Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fear Shootout - What I Shot But Did Not Submit

If you've been following Zack Arias' blog, you're aware that I won the Fear shootout. The image below is what won based on votes submitted by readers.
Let me begin by thanking Zack and the entire UsedFilm crew for having me join in on the shootout and be a part of the crew. I learned a lot and it was an honor to be among some great photographers.

The second day was our opportunity to shoot with models and to create an image that captured the theme "Fear".  My first attempt was not successful. What follows is my thought process through the day and the other images that I shot.

When Zack said that there would be a shootout, I panicked a little bit. Not only would I be shooting against other photographers, but someone I looked up to. We started walking around as the models where getting make-up and hair done. Ideas were being discussed and lighting scenarios were starting to take place. Someone mentioned fog, someone else mentioned shadow, so I had to do something different. I started walking around and looking for dark areas that might look scary.  At some point this mansion was turned into medical facility for individuals with psychiatric problems. There were rooms with 2 way mirrors for observing patients. We even found a gurney in the basement. Needless to say someone could easily get spooked in this place. There was an area with a door that had a red clinic sign. This is where I setup. I didn't want to use the sign that said clinic because I didn't want it to be obvious.

Here's my first setup.
I setup up a Wescott Apollo 28" Soft Box right above the door. I also setup a flash behind the door with a red gel. I wanted to use the red to add to the drama. I played around with the position of the gelled flash and shot some test exposures before the model was ready.

I wasn't sure which model I would be working with, since it was who ever was available at the time. I got to work with Rocco. I wanted her to come through this door, in a slow and hesitating manner. Kind of looking around the door before actually walking through it.
One of the problems we all had this day was directing the models. In no way am I saying it was a problem with the models. It was a problem we had in giving direction, but also that models are not trained to do "Fear". They're not actors after all, it's not part of their job description.

I also had to make some adjustments. As you can see from the image above, she's on the other side of the doorway and the light from the softbox is not directed towards her entirely. It's feathered and really soft. I had to position Rocco further through the doorway in order to get her into the light. The lighting looks better in the next image as you can see her eyes better.
This next image is the closest I got to her expressing fear, but it looks more like worry and not like she is paralyzed by fear.
I also had her try a couple like she was screaming, but those just didn't look realistic either.

I tried different positions as well. I even stepped in and tried to demonstrate how someone would look like if they were cautiously stepping through the door. I got these next shots.
Still not getting "Fear" with either of these poses. She looks too glamourous and if anything her look is more inquisitive than scared.

I thought if her dress made her look glamourous for this kind of environment, then maybe only see her face. I placed her behind the door and tried these shots.
Still not getting "Fear". She sort of looks like she's trapped and asking for help, but in a very seductive kind of way. I was already thinking that there's no way I was going to win.

I moved on and started looking for locations and thinking about how I could get a model to express "Fear". I had no idea. I found another location I liked, but it wasn't scary, I just liked the angle and wanted to shoot something there.

So I went ahead and setup my lights. I went again with the soft box setup as my main light and threw in another light off to the side for fill.
Here's a reverse angle of the setup.
Still didn't know who I was going to be working with next and there was plenty of down time between shoots. So I started walking around again. Went up to the 3rd floor by myself and I started hearing noises. Could've been from my own footsteps, but everyone else was on the 1st floor. There were no lights or power on the 3rd floor and half of the windows were boarded up, so there's no light and in some places completely dark and I wasn't going exploring by myself, so back to the 1st floor I went.

I kept checking back to my first setup which had a lot of texture to the peeling paint and I was really drawn to it as the location for my fear shot, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to setup, and I kept thinking about it.

The next model up was Mych (pronounced Mike). I knew I couldn't do a scary shot in this next setup and Mych was dressed in a nice suit. My first instinct was to treat this as a fashion shoot. So that's what I did.
I liked these and Mych just reminded me of Sidney Poitier, especially in that suit. I decided to shoot tighter and against the concrete wall he was facing. I used the 28" Apollo Softbox setup and a reflector underneath for these images.
I really liked these shots of Mych. He looks like he could be on the cover of a mens fashion magazine in that suit and I love the texture on that concrete wall.

So I've done 2 shoots and still no "Fear" shot. I was thinking that I would have nothing to submit. I went back to my first setup and looked around. This time I turned 180ยบ and noticed the texture on the glass. These were offices that had been built in the area designated as a clinic. There was also a lot of peeling paint for texture. My immediate thought was to back light it and have a silhouette of a hand or face pressed against the glass. I decided to keep that idea in the back of my mind in case I got nothing else.

I kept walking around and stepped outside. Someone had done a setup in the Solarium and got some great shadows coming in through the windows that looked cool. So I thought about shooting outside with the Solarium in the background. I then imagined what it would look like if it was lit from the inside. There's no power or lights, so I would need to make my own light. As I thought about it, it was looking very good in my mind's eye. Still this would not get me my "Fear" shot.

I decided to go back to the clinic for my "Fear" shot because I was running out of time. I got Megan Case to help out. Pretty simple setup. Wescott 28" Apollo Soft Box firing towards the camera behind the glass. Grab a shot and loved it instantly. I took a couple different shots. I tried tight on the hand and another from a low angle. I liked all of them and knew I had my shot. I didn't think that I had a winning shot though. When I got home I took a look at them in Lightroom and tried a black & white version and started playing around with the "Tint" adjustment slider. I didn't like the B&W, too plain. I did like the greenish tint. I didn't want a strong tint, just subtle enough to create a mood. I wish I had tried a version with a face against the glass as well. Oh well, should've, would've, could've.
I still wanted to get a couple shots outside the Solarium and quickly started setting up lights. The Solarium had high ceilings and I wanted to make sure that it was brightly lit. I setup 2 lights, a 430EX & 430EXII at full power with CTO gels. I was loosing light and switched to my 60" reflective umbrella for my main light as I needed a large light source to illuminate the foreground and model. Main light was a 580EXII at 1/2 power. I was able to grab Jade to model for me at the last minute. Here are the last shots of the day.
This last image is one of my favorite of the day. The red dress worked well in this low light situation. I'm also happy that I was able to execute the vision I had in my mind. I shot a slow shutter of 1/15 hoping to get more light and color from the sky, but was concerned my image wouldn't be sharp enough if I shot any slower. After showing Zack the images, he suggested to go even slower (1/2 - 1 second), but take several shots and one of those would be sharp. Later when I got home, I thought about it again and then remembered that I could have used Rear Curtain Sync on the flash. Of course a couple days later I realized that when using the FlexTT5 & MiniTT1 radio triggers, they'll automatically switch to Rear Curtain Sync. Lesson learned and won't let a slow shutter speed keep me from shooting.

Several times on this day I had a particular image that came to my mind. The shot of Rocco with the red light on the wall, the hand on the glass and the last setup with Jade where I replicated an interior lit by tungsten lights. This was my first attempt at using gels to create a mood or environment. This is an example of what I was referring to my previous post.  I want to challenge myself to create images that I envision in my mind, controlling light and the environment. These were simple in comparison to what Zack had been working on, but I need to start somewhere. I think this was a good start and should raise my level of photography in the future.

Hopefully you'll see more examples like these in the future.

BTW, all the models were from SSP Models.  If you're in the need for models on the Atlanta area, I'd highly recommend you check them out.

Thank you Megan Case for the use of your hand, Zack Arias & the UsedFilm staff, and all of the other photographers. It was a great experience.

If you're looking for a portrait photographer in the Atlanta area, visit my portfolio.


Rachel P. said...

Wow all those shots looked great Dave! Very cool!

Megan Case said...

I'll lend you a hand anytime.......snort snort snort...... : )

Great to see all of your other shots!