shooting solo with off-camera flash
Yup, that’s me all crouching tiger there with a camera and an off-camera flash setup. I had planned on photographing Jessica Joy in the studio while she was here, but since she’d never been to New York before, we had to make a trip in. I wanted to do a few sequences on location in Manhattan.
The ethos and approach of The Sartorialist, has fascinated me ever since I became aware of his blog. Working in a very simple way with just a camera and an 85mm lens, he captures people on the street, showing the way they decide to clothe themselves for public view. Anyone can be his subject, from the most Fashion conscious to blue-collar laborers. Here is the Youtube clip that tells you more about the way he works.
I’ve taken some of this in how I photograph models on location. Obviously more controlled and directed than approaching and photographing strangers on the street. Still, it’s been an influence on me.
Making a day-trip out of it to New York with Jessica, I thought I’d keep this way of shooting as a direction to myself. I also knew I’d like to use off-camera flash. It gets dark very quickly in wintertime, and the shaded side of buildings can be in a deep gloom. Off-camera flash would help! But the person who I had arranged with to come along and help, had an unforeseen crisis and contacted me the night before, to tell me he couldn’t make it. So I had to plan how I’d best go about this solo.
Since Manhattan can be very crowded, I needed to travel light. You can’t just put a light-stand down in the busier pedestrian areas. So I needed an off-camera flash setup I could handle with just one hand. It also needed to be compact and easy to break down and assemble, and comfortable to carry. I configured this as the most practical off-camera flash setup, even if ungainly.
The small Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H) diffused the light. It was all held up by that monopod, and the flash was synced with the camera via a TTL cord, the Nikon SC-29 (B&H). No wireless triggers. Just a cable I could easily unclip and then keep in place on the monopod with a velcro strap.
In the end, we managed to shoot 3 very short sequences. It was just too cold. The wind funnels between the tall buildings in Manhattan, and on bad winter days, the wind chill can be quite a surprise. Not comfortable at all, especially for a model in clothes for a warmer season.
Jessica was dressed quite warm in a thick jacket and a cardigan. When I saw a place where we might shoot, I’d do the test shots and find the composition, and only once I am ready, she’d whip the outer garments off, and I’d cradle them in my arm while shooting for a very short time. Here are two images.
The black and white image was shot from where I was crouching on the steps as shown in the top image. The railing kept me from being close enough, and you can see the more pronounced flash shadow as a result.
camera settings: 1/1000 @ f/2 @ 800 ISO …. TTL flash
1/250 @ f/1.8 @ 200 ISO … TTL flash
equipment used during this photo session
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