I feel better now. Really, I do. I’ve had this idea pinging around in my head for a few weeks and I finally talked one of my friends into helping me pull it off. Now I can actually sleep at night instead of working through the lighting setups for this shot as I lie awake in bed at 3am. The best part is that this shoot has spawned an even bigger, cooler idea. More on that to come.
In addition to being a talented cook, graphic designer and writer, she’s also a natural goofball–a trait that I always like in my friends. Not only does it make them more fun to hang out with, but it makes them far more likely to participate in my increasingly wacko photo experiments.
Basically, this shoot was all about the rain. Which we have had none of in two weeks. So I made my own. I clamped a garden hose with sprayer to the deck in my backyard and fired it into the air. Low tech, I know. Sorry to strip away the mystery, but there ya go.
Because of that, I needed someone that would not only be willing to possibly get doused, but have fun while doing it in front of a camera. Thanks Stef!
The first setup involved a reflective umbrella with a Nikon SB-600 flash mounted inside. I mounted the flash on one end of an umbrella bracket with a PocketWizard Plus II trigger on the other end. I slid this bracket as far up inside the umbrella as possible so that the assembly would not be visible to the camera and waterproofed it with a pair of sandwich bags and rubber bands. More high-tech wizardry, try to keep up. This provided the main light for the shot, illuminating Stef’s hair and face. Since the umbrella itself wraps around her head somewhat, the light does too–it doesn’t just come straight from above.
To prevent the rest of Stef from falling into shadows (and to light her awesome chicken handbag, named Henrietta) I shot through an Alien Bees ABR800 ringflash with the dome diffuser attached. In order to keep from dousing the light and my camera, I shot with the Nikon 24-70mm lens at 70mm to keep my distance.
A third flash was used to light up the rain. I placed a Nikon SB-800 behind Stef on a stand about waist high. The flash was bare and triggered with another Pocket Wizard. Without this flash, the rain didn’t catch enough light and barely showed up in the shot.
By the way, I discovered that I can connect the ring flash directly to my D700‘s sync jack and still connect a Pocket Wizard to the camera to trigger the other two lights. I could have probably fired the ring flash or SB800 optically using their slave feature, but I don’t always trust that method. This worked great.
Another shot using the same setup with a little cross-processing treatment:
For this one, I kept the ring flash and SB800 but removed the black cover from the umbrella and moved the SB600 to a boom stand. It lit the translucent umbrella from above providing even softer light on Stef. It also lit up more of her torso so I scaled back on the ring flash to prevent blowing out the whites too much.
Once Stef was thoroughly soaked, we turned off the hose just in time to see the sun peeking through the trees. I quickly grabbed a “real” umbrella and did some natural light portraits, including the one below. My camera did all the heavy lifting here: I simply switched to spot metering mode and placed the metering/focus cursor in the viewfinder on Stef’s face.
By the way, this is a great example of a portrait capturing someone’s true personality. It was an off-the-cuff pose towards the end of the session and I just clicked the shutter while she was fooling around. I love it when that happens.
Since the sun was rapidly falling toward the horizon, the light was changing quick so I threw the SB800 in a small softbox to the left of the camera and did a few headshots to finish the day.
The hardest part was keeping her from laughing. I’ve started shooting more and more of my friends (and family) lately and it’s been a blast. I’ve gotten to know them better, they understand more about why I’m so obsessed with this stuff and everybody generally laughs their ass off.
So there ya go, a reason to make friends with fun people. They make great photographic subjects and will allow you get the ideas in your head out into the world. Which will help you sleep at night.
At least until the next brilliant concept worms its way into your skull. Man, I have some doozies blowing around in there right now…
And I can’t get this damn song outta my head (gotta love Tom Waits)