On the 7th of September 2008 I took a photograph that was to become my 'Bête Noire'.
I was delighted at the time with the photo and all the others I had taken on that day. The model was a girl called Michelle and I had a professional makeup artist as well.
Michelle had done a stint singing Cole Porter songs in The Cobalt Cafe & Gallery and had looked every bit the part (to me) of a 1920s beauty. This was in total contrast to her normal bubbly blonde self.
|The 'normal' Michelle is on the left. The 1920s photo I took is on the right|
That photo got me noticed. It was a studio shot and not too many people were doing studio shots especially in Dublin Camera Club. So it was a littloe different to what was seen normally in club competitions.
Not too many people were using studios mainly (I think) because it was a scary place. Flash has always been one of those areas where a lot of photographers fail to get to get to grips with the workings of it and basically point and fire it and cross their fingers. The studio had larger units with switches and dials and things called 'light modifiers' - even scarier!
The photo did well in competitions and I used it in studio workshops to illustrate what could be done. What I didn't point out was that I had used 6 studio flash units in the making of it.
Most photos I took after that in the studio or in a pseudo-studio setup were often compared to that photo. "That photo of Michelle was what prompted me to find you (and pick your brain)" was a common sentence I heard. So .... after a while the photo became a challenge! I have tried to better it and I'm still trying. For a long time I said that I must see if I could recreate the photo again. I always seemed to find a reason not to!
From about July last year I ran into a few difficulties with my health and a severe bout of depression. I withdrew from a lot of activities and one of them was my photography. It wasn't that I didn't take photographs but more that my creative streak had disappeared and was replaced with apathy.
Luckily my friend Lily who often collaborates with me on shoot ideas stuck with me during this period and then in July this year we met for a cup coffee and decided a shoot was in order but that we would try something different. I was more than up for this and probably tempting fate a little I made one request and that was we try to recreate the "Michelle" shot. Lily very often will tell me in the middle of a shoot to "try starting with ONE light!" She is right of course. It's just I have already worked out in my mind why *one* won't do and how many I will need to acjieve what I want. This time I wanted to see if I could achieve the same look with less lights.
So the original had 6. The key light was a large softbox camera right above her head height to give the classic butterfly shadow beneath her nose. A second unit with a beauty dish was place in front of that about two stops lower in power just to make her shoulders and collar bones pop. A third unit with a softbox was placed low down of front of the camera to reduce shadow under the chin. A fourth unit with a softbox was placed camera left to fill in the body. A fifth was placed behind her and to camera left to rim light her shoulder. A sixth with a snoot was used to light the background.
This time I produced these shots .....
A little more low key and I used 4 lights and a reflector. My lighting setup (rough shot) is below.
On the right you can see the large softbox which is the key light. Behind it lighting the background is another softbox. To the left is is a strip softbox to give rim lighting. What you can't see in the picture is another softbox almost at floor level to fill in shadows under her chin and a reflector camera left that redirected light from the key light softbox to lift the light level on her chest.and face.
I'm quite pleased with the result and curious to see if judges feel the same. But my mild OCD won't let me rest and I'll probably have another go to see if I can do even better.
Other shots from the shoot: