Steven Brokaw Photography

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I recently participated in an interesting photo shoot organized by a local photographer thru a Flickr Group called Indianapolis Strobist. This group came about as a result of the Joe McNally / David Hobbie Flash Bus Tour event that took place in Indianapolis this spring. This photoshoot was organized by Paul D’Andrea, a local photog that I’ve known for about 3 years.

Paul arranged for a group of 6 photographers to meet at the Big Car Service Center. The facility is a “retired” Firestone car repair shop being converted into an arts colony / gathering place for all types of art related events. The location is perfect for a grunge / abandoned industrial photo backdrop. Paul hired 3 local models, all excellent. We paired up (I paired up with Stacy), selected a model and went on our way. 

Amanda (Model Mayhem ID #1025679) agreed to team-up with me and Stacy. Amanda came ultra prepared with multiple changes of clothing for different looks, and even a wig. She was skilled so it allowed us to focus on position & lighting.

Because I wasn’t sure how much power would be available at the facility I brought portable flash units. My trusty Nikon SB-600 Speedlights. I used a LumiQuest SoftBox III on each. Both flash units were set to manual and triggered by Elinchrom EL-Skyport universal receivers. Both mounted on generic light stands. This is my typical portable light setup since it’s easy to set up and portable. Although the LumiQuest’s are called softboxes, I think they really act more like large directional diffusers.

The way we operated was to have one photog man the flash units and adjust the power settings and move them around as needed while the other shot. I have 2 Elinchrom Skyport triggers so it was easy for me and Stacy to work seamlessly. We started off putting our model in-front of a large electrical panel, and later in a corner between some industrial grade shelving. Because we got set up first a couple of the other photographers (Ashley & Faith) joined in for a look and a shoot.

I had my camera set to M mode, 400 ISO, 1/125-250 shutter speed & f/5.6-6.3. In all but a few shots I used a Nikkor AFS 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED lens (The Nikkor). Note, 1/250 is the max synch speed I have set for the camera / flash setup. I could use high speed synch, but for this type of work it is not needed. 

One addition was the use of colored gels on one of the flash units for part of the shoot. Red & green turned out to bring in the right mood.

After about an hour with this setup, I switched to the “big room”, mainly because it was getting so hot in the electrical / storage room. There Paul had set up a big piece of peg board. I also used an Elinchrom D-Lite 4it 400w with Portalite soft-box mounted as my key light. I had the key light set head high right from the shooter. I also mounted an SB-600 setup behind the peg board to highlight the holes. Finally another SB-600 setup was moved around the model to change the shadowing. Amanda had changed up her clothes and put on a wig which was almost like having 2 models in one!

One other thing I experimented in this setup was to put a flash unit directly behind the model. The idea was to have the flash fire directly into the camera. I enjoy playing with this sunburst effect.

Overall, we were there or about 3 hours. Part of the time I spent watching the other photographers in my group shoot.

A few after-shoot thoughts and comments:

  • The models we hired (Diablo, Bovary & Amanda) were great. They were skilled and completely into the shoot. They were easy to direct and participated in setting the correct mood of the image. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your models know in advance what is expected and that they share your concepts.
  • If you are in a grungy / sweaty / dirty environment, bring a towel. I did this time and used it to put my equipment on it versus right on the concrete floor, and to wipe my face. It was sweaty.
  • Experiment and try different light settings and gels. Some of my favorite shots were with the gels and unusual lighting locations.
  • Watch other photographers shoot. It’s interesting to see how others view a scene and what they create. It also give you a break.
  • Plan your shoot. Bring the right kit. It wasn’t as much of an issue on this shoot since we actually parked our cars right next to (and inside) the facility, and multiple photographers meant we would have just about everything.
  • Post your images for others to see. We use a Flickr group for these shoots and it was very interesting to see what others captured and processed.
  • The Nikon SB-600 flash unit is a good basic unit, but getting a bit dated. 

We’re planning another model shoot next up. This time in another building and in the surrounding alleys.

Backup Workflow – Do It or Else

AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Uberness