Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stimulating the Creative Glands: Amber in the Water

You'd think that I'd never get bored of shooting models but the truth is sometimes I tire of my own routine. I'm the kind of person who believes that nothing I do is extraordinary. I've raced triathlons, learned to surf, written music, etc. but if I can do it anyone can do it. It takes usually something new to impress me because my expectations are always set so high.

One sure-fire way to keep the innovation curve steep is to try something new in every shoot. Ender Nygen suggests this and I do too. It gives you an opportunity to be surprised at the end of every shoot. I've always defined excitement as the anticipation of the unexpected. Without excitement, I lose momentum for doing stuff, even the stuff that I like.

In this particular example, Amber requested we could do a shoot like the water shoot from ANTM (America's Next Top Model) Season 11. Not having shot someone in water, I was excited to see what kind of challenges such a set would provide.

Prior to the shoot I wondered whether her face would reflect well from the surface of the water. Having shot our pool in the backyard (and knowing a little about lighting), I understand that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Therefore, I need to get pretty close to the surface of the water in order to get a good reflection from the surface.

I also wondered whether or not I would be able to control the light well enough to prevent light from spilling into the background and lighting the red bricks that line the edge of the pool. Will people be able to tell that this was shot in a swimming pool? I knew I better keep the light nice and tight and so I chose to use a 20 degree grid on the beauty dish (AB800).

As these questions bounced around in my mind before the shoot. Amber walked into the pool like it was a spa. To me it felt like low 71 degrees Fahrenheit, but I don't enter any body of water without a wetsuit unless it's 78+ so I knew it was cold. Shivering and all she pulled looks like that made the water steam. I did my part by setting the lights prior to her entering the pool and trying to minimize the amount of time she stayed in there. All in all she was probably in the pool for about 10 minutes. What made it colder was the fact that we were shooting just after (8PM) to minimize ambient light. The worst part (for her) was that she had to limit her movement to minimize the ripples in the water since we wanted a glossy surface from the water. I mean, if she was allowed to do laps in the pool, it would have felt quite a bit warmer.

We shot probably about 30 frames or so. During the 10 minutes that she was in the water I was battling challenges like keeping the flare down from the gelled backlight (which I did not foresee). Another challenge was that Amber was originally wearing a white shirt which showed through the surface of the water. After removing the shirt, the frames came out much better. Lastly, I've done shoots with time restrictions but this was one of the first that I've ever shot in water and without previously testing how things would look. Fortunately with only 2 lights and a willing model, we nailed the shot in 10 minutes.

Post-processing took a little more time than normal because our background was not pitch black so a little clone-stamping was in order. Color-replacement was necessary to remove the blue hue of the water. Otherwise, it was a pretty standard Charles Yeh post-processed frame.

To conclude, I want to reiterate how much innovation stimulates the creative glands into creating more creative juices. Shoots like these that incorporate stuff that I've never done (or seen) are what keep me excited and constantly shooting.

Strobist info: Red gelled SB-800 from camera front right. Main light is an AB800 with gridded beauty dish from camera (slight) upper left.

Camera info: D3, 1/200th, f/5.0, ISO200, 130mm (Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G). Triggered with Gadget Infinity (Cactus) V4.

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