Sometimes you need to work fast. Like in fast as lightning. And it's not your individual skills you need to rely on when shooting under pressure – it’s the model in front of your camera that will save the day. So, concentrate on your subject, pump up the volume and let's have a quick dance.
It was my fault, so blame it on me. I completely underestimated the time required to style some crazy hair. Ramona – my ever so talented Make-Up artist of the day – did warn me, though. But hey, as I am no longer blessed with something that once was quite a mane, how was I to know? Nevertheless, I decided to be very patient and continue with another shooting I had on the same day. Which was nice and rewarding too, but I slightly forgot to keep an eye on the time. Which again was somewhat unfortunate, as we had to leave the location – a wonderful nightclub - at a given time. Leaving also meant that we had to be outside the club by this time – and not busy with wrapping up (anyone seen my front-cap, goddammit?*).
Miriam was finally ready and dressed some 15 minutes before we had to leave the location. She did look stunning, just like a diva from a time when clubs were called discotheques. Back then we shot on film, and Mr. Ilford HP5 was my best friend, delivering a staggering sensitivity of 400 ASA (or 27 DIN, as vee Krauts called it). But now, being ever so digital and under some pressure in a club that was about to usher us out anytime soon, I needed to push the ISO way beyond that just to have a safer shutter speed and a little more depth of field - because Miriam was about to dance.
When in Trouble - Start Safe
In order to make sure that we got the most out of the very little and precious time left, I changed my standard values for locations like this from ISO 500 to ISO 1000, shutter speed between 60th and 100th (instead of 30th or below), and an aperture between f4 and f5.6 to have a little more depth of field as this was not going to be a formal shooting with formal poses. Dragging the shutter down to 1/4th of a second is something I would have played with under normal circumstances, but I was not willing to take chances as – due to her movements – she would most certainly be caught by some of the ambient lights around her which may have ruined the shot if I acted too ambitiously. Mixing strobe and ambient on somehting vital like the face is usually not a good idea - unless you are pushing for art. The ISO and the still slow shutter speed in combination with a 85mm lens was chosen to catch enough of the ambient lights and not to overpower the club, or should I say disco, mood.
With modern DSLRs you can push the ISO envelope to some crazy values and even beyond. But you can't boost your ISO to the extreme as your flash will just become too bright. Even the Elinchrom Ranger - which is blessed with a very low power setting on its B-Channel - will be just too much, especially when relatively close to the subject.
The light was pretty much driven by the idea of safety and practicability as well. Just one light, an Elinchrom Ranger combined with a Deep Octa, delivering a fairly big source to cover Miriam's movements without being too restrictive. The unit was set on almost minimal power, given the fairly high sensitivity of the ISO chosen.
Go frisky once you have your safety shots.
The shooting still had all chances to go south. But Miriam saved the day. Instead of being p****d off for sitting in make-up for hours and then ending up with a 15 minutes shooting, she was all up and go! The DJ pumped up the volume and she danced like mad. I moved like a moron to get good angles and not to lose her, firing rapidly in continuous focus mode. After a few safety shots, I reverted to my prefered settings, re-introducing a very narrow depth-of-field (between f1.8 and f3.2., depending on distance and background, 30th of a second to have some motion blur wherever the strobe doesn't hit the subject, ISO 500 for perfect balance between reproduction quality and sensitivity). These settings gave me the results you see in this post - but I wouldn't have had the courage to run the entire 15 minutes with these risky ones. Get some decent and safe shots first, and then start to experiment.
A short shooting, indeed, but a good and funny one. Quite intense. Mostly because of the model, Miriam. She was the diva who saved the day.
If your shutter speed is too low, just crank up the ISO a bit and you are just fine. You will have more options that could also act as a safety-net when things are about to go sour. But all of this is worth nothing, if you are not blessed to work with a model that has a truely professional attitude. Thank you, Miriam.
Final settings for the shots above: ISO 500, f 2.8 / f 3.2, 30th. 85 mm lens. 35mm film equivalent camera sensor.
* It’ s always the front cap that goes MIA, isn’t it.
Thank you for your attention. Share or like if you like, or comment if you
don’t. Next updates scheduled for Friday, 3rd of May and Tuesday, 7th May.
Used in this post: Nerves. Elinchrom Ranger Q, Elinchrom Deep Octa 100. 85 mm lens.