April 7, 2014

After Dark Photography Education – St Louis – 2014

After Dark is one of the very best experiences to learn more about photography, whether technique or business or to be inspired. Not quite a convention, it’s more of a slightly-anarchic experience. It’s hard to describe really, but ask anyone who has attended, and they will all rave about it, myself included.

The After Dark Photo Education convention took place again this past week: March 30 – April 2. Awesome news for the 300+ people who attended. Sad news was that this will be the last After Dark event. So for those who were there, there was definitely a sense of making this one really count! At the end of 2013, Dave Junion, the mastermind behind After Dark, announced that that would be the last event. I’m going to take a (probably accurate) guess here that repeatedly running an event of this magnitude across the USA, takes its toll on your stamina. But because of the outcries from past attendees, the After Dark team hosted an After Dark event in St Louis in 2013 … and now again.


camera settings & details:
model: Madison
1/80 @ f/4 @ 800 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Litepanels Croma LED video light (B&H)

I love this LED video light because it allows you to continuously change the color balance from Incandescent to Daylight.  This is a really nice feature because you can now more closely match the additional light to the existing ambient light.

 

camera settings & details:
model: Alyse
1/80 @ f/4 @ 800 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Canon 600EX-RT (B&H)  /   ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H)
Westcott Rapid Box Strip (1o” x 24″)  (supplied by MidWest Photo Exchange, a sponsor of After Dark)

I really love video light for stills photography, and loved the images we got of Madison (shown at the top) while posing on this floor at the Union Station hotel. I then wanted to see if we could get a similar effect as the video light – with the light contained to a small area – by using a small softbox. I tried out this Westcott Rapid Box Strip 1o” x 24″ without a grid. By scooping the light away from her, i.e., feathering the light upwards, and working very closely, we were able to get more dramatic light than a larger softbox would’ve given. So while it isn’t as dramatic as the video light, the light from the small softbox was soft, but contained to a small area.

 

what exactly is After Dark then?

More info: After Dark website / FaceBook

It’s a photography convention with an unusual format and spirit. Over the course of three days, there is a grid (or program if you will), listing the seminar presentations (called pods) and the shooting setups. The practical sessions where you can shoot, are either in dedicated studio type setups with a variety of gear, or you can do them outside with the instructors. The three days start around noon, and end around midnight. You can float between classes and presentations.

Now where it becomes unusual, is that there are often impromptu photo sessions or presentations. For example, I’ve had two people come up to me at 1am at night while everyone is still buzzing around, and ask me questions … this becomes an impromptu practical demonstration right there on the spot in the hotel lobby area. And we ended up with a loose group of about 20 people. Some stopping by for just a few minutes before wandering off.

Here are more images that I shot during my time at this event:

camera settings & details:
model: Alyse
1/40 @ f/3.2 @ 1000 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Canon 600EX-RT (B&H)  /   ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H)
Westcott Rapid Box Strip (1o” x 24″)   (supplied by MidWest Photo Exchange, a sponsor of After Dark)

 

camera settings & details:
model: Brittany
1/80 @ f/3.5 @ 1600 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Litepanels Croma LED video light (B&H)

 

camera settings & details:
model: Brittany
1/100 @ f/3.2 @ 1600 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Litepanels Croma LED video light (B&H)

 

camera settings & details:
model: Brittany
1/120 @ f/3.2 @ 1600 ISO
Canon 6D (B&H)   Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)
Litepanels Croma LED video light (B&H)

 

camera settings & details:
model: Angela Ruth
overpowering the sun with off-camera flash – what are my settings?

 

Roaming inbetween the times I presented my own classes, I watched while Travis Gadsby had this setup – two massive soft boxes and a dancer who’d twirl around, so that the powder she flung, would create patterns around her.

I had my walk-about camera with me - Fuji X100s (B&H). I didn’t have the wireless trigger, so I couldn’t set the flashes off. But I set my camera to motor-drive, and 6 frames per second. Shooting at 1/4 second, and f/11 @ 200 ISO, I was able to intermittently catch some of the frames where the flashes would go off, to show this behind-the-scenes set up.

 

finally, finally

If ever After Dark is resuscitated, I would  highly recommend you go – the spirit of cooperation and friendship all-around makes this a unique event. The format is one that is, and will be copied across the photography teaching world. In that sense After Dark really set a new level.

So this really is a convention where it is what *you* make it. There are dozens of instructors who would willingly help you inbetween presentations. There’s a real sense of giving and sharing. You’ll find that people attend more than one After Dark event – there is just so much to take in and learn, and it is just so much fun. There is a real creative energy around this event, with people collaborating during shoots, whether these shoots are planned “officially” or are impromptu.

So let’s cross our fingers that someone somewhere picks this up and runs with the event again. Until then …

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Burridge February 1, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Last ever? I just heard about this for the first time a few days ago! Still trying to figure out what it is, exactly…

Reply

2 Neil vN February 2, 2014 at 4:23 am

John, I’ve expanded my text to explain more.

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3 Dave Block April 7, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Who is that devilishly handsome VAL in two of those shots…oh wait it’s me :)

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4 Neil vN April 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I found my happy place / face again at After Dark.
(Me in the act of taking a selfie for Instagram.)

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5 Andre April 9, 2014 at 3:47 am

I must be getting old. I no longer see pretty girls only stunning images.

Reply

6 Mary-Claire April 12, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I first read about After Dark from a Tangents blog you wrote maybe 3 years ago, which spurred me to give it a go in Cincinnati. After having come home now from my 6th AD event, I would like to give you, Neil, an official hearty “Thank you!” for introducing me to such an impressive setting for photographic exploration.

Reply

7 Faisal April 18, 2014 at 3:40 am

Love the dramatic lighting with the Led. Must try getting it out more. Great work as always!

Reply

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