Monday, March 05, 2007

Laguna Gloria

Laguna Gloria

I've just finished a 5 week portrait class at the Austin Museum of Art. The shot of Jennifer above was taken on the final session as an experiment with mixing studio strobes and outdoor ambient light. We were fighting against the setting sun to set this up while there was still some colour in the sky. I'm standing with a 6ft square softbox quite close to the model, on the camera right, shooting in manual mode with the aperture around f8 and the shutter set slow enough to pick up some of the colour in the sky. I'm actually triggering the strobe with a 580EX on camera, set at 1/128th power and pointing in the general direction of a peanut slave that is connected into the strobe power box. There's another smaller strobe pointing at the fountain to light it, set about a stop lower power than the main light. I like the composition of this particular shot because of all the acute angles, in the angled fountain, her legs, her arms and all through the shot. The side lighting gives some drama and mixing in the sky colour really makes the shot pop. This was really set up as a lighting test, there were another 5 people shooting at the same time as me, so it ended up as a slightly strange experience. Nobody was really very comfortable talking to Jennifer, giving her suggestions on how to pose or generally working with her to get good results, so it all came off as a bit artificial. I think some were maybe too shy to direct and others didn't want to be pushy when others were trying to get the shots too. I much prefer working one on one, with less of an audience of people around - I think that's mainly a lack of confidence but also I'm just not really sure what changes I want to make or what suggestions to make to improve the shots - something I want to work on more this year, by studying successful portraits and getting a better idea on how I want to visually compose the space. The portrait class was a good experience for me - to spend an evening a week on just this one subject, sharing my work with a dozen other people and getting to play around with some studio strobes. It also introduced me to some new photographers and made me spend some more time in the library studying some of the history of portrait photography, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and so on. I picked up some interesting ideas and got some more experience with lighting. A big improvement on trying to discuss this sort of thing on-line. It is always much more effective to just get in there and see how it all works. The theory is all well and good but the actual practice of moving the lights around and seeing the effect is much more educational for me. My main regret was that the class was only 5 weeks. As a group we were just starting to get more comfortable with each other and start sharing more interesting ideas and suddenly it was all over. I'm hoping I can keep in touch with some of the people that were in the class or even shoot with them in the future.


Terje said...

That's a stunning work Gordon! This is the kind of lightning scenarious I've been working on lately. Have you experimented with ND filters for your strobes? I use minimum power and 3 stop NDs on the lamps to give as little light as possible, allthough very soft light. Which enables me to maximze the colors/details of the entire scene.

Two thumbs up on this photo, looking forward for more photos!

puzzled said...

I really like this, Gordon. The green shirt is what sets it off for me (thanks to the lighting). Very nice. I find all the angles appealing as well.

Jeff said...

Ordinarily I would think Jennifer's right arm might be a bit over the top. But in this case, with the classical fountain behind her, the exagerated use of the arm works really well. It's almost as if she is part of the classical art. Nicely done.