Thursday, 7 July 2011

On Location

Vive Jewelry & Chapel Hill Shoot -16Except for when I travel, I have put my street, landscape, and abstract shooting on hold these past couple of years so I can focus on improving my skills with artificial lighting. While I have very much missed my regular shooting, this "stretching" has been a great learning experience. I think my photography has benefited from it, even my landscape photographs.

Most of my learning has come from working "fashion" shoots in the studio, such as the one I did here. While I have enjoyed working with the models, I have not enjoyed working in the studio. I find the studio environment sterile and limiting. I really shouldn't be surprised by this discovery, considering I have been shooting "in the wild" for well over 30 years.

While fashion photography is also not really my thing, I very much like the interaction with the models as we work together to create an image. So if studios are out, what's left? Location shooting! Location shooting is like wrapping street shooting and studio lighting all into one package.

I like to shoot with a purpose, so I talked with Tara of Vive Jewelry, and she agreed to participate by providing jewelry for the shoot in return for photographs she can use for her business. So too for Sylvia at Chapel Hill, who agreed to provide some clothes, and Ria of Ria Make-up, who agreed to do the make-up. Four models stepped forward looking to contribute time in return for portfolio photographs: Tamara, Erin, Sara, and Ashleigh. Rounding out our crew was Jackie, who did the models' hair (I'm sure she would have done mine, if I had any).

I looked around for an interesting venue to shoot. I didn't want to do the "grunge" look that seems to be all the rage these days. You know, where a model wears very fancy clothes but the photos are taken in an old run-down factory or with some sort of graffiti in the background. The more rust and junk in the photo the better, it seems.

Trish, Anne, Zoey, and I did a scouting trip earlier in the spring to the Memory Lane Heritage Village. This is a collection of buildings just outside of Halifax. They date from the early-to-mid 1900's and represent what life was like in rural Nova Scotia back then. They are filled with really neat artifacts from that era. There are many buildings, including a General Store.

Memory Lane Scouting Trip -2

Memory Lane Scouting Trip -1

Some Gas Pumps.
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A Garage

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And a School House.
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What really settled it for me was that the place reminded me very much of Musgrave Harbour, where I lived when I was young. Walking around and taking these scouting shots really got the creative juices flowing. It seemed like a great place to bring a crew to shoot, so I booked us in.

On the day of the shoot, we arrived at the Village early, as the models had to get their make-up done by Ria. While Ria was doing her thing, Lauren (our guide from the Heritage Village) showed Tara and me around so we could evaluate the lighting and the visual environment. We settled on the Gas Pumps as our first shoot site. The sun was still fairly low and we thought we could get some dramatic shots before it rose too much higher in the sky. We dug the gear out of the truck and as soon as we were set up, Ashleigh joined us, ready to rock.

Ashleigh ripped through an amazing series of poses, using the pumps as an anchor.

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Ashleigh was able to create one dynamic pose after another, which let me create different moods. The shot above is bright and dynamic, whereas the shot below is more intense and moody.

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Sara was ready to go just about the time Ashleigh had worked the Gas Pump location dry (pun intended). We moved on to a couple of buildings that worked, but none of the images got me very excited. We decided to go for a walk and see what struck us. This is the part that I really like about location shooting: if things are not working out in one spot, you can use just pack up and move on. There is always something just around the corner that is worth exploring.

In our case, it was a lovely old red truck. By now, the sun was almost overhead, which usually makes for terrible lighting, but I decided to shoot anyway. We moved to the shadowed side of the truck, and Ashleigh ran a large reflector to push light as needed back onto Sara. The combination of red and white colours, bright and dark tones, and Sara's gamut of expressions made for a very prolific series of shots. There are too many for me to publish here, so you will have to make do with a small slide show:





For a larger version of this slide show, go here.

As you can see, the setting worked for many styles of shots: black and white, colour, soft, romantic, edgy, funny. They all seemed to work.

After shooting in the heat of the sun, we went back to inside in the General Store. Tamara was ready to go and we tried to take advantage of the store's nice ambient mood.

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The store is, by nature, very noisy visually, with lots of clutter in the background. In some cases this can work. In others, it can make for a distracting background, so I tried to adapt to by removing as much of the background as possible. One way is to shoot with the outdoors as the background and overexpose the background.

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After we had worked through as much as we could inside the store, we went "walkabout" again. Erin was now our subject and I noticed that the rather garish colours of some of the buildings didn't suit her colouring very well. Yellow and green just should not be seen with some models. However, my eye was developed on Tri-X film (hah, another pun!), and I saw in my head some wonderful tonal ranges, so we shot with these buildings anyway and I converted them to black and white. There was a nice pink and white building as well, and while the colour there was much more suitable, I thought it still was better as a B&W image.

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Some of the sites reminded me a bit of something you would find in a Beatrix Potter story, so I experimented with a couple of shots to render as drawings. This is a new style I am developing, as I explained in this post.

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We ended our walkabout in the School House. The inside was a very bright white, and there was a wonderful light coming in from outside through some large windows.

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I took a clich├ęd shot of Erin at a student's desk.

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and then we switched to Ashleigh as the teacher.

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Back outside, it was time for some headshots.

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We started to wrap up and Ashleigh had to return to Halifax, missing our group "wrap" shots.

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Feeling confident about the strength of the day's shoot, the girls showed us their pipes.

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As we started to pack up, Tara commented the Gas Pumps looked much different now that the sun had swung to the other side. The lighting was a bit more harsh than what we worked with in the morning, but we did some last minute individuals shots and then a crew shot.

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Vive / Chapel Hill Shoot

I am very pleased with the results of this shoot. I think everyone has come away with some great shots to add to their portfolio. While I won't be heading back to the studio anytime soon, I'm already planning my next location shoot!

I would be very remiss not to thank Jackie for being able to come to help at the last minute, or to thank Lauren for pitching in and helping during the day. Ria's wonderful make-up complemented Tara's fine jewelry. Sylvia's generosity made it possible to create some wonderful imagery. Tamara, Sara, Ashleigh, and Erin were all fabulous to work with and I appreciated how they jumped in to hold bits of gear necessary to create the above images. Without the contribution of everyone, I wouldn't have so many wonderful Postcards to add to my collection.

A slide show of these shots is here. Just make sure that under "options" at the top right side of the screen, the "embiggen small things to fill screen" is NOT checked. If it is, the photos will look fuzzy and distorted.

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