It’s amazing what a few months does. I first worked with Kristen back in August of last year, and it was one of her first model shoots. She seems to have grown up about three years since then (she’s sixteen). Confident, knew what she wanted, and very professional and charming.
When we first started talking about doing another shoot, I had in mind an outdoors location, because we’d been in the studio the other time. Kristen however had been doing a lot of outdoor shoots lately, and wanted to get back into the studio. So things moved slowly until I read about an interesting technique in PDN for getting hair to do ‘magic tricks’ and seemingly levitate in an image.
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In the magazine, there was a short article on photographer Sarah Silver (will she return my adoring emails? No!), who is known for working with motion and getting her models and dancers moving. Something I’ve been keen on trying too. For a recent Feria hair color magazine ad, Sarah had her models bounce lightly on trampolines! When you capture the right moment (needs a fast flash), the hair is curled and wavy and appears to defy gravity. But doesn’t look windblown, like when using a fan. I thought I should give it a try.
My wife, bless her, agreed to be a test subject in our garage. Good thing too, because it showed me that a) it would likely work and b) timing was everything. If you shoot when the model is on an upward trajectory, the hair flattens out and looks wet and greasy. You need to catch it on the downward segment. That saved me a lot of trial and error for the real shoot.
So the shot above is my favorite from the trampoline shots. While the flash is fast and stops the action, the shorter the flash, the better. My flash wasn’t that short (i.e. expensive), so I had to weed out a lot of good images that were unfortunately a little blurry as well.
We also decided it was time to spring for a hair stylist on set, since this shoot was so very much about hair. The one we booked had an emergency at the last minute, and sent her associate Megan as a replacement. What a great job she did too! I like having someone on set who can keep an eye on details like that, because I don’t always spot them as I’m focused on everything else.
Below is a non-trampoline shot. You’ll notice the background for this and the one above. It’s two sheets of wallpaper (all I had time to put up), stuck to a warehouse wall with blue-tack removable adhesive putty. Got the idea from David Hobby’s strobist blog, where he hinted at the low-budget background idea. Since there were no details, I had to try it myself. Did a few tests at home to see how long it would take to put up, how easy it was to work with, and whether or not it would peel the paint off our hallway walls (it didn’t). Here are some things I learned about wallpaper backgrounds:
1) Lowes was having a sale, $3 per roll! I bought lots.
2) The wallpaper has seams, waves and wrinkles, because you’re not gluing it to the wall. It works best when you light it head on, rather than from an angle. Any angle and you see the seams and waves very easily.
3) It also works best to use dark backgrounds, with a minimum of light.
4) Patterns you would never put on your wall are perfectly ok to use as a photographic background.
5) Give yourself a half hour to put up enough wallpaper to do a head-and-torso shot. Two strips was barely usable, and required me to shoot with a long lens and constantly adjust the angle of the shot.
Some lighting info for the above shots: Two SB-20s ganged together and shot through a 45″ shoot through umbrella, camera right. I would have used my Norman 200B, but I ran out of juice and had to use back ups. Background light is an SB-28, with a grid from Saxon PC (less than $7!), and a ‘pale amber gold’ gel taped over the front of it. The first shot also has my Sunpak 333 bouncing off some white seamless paper, camera left, with a 1/2 CTO on it. It fills the hair on the left side of her head a little. The shot directly above was without the fill.
Kristen also wanted to do some ‘beauty’ shots. You know, the kind you see in women’s magazines advertising hair or make up products. These we did before the wallpaper background shots, and I used a white seamless as background. Lighting the background was my SB-28 (I think), with a snoot and a blue gel. The main light was a collapsible softbox-umbrella made by Halo (bought it used recently), about 30″ square. It’s a softer light than a shoot-through, but nice and portable, and a little harder to set up than an umbrella. I had my Norman 200B in there, and had it on full power as the thing eats a lot of light (necessarily so, to get that even lighting). This is probably why I ran out of juice and had to resort to back ups! The Halo is camera right, just out of frame. You can see a wide set up shot at the end. To the left were two smaller umbrellas (one silver, one gray, because that’s what I own), placed horizontally next to each other, to wrap fill light around the left side of her head. I had to fine tune them to keep from getting extra shadows, but it worked well. Sb-20s were in the umbrellas.
I constantly played with the fill lights, sometimes turning them off or dialing one or both of them back. So it’s hard to say which particular shot has what. I think the duotoned one further down might have the fills turned off. The one directly below is probably with both fills firing.
And another ‘beauty’ shot, this time a close up with Kristen looking up at the Halo.
And finally, a quick grab of the set up. The lens I was using didn’t go wide enough to get the whole thing in (I was on a ladder at the time), but you get the idea what tight tolerances I was working with.
This was a very satisfying shoot, both the end result and the satisfaction of learning some new tricks. And working with some great people really just nails it. Thanks Kristen, Megan and Kristen’s mom! And my apologies to Megan for such an unflattering shot of her, but it’s the only set up shot I took!