Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lighting Boot Camp Finale: Assignment #6 Discussion

Before I get into the discussion on Lighting Boot Camp Assignment #6, I want to give a heartfelt thank you for everyone who participated in this first-of-its-kind event.

You all have done some amazing things as a group in the past three months. If you do not believe me, take a look at the Headshot Assignment results and scroll right through to the takes from the subsequent assignments.

I spent far more time choosing the photos to bump up to the main site on this final effort. Both because the stakes were a little higher and because the work had much more quality and depth.

I hope the CD covers showcased here speak for themselves. But I will also post my thoughts on why they stood out at me and how I reacted to them.

As for the final selection, suffice to say that the choice was very, very difficult.

I had it down to three or four for a long time, and finally chose the one that I would have been happiest to turn in to a creative director had I been given the assignment.

Before I get to the final choices, I would like to acknowledge Chris Garrett, of DSLRBlog.com, for being such a good sport about accepting my challenge and going through his shooting process in such an open way.

That's not an easy thing to do when you are just learning new skills. Chris is to be commended for his tenacity and creativity.

So, without further ado:



The Finalists


This is one of the more interesting photos I have seen in a long time.

In reading the comments, it is clear that the photographer had zero idea that flash capacitors are routinely step-up charged to 300 volts DC. Neat photo, but it also could have been a grisly scene for the paramedics to come upon.

I could not really equate it to a music CD in my mind, but it certainly commanded my attention.

This was an absolutely wonderful photograph with which to launch a career.

It is beautiful in its simplicity and makes me want to hear her perform.

I was not judging typography, but I would like to see the wording done in a way that did not blend in with the hair so much.

But that is a minor and correctable issue on a such a stunning photo.

At the other end of the tonal scale is this effort, in which the photographer had the courage to compress the entire tonal range downward. Lighting control gives you the ability to make a choice like this without it looking like a mistake.

Celebrity portraitist Annie Leibovitz uses the technique to great effect. Very nice.

Similarly, this photo gives me the feeling that the photographer had command of the rules (with respect to tonality) but chose to break them.

Simple, understated, and with a "look." The lighting, expression and body attitude combine for a strong package.

The photographer produced this photo almost immediately after the assignment was given. It was as if he read it, and walked over to a corner to set up and shoot.

It is a testament to the overall look that I first actually thought he cheated and snapped a copy shot of a CD. I even googled the band name to check him out.

His outtakes proved without a doubt that it was his hasty - yet high quality - work.

I could so see this in a record store.

Technique. Tonal scale. Simplicity. Attitude - this one has it all. A slight rim light coming from far back camera left would have made it even better, with a controllable three-dimensionality to the image.

Ditto this low-key effort, which combines clean with depth - not an easy thing to do.

This looked like an album cover from the 70's, and offered the viewer a great connection with the musician. The lighting was elegant, too, with the glasses' reflection having been totally controlled without forcing the lighting angles.

Not quite sure how he did it. But nice.

And finally, the two I agonized over for the final selection.

Runner-up by only the slightest of margins was this warm-toned rocker cover shot.

It had composition, light, energetic stray light and the feeling that the artist was transcending the shooting session and lost in his music.

I would be very happy to have my name on this album as a photo credit. It is edgy in a controlled way - a hard target to hit.


And finally:


This is the one that would not leave me.

I could remember in my mind it a week after I saw it.

It's a one-of-a-kind photo that both reveals and conceals. It is at once literal and conceptual.

The lighting is simple - a speedlight fired into a ceiling and wall. This gave both the shadowed, textured lighting on the face and the smooth gradient on the background. Nice double duty.

A self-portrait that is not camera conscious - the subject is at once intimate and yet unapproachable.

This photo strikes a balance in so many ways, and yet there is very little there in the way of actual subject matter.

So, as I closed the photo windows from the Flickr finalists one-by-one, this is the last picture that remained.

Kim, if you would please send me your full mailing address via your Flickr account, I will be happy to send the Collins DVD's to you.

Congrats.

Again, thanks to all who participated for such a strong effort. I hope you found the process as enjoyable and as much of a learning experience as I did.

Finally, I would like to thank Midwest Photo Exchange for sponsoring the Lighting Boot Camp.

It was a real hoot.


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4 Comments:

Anonymous kevinv033 said...

David,

I just want to extend my thanks for sharing your knowledge with all of us. It's taken the mystery out of off-camera lighting and lighting gear.

If I hadn't come across the CFL image posted in the Lightsource Flickr group a few months back, I probably would still be saving up for studio strobes and a flash meter.

Thanks!

September 30, 2006 8:47 AM  
Anonymous michel said...

I have to agree. I loved the winning entry the moment I saw it on Flickr.

Nice work, everybody!

September 30, 2006 1:53 PM  
Anonymous lee said...

this was a lot of fun! congrats to the winner. very compelling photo.

October 01, 2006 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Geren said...

Hi, David,

I can imagine just how tough the decision process was. All of the images were somewhere between excellent and superb.

You wondered how I controlled glare in the glasses of the Bob Sima shot. First, we'll dismiss the obvious: I did not use a poloarizer.

However, Bob has an anti-glare coating on his lenses (as do I), and it seems it works both ways -- reducing glare and flare for both the wearer and, in this case, the photographer.

The lighting setup was really simple. To the left, and fairly high above the camera (about 8-feet off the floor), I tethered an SB-800 to my D70s with a Nikon SC-29 and a Promaster SC-29 copy. The flash head was pointed strait upwards towards the 10ft ceiling in my "studio", and the supplied diffuser was snapped on, giving an effect similar to a bare-bulb flash.

To the right, I used an SB-600 on a stand, again about 8-feet off the floor, shooting through a smallish white umbrella. This was positioned so that it was about three feet out of frame, half way between the camera and the subject, pointing downward.

The lights were synched using Nikon's iTTL, with the SB-800 as the master, and set to "0 EV" level output. The SB-600 was set to about "-1.7 EV".

The rest was timing.

If I were to do it over, I'd add one more light, another SB-600, as a back light, with just enough pop to separate Bob from the background just a tad more.

October 01, 2006 7:50 PM  

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