Something that does not afford me the ever ready convenience of ambient lighting. Something that gives me the tingles of having to photograph with virtually no ambient lighting at ISO 100-400 (max), at least 1/60 sec or above and no wider than f/3.5 for optimum single-person portrait depth of field.
To add to the challenge; no studio strobes but just a minimum number of speed lights, 3 to be exact. These small but rather powerful heavy lifter will help rebuild my ambient.
I’ve long had this image of a guitarist in some dark dingy subterranean location. Hence, I settled for the “underground” look, in a basement car park. Well, to be precise, it was more of a car park on the fifth level of a condominium, tucked away in a corner which looked more like 50 feet under.
I was looking for some old classic cars parked somewhere as we made the rounds searching. It wasn’t long before we came across a Porsche. We were lucky indeed. It was really dark and even at 1/60 sec, f/4.5 @ ISO 400, I would definitely be working above the ambient, as shown in this shot below with a single bounced speed light into the ceiling to camera left.
I then had Nick Lee, a guitarist, the face behind The Ark Studios to sit and lean on an amplifier for a test of red gel, before we settled for the much preferred blue.
Next came the Fender Telecaster electric guitar as an added prop, while we tried out a few different looks. All these shots were taken at between 1/60 – 1/100 sec (could have just settled for a higher speed as it would make no difference to an already dark ambient, affected only by flash), f/3.5 – f/4 and ISO 250-400.
These shots below had the added slightly off-axis to camera left green-gelled speed light zoomed in to provide a feathered-edge fill. The green cast added a little realism to a pretty screwed up mixed lighting scenario, resembling a mixture of tungsten and fluorescent lights. All these images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark 3, with an EF L 24-70 lens zoomed in at 70mm.
I wanted him to sit on the amplifier looking composed,
…before I told him to just let it all out as though he was holding a chorus, while he abused the electric guitar relentlessly.
There was a 1/2 CTO key speed light on a boom to camera right, with a bare headed green-gelled speed light firing from quite a distance providing an even but feathered fill, while a third bare headed CTB was bounced into the ceiling next to the car as my background ambient mood.
It was really hot and humid and that really affected our working comfort levels very much. It wasn’t easy thinking straight while it seemed like you were sweating a monsoon. Before we wrapped up this a little less than 2 hours shoot, we messed around with two more angles.
The shot above, with Nick sitting on the amplifier had no fill. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice my fill to be placed one level down behind him to light up that space (see the first BTS pic below. It was a shoot thru umbrella aimed upwards behind Nick), else it would have fallen too pitch dark down there. Of course, had I the luxury of another 3 more speed lights, I would have accomplished much more. But then again…well, I just got to make do with whatever available.
These BTS shots of the setup explained it all.
On hindsight, yes, I could have spilled and smeared more water on to the foreground for added interest and the cliched cool reflection.
And certainly, an added bonus: a smoke machine for a misty look. Simply perfect!