Monday, May 21, 2012

Urban Guerrilla Shooting Take 3

 A dilapidated cage elevator proved an amazing backdrop during my latest shoot

Who needs a studio anyway?
Eventually my basement renos will be done and I will have a proper studio to work in but chances are I'll try to avoid using it in favour of location shoots as much as I can anyway. For my latest shoot I once again set out on an urban exploring mission, shooting wherever the backdrop looked interesting, ducking into cool old buildings and busting off shots until asked to leave. Despite leaving my innocuous X100 in my camera bag this time and touting my 5DMKII in its stead I wasn't hassled once about shooting anywhere. In fact people were apologizing for getting in my way. 

Let me backtrack a little. May 1st my gallbladder decided it was going to throw a temper tantrum, it started becoming unruly about a week after my Cuba trip and landed me in the ER a few times. This time however it really outdid itself and a simple trip to the ER turned into a 3 night stay and date with a scalpel. I then had an unexpected two week holiday to recover. After going stir crazy for a week and a half I was feeling pretty good and since my camera was under my 10lb weight lifting limit I figured I'd set out on a shoot. The very pretty and incredibly photogenic model, Deanna Alyse, had just contacted me through model mayhem wanting to work with me sometime. The timing was perfect so I contacted her and made plans to shoot that upcoming weekend.

I had just had lunch that week with a photographer buddy of mine, Krystian Olszanski, and since our last co-shoot was such a blast I invited him along as well. Shooting with another photographer is great for two reasons: one you have a knowledgeable lighting assistant two: while you're lighting and they're shooting you get to see how another photographer approaches the same subject.

We all met up at a mall downtown and set off without really having a set destination in mind. We happened along a small patio beside a coffeeshop/bistro so I snapped a few quick portraits there just using available light.

Shooting as we go

At this point Krystian mentions that a pub on the next corner actually has a seldom-used (or known about) patio out back and that it might be an interesting location.

As we turn into the back alley  we both notice a nicely painted brick wall with some pallets stacked up which are screaming to be used as a backdrop.

Cutest hobo ever

Lucky for us our model was willing to get a little dirty in order for us to get our shots. Even before we busted out the flash and umbrella the subdued light of the alley was great to shoot under. It was also quite windy that day but it worked and gave some of the shots a nice dynamic.

Below is one of my favourite shots from the whole shoot, something about it just has that vintage pinup vibe to it and her innocent yet coquettish smile just completes the pose. This one was lit with off camera flash, a 580EXII triggered with Cactus V5's shooting through a 48" white umbrella. Krystian acted as my voice activated lightstand.

  A definite fave from the shoot.

We probably shot at this location for a good hour, exploring every idea we could think of. While one of us was shooting the other was lighting and constantly coming up with new ideas for when it was their turn again. Often one of us would pose the model in a certain way or shoot from the a unique angle and the other would groan and say "ahhh I was going to do that on my turn". Ultimately though we both have our own style, especially once the images have been processed, so I don't think we overlapped too much.

As I stated this alley was a goldmine, turning 180 degrees the opposing wall was interesting too as you can see below.
 Every part of this alley was dripping with character.

Having tapped this alley for every angle we did eventually make our way to the back patio we'd initially set out for only to find it quite lame photowise.  Just across the street was a building I'd shot in during my last outing, since we had off-camera lighting with us this time I figured we should check it out.

Right off the bat I wanted to try a shot I'd done last time but felt I could improve upon with some added backlighting.

 Krystian lit this from behind while thinking thin thoughts.

I always love shooting in stairwells when I have the chance, there's just something about them that always yields a good shot. In the photo below we had to resort to some rather crazy lighting since we only had the one flash. Krystian stood behind the model at the top of the landing on the camera right, I held a reflector below and left out of frame which he then aimed at. The result actually looks naturally lit as if window light is providing the rimlight with ambient fill. 

Strobist Trick Shot. 
While shooting on the main floor I had lamented that it would have been awesome if the elevators were the old-school style ones with the cage and attendant. At one point between poses Krystian disappeared down the stairwell and when he finally resurfaced he had a big grin.  

This is what he'd found:
Looks like a scene straight out of Silent Hill

What a cool find! Not only was it a cage style elevator but it had the most amazing grunge texture on the walls from the stripped paint. Shooting with ambient left a little to be desired though, two CFL bulbs lit the elevator, one regular and one daylight balanced. For the above shot I only had to push the ISO to 400 since I was shooting my 50mm at f1.4 but for other shots I pushed the ISO to 1600. Its for this reason that I love the full frame goodness of the 5DMKII though I have to give props to my X100 that handles high ISO nicely too. Its amazing how far cameras have come with respect to ISO noise and in 10 years I'll probably look back and wonder how I ever managed with only being able to push it to 1600 :)

Love cage elevators

The last photo I'm including proved very tricky, I knew I wanted to light through the cage but it was extremely difficult to light the whole face. Initially we were shooting bare flash from a distance to get those nice crisp shadows but eventually wound up using and umbrella quite close to the cage.

I apologize for the extra long blog post (which I tend to do often) but I felt this shoot warranted a full walk through. This was my third "guerrilla shoot" this year and I'm finding them to be an excellent way to shoot. By wandering around and exploring you find new cool locations, push yourself creatively to adapt to each new location, and ultimately wind up with a diverse range of photos from a single shoot. You simply can't do the same thing in the studio.

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