Steven Brokaw Photography

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Something a bit different.  During a Creative Meet-up I was chatting with a model friend, Caroline Nauth. She said she was interested in doing something Tim Burton-like.  That’s like dangling a piece of string in front of a cat, I jumped at the idea.  First, I wanted to do something different versus the fashion-type portraits I’ve been focusing on, and secondly it was an opportunity to play with different lighting / location moods.

I lined up a MUA after we agreed to work together.  I used Sasha Star because she’s good with these types of concepts.  You’ll note from my earlier posts I use Sasha often.  I talked / emailed / FB’d both Sasha and Caroline over the course of a couple of weeks to lock down the clothes, mood, makeup, etc., etc. We locked down a date and off we went.

On shoot day it was interesting because I allowed another photographer, Mike Arledge, to use the studio in exchange for watching him shoot.  Mike has a nice style, so I wanted to pick up a few tips.  Guess what, he had arranged to use Caroline for his shoot as well.  That made things easy.  After Mike’s shoot was over, Sasha arrived and we got to work turning Caroline into a full-on Tim Burton freak. 

Half the fun was just watching Sasha and Caroline work while chatting them up.  I also brought one of my old school Polaroid cameras, so I took a few shots with an expired pack of instant film.  Instagram old school!  Also, while they were working I set the studio up for my shoot.

I planned 2 locations and 2 lighting setups for the shoot.  The 1st shoot was in the studio, and the second in an industrial part of the building where the studio is located. For the studio shoot, the lighting was straight up.  Like recent shoots I simply used 1 light.  I set up an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 with an Elinchrom 27” beauty dish reflector.  This was shot against a fashion grey seamless sweep.
I used my Nikon D600 with a AF-SNikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens.  I set my speed at 1/160, ISO at 200 and used my Sekonic light meter to adjust the D-Lite power so I could get f/8.  Straight forward.  I set the light at approximately 70” camera right (to start) aiming at Caroline’s midsection.

Makeup on, Tim Burton styled clothes picked out and on, so off we went.  I took about 30 minutes worth of photos against the grey sweep.  During the shoot I moved the light constantly from camera right to camera left and adjusted the height and direction multiple times.  The goal was to get very interesting shadows.  After about 30 minutes we finished with this portion of the shoot.

Next we moved to an abandoned space next to the studio.  The space used to be a garage for the original company that used to be in the building.  Very gritty.  For this part of the shoot I used a second Elinchrom D-Lite 4, but added a simple reflector with a 30 degree grid.  This allowed me to put a focused beam of diffused light on Caroline and get some mystery.  I controlled the amount of light falling on Caroline by moving the light forward or back and increasing or decreasing the power.  Worked great. 


In the space there is an old circuit breaker box so we started there.  Got lots of fun shots, asking Caroline to move constantly.  The goal was to get lots of edge on the photos.  After about 15 minutes I moved Caroline against an oil stained wall and again asked her to move.  This time I also asked her to crouch down and slink around.  Even though the floor was a mess she was a real trooper.  During this time I moved the light all around and at all heights.  

Camera settings for this portion were adjusted to open up the aperture to f/7.1 and the speed to 1/160.  ISO remained at 200.  Also I switched to my AF-S Nikkor 24-70mmf/2.8G lens so I could get a bit wider.
After about another 15 minutes we were done.  Overall the shoot including MU took about 3 hours, and we all had a blast. 
After action: 

  • Scout your locations out before hand.  I did this for the industrial portion of the shoot so I knew exactly where I wanted to position Caroline.  When you are paying a model it’s best to spend your time shooting versus looking at your shoot location.
  • If you have a Polaroid, bring it.  So much fun.
  • Do something different.  As I mentioned earlier I have been on a fashion bender for about 6 months. Doing something completely different while at the same time using lighting techniques I was comfortable with made for a unique shoot.
  • Be mindful of everyone’s time.  I knew Caroline had to boogie at a set time, and if I hadn’t been watching the time we would have been there for a couple of hours longer since I was having fun. 
  • Experiment.  I had absolutely no idea if the theme was going to be pulled off, but we did it anyway and I think we hit it.

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