I met up with Mikey at the Redondo Beach Pier, Thursday night, and we discussed what I hoped to learn from his workshop and also review my portfolio. Those who know me, know I'm rarely serious and we ended up talking about photography in general, and swapping stories. However, what I wanted to learn was his "approach"in asking random people to pose for a quick 5-minute shoot. In my mind it is very reminiscent of my "dance club" days and summoning up the nerve to ask a woman to dance.
During our conversation, Mikey mentioned that my work was really "clean". "Clean?" well lit, even lighting, etc... It's interesting, I originally used to shoot with grids, flags, GoBos, etc...but my shadows were blocked up. A fellow photographer, Don Mason, spent some time with me going over lighting ratios, Inverse Square Law, etc... So the whole ride home from Redondo Pier I kept thinking, "How do I get out of my comfort zone?"
The top picture above is my attempt to do such a thing. Alien Bee in an Apollo Softbox(Key Light) Camera Left and held up above model, Scrim behind her right shoulder. I'm also using a 4-stop Neutral Density Filter on my 24mm - 70mm lens. I metered for the background to get the exposure I wanted and then added the key light.
- Here's the EXIF data:
- A: F/5.6
- S: 1/320
- I: 100
I'm getting ahead of myself. Instruction began Friday and after a few hours of technical and create review we set out to test out our newly imparted knowledge. Personally, I wasn't too interested in shooting, but rather working on my approach. I also contacted my friend Mayte to come out and shoot with the group, so as they were working with her I tried my hand at approaching a passerby.
I noticed a young blonde woman wearing a tank top with an American Flag heading towards the beach. Here was the approach:
- Me: (Smile) "Hi, I'm a photographer and I'm here doing portraits to practice some creative lighting." "I only need two minutes of your time, if that's okay." (Smile, again)
- Kaitlin: She smiled and said "Okay, what's this for?"
- Me: "A group of us photographers are working on our lighting skills and I really like your outfit, you definitely have style."
- Kaitlin: "Sure, and how long will it take?"
- Me: "No more than five minutes. Afterwards we can send you your pictures, if that's okay."
As we walk toward Mikey and the others, Caitlin and I talk about where she is from (Rhode Island), and if she is enjoying the California Lifestyle. I guess I should've have taken some pictures, but I was off to find another subject. Note that the gridded Alien Bee is not pointed directly at Kaitlin, but instead it's skimming across the right side of her face.
If you have never been to Venice, suffice it to say that there are plenty of "Evaluation" clinics that charge between $30 to $40 to provide you with a diagnosis and a card that will let you purchase Medical Marijuana. The clinic hawkers were dressed up in their green scrubs and attempted to solicit our business by suggesting that we could get evaluated and pickup our prescription, and then our images would be really different. Hence the blog title, "Spark It Up and Shoot".
We decided to move around and ended up in an alley just behind The Boardwalk to work on some images with Mayte. Mikey gave me his camera to video the session and all I can say is that I suck at videography. During the shoot, L.A.'s finest pulled up in their squad car and informed us that we needed a Permit to shoot since we had "professional" gear. After the LAPD left, I decide it was time to go and walk Mayte back to her car.
The following day we met at 9:00 AM and the group continued working on more Creative Lighting while I tried my hand at approaching more people. I had no luck, but as Mikey, Katherine and I were scoping out a two man band, Mikey spotted an exotic looking young woman taking pictures of the musical duo. Although Mikey is fluent with Spanish, the young woman spoke French. As luck would have it, Katherine also spoke French and coaxed the young woman to join us for a min-session. She was very receptive and followed visual direction very well.
As the day wore on, we photographed more people with minimal rejection. I tried to adhere to my challenge for the day, which was to create more dramatic images. As we were walking down the boardwalk, attendee Davrick noticed a Goth chick and decided he would ask her to pose for us. Mikey and I laughed and figured she would eat Davrick alive. Wrong, she was more than happy to oblige and so I shot Raven in about 5 minutes. Grid spot Camera Left, Speedlight on a stick camera left and behind Raven.
It was quickly approaching 5:00 PM and I wanted to get some more shots in before it was going to head back to Bakersfield. We walked by a mural and I noticed a fit couple jokingly arguing. I asked used "The Approach" and they agreed. This initial shot is to show the direction and brightness of the sun. After having attendee Howard hold the softbox above both of them, it took about 2 minutes to get the shot. Thanks Rhea and Daniel for allowing me to photograph you.
The Golden Hour was in full swing and the remaining attendees were scrounging for subjects. Enter Nathali, a visitor from Massachusetts. She was more than willing to shoot and Mikey looked at me and said, go ahead. Set-up was Key Light (Softbox) high and Camera Left and Rim Light, bare strobe camera right. The final image is a little blown, but I wanted to wrap up and get out of the way of the crowds.
So What Did I Learn?
- Get out of my Comfort Zone: Rock a Mistake and then Exaggerate It!!!
- Easier said than done. I'm still grasping what that really means in my work. Maybe change up my lighting ratios and go for more dramatic images
- Don't be afraid to approach people to shoot
- It's not as hard as you think, just don't look like a GWC, or Perv. One key bit of advice that I will share from Mikey is introduce yourself as a Photographer and not by your name until you establish a rapport
I'm good with the lighting aspect when running and gunning. I know where to start and then how to make the proper adjustments, quickly. I just need to stop being lazy. ;)
If you are struggling with your "creative" lighting, or want to take a workshop that is more hands-on and less boring lecture, I highly recommend taking one of Mikey's workshops. It's inexpensive and definitely worth the cost. As with any workshop, the main thing you need to know ahead of time is ...
- Know it inside out. Practice changing ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed without moving your eye away form the viewfinder
- Know how your lights work, and always dump your strobe when lowering the power before taking a shot