||Rolling with the BIG Dog
by Damian McGillicuddy
Well my friends it appears congratulations are in order. I obviously
didn’t put you off enough last issue to stop you wanting to roll with the
BIG Dog one more time, so let's go!
You’ll remember from the last episode, God, this is starting to sound like
an old Flash Gordon re-run, that we were up against it time-wise; three
hours to complete three outfits is tough going for a fat, lazy photographer!
Fortunately for me I’m smart enough to stack the cards in my favour, so to
speak, and have selected the right people to work with in top model and
general 'mover and shaker' Miss Laura Oldfield and her fantastic 'Mr fix it'
boyfriend, Steve. In fact by the time you read this I’ll have taken my own
advice and Steve will be the latest addition to the McGillicuddy group.
Ok, so the next image needed to be effective but hopefully a little less
complex to achieve. Although speed is of the essence, one thing I’ll NEVER
compromise is image impact and quality, that's what I’m being paid for!
Having scouted the location previously, I knew I was interested in using
the set of stairs that we eventually shot with. From a design point of view
the stark lines and angles would beautifully contrast and enhance Ms
Oldfield's curves. The fact that the stairs ended in a landing and were, for
the main, enclosed by the well was a major bonus. These two architectural
features just made my lighting-life a little easier. The landing made it
easy for 'key' light placement and the enclosed stairs would make it easier
for placement of my 'kicker' light.
The choice of modifier for my 'key' light was simplicity itself. When I need
beautiful, sculptural, directional light that is quick and easy to use it
really is a 'no brainer' to reach for the bare bulb enhancer from the 'Portaflex'
kit from the DMLS lighting modifier range.
This modifier gives a semi-soft, directional light, not dissimilar to a
large window facing the sun in the 'golden hour' – powerful, punchy and
directional. So one of my X5drs was positioned on the landing, to
camera-right, fitted with the aforementioned modifier. The lighting unit was
angled in such a way as to allow the light to 'skim' across Lozie, creating
highlight and shadow. It should always be in our mind that we are trying to
create a 3D feel in a 2D world and on Caucasian skin it's the subtle
placement of shadow that will turn this trick for us.
The next light to place, in this cocktail, is what I like to term 'effects
lights', or if I’m sitting in my ivory tower thinking what a clever and cool
boy I am, an FX light. This unit always adds a little sparkle and polish to
In this picture's case, it's clamped to the far side of the railing behind
the subject, as low as possible. The light has a standard spill kill fitted
and is 'gelled up' with a deep blue/violet filter. The light is aimed
straight up to colour the otherwise bland and very unexciting underside of
the returning stairs, above the subject. The added bonus of the excess spill
colouring further areas of the image is simply another card stacked in our
favour. This light is running at approximately EV -1 when compared with the
At this point it is worth taking a moment to point out one of photography's
stranger phenomenon, the use of coloured gels on lights, be they for colour
correction or effect. You could be forgiven for thinking that the more light
you 'pump' through a gel the more intense the effect would be. With so many
things in photography the exact opposite is true. The more white light fired
through the gel, the more PASTEL the colour becomes. You have been warned!
On to the third and final light. This was placed above the model on the
first landing. It was fitted with a standard spill kill. The light was then
aimed down the stairwell and serves two purposes. Firstly, it rim lights our
subject, accentuating her lines and curves, and separating her a little from
the background. Secondly, it creates the interesting highlight on the
enclosed stair rail, top-left of image, and the specular highlight in the
bright metalwork. This light was metered to EV+1.
However, attractive lighting alone a great picture does not make. So what
were the other integral parts, responsible for crafting the image?
First is lens selection. This image was shot on one of the most fantastic,
yet underused and overlooked lenses in the kit bag, the glorious 'standard'
50mm. Called standard because in the world of 35mm film this lens is the
closest match to the field of human vision. In general this lens, in any
manufacturer's line, is optically stunning and Nikon's f1.4 version is
simply beautiful! A lot of lens for very little money, comparatively
speaking, of course.
The 50mm lens has enabled me to include as much of the background as I
intended without distorting perspective in any way. I’d also chosen to shoot
the image at an aperture of f4 on this lens; an aperture this wide has a
relatively narrow or should I say shallow depth of field. This enables me to
have the subject sharp, separated from an ever-increasing out-of- focus
background. Just another effect from the BIG Dog's 'bag of sneaky
photography tricks' used to draw the viewer's attention to the part of the
image the artist intends.
Ok, now is a good time to talk about the model's significance in all of
this. Lozie is undoubtedly a beautiful young woman but it's not just her
beauty that makes her a top model; there are thousands of beauties out
there, not all of them make great models. Lozie’s skill and that of most of
the models I regularly work with, is in her brilliant ability to listen to
the photographer's instructions and implement them exactly.
It is true to say I micro manage my subjects. I don’t want them to move, or
breathe, without my direction – after all it is only me who can see into the
darkest corners of my creative mind. Therefore, it has to be me who directs
the subject, otherwise the image won't look like the initial concept as a
degree of 'randomness' has been added. Doing EXACTLY as she is asked is
Lozie's greatest talent, among many gifts she has been graced with!
That's why I have absolutely no hesitation when I say if you really want to
learn to shoot people Lozie's day rate is another 'no brainer' – her input
and ability is worth far more than the price paid. You’ll see more, achieve
more and learn more working with a professional, end of! Hell, she might
even let you in on the secret of what it's like to regularly 'Roll with the
BIG Dog' ;0) (spare us! Ed.)
So let's take a quick look at the 'micro managed' pose. She is turned,
obliquely, to the light to give maximum effect of the light from the 'key'
skimming over and 'carving out' her shape. The 'S' curve that runs through
her body is a prerequisite to impart sexiness, the hands at her waist
exaggerate how narrow it is and the 'fashion model styled' forward thrust of
the shoulders and elbows are used as visual guides to focus attention back
to the waist and the corset, the whole point of the image. Add to this the
cross over at the knees to create a beautiful taper that enhances the length
of the leg and hopefully you will start to see method in my madness!
We're well into the picture-making home straight now – there’s just one more
trick I’d like to share. To add further impact to what is virtually a
monochromatic image I wanted to bring the vast majority of the tones to
render as cool or blue; this would greatly enhance Lozie’s skin and give it
the cool, porcelain effect I desired.
Now this trick is stolen from my film days and is REALLY easy to achieve.
Please bear in mind that most flash tubes are balanced to be around 5,500
degrees Kelvin, daylight to you and me. In the good old days if we loaded up
with tungsten balanced film and exposed it with either flash or daylight
we’d end up with really cool, ethereal, monochromatic, bluetoned images,
Now in today's digital world the same trick is even easier to create and its
effect is far more controllable. Ok, so what do we do? The same effect is
achieved by simply selecting the tungsten-balanced white balance on your
camera and exposing the image using daylight-balanced tubes!
I, of course, being me, actually use a custom white balance but that's just
the way I roll in my house...I can’t give away ALL my secrets, I’d be thrown
out of the Magic Circle!
Next issue we’ll finish off the third garment together, and finally bring
this shoot to its completion. I hope that these few insights have been
helpful for you so far and, as I’ve said before, you deserve credit for just
sticking with the ramblings of a mad man.
end with the best piece of advice I can give you. Take up the challenge of
the Societies' FREE Mentor Me programme, it really is a fantastic aid to
develop your craft. If you're as impatient as me then there are always the
accelerated learning workshops, 'Mentor Me on Steroids'. Come and learn with
me in my studio, from just £145.00 it's money well spent.
Till next time...
DMLS light modifiers are available from The Flash Centre,
DPM Walbank or direct from
Lozie may be contacted via Lesley McGillicuddy
studio: 01925 656510
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