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Shoot the Bloggers: Sian Meades

While I was planning for last month's UK trip, I crowdsourced ideas for subjects for my Shoot the Bloggers* (Hey, it's a Start) project. Reader Nick Jones suggested Sian Meades, pictured above.

Who was I to object?

So that necessitated a little side trip to Greenwich, for a quickie Prime Meridian shoot…

Sian (or "Siany," as she is known to her friends) founded and edits the blog Domestic Sluttery. Which, I might add, is probably not about what you think despite the wonderful name. Okay maybe it is, depending on what you are thinking.

On our shoot day it was hazy sun, and we were mid afternoon. Oh, joy. Given that, my first thought is to control my plentiful-but-crappy ambient. So we shot several setups in a portico leading into the Greenwich Market. Shade is your friend.

My favorite of the bunch was the B&W seen up top. And even though we were in the shade, I wanted something with a sunny edge (i.e., hard light) as if taken in the nicer light of late afternoon.

And by controlling the contrast range, I could create a file that would allow me to crank up tonal range a little more when converting the color photo to a B&W with a blown-out look. But I would still keep detail everywhere.

More and more, I am liking hard light with a controlled tonal range. I think it gives me the best of both worlds -- lighting that highlights the individuality of peoples' faces, but with controlled shadow depths that keeps it legible and flattering.

I used what is quickly becoming my go-to combo for people -- a LumiQuest SB-III as a key with an Orbis ring fill.

The duo gives me both edge and control. At ~6 feet away (in this case, from hard camera left and up a little bit) the SB-III is downright hard. Used in close it can be both soft and sculpty, if "sculpty" is a word, which my text editor is telling me it is not.

Here, we are probably 3-4 stops over the ambient (made easier by the deep shade) so this one is pretty much all flash. The key is exposed correctly, with the ring fill coming in at ~1.5 stops below. Edgy, but detail everywhere.

Here, you can see the relative angles and distances. Siany, who shot this pic during her frequent tweeting sessions with her iPhone between shoots, would have been at camera right in this shot. The ring axis points to her location, right about on the right edge of the frame. (She was against that wall.)

I, on the other hand, am apparently trying to figure out how to adjust the height of a compact light stand -- totally exuding that "room temperature IQ" vibe. Confidence inspiring, ain't it?

But it does give you a look at our environment, and how we are totally recasting the ugly light to get the look we want. Little bit of gear, lot of control -- and we were, after all, lighting and shooting in the greater London area without any kind permit whatsoever. I have no idea what you Brits are complaining about. Piece o' cake.

Siany being a blogger, she of course wrote about the experience of being shot and included some extra photos. They must've gone well, as she got propositioned in the comments.

That's good, right? Still hasn't happened to me yet.

Serendipity FTW

As it turns out, our shoot was mere yards from a place where my friend Drew Gardner had insisted I visit when in London -- the Old Royal Naval College.

In particular, he said to visit the Painted Hall and it certainly did not disappoint. Remarkably, I was pulling a ThinkTank roller (with my camera and lighting gear inside) and plopped it down right in the hall and proceeded to make photos with my Canon G11.

I would have thought the unattended bags would have brought out at least a bomb disposal robot and a water canon. Guess I do not look lean and hungry enough to be a terrorist -- not even in London, the photography paranoia capital of the world.


* Shoot the Bloggers is an ongoing project featuring portraits of my fellow bloggers.

Why? Because a) they are interesting people, b) no one else is doing it, and c) some of them will actually sit for me. You can see more STB portraits here and here.


Next: Guitarist Mark Edwards


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My current project: The Traveling Photograher's Manifesto