Friday, May 18, 2012

My Shootout At Central Park – Great Time and Great Images!

Good Morning Everybody,

What a day! We arrived at Central Park's Belvedere Castle, the location selected for my B&H shootout, around 10:45a.m.  Everyone was starting to gather for the big event.  Peter, from Quantum, and I scouted the surrounds for some good places to shoot. My buddy, David Brommer from B&H suggested a terrific location the castle which worked perfect for the day’s sessions.

0001- Friday Recap - IMG_0023By 11:30a.m. the crowds had started to gather and by noon we were off and running.  We had a huge crowd for the photo event, the largest in B&H/Central Park history.  David had put quite a bit a planning into it so it went off like clockwork.  Because of the large number of photographers, the larger group was broken down into 6 smaller groups who rotated through each of the 6 shooting stations they had organized around Belvedere Castle.

I think a lot of photographers including, a photographer from England and a couple of female photographers also from Europe, just wanted an opportunity to photograph the pretty models - who wouldn't - and everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to do so.  I took a different tack and decided to present an extremely fast paced training session featuring the focal length lenses I use, some great portable lighting techniques, and a few compositional techniques thrown into my 30 minute segments for good measure. Yep, all in 30 minutes for each of the six groups.

I have to say, by 3:15, I was exhausted AND out of breath ;~) It was like a marathon lecture -high speed, non-stop for over 3 hours. In that same three hours I captured some wonderful images and, from the feedback of the 6 groups, it sounded like everyone really enjoyed my sessions.  In fact the buzz from all the photographers was that B&H organized a great event and everyone is looking forward to additional photo-in-the-park extravaganzas.

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Most photographers are happy with shooting away in this kind of flat lighting situation (right).  Not me! For me it's always about making your lighting exciting.  I added a little off camera flash, thanks to my Quantum strobe, and got this image (below) instead.

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In this next photograph we set up in another part of the gazebo. Shooting in this direction gave me a nice full green background of trees and foliage.  I needed to get the background well out of focus so I chose a favorite lens, the Sigma 70-200mm IS lens, for the job.

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The problem was that the lighting was quite flat and uninteresting. BUT, if I turned our model’s face INTO the light, I could once again create that wonderfully flattering loop lighting pattern on her face.  I asked Laurence to rotate her head till I could just see the beautiful lighting caressing her face.  What I found was that her profile offered not just optimum lighting but also a beautiful natural light portrait of our stunning subject.

In this next image I wanted to demonstrate to the groups how they could take a photograph of their subject looking directly back into the camera and not have to settle with the flat, uninteresting, unexciting light the the scene presented originally.

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I wanted to add additional light in order to create that detail, depth, and dimension to the subject.  This time I added the additional light by having LaDawn hold a 36 Westcott Silver reflector approximately 15 feet outside the shaded gazebo catching some of the sun rays and kicking them back onto our beautiful model.  The result was exactly what I needed but a bit too harsh for Laurence’s stunning features. It’s important to consider the look you want to obtain with your images.  This high contrast light source works better on guys, or a hard edged image instead of the soft background and overall feel of Laurence’s look. But in a pinch it is certainly better than no directional light source.

In the photograph below I wanted to show the class another way to add directional light to the photograph.  This time I wanted the light to be extremely soft so I decided to shoot through my 84 inch Westcott translucent parabolic umbrella.

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It worked like a charm.  I used my Quantum flash with the reflector dome removed, on 1/2 power in a bare-bulb configuration.  With the flash tube completely exposed, and with the strobe head pushed in about 1/2 way down the shaft, the light was able to spread out and completely fill the super large light source. The results were amazingly soft and beautiful and a much better over-all feel.

The last thing I wanted to demonstrate was how I use wide angle lenses to accentuate long, converging lines in many of my compositions.  We stepped out of the gazebo down the steps on the opposite side.  The steps gave me just the compositional ingredients I needed to make my point. Fortunately the steps were shaded so it was easy to set up a decent composition in this location. 

The secret of shooting super wide lenses like my Sigma 12-24mm, my all time favorite wide angle optic, is to keep the subject away from the corners of the frame.  Get them, or any body parts too close and you'll create the Mr./Mrs. Gumby effect and optically stretch those body parts way beyond their normal perspective.

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0001- Friday Recap - IMG_0071The next problem I faced was getting my tried and true dimensional lighting on my subject.  My creative solution was to place my Westcott silver reflector leaning against the wall to my right and just out of camera range.  I then asked Laurence to find a comfortable, relaxing position on the steps. I turned on my on-camera Canon 580EZ II flash, rotated it towards the reflector to bounce the photons from the reflector back onto my subject. I once again was able to obtain the lighting I wanted.  Pretty cool result, don't you think?

We had a great day in the park.  I was able to cover a lot of techniques in our short amount of time together.  My special thanks to my three vendor buddies, Westcott, Quantum Flash, and Sigma Lens for being on hand to answer any specific questions, loan lens and gear to the photographers and be available for tech support as needed. Thanks you guys!!!

My thanks to David Brommer and the entire crew at B&H for putting the entire day together - it was a great time!

Katz DeliLater yesterday evening LaDawn and I, my daughter Elizabeth, Jesica and Gabe from B&H and Nancy all headed down to Katz's Deli, for a taste of real New York City chowing down on Pastrami and Corned Beef monster sandwiches. Of course we selected the best seat in the house as you see from the sign over our table!  By the end of the day, after many laughs and giggles a good time was had by all, especially LaDawn and I. We can't wait to visit the Big Apple again!


Hey gang, on that note I'm out of here.  We've got the day mostly off and plan to catch up with our friends Ralph and Cindy Romaguera.  We just found out that Ralph is in town receiving the United Nations IPC International Award - quite an honor.  He doesn't know that LaDawn and I are also in town.

Last night Jesica told us he and Cindy were taking a tour of B&H today around noon. The plan is for me to don a B&H green vest, keep my back turned till they get up to the counter, then turn and offer my assistance as a B&H employee -  thus surprising them.  It should be a good practical joke. 

Later this evening we have tickets for the multi Tony nominated Porgy and Bess Broadway play.  Tomorrow we're seeing Newsies, another "hot Broadway play ticket".  Then on Sunday we are both supporting the huge Aids Walk taking place at, you guessed it, Central Park. 

Yep, it's one busy weekend.  On Monday morning we jump a plane to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few days of real R&R.  How about I plan to see everyone on Monday from the warm temperatures and ocean breezes of Myrtle Beach. 

Have a great weekend everyone.


1 comment:

  1. Hi David! So glad I was able to be part of the class yesterday and help you light with the 84 inch Westcott Umbrella and the Quantum. The shots look perfect! What a beautiful day!

    So excited and looking forward to the Mater class in Italy!

    -Michael Jurick