The Essex Strobists went clubbing yesterday. 14 photographers, 14 models and 3 makup artists had rented Club Live in Vauxhall, London for the day.
We had been told by other togs that the club is dark, and that it would be good to bring a torch. Despite thinking “how bad can it possibly be?”, I went to Argos and got myself a little head-mounted LED light. I am very happy that I did, for “dark” really meant “dark”. Too dark to focus in many areas. Too dark to even see the models’ pose, let alone their facial expressions in others. But hey, difficulties are just challenges you haven’t overcome yet!
There was a hallway. Probably 1.5 meter wide and 10 meters long. Floor, celing and one wall were painted black and the other wall was mirrors all along. There were little blue fairy lights on the black wall and in the ceiling. It looked like a suitable challenge.
The first part of the challenge was to make sure the blue lights were captured in the picture. A few test shots showed that 1/16 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 800 was suitable. As I wanted to have at least a chance of getting both models in focus, I chose the equivalent 1/4 sec at f/5.6 ISO 800. That took care of the ambient, and I expected that the light from the fairy lights was so dim that any camera shake would only be visible in the lights, since they would contribute so little to the illumination of the models that it would be neglible.
The key light on the models was a softbox aimed at an angle towards the mirror wall. That gave nice soft light for the models placed along the other wall. I tried to place Paulo (wearing black) so he would be in the main path of the light with Hannah (wearing white) at the edge of the light. It helped to avoid over exposure in Hannah’s dress, but Paulo’s top kept blending with the background. I tried to solve this with a bare flash further down the hallway as a rimlight, but 9 times out of 10 it played havoc with the scene and resulted in ugly shadows, so I mostly kept it switched off.
Since I couldn’t see what the models were doing and direct them, I shot a few shots, went to show it to them, discussed what we each liked and agreed on the pose for another few shots, and carried on like that for a while. This worked well, and we found a good rhythm of shoot, review, shoot, review. None of the poses were micro managed, since I couldn’t see well enough to ask them to turn their faces this way or the other, bend a knee less or more, smile more or less, or any other instruction.
I’m sometimes a bit of a control freak. I feel that I have to control what’s going on during the shoot, but this more free-flowing rhytm worked really well, and seeing the pictures afterwards, I think the many natural looking poses are due to the lack of instruction. Hannah and Paulo adopted poses that felt natural to them, rather than having me try to figure out what natural looks like. (Note to self: There’s a lesson to be learnt here!)
The narrative we used during the review-shoot-review-shoot iterations turned into a story. Young couple in a club (how inventive, Tomas!), adoringly looking each other in the eyes, he then looks embarrased away while admitting something bad, she gets angry, he gets sad and his body language shows his embarrasment while she offers nothing but disdain, and finally, she walks away with one last backwards glance while he pretends to not see her at all.
The exposure is sometimes variable. Pictures III and IV were both test shots where I was adjusting the light, but I have decided to keep the them. III is my favourite of the series for its film-noir feeling, and Hannah’s body language in IV matches the hard light and Paulo’s shadows, that seems to be running away, really well.
Thank you very much to the models, Hannah (Model Mayhem #1334645) and Paulo (Model Mayhem #1960306) and to make up artists (details to follow).
I have made a slideshow with larger versions of the series as well as pictures of Hannah and Paulo individually here.
There is also a general slideshow with pictures from the event here.