If you live where I do you’ve recently been treated to 3 glorious weeks of rain. It has taken over our lives it seems. It’s all anyone talks about & people’s moods have been greatly affected by it. When the weather is like that it gets to be a bit gloomy, emotionally, and it can be hard to get motivated to do anything. So on Thursday we had nothing but sun & 20 degree (celsius) weather. After I got off work I had to be responsible and mow the lawn, otherwise we would have needed a search party to find our little puppy when she went out. After those 3 wet weeks all I wanted to do was go out and shoot. I decided I wanted to do an impromptu shoot with a model, and not just go shoot landscapes. It’s not always easy to find someone who will be willing to drop everything and head out for a few hours, luckily I did.
After I finished the front lawn, luckily the back was too wet to mow, I went to pick up the model and we were off. As I was leaving the house I wasn’t 100% sure where we going to go, to be honest. I knew we didn’t have a lot of light & that I had to think fast. Suddenly I thought of a location that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of before. It’s close to my house, and it’s a place I spent a lot of time at in high school. We used to spend hot days swimming there. Seeing it now I can’t believe we ever thought that water was safe. I guess that was 10 years ago, so maybe it was clean back then. Even if it wasn’t, that’s what I’m going to say to convince myself all those times jumping off the cliffs into the murky water below didn’t result in my body getting contaminated :). It’s a location with many different types of appeal and I plan on revisiting it at least a few more times and using different parts of it.
I have been wanting to try out some one light techniques for a while so I only brought 1 speedlight, 1 stand, a small umbrella, a Gary Fong Powersnoot and my 75″ umbrella. From this shoot I discovered there is another piece of gear I’ll need to either buy or make myself and that is a sandbag. With the flash up about 6.5 feet the wind took the umbrella and down it all went, stand, flash, receiver and umbrella. The receiver took the brunt of the impact and snapped into a few pieces. I took it pretty well actually (I was just happy it wasn’t the flash) and I think with a little duct tape and some brute force (which I’ll have to try and find from someone) it’ll be back in working order soon. It’s going to happen from time to time where a piece of gear is going to break, or isn’t working well and you have to stay calm to keep your model calm and comfortable. I have a bit of a temper sometimes (let’s just say it wouldn’t have been the first time I launched a piece of gear… sorry old flash) but I knew I had to stay calm. Not to mention me freaking out about the receiver wouldn’t have helped anything. So I grabbed the back-up receiver from my bag and we were good to go.
We shot in the main location I wanted to get to before we lost too much ambient light and I was very happy with the results. The model was fantastic and was ready to go from the first shutter click. Because we were so short on time this was crucial. I didn’t tell her that we only had so much time to get the shots because I didn’t want her to think I was rushing. I also didn’t want her to worry about working too hard on the posing to try and get everything in before it became too dark. As a photographer you need to be aware of it, however your model doesn’t, just let them focus on modelling and you worry about the extraneous factors, that’s your job.
It was getting pretty dark at this point but I wanted to try some shots on the rocks by the cliffside as well. Knowing there wasn’t enough ambient light to affect the shot I opted for different lighting & I switched off the umbrella for the Power Snoot. I wanted to have that concentrated lighting anyway so it was the obvious choice. I actually tried the 75″ to see what kind of difference it would make, but the wind took that down within 2 minutes. My biggest problem was getting everything in focus. I could barely see her through the viewfinder it was getting so dark, but she was wearing a white top so I used that as a point of focus (for whatever reason my AF assist light only came on once). Camera’s focus is based on contrast & they see in b&w. The white popped well off the dark background so it worked out long enough that we were able to get some great shots. I couldn’t see her face at all & was not able to give any direction, but having worked with her a few times before I was confident in her ability to go without direction.
In the end I was extremely happy with the session. I was very happy I didn’t just go shoot some landscapes and was able to find a great model on such short notice. This is really the first shoot I’ve done where I haven’t had a plan going in. I did no prep, the model did her hair, makeup, and chose her own wardrobe. I am a bit of control freak when it comes to my photography so this was a bit out of my element. I’m looking forward to doing more of these impromptu shoots as they force me to be creative on the spot. I have to pick location, shot angles, and lighting very quickly. Sometimes over thinking things can be a destructive process, do something on a whim and let your sub-conscious take control.
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