Leanne in Alexandria

I haven’t really kept up with posting to my blog here much, since I’m mostly just trying to keep up with shooting, editing and uploading photos all the time! This post is a little out of order but figured I better start somewhere.

Doorway fashion portrait (1/80, f/3.5, ISO1600 +0)

Doorway fashion portrait (1/80, f/3.5, ISO1600 +0)

In late September I flew back to the states and arranged for a few photo shootings with some of my favorite models from modelmayhem that I’ve only dreamed about shooting with since moving to Germany. Leanne was one of those models that just stood out so much to me after seeing her work with a couple of my favorite photographer friends, Jonathan Taylor of Jonathan Taylor Photography and Li-Tao Chen of Estate Image Serenity. As you can see, she is an absolute beauty! There are of course many beautiful women out there, but what captivated me about Leanne is how she also has this peaceful, content and charming look about her that’s also very classy and elegant. I knew I was in luck when she said she was available for a shooting!

Gear: I was traveling fairly light with my camera gear for this trip, but enough to get some model shooting in. Gear included: my travel sling backpack, Canon 5D, Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 430EX2 strobe, NPT-04 wireless triggers, batteries, CF cards, flash gels, and a hand-held gold/silver reflector. I also had some larger reflectors, light stands, and a 24″ soft box in my rental car along with a spare Canon 400D XTi and Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS.

Shooting plan: The basic concept I had in mind was just some fashion and casual on-location shots. If we could find some great architecture, alleys or parks that would be great but I had no specific location in mind and unfortunately neither did the model. I wanted to avoid the DC Mall and other popular tourist spots so as to not draw too much attention and give us the freedom to work without interruption.

Leanne and ambient street light (1/125, f/2.8, ISO500 +1)

Leanne and ambient street light (1/125, f/2.8, ISO500 +1)

We arranged to meet up in Alexandria, VA — which I thought was close to her — although Arlington would have been closer! The plan was to just meet up near a DC metro stop and walk around scouting out locations to shoot. Consulting google maps, I just picked a restaurant to meet at near the King St metro that was also conveniently close to I-95. I arrived early and spotted a few interesting locations nearby, so we just ended up walking around shooting on King St. Due to traffic and delays, it was already getting late in the evening before we picked out a wardrobe and got to shooting. I knew I would have to work fast if I wanted to work in any ambient light and keep to a fast shutter speed and low ISO (1600 is really the max on my old 5D and XTi). There were also clouds in the sky, so a fearful chance of rain, and just a bit of diffused natural light still coming down on the streets when not blocked by the trees and store canopy awnings. I therefore tried to find good backgrounds nearby without these awnings or trees in the way that would allow some of the soft and diffused though weak ambient light from the overcast sky to fall on Leanne, as in “Leanne and ambient street light” above.

A warm light on Leanne (1/125, f/3.2, ISO800 +.7)

A warm light on Leanne (1/125, f/3.2, ISO800 +.7)

Since it was just me and the model shooting with no assistants (and on a busy street by-the-way) I was limited in my off camera lighting abilities. There was no chance of setting up a small lightstand in the pedestrian traffic, and it would probably attract more interest than I’d like. I did have a hand-held gold/silver reflector though and I had tried using it with my flash hand-held in the past to make a bigger “reflective” light source to the model, so I tried it again. It’s a bit cumbersome holding the reflector + flash in one hand, then my camera in another while trying to measure up a shot. There are also a lot of variables involved, e.g. manually adjusting the power level of the flash, direction of the flash on the reflector and reflector to model, distance of reflector/flash to the model, etc. So there was not a whole lot of consistency to this shooting style, since either my hand and reflector was positioned oddly, I wasn’t getting enough flash coverage on the model, and of course the exposure flash-power needed to change based on flash-to-model distance. It’s also very difficult to try and get light coming top-down on the model from a hand-held position while I’m shooting down low, so most of the light is from the direct left side of the camera. It did help me gain about a stop of light though in hour or so before sunset.

In the “A warm light on Leanne” image above, I’m holding the flash + gold reflector combo in my left hand and directing it up and towards her while I squat down for a waist-high shot and compose the image in my right hand – which get’s very tired while holding an old Canon 5D! I’m adding just a subtle warm light here, most is ambient.

Leanne on the bench (1/100, f/2.8, ISO1600 +0)

Leanne on the bench (1/100, f/2.8, ISO1600 +0)

Eventually it did start to rain on us quite a bit, a sprinkling which began to add up and could no longer be avoided, which is no good for outdoor photography. My camera gear was getting wet, the model and her hair was getting wet too, and generally it just creates a less comfortable working environment when your clothes are wet and it’s cooling down. We both continued to shoot through the rain as much as we could though and find cover from the canopy awnings whenever possible (at least they’re good for something! blocking the rain is good, blocking the sunlight was not).

Fashion in the streets (1/100, f/4.0, ISO1600 +.5)

Leanne rocking it! (1/100, f/4.0, ISO1600 +.5)

Even though we were snuffed out of shooting early by the rain early which started to get us very soaked, Leanne definitely rocked it our short one hour of shooting! I wish we could have gotten at least a wardrobe change and maybe a different location in, but it all worked out well. I learned a lot

Postprocessing: All done in Lightroom with basic exposure and white balance tweaks, noise reduction, basic touch-ups, contrast/clarity/sharpness, crop and vignette.

Lessons learned: 1) The hand-held reflector + flash combo does not work so well, especially when trying to hold both together at the same time. Perhaps the Sunbounce micro-mini with flash bracket would work better – though it is a bit larger and not as quick to fold up – at least the flash-to-reflector angle would be consistent and it does provide a bigger light source. 2) Always have a plan “B” for rain. We just shot in it since it was light for awhile, though it did become a problem with water on my lens/gear and needing to wipe to keep it dry. Luckily my camera bag had a waterproof cover and I covered the camera with my reflector when not in use. 3) As always, look in camera for tighter crop patterns and model poses to get the most out of each shot. 4) Shoot earlier in the day to avoid ISO noise and low shutter speeds that create less than ‘tack sharp’ images. 5) All images were shot on my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens and this is a great focal-length on a full-frame body of the 5D for working in tight and close locations, though I do need to check it’s focus or my own focusing for sharpness.