Damn you Paparazzi2
neil posted in Travel on December 20th, 2007
I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.
neil posted in Neil, Kitten on December 20th, 2007
Shooting the Witchery Christmas card0
neil posted in Photos, Neil on December 18th, 2007
Being asked to shoot the Witchery Tours Christmas Card felt like being asked by Sports Illustrated to shoot their swimsuit edition (though it lacks some of the perks). It happens once a year and one image is printed onto a specially designed Christmas card and distributed to the owner’s spiders-web-like network of contacts. I’ve had one every year for about five years. One copy is framed and mounted in the office.
As you’ve guessed, they asked me this year. Fortunately I had the knous to ask a few questions straight off the bat: what was the picture of, how many people were involved and where were they planning on shooting. The shoot was to be four monks playing in a band in one of the lads back rooms and it was to look like the monks were playing a gig. The whole thing would be part of a multimedia video and audio package.
A gig…in someones back room? Gonnae need a LOT of light, especially with four characters to light. Rented every SB800 I could afford from Calumet, my trusty SB800 a borrowed Sigma 500 (Cheers Tom!) and an on camera Canon 580EX. Thats five, check! Gonnae need gels. Ordered everything on flashgels.co.uk’s menu. Check.
Spent the days before looking at gig photos, Strobist and Dave Hill’s website. Talked over some setups with Alicia, she put me onto red and green gels for a Christmas feel. Spent the night before trying to imagine what lighting ratio I was going to use instead of sleeping. Spent the morning reviewing small gig lighting rigs and Dave Hill’s website. Watched the (mainly too short) videos of him at work. Noticed he was using a ringflash. It have been a nice idea to build one for my stuck-to-the camera Canon flash but I did’nt have time.
Arrived at the venue to find a long narrow room with yellow walls, a white ceiling and LOTS of daylight streaming through a huge side window. I closed the blinds and in the end we wheeled a table tennis table from the room outside to block the sunlight. My worries about light ratios were unfounded. In order to claw my way above ambient I was going to be running every flash at full power. Remembering an effect I liked from Dave Hill’s portfolio, I set two strobes up in back with a red gel on one side and a green on the other. I tried doubling up on the strobes but could’nt get any kind of light with apertures sufficient to kill the ambient. In the end I shoved the strobes on stands and put them next to the drummer shooting back towards the camera. My other two flashes went low to the front with the same gels on the same side as the back and my Canon flash went on my Nikon camera and proceeded to have a fit. My idea was to use the on camera flash to be a mainlight on a close at hand subject with red and green highlights from in front and behind. Unfortunately it was just too weak to do that effectively. Taking the gels off the front strobes and sliding them close to the band (but out of frame on the floor) amped up their power and the back lights gave seperation and coloured edges. For my first set of cheesy band jump shots my lens hood went askew and ate the corners of my frame. The effect was invisible on the back of the camera and through the viewfinder. Thankfully I had brought my laptop to the gig, noticed the problem and managed to do a re-shoot. It was a bonehead mistake but I like to think I was professional about it (I told no-one and just asked them to do it again). We also tried with smoke which was hard to time and could’nt be allowed between lens and subject because it softened the shot badly. It was also nigh on impossible to time the smoke release and the jumping band.
The client recorded possibly the most psyhotic rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in history. Youtubed here. Then I had a chance to do some alternative shots (ones that included the drummer). Without smoke and having to count people in to jump these shots were easier to compose and execute. I moved one of the front lights in with a red gel to give lowlights and put the other flash on the drumkit with a red gel. The on camera flash went off the white ceiling at full power for a nice soft mainlight on the band. We did this in horizontal and vertical configurations so the card could be either way up.
Reshooting the jump went pretty well without the smoke. We did some shots with the smoke but it took too long to disperse and getting the timing right was just too tricky in the end. I was happy with the sans-smoke shots and the band were at this point desperately knackered and sweating inside hot rubber masks. After a few more reasonable takes I called it a day. Perhaps I should have tried a few more but I’d got images I was sure the client would be very happy with.
My regrets were not trying a different lens for the jump shots (I like close to the action so shot low to the ground with a 12mm) not checking that the left monks feet were in frame and not bringing the backlights in closer or zooming them for the jump shot. A different location would have worked better too but you work with what you have.