photo session – Modern Gypsies – Martin

After our first, and very successful collaborative photo session with the Modern Gypsies, I was quite eager to meet up with them again. And today we had another series of photo sessions with them .. and it was one of those invigorating experiences you have working with truly talented and creative people. During the course of the day we photographed several set-ups and costumes and performers.  I will post more of these over the next few days, showing the results … but also the progression of ideas; the setting up, and some of what went on behind the scenes …

The first performer we photographed was Martin, who is amazingly adroit on his stilts.  He travels and performs across the world!

Preparation before the photo session – applying make-up.

Goofing around in the apartment before hitting the streets for the photo shoot …

… walking towards the park where we were going to start the photo session, Martin did his signature move … copying Elvis’ pose on stilts.  He would just pop into this position and hold it for a few seconds before moving on.

When we got to the park, Martin completed his costume, and then we started shooting.  I was using off-camera flash in TTL mode, triggered and controlled by my on-camera speedlight.  Since Martin was so tall on his stilts – about 11 feet tall – I opted for the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens as the main lens here. But as we started shooting and working towards a few definitive shots, Martin popped into the Elvis pose again … and we heard something go ‘crack!’ and he went down …

… we were all immediately concerned he was hurt or had broken a leg.
But it was his one stilt that had snapped.

Back at the apartment he more closely inspected the problem … and then he and Michael Saab devised another pair of stilts for Martin from Michael’s set.

Just about ready to roll again and hit the streets …

Finally, two images that I selected from where we shot in an alley.
Both these images were lit by the softbox.

More articles on off-camera flash …

Equipment used during this photo session:
Nikon D3;  Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H);
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H);
Nikon SB-900 (B&H);  Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)
Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24 softbox (B&H)
Manfrotto 680B monopod (B&H);
brass stud to attach softbox to monopod (B&H)

10 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2 says

    Great shots as always.

    In the first shot, you have the bright sun in the upper left. That should normally throw off the camera’s exposure meter.

    Did you start at 1/250, f11, ISO100 (Sunny 16 Rule) and then use the LCD blinking highlights to ensure your subject is not overexposed (and adjust the camera settings as needed)? The sun and the sky do not seem important to this scene, so one can allow them to blow out. The histogram is probably not very helpful here, since it would show the tonality of the entire scene and would be skewed by the sun (i.e. a giant spike on the right side of the histogram indicating overexposure).

    The more I shoot, and the more I read your blog entries, these more things are coming together in my head. Thank you!

  2. 3Neil vN says

    Nope, I didn’t start at ‘Sunny 16’ since we weren’t working in the sun. We were working in the shade there, with his back to the light. Different scenario.

    The histogram is of no use at all with that specific photo because of the way the blown-out sky would skew the histogram display.

    Neil vN

  3. 4Walter R. says

    Hi there Neil,

    I’ve enjoyed this post a lot. Not only because of some great images, but also because of the wonderful narrative and story that keep one just wanting to read further.

  4. 5 says

    Hi Neil,
    Ah, the Sunny 16 rule is a starting point when your subject is completely in the sun. Now, I understand what you mean by ‘open shade.’ The sun can be in the shade, so long as the sun is not shining on the subject directly.

    Thanks for confirming that the histogram is useless in that first photo’s scenario. I am getting better at intuiting what metering techniques will work.

  5. 6Chell says

    These are great. So glad he was not injured and it was just a broken stilt. Love the payphone shot but I think my favorite is the last one. As a previous poster mentioned it is also a wonderful narrative.

  6. 7Colin says


    Great article as always.

    I watched your B&H seminar vids and spent the whole 2 hours glued to the screen; your method of explaining is magic.

    On camera flash is definitely something I wish to explore and your work is more than enough inspiration to motivate me.

    Thanks for taking the time to complete this blog, I know it’s appreciated by a great number of people!


  7. 8 says

    Hey, Martin subject matter here.

    Went from this shoot, caught a train, travelled 3000+ miles and here I am in Petaluma Cal, for my next gig. The Sonoma-arts festival.

    In the spirit of mandatory improvisation and the show must go on… [not to mention the contractual obligations :)] I will be putting one stilt on and leaning against a wall downtown until I can come up with another solution.

    Just updating those interested.

  8. 10 says

    WOW, the first, second to last and final photo in this series are wonderfully surreal. Really enjoyed the little story of the events of the day as well. Nicely done, as usual. :)

    So, I guess there are “other” interesting photo subjects besides pretty girls, yes? ;-D

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