Another weekend, another show at the NEC and another two days under horrific artificial lighting.
The most popular way to work around it and get some good photos is to use on camera fill flash as you run and gun. But as each hall has a different flavour of lighting, you don’t stand much chance of gelling your flash to match so everyone’s shots tend to look the same. You see ringflash adapters, variousbrackets and all manner of Tupperware to try and avoid the rabbit-in-the-headlights bare flash look but I decided to even further and make it through the weekend flash-free!
The 5DMkII is pretty happy at high ISOs so I spent most of the time at or above ISO1600, wide open on either my 50mm f1.8 or my 24-105mm f4. As the backgrounds are so varied in the NEC, I found centre-weighted metering was the best bet.
If you read this blog though, you know I can’t resist a bit off off-camera flash in a bid to get something a bit different.
This is Jen with a Nikon SB-28 on about 1/8th power in the passenger seat firing toward her head. Without that kick of light, the interior of the car was pure black and her dark blue outfit just blended in.
Then we have Michelle lit by what looks like a big softbox camera left, which in reality is a full power SB-28 bouncing off a white trailer on the neighbouring stand.
And then there’s Sara and Kirsty with Podzilla, the Santa Pod monster truck. Dozens of other people got basically the same shot, and while they did, I ran around to the back wheel, placed a flash and came back to quickly grab this. Natural light from the skylights you can see in the background acted as the main while my flash provides a bit of a kick from behind.
Ash Manton’s Type R Civic has been part of the UK modified car scene for several seasons and keeps coming back with a fresh look each year. It’s current stripped out, carbon clad, airbrushed look has just won it the cover feature in Max Power.
As it’s had the Max photo shoot treatment, I wanted to try something different. Enter Georgia Graham, Ash’s girlfriend, showing that hell really does hath no fury like a woman scorned!
The plan here was to go for a dark and moody look so out came the Quadras again to enable me to stop down far enough at my max sync speed to take the daylight – f/9 at 1/200th did the job. One bare, CTO gelled strobe was positioned camera left adding a rim light to both Georgia and the car to separate them from the dark background and a second strobe, in a 70cm Deep Octa in “beauty dish mode”, as the main light.
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 was be coming from behind the 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 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!
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 due to the location, apart from a few passing cars, the onlookers were behind the camera.
And onto the results. Well worth a bit of location scouting and 5 minutes of set-up I think.
Big thanks to Chris for the loan of the car and of course for the girls for doing their thing in front of my camera.
Last weekend the International Styling & Tuning Show hit Silverstone. The weather was fantastic (at least on the Saturday) so I had plenty chances to shoot with Emma, Gemma, Jen, Lucy and Michelle – The Sextons Direct Grid Girls.
There’s a mix of available light and flash shots here from Saturday and Sunday so thanks to the girls for putting up with me and my two Voice Activated Light stands, Chris and Darren. See you all at Modified Nationals