Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Call Me "Teach"

I spent a fun couple of days with photographer and PGS reader, Don, who engaged my services as a private mentor this past weekend. Don flew in from the Windy City. (Chicago, Illinois for those of you from abroad or who live under a rock.)

I hooked up with Don Saturday morning at the Sheraton Universal, right next door to Universal Studios in Universal City, California, where Don and his wife had booked accommodations. Yep! Don came out to the Left Coast with his significant other for a few days of Hollywood sight-seeing, relaxation, and (for Don) some pretty girl shooting.

Don had asked me if I could hook us up with Tera Patrick as a model. I told him I couldn't pull that off but, as it turned out, I was able to arrange for us to spend some of our time shooting in Tera's Teravision studio. The studio has a white cyclorama which Don shot on. Another set in the studio, one with some pink and black Victorian wallpaper, also served as a background for Don's shooting.

I engaged a couple of glamour models off of Model Mayhem. I thought I'd kind of mix it up a bit: One was blond and fairly experienced. The other was a much less experienced dark-haired beauty. Both models were okay with nudity. The arrangement for each was the same: TFP plus a hundred bucks. Some of you guys who complain recount difficulties regarding the availability and reliability of suitable models to grace your viewfinders via a TFP arrangement might try sweetening the pot with a bit of cash. It works wonders. And it says, quite clearly, that you're the boss, leastwise, when the model is on the set bustin' moves, struttin' her stuff, and strikin' poses for you.

So, on Saturday, we worked in a studio with our experienced blond model. I didn't shoot a single frame all weekend. In fact, I never pulled my camera out of the bag. It was Don's party and I was there to mentor and assist. I did, of course, book the models, arrange the locations, and provide lighting and grip gear for the weekend. I mean, who wants to travel with a load of lights and stands and all that stuff?

Having examined Don's printed and online ports, I had a pretty good idea of where he was at skill-wise, at least in terms of pretty girl shooting. Photographically, Don is quite knowledgeable and has good skills. His understanding of exposure and composition was already nicely developed. His lighting skills are also pretty good. Where he needed the most help was in the areas of posing, direction, and general model interaction. So that's where I focused much of my mentoring. Throughout the two days, I encouraged Don to take the lead with the models. And that's why I cast both an experienced model as well as an inexperienced model. I thought that would give Don some good experience dealing with models of varying skills.

On Sunday, Don and I met up with our second model, the inexperienced one. She was a 19-year-old beauty and, as it turned out, quite uninhibited in front of the camera. The model's Mom drove her out to meet us at the Sheraton. To make a long story short, the model's Mom ended up coming along with us for the shoot. Both Don and I were a bit weirded-out shooting this woman's daughter, semi-naked, with the Mother standing there watching but, in the end, it was all good. (Note: The model was the semi-naked one, not Don or I.) Anyway, the model's Mom was very low-key and kept to herself while the shooting was going on.

For Sunday's shoot, we took off for some exterior locations in the nearby mountains. We found a secluded spot, well off the beaten path, and set up the gear. I brought along my ExplorerXT and its auxiliary battery to power the strobes.

Once again, I was very impressed with the XT's performance: It kept recycling the monolight quickly and efficiently and still had power left over in spite of the strobe being fired, at full power, somewhere in the 400 to 500 shutter-clicks range. If any of you are thinking of getting yourselves some portable power, I enthusiastically recommend Innovatronix's ExplorerXT!

For the outdoor shoot, I also brought along my 33.5" Mola "Euro" beauty dish for a mainlight modifier. BTW, back in Chicago, Don has his own Mola "Euro" so it wasn't like he was shooting with gear he couldn't, later on, use when he got back home.

We were shooting--make that Don was shooting--mid-afternoon with lots of bright sunlight, blue skies, and a few clouds behind the model. The Mola created some really beautiful light on the model as we cranked up the monolight to overpower the sun and sky. Some of the images Don snapped are truly beautiful and quite dramatic! I'd even label them artsy and painterly.

I assisted Don and, for our final set-up, wielded a 3' gold reflector to help make the model warmly glow against the darkened blue sky. Normally, I wouldn't use gold-reflective fill in bright daylight but since Don was overpowering the sky, shooting somewhere around f/22 @ ISO 200 and at his camera's highest sync speed, the gold reflector created the illusion of shooting during Golden Hour, even though Golden Hour didn't arrive until sometime after we had packed up and left the location.

In all, it was a great weekend. Don seemed quite satisfied with my mentoring as well as the models, locations, and pictures he captured. I can't wait to see some of his pics after he's had a chance to do some editing and processing.

The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is the beautiful and sexy, Thai/English, Roxy, from a shoot a few weeks back at a location house high in the hills above Hollywood. Roxy's cockney accent is a hoot! MUA was Theresa. Very minimal post-processing.


Tom said...

Anyone can learn from you! Ok, where is the term paper?

Vince said...

Awesome recount of the weekend! I don't suppose Don was willing to share any photos with us, was he? I'm curious to see what the photos from somebody under your tutelage might look.


jimmyd said...

@Vince, Once he's done some editing and processing, I expect Don will be willing to share a few pics. After all, that's how all of us, as photographers, get our shooters' egos stroked.

Anonymous said...

What would a tutoring session run?

jimmyd said...

@anon, re private sessions, send me an email and we'll discuss.