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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!

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Another weekend, another car show and this time it was USC (Ultimate Street Car) at Santa Pod.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have any secluded barns to shoot in this time so it was a case of making the best of a bad lot. And at car shows, it’s a very bad lot – even when your subjects are the Sextons Direct / Ripraw girls!

You’ve got cluttered backgrounds, harsh mid afternoon light and crowds.

First of all, I toured Santa Pod looking for a location without people, cars or fairground rides lurking in the background. Luckily Santa Pod is out in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside and backs onto some open fields and I was able to find this on the edge of the showground.

I chose this partly for the view but also as facing in the this direction the sun would be coming from behind my subjects – about 2 o’clock from this view. This way, the girls weren’t squinting into the bright light and I’d be able to add my own soft, diffused fill light from camera left.

Which leads nicely onto Problem Number 2 – the harsh sunlight. As it was coming from over the left shoulders of the girls it served as a nice separation light which, if I under exposed the background slightly, would make them really ‘pop’. But that would also leave faces in shadow, so out came the lighting.

Working in manual mode, I set my 5D MkII to sync at it’s max sync speed (1/200th) but in order to get some detail in the bright sky I was having to shoot at f/10 which meant needing to drive the flashes hard. So hard in fact that in order to keep a decent recycle time I had to gang 3 SB-28 at 1/2 power though a single shoot through umbrella. Think Joe McNally‘s speedlight tree on a budget! Not pretty, but effective.

With lights and locations sorted, it was time to bring on the car and the girls. This always draws an instant crowd at car shows but thanks to the location, apart from a few passing cars, the onlookers were behind the camera.

And onto the results. Punchy images that stand out from the norm at one of these events. Well worth a bit of location scouting and 5 minutes of set-up I think.

Sextons shoot in “Studio J”

Sextons shoot in “Studio J”

As Zack Arias said in his recent 3 day extravaganza on CreativeLIVE; a studio is any place with a floor and a couple of walls where you can control the ambient light. That includes a barn on an agricultural show ground in Peterborough. Ladies and gents, I welcome you to “Studio J”

I’d shot in one of these barns before so I had a fairly good idea when I got there what I wanted to try. A quick word with Chris, driver of the Skyline and shepherd of the Sextons Grid Girls, and everything was set.

The idea was to cross light the car with slashing hard light coming on from 45 degrees camera left and right but keep the girls lit softly with a more central shoot through umbrella.

Here are the results:

Thanks to the Emmas, Gemma, Jen and Chris (And sorry to the other Gemma! I’ll get you next time!)