Steven Brokaw Photography

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I bet few people know there is a city block-sized catacomb under the streets of downtown Indianapolis. Who knew? A group of local photographers, members of a high end camera club in Indianapolis, the Photo Venture Camera Club, got to use the catacombs as a photoshoot backdrop. Very uber.

About 20 photographers met early Saturday morning at the Indianapolis City Market and were escorted to an underground fantasy land of carved arches, brickwork, Indiana limestone, dirt floors, dripping ceilings, etc. No one really knows what it was built for over 100 years ago, but it’s locked away and unused (great place for a club!).

Luckily, we got to use if for a photowalk / shoot. A couple of us, myself included, brought models and lighting, and used the catacombs as a backdrop. It was really an amazing background, but a bit challenging because it was so dark. Lighting from only with a few strings of industrial work lights. Most of the back rooms and corners were pitch black. Made it hard for several people’s autofocus to work. I simply turned on my auto-focus assist light (which I rarely use) or used a flash light to assist in autofocus a few times.

Most people took shots of the structure itself using their trusty tripod. Myself and another local portrait photographer, Paul D’Andrea, brought in the models. I used a 2 flash unit setup including LumiQuest SoftBox III’s to diffuse the flashes. Because I had the units behind pillars most of the time I triggered them with Elinchrom Universal triggers. All flashes were set on manual. Worked perfectly, but I experimented with many shots to get the right settings on the flash.

Because the ambient lighting was so low I used one flash unit as a key light normally set up behind me, or at a 45 degree & high to the model. The second flash was used as a fill light to get shadowing or accent light with gels. Ambient lighting was limited at best. It probably would have worked best if I had another flash unit. All my shots were on my Nikon D300s in manual mode.

Overall a great time. Spent about 5 hours underground in an area I’ve never been before and from the looks of it few have.

The PVCC Club

Underground Catacomb Photoshoot