Capturing Portraits: Snowboarder
Started the morning by shooting with available light on a big jumnp, and then we moved over to a rail, added some light, using Pro Photo strobes, and now, we're gonna shoot a portrait because that's what our clients expect. If I were shooting this for Red Bull, their expectation would be I bring back a variety of images. We're working with two fantastic human beings and athletes, Cody LaPlante and Dylan Zellers, and I'm gonna really, just walk through the process of how I make a lit portrait on location for an action sports client like Red Bull, so Dylan, I think you're up first, that's cool, so let's actually just walk out here, and I think, you know, the vision of what I'd like to do first is I just wanna get you comfortable in front of the camera. I'm guessing you're kind of here.
Cool, so we're gonna do, what I like to do is first, I'll shoot to illustrate what we're working with. I'm gonna shoot Dylan in front of the camera with just natural light, so ambient light. I'll ...
shoot that picture, we'll see what it looks like, and then I like to start really simple. We're gonna do a one light set-up first, and then we'll get a little more complex if we have the time and the weather permits, one thing that's happened, sort of in the last hour is it's gotten pretty windy, gusts, this is kinda classic of the Sierra, when a little system's moving through. We'll get pretty high wind, so we'll alter, depending on the wind, we can use different types of light modifiers, but we're gonna start simple, natural light, then we're gonna add one light. Then, we're gonna start making it more complex, adding to our scenario to create kind of a different look, so Dylan, I'm gonna have you, first of all, just hang out.
I'm gonna figure out exposure, I'll have you lookin' at me, I might have you try a few different poses, I'll just coach you through those, and I'll just kind of work with you from a distance, let me know if you get cold or, you're good, all right. He's tough, that's why, Dylan Zeller's just tough. All right, thanks, Brett, so let's go, so we're gonna go... This is no strobe, right, we're just ambient light.
I think you have the strobe connected.
Okay, let me power this off.
There you go.
Of course, we are trying to cheat and figure out the light before you tuned in, so we didn't look too foolish on camera, so I'm gonna, I still wanna work with clouds when we're shooting, right, we want, I want to work in kind of an open shade environment, so that we control the light entirely, so I'm gonna start by just shooting in natural light image, let's see, and I'm going vertical obviously because this is, let's assume this is gonna be sort of a magazine cover or some kind of a full-page profile of Dylan, so I'm gonna see what our exposure looks like. Okay, Brett, how does that look? That was just, um, thousand at F5, thousandth of a second at F5.
Exposure looks right, the background.
Cool, 'kay, now, let me just poke my head in the... All right, so what you're seeing if you're seeing this at home, it's kind of an ordinary picture. It actually looks exactly the way it looks to my eye right now, so I'm gonna shot a couple of those. All right, Dylan, maybe just a little more relaxed, like, what can you do, how else would you hold your board if you were just hangin' for a while? Maybe, yeah, maybe, how about lean on it with both hands, you know, the kind of like, you're actually, yes, somethin' like that, great, yep, perfect, good. Great, Brett are we still lookin' good exposure-wise?
Great, yeah, so one of the things you'll notice is I'm leaving plenty of space on the left side of the frame and also above Dylan's head, if this were a magazine cover, you need to give them space to drop their title on top or put other cover lines on the right or left side, depending on how the magazine likes to do their layout, so I'm just leaving some dead space around the frame, but it's now, and actually now that we just lost our sun, so I wanna shoot a frame, looks like I'm maybe a little underexposed, I'm gonna go to eight hundredth of a second at F5, 'kay, Brett, does that still look okay?
You're a little under still.
'Kay, a little under, all right, so five hundredth of a second, F5. (camera clicks) Great, okay, is it lookin' better?
There we go, yep.
Okay, so it works, you know, the bottom line is it's flat light on Dylan, the clouds are sort of working with us, I would say they're right on the edge of blowing out, borderline, I'm gonna have an issue with those clouds, but that's not a dramatic photo, right, our goal is this is easy, if we have 30 seconds to make a picture, this is the picture we make. If we have time to work on it, now I can start adding light, and literally creating a little drama in the situation, so the simplest set-up is we're gonna add one light. Jeff has already set that up, and so, we have a Magnum reflector, and we put a grid on it. What size is that grid?
It's a 10.
It's a 10, okay, so we have a, yep, so we have a 10 on that reflector, and what that allows us to do is really focus the light, control exactly where that light is hitting, so we're not just flooding the entire area, we're really focusing it, ideally, on Dylan's face, so I just shot at five hundredth of a second F5, 100 ISO for natural light, now, I'm gonna go ahead and turn on, so strobe is on, Jeff? Okay, strobe's on?
Yes well, well, you have it on on your...
Cool, I just turned it on, cool, so I'm gonna show you first, I'm not changing my exposure, my ambient exposure, that fire, 'kay, so right now, it's just blowing out Dylan's face, right, so what I wanna do is I wanna bring my background down, so first thing that I'm gonna do is I'm going to five, six, and then I'm gonna go, I'm just gonna take a stab and say 16 hundredth of a second, now, our light just changed, so now, we're kind of in a waiting pattern, we need to wait until the sun goes away, and it's worth shooting, you know, if you're not hooked up to strobes, that's decent light, but I'm not a fan of the direction, right, it's really high, it's casting a shadow on his face, there's kind of unappealing shadows that are, actually, that's not bad when Dylan's looking that direction. Let me just see what it looks like. (camera clicks) How did that look, Brett?
You got strobe on that too.
Okay, it's starting to look dramatic, okay, Dylan, I like that when you're actually, you're looking out at the, uh, you're looking to your right, yep, there we go, perfect. (camera clicks) I think maybe mouth closed, yep, cool, and you're lookin' out there. (camera clicks) 'Kay, oh yeah, good observation, so see how his hand is actually blocked, go ahead and make sure we can see your hand, your left hand, yep, there we go. It was just hidden in your sleeve, cool, okay, so a lot of what's gonna happen is it's a combination of I'm coaching the position and then we're also altering the light, so what I like to do is lock in the light first, and then I start coaching the position. Jeff, how does that look to you?
That actually looks really nice, the shape is really nice, it's not overly harsh, it's got a nice, when you zoom in on his face...
Yeah, that looks really nice, that looks great. Okay, cool, so I like this light, that was, that's overcast conditions, so we'll wait for a cloud, and now we can really start working on the moment, right, so the ideal is lock in your light, then start working on moment, so that you're not, kind of, trying to fight two battles simultaneously. And hey Dylan, why don't you just, because we're waiting for the sun, you wanna come over and check this out, maybe just leave your, mark that spot, and you'll kinda know or actually, we can get you back into it. Well, I sorta saw it. Mind zoomin' out, Brett, since you've got gloves on?
Where's the right and left?
So what we'll probably do, this is what we were concerned about, like, we're losing your hand right there, so we'll probably coach you a little bit, and we'll just try lots of different poses, you know, different facial expressions, but it's really dramatic light.
So, he can just put his board...
When that ends up on your Facebook account, you're gonna get a lot of messages from the girls, (laughs) okay, all right, let's try this. So, it looks like we do have a bank of clouds comin' in. Cool yeah, that looks good, and let's even start it, I kinda like when you were lookin' off to the side, yeah, that's good I like that a lot, okay, clouds are on their way, and you know, if your eyes get tired because you're constantly looking up to the sun, just look for the shadows, I mean, okay? We just lost our sun, great. (camera clicks)
That looks really nice.
Okay, how's that lookin' Brett?
It's maddening actually.
Yep yep, I mean, you're definitely getting a very dramatic...
Great, good, good. All right, great. (camera clicks) So, I like, Dylan, how about look right at me? Yep, there we go, cool. (camera clicks)
It looks different if you see him without the goggles, and then, also, can we talk about reflections in the goggles?
It's lookin' pretty neat, good, okay. And so, what I'm doing now is I like the light, it's working, so I'm just gonna work through a variety of poses, and one of the things I'm frequently thinking about is, you know, vertical versus horizontal. I just shot a few vertical frames, now I'm gonna shoot a few horizontals, Dylan, I kind of like it when you were still lookin' out that way, yeah, it just puts nice light on your face. Okay, great, whoops, and that's with sun. I'm kinda curious what it did. Still pretty neat actually, let me try a few frames, actually, with the sun, Brett, and tell me how that's lookin', great, maybe you're lookin' up a little bit higher, Dylan, great, there we go, great. Great, that's a great frame, okay, so now one of the other things I'm pretty conscious of is Dylan's wearing his goggles, and so it makes it pretty impersonal, impersonal. Dylan, let's actually try, let's take your goggles off. Cool, yeah, that's great, that's perfect. Okay, cool, and I think let's try that same thing, you're lookin' out to the side, yep, sort of up toward that sun, great, great. Let me check that out. Good, I like that frame, Dylan, let's try somethin' else with your board, what if you hold it behind you? Like, is there anything you can do with the board, so it's kind of more, you know, it's like, if you were hikin' up the hill, what do you do if you're gonna hike for a while, yeah, let's try that. Cool, and I think you're still squared up lookin' at me like, just body, straight to me, and then I'm gonna have you head, looking right at me. Great, perfect, 'kay, let me see what that looks like. That's pretty cool actually, like, with that orange, is that the Jeremy Jones logo on the bottom or just a cool graphic?
That's Jeremy Jones.
That's a cool, I mean, it looks really cool because the orange of your shirt is pretty similar to the orange of the logo, cool, okay, real game face. You're lookin' straight at me. Great, let me check that out. Oop, I think I had eyes closed, let me take a couple... Yeah, I know it's, right, let's do the old trick where I'll say one, two, three, and then you open 'em. Okay, one, two, three, great, let me check that out. Eyes look good, Brett?
Cool, I kinda like that graphic. Board looks awesome, light on your face. Yeah, yeah, cool, okay, Dylan, let's try that again, so now that we've got nice light, I can really start playing with the design of the image, so I'm gonna get lower, kinda make him a little more heroic, 'kay, you're lookin' right at me Dylan, and great, how did that look, Brett?
I like that.
Cool, here we go, let's try again. Okay, one, two, and three, great.
Let's try that one more time, you can close your eyes and I'll call it, one, two, and three, great. Let me check that out, that was with sun. Eh, let's see what it looks like, but that's lookin' pretty darn dramatic, guys, I don't know if you can see, and you know there's a lot that we can play with right now, I'm letting a little bit of that blue sky bleed in, you know, and what's interesting is this is just one, you know, this you can ski with in your backpack, you can have one stacker stand, you know, one head, and it's a pretty darn simple set-up, I mean, it's still, like, three o'clock, 3:30 light, and we're just leveraging that one head. Let's play with this for a few more minutes. In fact, what I'd love to do is give the camera to you, if you'd like to, if you're willing to set down your camera, so I'm set up like I described earlier this morning. I'm shooting using back button focus, the AF on button, so I focus with my thumb, shoot with my trigger finger, and I'm just gonna let you, kind of, own the situation. I might jump in a little bit and help coach Dylan, but so, I think you saw what I was doing. I was actually letting him close his eyes. If it's not when the clouds come in, he can keep his eyes open, but otherwise, that trick of sort of saying one, two, three is kind of a nice one. Cool, all right.
Hey Dylan, I kinda like the way you're standing, like, can you do that same lean but just kinda turn towards me a bit?
Can you guys maybe give Ralphie a little space here?
Yeah, yeah like, you know, on the board like that but looking at me though, just one sec here. Okay, Dylan, I'm gonna, I'm gonna get you to just kinda look off to the, over my shoulder here a little bit. Perfect.
And so, Ralphie, I think one thing to think about, yeah, I like that more as you went tight horizontal. I think that works better, I'm not sure in that last frame where we see the snow, I don't think it adds anything, and so I like when you went a little bit tighter, and just, you know, what we have that's super dynamic right now is this cloudy background, so I think when you actually flip to horizontal, it's nice. It's a nice, you know, let's, I think...
So, if I stay vertical, just stay tight kinda thing...
I would, I would, I'm just not sure, the snow's not that clean, I'm not sure it adds anything. In my opinion, it just distracting because there's bleed from the light, it's, you know, the snow is so bright. It's your eye that is, you're competing with am I looking at his face or am I looking at the snow because they're both the brightest spots in the frame, so I think now, the next step would be, why don't you shoot a few frames and coach his expression, where he's looking, is he serious, is he smiling? You know, make sure his eyes are open, and, let's see...
Is he actually smiling in that one?
Kinda right on the edge, it looks like it's a borderline smile.
I like the positions, do you like it?
Yeah, it looks good, no it looks good. All right, Dylan, we're gonna try...
Dylan, I'm gonna get a couple more of ya. Same sort of position again. How are you feelin' about the light, can you look at me? Okay, three, two, one.
Cool, nice that's good I like that a lot. Nice, Ralphie, great frame, and now, obviously, everyone that's watching at home, you can see that the light is coming from sort of above and 45 degrees, so we're definitely, we're raking light across his face, creating kind of a shadow from his nose. We call it the triangle.
Would it be Rembrandt lighting?
Classical Rembrandt lighting.
And it looks good, I think it works for the situation, and I think, you know, the one option is he's looking straight to camera, we have him look to the light, a little more in that direction, and we lose some of that shadow across the nose, but I like...
It still works, even if he's looking to the left a little bit, camera left, because he's dead-on it might flatten out a little bit, but with his face turned to the left, we still get some nice shape.
Yeah, I like it, and are we full power on that head right now?
On that one, I think we are.
We're full power, okay, and so this is just a good reference, whatever system you're working with, you kinda figure out, over time the more you use it, what can I handle with that amount of power, how close does the head need to be?
Which, yeah, is all playing with the background. If you wanted to go even darker with the background, we can, you know, move the light in or out, depending on whatever you wanted to do, even if we're maxed out on power or we can dial up and down.
Great, how are you, what, you want a couple more frames and then maybe I'll jump in and we'll play with it.
Hey Dylan, can I just get you to look up towards the sun again one more time? I'll count you in again here. Three, two, one, maybe a little lower, actually. Tilt your head down a little bit.
Yeah, almost like you're lookin' at Bly, does that feel right?
Yeah, that's better, definitely, thank you. Okay, three, two, one.
How are those turnin' out?
They're lookin' really cool, super cool.
Dylan, I'm gonna get you to hold your position kinda how you are with your arms but looking right at me with your head sort of tilted down a little bit? Okay, three, two, one.
Just so you know, Corey, full power on this, that's it's 500 watts, so...
Right, so this is the B1 for anyone that's watching at home, this is a 500 watt second mono block head, so you can see Bly standing there at the light, we're using a C stand. Oh, try that with that blowing snow, see if any of that comes through.
Okay, looking at me.
Oh, I think we just lost it.
Here it comes again.
Okay, if we get a little more wind gust...
Three, two, one. (camera clicks)
Cool, all right, so I would love to try something if you guys are willing to help which would be, what if I get back on the camera, and while Dylan is still in the shot, you know, just that idea. I saw the snow blow, can you guys step in there, and two on each side, we're gonna throw snow into the frame?
You want me to get a shovel out, it might help with it.
Um, yeah, if you've got a shovel, sure, sure. We're gonna grab a shovel, and let's just do a test. Let's uh, if you guys are willing to, this will be an interesting experiment.
...stage whenever you're ready.
Cool, and I think what we're gonna do, for everyone who's watching at home, we're gonna try to experiment with throwing some snow, just getting some stuff in the air, make the photograph more interesting, Bly, let me just, let's try, Dylan, I think I like when the board was behind you, it doesn't even have to be both hands. It could even just be, you know, yep, actually, yeah, that's pretty sweet, okay, okay, Bly, let me see it when you throw the snow, yep. Yeah, oh whoops, did that go, okay yeah, so we'll see if we can get this to happen. It's pretty, pretty, uh wet snow right now, so we'll see if we can actually get this to work. And so, I think, guys, the idea is throw it, it'll be on three, two, one, the snow goes as high as possible, so that it basically lands on top of him. And again, it's an experiment, this may work, it might not work, on a cold day, this is awesome. Yeah, that was good, that was better, Bly. It's almost exploded in our hands. Let's do the test, okay, Dylan, you're lookin' right at me, okay, hit it, Bly.
Three, two, one.
I think I was a little early on that, but, oh, you can see some snow in the background. Let me just check that out, oh, yeah, that adds something. It just adds a little texture, okay. All right, here we go, this is the one for real, and Dylan, here we go, three, two, one! (camera clicks) Did that last frame, I didn't have enough juice, did I?
Did you double fire?
I did, did the first one, was it decent? Here, I kind of, I shoulda let snow. Eh, it's kinda neat, you know, we'll shoot a few more. This is more about the idea, it's not that maybe this is the perfect frame, it's more about just experimenting and trying things, you know, I like that, Bly, on the other side, okay. Dylan, let's try this maybe one or two more times. Okay, and three, two, one, action! And is the snow going in front of him or behind him?
Cool, behind is better, yep, so it never crossed into the light, how is that, Brett? I see one big chunk balanced right on his head, cool. Okay, here we go, Dylan, two more times and then, we're gonna switch it up, and three, two, one. (camera clicks) I fired too many times, I was late, and then I missed two. Was the first one any good?
Uh, I think the frame was too high.
Okay all right, one last one.
You're doin' great, Dylan. It's actually camera operator error. Okay, and three, two, one. One more, one more, sorry, in photography, by the way, one more doesn't actually mean one more. It means just again, so okay, and three, two, one. Cool, that was a better one, yeah, that's cool! All right, yeah, that's awesome, that's really cool. Okay, so I think what we've seen, check this out Dylan, see what you think, pretty neat, that's pretty cool with that snow behind you, all right, so I think what we've proven is with one head, we can make a pretty nice frame.