Erica with the pre-1950's Columbia
Sometimes it can be possible to "kill two birds with one stone" when undertaking photography assignments.
My friend Erica, a professional ballet dancer from San Francisco was interested in having some portrait shots whilst vacationing in Baja California.
Meanwhile another friend, Michael J, wanted some shots of his lovingly restored pre-1950's Columbia bicycle.
When I discussed what kind of photo's to take of Erica, the first thing we agreed upon was to avoid "Ballet" poses. As a professional dancer Erica already has plenty of professionally taken photos of her performing as a ballerina.
But it was also clear that she was a little uncomfortable posing for the camera in traditional "model portrait" poses.
So I decided that he would help tremendously if we could incorporate a "prop" that could equally act as subject for the photos and aim for a more casual "lifestyle" approach.
Fortuitously Michael J showed up with his fantastic old Pre 1950's Columbia bicycle which he had recently restored. The bike oozes character and seemed the perfect "prop" to take the pressure off of Erica in the shots.
Clothing style and colour was carefully selected plus the addition of a wide brimmed hat as an additional accessory to match the mood of the photos.
The shoot was scheduled to take place during the "golden hour" around sunset on an around the beach in beautiful Baja California Sur.
Test Shot - but actually I like it
The basic equipment for the shoot was as follows
Michael J (the owner of the bicycle) was pressed into service as my V.A.L (voice activated light stand) to hold the speed light in position.
I can highly recommend trying to get an assistant for a shoot like this - having someone hold the light who can be directed to move and quickly change the position of the light makes a huge difference to efficiency which is essential when working with a limited window for optimum ambient light.
Small details are important.
For this shot we ensured the right pedal was elevated to raise Erica's leg to a pleasing angle and the addition of the hat definitely adds something to the composition
The exposure mode chosen throughout the shoot was Manual and I used spot metering to take and exposure reading from the sky.
Where possible I tried to use the fastest flash sync speed (1/250s for my Canon 60D) as this would enable the widest possible aperture giving both the depth of field effect I was looking for (relatively shallow to focus attention on the subjects) and at the same time allow the flash to work less hard and thus reduce recycle times between shots.
This shot adjusted to Sepia tone in Lightroom
The sepia tone fits well to the subject material and bike and dress colours
We moved from the dock down onto the beach as i wanted to capture a candid "beach stroll" shot.
To try and avoid a "posed" look I prefocused on Erica with the bike at a certain spot and then had her retreat before walking slowly back past the same spot. I fired the shutter as she passed the predetermined point (marked with a small pebble on the beach). This gives the shot a genuine movement and flow.
I include this shot to the right where there was a miss fire to the flash (i didn't allow sufficient recycle time) as it shows clearly just how much the flash is necessary and the dimension it adds to the photos
Bike and Girl
Conscious that I was attempting to kill "two birds with one stone" I also arranged this more deliberately posed shot with Erica not making any eye contact with the camera. In this way the bike now becomes the main subject for the shot with Erica becoming the "prop"
Girl and Bike
The ambient light was fading fast but with some really warm sunset hues. Here I made no attempt to balance the flash with the ambient light - it is obviously external light is being used on the subjects. But i like the effect of greater contrast on the models - especially the emphasis to Ericas right eye and the headlamp of the bicycle.
I was pleased with the outcome of the shoot and as always learned from the process.
Especially the importance of pre planning and trying to begin with a reasonably clear idea of the desired results.
I also realised the importance to quickly but carefully check shots for small compositional details that may need changing - spotting these when processing the images later is way too late and obviously changes cannot be made (except by laborious photoshop manipulation)
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