This past Saturday, the crew got together and did two photo shoots with two amazing models, Jane Hwang and Stacey Madamba, on Treasure Island. Some of you might recognize Jane, as she was a contestant for Miss Asian American (MAA), winning Miss Photogenic for the 2009 MAA. Stacey on the other hand, has a ballet background that we most definitely will be putting to use in the next photo shoot with her. Treasure Island, named after Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the same name, is an artificial island in California that sits in the Bay between San Francisco and Oakland accessed via the Interstate 80 freeway. It is home to some 1,453 residents, and is a popular tourist attraction as you can see sea lions on the shoreline and also get a very nice view of San Francisco along with the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge (Interstate 80). It’s also a semi popular location for weddings in San Francisco and I can definitely see why: many picturesque spots and relative privacy.
There are many condemned and decrepit buildings with warning signs of asbestos strewn upon boarded up doors and broken windows making for an urban explorer’s wet dream and, in our case, a great site for urban portraits.
Having scoped potential shoot locations with Rendy Lai earlier in the week and seeing some great backdrops, the concept of a cowgirl/singer (Taylor Swift-ish) photo shoot with Jane Hwang came to mind. The results:
In the shot above, the abandoned building we used for the backdrop was actually in shade, dark shade. Shot with only ambient lighting would have produced a rather boring picture. So taking inspiration from Joe McNally‘s The Hot Shoe Diaries (page 98-101), I decided to simulate sunlight. I threw a single Canon 580EX II with a full-cut CTO (Color Tungsten Orange) gel and threw it up on a trusty c-stand, slightly higher than the model, to create a downward direction of light. I setup a second Speedlite, this one right at Jane’s height with a snoot with the power dialed down for added fill-flash. The reason for the second Speedlite is to ensure that the cowboy hat wouldn’t cast a shadow over her face.
These other shots were shot using only a single flash with the Lastolite EzyBox on a c-stand. One thing to always keep in mind of, especially when there are reflective surfaces are: 1) make sure you don’t appear in the picture, and 2) make sure your lighting equipment doesn’t either. Having a c-stand with a boom arm makes this very easy to accomplish.
Our next model is the lovely Stacey Madamba. With her, we were doing more of a fashion photo shoot. With the abundance of great backdrops on Treasure Island, all we had to do was move 25 feet from where we shot with Jane and we had all the makings for the next photo shoot. I can’t say enough how much I love the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens. The images that the 85mm can produce are just beautiful and I hadn’t been using my 85mm lately so this was the best time as any.
Being a connoisseur of cigars, I had a few stogies packed along which became the perfect prop for Stacey and our shoot. All these shots were taken with the 85mm at f/2.0 with a single off-camera flash using the Lastolite 24″ EzyBox.
As the sun was fast fading and our models a heartbeat from hypothermia, I wanted to coax out a few last shots against the shoreline with San Francisco as the backdrop with the fastly fading sunlight. We managed to get packed up and over to the shoreline where I got a few frames of Jane and Stacey using very little equipment: my 1Ds Mark II with the 24-70mm and a 580EX II with the Lastolite 24″ EzyBox held by Rendy. I switched over to full-manual on the camera, dialing in 1/20th a second shutter speed at ISO 200 and kept playing around with the settings until I got the look I was going for, which ultimately was 1/3rd of a second shutter speed at ISO 400 to get some of the nice ambient lighting. I don’t quite remember if I left the flash in ETTL or switched it to manual, but it was triggered using the built-in Canon Wireless Flash System. One thing that some people may not know is that you can run your flash in ETTL mode while using full-manual on the camera. This lets the camera figure out the necessary flash output power for you in situations where you might not have the time to fiddle with setting the flash power manually. I don’t recommend this all the time, as the results can be unpredictable, but sometimes, when it works, it really works. I took a series of ~ten shots and we were done before the ladies completely froze to death. I’ve been asked as to why I used such a slow shutter speed. Using a faster shutter speed would result in a black or very dark background and since I wanted to capture the fading sunlight along with the city lights in the far distance, I needed the shutter speed to stay open long enough to get the ambient. The flash keeps the subject sharp because at the moment it fires, it “burns” that portion of the image in and keeping the sensor open allows for the background to “burn” in afterward. So in essence, you’re actually doing a double exposure in one shot. Neat huh?
As I’ve had a number of people ask me about how I trigger the Speedlites. I use Canon’s Wireless Flash system which is identical to Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) because I wanted to be able to use ETTL. Be on the lookout for a future post about the Canon Wireless Flash System.
You can see more of the pictures I took on our Facebook page and be sure to check out our other photographer’s pictures:
- Lynn Truong
- Rendy Lai
- Tibor Duliskovich
Makeup was done by the amazing Van Pham and hair by the equally amazing Penney Do.