If there’s one thing I love most about being a creative, its the fact that I’m constantly being pushed a little further out of my comfort zone. I was actually chatting about this with another photographer friend on the phone earlier in the week, specifically about having the balls to get up and talk about your photography in front of a large crowd. I’ve always been into theatre and performed on stage for the best part of 14 years, but there is a massive difference between memorising, rehearsing and reciting a set script and live-commentating your unpredictable, unscripted creative mind into a room of strangers! I still, vividly, remember the very first time I was asked to stand up on stage for Wacom and talk about my editing process at the Photovision Roadshow and the huge adrenaline rush that came with it. I’d been working extensively in Photoshop for 7 years by this point, but it still didn’t stop the ‘what if I’m teaching bad workflows’ and ‘what if they don’t find me interesting’ doubts from popping up in my head. Of course, with years of knowledge and fine tuning of my own creative workflow, the talk went absolutely fine. By no means was that first seminar perfect, but over time the fight or flight ‘rush’ that I got that first time disappeared and gave way for my brain to act naturally in this type of situation. I occasionally get the odd moment when I see someone pointing at me with a video camera(!) but as with all things, they become part of what we’re used to and our comfort zone expands.
So why talk about comfort zones today? Well, back at the beginning of the month I was privileged to take another giant leap out of my comfort zone when The Flash Centre asked me if I would be up for doing a live shoot at The Photography Show using the Ranger Quadra lights and demonstrate some of the techniques I use when shooting my for both my clients and my portfolio. I’ve always secretly wanted to have a go at live shooting on stage, so the word ‘yes’ shot straight out of my mouth. The next part was figuring out enough things to say and do that would fill a 45 minute session!
The model for our session was the lovely Nadine Stephan, who had flown over with Frank Doorhof from the Netherlands to model for all of our sessions across the four days. Although we had spoken very briefly before the show, we had not had a significant amount of time to discuss what Nadine would be bringing to wear with her on the day, so it was a wonderful surprise to find her is this amazing layered outfit full of textures and with a collection of wonderful hair pieces. We had a different outfit to shoot each session for every photographer, so I have absolutely no idea how she managed to fit everything into her suitcase! We started off with an introduction to the kit I would be using for the shoot, as well as some top tips for guiding your model into poses, and then got straight into shooting.
As the boudoir locations I shoot in are usually quite limited in space, I tend to work with a one light set up, using the ambient light around me to act as a fill. I wanted to mirror my usual lighting set ups as closely as possible, however, on this occasion the lighting from the NEC’s harsh overhead lighting was not doing us any favours. Instead, I used my aperture settings to remove the harsh yellow lighting from the shot and focused on the light from one quadra, which I was really happy with the results from. To begin with, we worked with the 135 Octa at a 45 degree angle from the camera, before testing out the Elinchrom Rotalux Strip modifiers, starting with one on the right hand side and then adding in a second quadra head with matching Strip modifier on the left to bring in some highlights on the hair and the back of the other arm. I’d not worked with the strip modifiers before, but I’ve got two on my shopping list now, thats for certain!
Also, I wanted to include this image below, which was a bit of a happy accident! This was actually a really underexposed shot I found afterwards when I pressed the shutter too quickly for the Quadra to recharge. Luckily, there was enough ambient light to save the shot by upping the exposure in Lightroom. I love the soft focus of it and her expression (which was the main reason for working to save the image). Perhaps I will experiment with this kind of lighting a little more in the studio during future sessions.
So how did I find the experience? Well, it was awesome and it felt really great to be sharing my knowledge with others. I’ve had lovely feedback from a number of people and of course have taken away from the experience a lot of notes so I can continue to improve my live shooting when the opportunity arises in the future. Its also given me the chance to try out new lighting let ups with different modifiers that I can now adapt into my own creative process. A massive thank you to The Flash Centre once again for giving me the opportunity to challenge my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to next time!