Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Totally Exhausted

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I am exhausted after I shoot. All the time. Every shoot.

There's something about shooting that drains the energy out of me. I liken it to driving long distance. Afterwards, you're drained even though you've been sitting for hours and hours. You'd think that shooting would be easy. Hell, I sit most of the time in a chair or on something, so you figure I'm not really expending that many calories right? Wrong. I'm usually sweat like a hog after each set and between sets when I'm working on the background and what not, I'm sweating just as much.

What's worse than sweating all day while shooting is that I don't get to eat. If I'm lucky we're indoors and between sets while the model is with the makeup artist, I get to sneak a quick bite to eat and/or unwind for a bit. Not outdoors.

And not today.

5 of the hottest hours of the day I spent shooting, much of it under the sun. Food wasn't even a concern of mine today, staying hydrated and not collapsing from a heat stroke weighed more on my mind. It wasn't that hot though, just high 80's and into the 90's towards the end of the shoot. Fortunately for the models, we would look for shade because there's really no nice way to light high noon sun. Unfortunately for the models, they would have to deal with the blast of gold reflected sunlight that was bounced their way. If I had my way, we would shoot at 7AM or 7PM and the light would be perfect and last all day for us. It isn't like that in real life and you have to roll with the punches when you're on assignment.

Today's assignment was to shoot 7-10 blushing brides-to-be (actually they were all just models/friends of the makeup studio we were shooting for) in wedding gowns, outdoors at the Mission Church in San Gabriel. Shooting commenced at roughly 11AM and lasted until 3PM. Seriously the worst time of day to shoot.

600 frames later, I walked away with a few valuable lessons learned from the shoot.

The first lesson (actually it was the last lesson but these are in no particular order), is that you don't give up. Never give up regardless of how bad the shoot was going. Most of the brides were beginner models who had/have never been in a photoshoot and therefore had no idea what was going on. This was tolerable, if it weren't for the fact that I was dealing with several challenges native to shooting outdoors that I had not encountered before. But regardless, you should always persevere and press on even when things start falling apart because maybe, just maybe you might find the silver lining and/or save the entire shoot with a good set towards the end.

The second lesson came towards the middle/end of the shoot with the reflector. There are 100 ways to burn the model's face with the reflector and only 1 way that I know of to light the face without completely burning the highlights... and that is you feather the light softly off of the edge onto the model's face. It's not the perfect solution because you'll inevitably burn something else, an arm, her gown, etc. but you'll save her face from being destroyed by excess light. Feathering is key. Actually there is 1 other way to not burn the model with the reflector and that is bouncing the light off of something else and putting the model's face close/next to the bounced light. I mean, there's a LOT of light. We're reflecting directly off of the sun so there's plenty of light to be bounced not once but twice.

The reflector is so tough to work outdoors unless you have a super heavy-duty stand and even then you'd have to have no wind. Otherwise, you're constantly battling with the aiming/focus of the reflected light onto the model. The benefit of the reflector is that now you're able to push the shutter speed to open up the aperture for nice blurry background bokeh. If the reflector is not the answer, we can always shoot with strobes.

My strobe of choice today was the ringflash. To be specific it was the Rayflash that I thought I would never grow to love but have really grown to love it as a fill light and great on-axis light. Outdoors at full power and 5 feet (and max shutter sync speed of 1/250th) you can push it to about f/9 before it loses effectiveness. The unfortunate part about being 5 feet away from your model is that I'm worried about distortion as a result of being too close. Fortunately, the results don't show this with the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. At f/9 we're doing okay with dropping down the background brightness by maybe 1 stop to get a somewhat blue sky. Sometimes you're lucky to match the background exposure at all. Regardless, it's super portable and allows you to turn any poorly lit environment into a salvageable situation. Honestly though, I prefer the reflector when used properly.

I suppose my third lesson is that I should have opted for the umbrella/flash combination and not copped out on it during the tight points of the shoot. I could have easily said, "Hey, this isn't working. But I have something in my car that can help" and then retrieved my AB800 with warming filters and white shoot-through umbrella. That would have worked wonders in the tighter points in my shoot where I was neither happy with the reflector nor the Rayflash. But I didn't and now I somewhat regret it.

I learned lots of lessons today. The above three are probably the most important so I'll leave it at that right now. I suppose if there were a 4th lesson it would be not to get flustered or tired. I had too many things in my hand today during the shoot and dropped my lens hood from the 24-70mm f/2.8G onto concrete steps. I got tired after coming home and actually scratched my mint-condition D3. That broke my heart. Couldnt' believe it. Next time don't get tired.

Speaking of which, I'm going to bed. Peace.

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