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Photo of the Week – Jen & Sam

Photo of the Week – Jen & Sam

Sometimes my job sucks! I have to walk around Castle Combe taking photos of some incredible rally cars, chat with the drivers and owners, and stand trackside and shoot them in action from any angle I like. Then, to just to make matters worse, I am cajoled into photographing Jen and Sam. It’s a terrible job, but someones got to do it!

If you have read anything else on my blog before, you’ve likely heard me talking about needing to be different to stand out and when shooting the same subject as virtually everyone else with a camera at Rallyday, that becomes even more important.

Jen & Sam - The Final Image

I came up with the idea for this shot whilst walking around the paddock. I noticed people passing a trade stand promoting super-bright LED arrays were being given a nice rim light… I later noticed the same lights on the MML EvoX… parked right next to the Pace Ward / Mitsubishi Lancer Register stand for which Sam and Jen were working. That’s too much serendipity to ignore.

exifSo, with an idea in mind, I  had a chat with the MML team and they were more than happy to fire up the lights on their car. While the girls sheltered from the drizzle, I took a few test shots and dialled my settings in.

I’m at f2.8 to blur the background as much as possible and minimize distractions. ISO 500 because that’s what I had been at for most of the day and a shutter speed of 1/1000th to keep the lights on the car under control.

I was using a wink of fill flash to make sure the image didn’t totally wash out because of the backlight and to put a catchlight in the girl’s eyes. Even though the flash was in high speed sync, the fairly high ISO meant it didn’t have to push out too much light and recycled almost instantly.

Here’s what I got in camera. It’s sound enough but not what I was in my head when I thought about using the car as a rim light. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a strong a light as I wanted from the car so the plan was always to round-trip it out of Lightroom in to Photoshop for a few tweaks. Obviously I have boosted the brightness of the lights (with nothing more than the brush tool and a low flow setting) applied some colour grading and a little dodging and burning but there are a couple of other edits in there. Let me know in the comments if you spot them.

Jen & Sam - Straight out of camera

Photo Of The Week – Jen

Photo Of The Week – Jen

A couple of years ago I got the opportunity shoot in a local cinema’s luxury screening room. As testament to my recent post about when working for free works I shot some images of the cinema foyer while it was bustling for the management and in return my “payment” was a days access when it was quiet. No money, but a no brainier!

On to the image.

Quite a simple lighting setup here, just 2 Elinchom Quadra heads with standard reflectors and 30 degree grids. One firing directly at Jen, the other at the seats further down along the row.


Looking at the EXIF data, you can see I was at ISO320 and down to 1/50th for my shutter speed the let some ambient light in to the shadows. My aperture was at f8 for no reason other than that’s what power my lights were set at from the last set up and we didn’t have long before the next film showing!

This shot was taken back in 2011 and (fortunately!) I’ve learnt a lot since then. I didn’t notice at the time, but now when I look at this image all I can see is the wooden table from the seat behind sticking out of Jen’s head.
Close Up

It would have been so easy to correct in camera. I could have ducked slightly to hide it behind the seat next to Jen, I could have moved to the right slightly to hide it behind her head or I could have even angled my lights down to keep the next row in darkness.

Annoying, but lesson learnt!

Photo Of The Week – Jen

Jen Goes To Hollywood

If you have followed me on Facebook or Twitter, or been a reader of this blog for a while, you’ll have seen Jen before. Last week we finally got the chance to work together properly on a Hollywood glamour-themed shoot in a local cinema.

Once I had the location arranged it was obvious a mix Film Noir and classic Hollywood glamour was the way to go so I started researching. Google Images came up with the classic portraits of Dietrich and Harlow while Flick and 500px gave some examples with a modern twist. A quick flick through those images on my iPad over a coffee gave Jen a clear idea of what I had in mind and gave me a last minute refresher of the look I was going for.

As usual, I started simple. Jen in a long black dress with one light. (OK, this image is from slightly later in the set so there are 2 lights in play here). The key light is a grid spot, high camera right aim at Jen’s face. The second is a speedlight tucked away on the floor to camera left to thrown a bit of light on the black dress and pick Jen off the dark  red velvet background.

A quick wardrobe change while I span the lights 90 degrees resulted in this. Hard, gridded light from an Elinchrom Quadra on Jen again from high camera left and some low fill to add some details to her legs from a speedlight camera right. Then to create the spotlight effect on the red velvet above her, another gridded Quadra firing straight ahead from high above camera.

Another wardrobe and location change resulted in this image. Moving away from the hard, Hollywood glamour lighting to my Deep Octa softbox in beauty dish mode. It’s positioned camera right and feathered off the background to keep the wallpaper dark and make it match Jen’s hat and the stripes in her jacket. There’s a speedlight getting in on the action again – low camera left, behind the chair adding a little kick to separate the dark suit from the background.

When presented with the chance to shoot in a luxury screening room you take it, even if it means going off the plan and shooting something a bit more lifestyle. Jen’s bottomless suitcase had something suitable so we set up this shot. One gridded Quadra lighting Jen and a second, added after a few tests, to light the seats further along the row so the background didn’t fade sharply into darkness and loose the sense of where we were.

On the way in to the  screening room we walked down this corridor and I noticed the spot lights raking down the stripped, grey wallpaper.  I used the gridded Quadra again here, dialled down as low as it would go so as not to over power the lights and gelled CTO to match the colour temperature.

I’ve also put together a behind the scenes video for those who want to see a bit more. This is my first foray into video and Final Cut Pro X editing so I’d love to hear what you think.

Massive thanks to Jen Morgan, Daniel Barrett and Yvette Singer at The Showcase Cinema de Lux in Bristol. Enjoy the rest of the images in the gallery below.

The Marangoni Girls at USC

The Marangoni Girls at USC

Ultimate Street Car is one of the biggest weekenders on the modified car show scene and title sponsor, Marangoni Tyres had the busiest stand at the show. And on their stand they had Jen and Sarah who you may have seen on the blog before along with Torrs. I’d spoken with Sarah in the week leading up to the show and arranged to make a few pictures, but I have learnt that you can’t plan too much at shows like this. It’s a case of seeing what you have to work with and coming up with ideas on the spot.

In this case the idea was pretty clear on arrival. Marangoni were promoting the fact their tyres are available from KwikFit and to the side of the stage was a fully kitted out mobile tyre fitting van. I think you know where I am going with this…

The Van/Studio

If the people running the stand and paying the promo girls are going to let me take their girls away from their main job for a while, I need to try and give some value back. In this case, producing some images emphasising the Marangoni/Kwik Fit connection worked for Chris, the man in charged, and the KwikFit fitters on site.

Five minutes later, the KwikFit guys were tidying the van, I was unpacking my Quadras while the girls wielded lip gloss and hair brushes.

I’d passed the van a few times and had already formed an idea: A CTB (blue) gelled light filling the van, with a CTO (orange) lighting the girls, gridded to stop the spill drowning out the blue. Then by setting the cameras white balance to Tungsten (the same colour temperature as the CTO gelled flash) I brought the girls skin tone back to normal and sent the interior of the van an even deeper shade of blue.

So after a quick explanation of what we were trying to achieve (while Jen warmed up!)…

The Briefing

The Briefing – Phot by Darren Skidmore 

…it was time to test the lights. (The photo above is also a good indication of how different the ambient light was to the light in the final images). I do this one at a time to simplify things, getting one right before moving on to the next. I this case I set my camera about 2 stops below ambient to stop daylight spilling to the van too much and set the power on the blue gelled Quadra in the back of the van. It only needed to be set just above minimum power to get a nice rich blue colour – any higher and the colour got paler.

Background light

That’s a bare Quadra head back there (no reflector) as I wanted light bouncing around in the van to fill in the shadows and the sheet of blue gel is held on with… chewing gum! Finally, before I show you the finished images, a quick shot of the CTO gelled main light positioned outside the van. There is a 30 degree grid spot in the standard reflector to keep it from overpowering the blue interior of the van. This light was moved quite a bit during the shoot to make sure it was aimed correctly and to maintain the flash-to-subject distance as the girls moved about the van.

Shooting Sarah

And finally… the resulting images, the first of which was used in an upcoming Marangoni/KwikFit flyer.

The Ripraw Girls at Modified Nationals 2011

The Ripraw Girls at Modified Nationals 2011

 Last weekend saw Modified Nationals at Peterborough Showground roll around again and with it, a chance to see how far my photography had progressed since last year. It was a similar situation to last time – a case of shoot when you can where you can, make the best of the gale-force wind and hopefully come away with something that stands out.

This is time the glamourous location was the back of the Exec building with its sandy coloured walls bouncing the intermittent sunshine around making the scene pretty even and flat. All kinds of meh!

Just out of the frame in that image is a sky full of bright cloud that I wanted to keep some detail in for wider compositions and that meant that at my sync speed of 1/200th I had to stop down to around f/11. Too much for my speedlights to act as main lights so out came the Elinchrom Quadras – one lighting the front of the car, the other hitting it broadside. The speedlights were cranked up to full power, zoomed to 70mm and pressed into action as rim lights to stop the black and blue car blending into the blue and black background and to add a little sculpting to the girls waiting in the wings.

A few test shots later (and a little post production for this image) I had the lights dialled in and giving results like this. I had to make the call and have the speedlight closer than I’d like due to the overall brightness of the scene and this before and after shows the little Photoshop tweak to hide the light and close door in the background.  

With the exposure dialled in it was time to bring on Lucy, Gemma and Jen and get some shots for the guys at Sextons, the car audio people. For these shots the flash that was lighting the front of the car is now being fired through a shoot through umbrella – not the best modifier for the situation but all I had in my bag.

And of course, “camera shy” Chris, the owner needed a pic or two! Notice how the rim lights outline Jen (left) & Lucy (right) and separate them from the car and background. 

Here’s a wider composition to show the position of the rim lights.

Then it was time for a quick costume and set change to get some images for Sextons sister company, RipRaw Clothing.

By this time the Quadras were flagging and had put themselves into slow recycle mode to preserve what little battery life they had left so for the next set up I scaled down and went ETTL for the first time! Shooting a bike this time meant I didn’t need to light such a large area and my on camera 580EXII, and working in ETTL meant I could keep my aperture down to f/4 and bump my shutter speed up to 1/640th. I had my 580 dialed down to -1 2/3 stop of flash exposure compensation acting as on axis full while two 430EXII’s set at +1 stop provided rim light again. You might even spot my voice acyivated light stands in one of the shots!