Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Gods Finally Cut Me Some Slack

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In my last update, I lamented and bemoaned the problems I'd been having trying to put together a shoot for my friends at Innovatronix, Inc. Well, this past Sunday -- wonders upon wonders -- it suddenly felt like miracles do happen. I was finally able to complete the shoot!  But once again, it almost did not happen... which would have made it 5 weekends in a row my planned shoot would have been scuttled, either by flaky models or inclement weather. 

Here's how it almost didn't happen, again: I booked yet another model for this past Sunday. A very pretty one-time Penthouse Pet of the Month. I'm not going to name names but on Friday she seemed very eager and enthusiastic to do the shoot. I told her I'd be calling her the following day to discuss call-time, wardrobe, and other stuff. The next day comes and guess what? She didn't return my calls or texts.  By evening, I was near-totally convinced this shoot was completely jinxed!

I called my friend -- a friend who is also a client, one who has hired me many times in the past and who continues hiring me -- who had volunteered to shoot the behind-the-scenes video for this project. I told him the bad news. He reminded me that he would not be available the following weekend if the shoot had to be pushed back again. Oh great! Yet another problem. Again, the word "jinxed" popped into my head... and I'm not an overly superstitious person!

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But then my friend said, "You remember my friend, Robert, right?"  I said that I did. "Well, his girlfriend does some modeling. And she's pretty hot. You want me to call Robert and ask him to ask her if she's interested?"  I absolutely wanted him to call because I absolutely did not want to postpone the shoot for yet another week, which could easily turn into a two week postponement.  To make a long story short, by 10 PM or so Saturday night, and after I spoke with Robert's girlfriend about what we'd be shooting, a call-time, transportation, makeup and wardrobe,  Robert's girlfriend, Zoey, was locked-in to do the shoot. Well, theoretically locked-in, models being models and all... friend of a friend's girlfriend notwithstanding.

Now, all Zoey had to do was show up at the designated time and place. 

And show up she did! Early, in fact! So, by 11 AM on Sunday we all had hooked up at the designated meeting spot and began our hour-and-a-half trek out to Southern California's Antelope Valley and on into the Western regions of the Mojave Desert. Our destination was an off-road location I was familiar with -- one that featured the time-worn remains of a stone dwelling --  a location that is very near California's Saddle Back Butte State Park.

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In all, the shoot went terrifically!  I wish there was less wind and more interesting skies and clouds but you can't always have it all. I was happy to finally be shooting this project. I'm also happy to report that the Tronix Explorer 500Li, their newest and most recently developed and released portable power unit (that I was trying out at the request of the good folks at Innovatronix) performed like a champ!

I used the 500Li to power a Photogenic 600ws monobloc. The Photogenic 600 is a heavy beast that spits out a lot of light. I needed plenty of light output to balance with and/or overcome the harsh desert sun. That's why I chose the Photogenic 600 from among my other strobes for this shoot. It's the most powerful monobloc I own, and I have about a half dozen monoblocs.

The 500Li + the strobe were definitely up to the task. I had metered the daylight in front of the model and, for most of the time we shot, the ambient in front of her was a bit more than f/11. There were no shady areas to shoot in, leastwise where I could have the sun behind the model for some back-lighting. Also, the sky was bright and boring and I didn't want blow it out. (Nor areas of the background). So, my exposure for much of the shoot was f/13 at 250th, ISO 100. I wasn't interested in blurring the background with shallow DOF because I wanted to connect the model to the environment, i.e.,  I wanted the pics to reveal the desolate desert in the BG, seeing it all the way to the far off mountains.

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I used my Canon 70-200 f/4 non-IS L on my Canon 5D2 for the entire shoot. I also used a 3' Photek Softlighter to modify the strobe and soften the light just a bit. It was quite windy out there the entire  time we shot. I needed to hang the 10 lb. Tronix 500Li from the stand by it's carrying bag, plus I used two 25 lb. sand bags all to keep the stand/strobe/mod upright in the wind. Even still, I was somewhat anxious that it would be blown over and the flash tube would break. I had a spare strobe with me but it was a 300ws monobloc and, if i had to use it, I would have had to change my approach, both from a lighting and exposure point of view.  I didn't have a spare flash tube for the Photogenic.

The Photogenic 600 was set to full power almost the entire time we shot. (In order to get f/13 at ISO 100 from the modified strobe in bright desert daylight with all the sand and rocks also acting like reflectors.)  The Tronix 500Li delivered about 350 to 400 full-power pops, plus or minus.  I'm not sure of the exact flash count since I deleted  a number of snaps during the shoot, mostly for blinks or when the model's hair, courtesy of the wind, suddenly covered most all of her face when I pressed the shutter. I was shooting RAW + Large Fine JPGs and wanted to insure I had enough card space with me. In all, I shot (and kept) about 10GBs of picture files. 

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Recycle time with the 500Li powering the strobe was not appreciably different than if the strobe was plugged into AC. And the recycle times didn't slow-- i.e. they remained the same as the battery was draining and until the batteries were completely depleted. The 500Li comes with two, quickly interchangeable, L-ion batteries. So, when the first one is done -- it sounds a beep when it's fully drained --  you easily and quickly remove the first battery out of the unit and pop the other one in. The batteries themselves are each about 5"x5"cubes. The entire unit is about a 10"x10" cube.

Zoey was an absolute trooper throughout the shoot. She maintained an exceptionally positive attitude. She never hinted at a complaint about the wind or the less-than-comfortable surroundings. She remained enthusiastic and just a delight to work with the entire time we were there.  When I handed her that vintage Super-8 camera to use as a prop for a few shots, she said, "Wow! This is what people used to use to shoot videos with?"  I guess you have to be old to appreciate the humor in that. Or not.



10 comments:

Phil O'Hagan said...

Sigh, I'm also old enough to see the humor.

Doc Pixel said...

Hey Jimmy... nice shoot of a very pretty part-time model indeed(!) I have this thing for strawberry blondes and freckles ;)

Just one thing: you might want to re-export those pics converted to sRGB instead of AdobeRGB (or unbed the profile <- punny!)... because they're far too red in color managed browsers like Firefox.

Keep up the fun work!

jimmyd said...

Thanks, Doc! Let me look and see what I did. sRGB is how i usually save my pics. Maybe I changed something without realizing that's what i did.

Winston Cooper said...

Wow Jimmy, great work. I do like your honest way of telling your story about this shoot. I also picked up valuable info. I would probably have been afraid of venturing into diffraction land shooting f13 on my 70-200mm f4 vr (on a D800) but your shots look very sharp. The lesson you taught me was that the "boogy man" diffraction is not so scary after all. Beautiful model, nice composition and masterful photography....of course I wish she had been nude...but oh well..!!!

and FWIW..no overly red images on my Firefox browser.....

jimmyd said...

Thanks for the kind words, Winston. They're not overly red on my monitor either. But I don't discount what people say in the comments so I'm going to look at my settings, both my camera's settings and my PS settings.

jimmyd said...

P.S. Winston: My model for the day would have been okay posing nude but that's not what the people I was shooting for wanted and I didn't want to spend time and resources shooting stuff that wasn't part of why I was shooting. I would like to go back out there again and shoot some nudes, some nudes more on the artistic side, probably getting there about an hour before Golden Hour and then shoot some on into twilight. That would probably yield some cool, artsy, photos. 8-)

Winston Cooper said...

Hey jimmyd..kind of a long Siesta, are you coming back.....????

jimmyd said...

Winston: "Yeah," says I in a rather timid and guilty voice. But I'm thinking I'm going to make some changes. These days, I'm more a retired guy than a working stiff and my photography interests have definitely shifted, at least in part, so I'm thinking of ways to make the blog less focused on a single genre so as to include some of the other things I'm now doing. Either that or I might just start a new blog, void of nudity, because a lot of the people I'd like to reach with other potential articles are immediately turned off by the nudity. It's a bit of a conundrum for me. Plus, I've become lazier than ever as a mostly retired guy.

Winston Cooper said...

Hey Jimmy thanks for reply and dude do I so understand the slowing down part of retirement. I am 72 and retired 10 yrs ago after 37 yr's at a trunk carrier airline. after all that time tied up in knots about schedules, departures/arrivals and bookings I don't get in a hurry for anything anymore. When I retired I returned to an old passion, photography, and decided art nude was going to be my main deal. That's how I found you. Take your time pardner, enjoy those Canon's and rock and roll.

BUT, for whats it's worth, I learned a lot, but two very, very important things from you that I use all the time. Edge lighting in the studio, kickers, and perhaps the best advice ever, the laser light in the models belly button when directing her....what a hoot.....!!!!

I remain a fan.......

DSLR Ninja said...

One of my friend recommended me to check out your website for some digital dslr ninja type photography inspiration. I made no mistake, those pictures are absolutely brilliant.