new.

To my delight, I was able to book a shoot for next week in Austin with a talented newcomer who, in the space of just one month, has become very much in demand among central Texas glamour photographers. We're going to do an urban night shoot, using the state Capitol building and 6th Street as our backdrops. She has nothing like this in her portfolio, and jumped at the opportunity. The only problem was that I'd never done anything like this, either. And with lighting being one of my weaker areas as far as photography is concerned, well, that's a recipe for disaster.

Enter Dustin Diaz, aka "Lifesaver." Mr. Diaz is a photographer, and a darn fine one at that. What makes him special in this particular context is that he has undertaken one of those 365 challenges, in which he attempts to take a photo every day or the year. Specifically, he's undertaken this challenge as a theme, using off-camera strobe lights in a variety of creative ways (such small flash setups being commonly referred to as "Strobist"), blogging about it, AND POSTING EACH LIGHTING SETUP along with camera and flash settings for each photo. WOW! Now that's what I call dedication. I also call it extremely useful, because although he uses Nikon and I Canon, I've been able to discern enough information to give me a general idea of how to approach this looming night shoot.

But as book smart and street smart are two different things, I knew I'd be a fool to go into the shoot with no practical experience, so last night, after dropping Monkey Girl off at dance practice, I scooted over to downtown New Braunfels for a few proof-of-concept shots. It was too windy to use an umbrella reflector, unfortunately, so I went with a bare flash instead, which gives a harsher light. Using myself as a model was a challenge with focus and setup of the shots, obviously, and the aesthetics weren't too inspiring, either. But I persevered, and came away with several dozen shots that were well-composed with acceptable lighting. I even got confident enough to try a few little tricks, such as using a star filter for a few shots. Here's one of the more interesting results:


I'm pretty confident at this point that I can take some moderately competent single-light night glamour shots, so the shoot won't be for naught. I could do more with multiple strobes--gelling the light for different colors would be very cool--but alas, I'm not capable of that level of creativity yet. Still, I pull this off, I'll have increased my competence as a photographer by one more notch. That's not bad at all.

Now Playing: The Mamas & the Papas 20th Century Masters

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