Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Darkside Session

A Calvin Klein Kind of Girl Maxine, Jon, and Mary Ellen are fitness buffs who asked if I would take some photographs of them. They wanted to document their current fitness level and perhaps get published in a fitness magazine. We went back and forth for a few weeks sharing ideas about what kind of shots we should take and what poses would be good to use. I boiled the ideas down into 4 groups and suggested we have a session for each group.

The first session would emphasize their bodies’ structure and tone. To do that, I would create mostly dark images that used splashes of light to highlight areas such as backs, abs, and arms. These folks are ‘ripped’ by any definition of the word and I thought I could use strong side lighting to document how well defined their muscles are.

I didn’t have a black background (Edit: no black background, but I did have a brown background that I used) and we ended up turning off all of the lights on many of the shots. This was both a challenge and time consuming: with the lights on, they would pose and I would compose and focus; Trish would flip off the lights and I would fire off a few frames in the dark. So it is no surprise that I called this ‘The Darkside Session” and the next day I bought a roll of black seamless paper. In hindsight, I was shooting at too high power (f8 to f11) and should have dropped down to maybe f4 to f5.6 and lived with a little less sharpness and depth of field.

The session was as hard as – or harder- for them than a regular workout. Even I felt a little worse for wear at the end. After a grueling 9 hours, they retired to sooth aching muscles and I started to whittle down the 1,000 frames we took to something more manageable.

I was quite pleased with the results, especially considering the fact that I shot these in my garage using regular camera flashes (a Nikon SB800, a Nikon SB26, and two Vivitar 285HV’s). The above opening shot of Mary Ellen is a nice, moody shot that I could see in a Calvin Kelin ad. My favourite shot is this one of Maxine. I love the way she is able to drape her body back over the ball. I find the result very graceful.

Beauty and Grace

I have three more sessions in mind, one of which I will call ‘ The Lightside Session’. If Max, Mary Ellen, and Jon are up for it, I hope to have more shots to post soon. In the meantime, a slideshow of the session is below, or, click here for a larger version. In either slide show, you will want to turn on 'information' so as to get the captions.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Anonymous said...

several things:
1) really nice ideas and lightning
- love black background
2)what I dont understand is why you needed to turn the lights off if you can simply kill the ambient with shutterspeed and an higher fstop???

Scott said...

The higher f-stop would kill ambient and the flash in the same ratio, meaning I would have to go to a higher power on the flash which would give a lower recycle time.

The higher shutter speed would kill ambient, as you state, however, I was already at 1/750 (Nikon D70s) and was still getting the affects of the florescent lighting in the ceiling. The walls were white and close to the subject, so they were bouncing the light.

As it turns out, the flashes were spilling around anyway, but turning off the light allowed me to kill the green from the florescents. I didn't have enough CTG gels for all of my flashes.

If I had to do over (or if I get the chance to do over), I would have dropped my flash power down and opened up the f-stop, which with some nice black seamless, should do nicely.

Levi Gardner said...

Were you snooting the flashes in these shots? otherwise how did you avoid light spill on the ground/walls etc.


comatose said...

Some really great and creative shots and I appreciate you explaining your process. They must have been really happy.

Scott said...

Levi: Sorry, I didn't see your comment until now. Yes, in some cases I used a snoot or a gobo, but in many cases, I just set the flash head zoom and feathered the light away from the background. I hope that helps. -Scott.

Wedding Photographer France said...

Excellent photography! I'm very impressed but the whole session. The variety of light and poses really does show your eye for detail.

Congrats from a colleague photographer from France!


Scott said...

Blaise: Merci beaucoup! Où en France faites vous? J'ai vécu en St. Cloud (Paris) pendant un moment et ai aimé les photographies prises là ! Malheureusement, je n'ai pas beaucoup de temps pour pratiquer parler français de nos jours. Bonne année!!

Anonymous said...

These pictures do portrait perfection, both on the athletes and the photographer! I mself just have exactly the same top on this picture but not the abs :( .... wonderful photographer! Maxine, Jon and Mary Ellen chose the best photographer, definetly a good match! :) ..Beatriz