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Rolling with the BIG Dog Part 12 - part 4 of 1 2 3 4

by Damian McGillicuddy Published 01/10/2011

Sticking with the same model I've chosen the next piece to take us in yet another direction. Again a study in shape, form and certainly texture, but a shot perhaps more typically considered toward the mainstream of 'fine art'. I believe my skill lies in the manipulation of light, and visual creativity. I'm also very easily bored so I like to keep my shooting diverse, but within the genre if possible! Let's look at this black and white study then.

Ok, we've run out of editorial space now but there will be more to come in the next issue which is billed as a bit of a 'fine art special'. All I can say is thank you for reading this far. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading these adventures as much as I enjoy writing them. More so than enjoyment, I hope you use the knowledge and develop your own photographic craft with it. If you are serious about wanting to be a better photographer DON'T buy that latest, shiniest gadget you're lusting after, a new camera body will NOT improve your photographic ability. One thing, and one thing only, will improve your technique and ability and that's education! Team McGillicuddy have a lot of very highly regarded workshops coming up in the very near future. Give yourself that vital edge and come learn with the BIG Dog, you could do a whole lot worse. ;0)

You can check on workshop availability and even look at and purchase the modifiers I use along with even more HIWDs (especially if you join the FREE friends of the BIG Dog section). All you need to do is come visit me at and have a little 'poke ' around the site.

How was it done?

The McGillicuddy camera room

Charlie Edwards

What was in the bag:
Nikon D700 fitted with Nikkor 85mm f1.8
2x Nissin Di 866 speedlights
1x McGillicuddy 19" 'classic' beauty dish
1x McGillicuddy 72" reversible panel
1x Ficus tree
Elinchrom Universal Skyport
Sekonic L-758D light meter

Camera settings:
Image captured in RAW
ISO 200, f5.6 @ 1/200 sec
RAW file processed through Aperture 3.1

So what did I do and why did I do it:

The concept behind this image was a study in shape, form and texture once more. I wanted to shoot an image that was a slight 'take' on the natural world style photography of newly discovered tribes, I know...I'm not even sure where I get it from! Anyhow I wanted to take my beautiful and rare Amazonian and almost create a 'fine art' inspired study.

Now in order to create the extra texture within the study and sell the 'tribal' angle on the image we simply covered Charlie in mud! Now contrary to public opinion I didn't just take her down to the banks of the Mersey and push her in! This is how the subject earns her living so her skin is one of her assets and as such needs careful protection. So we simply used a lot of face pack mud, an expense yes, but I fully believe the end justifies the means. I now had texture To make the most of the texture was my next aim. I used my 19" classic dish as my 'key' light using the silver-sided deflector facing the output of the speedlight. I wanted the most specular and contrasty light I could produce. Using the 19" to light a 3/4 length study also means that the subject-to-modifier distance is going to give me those crisp shadows with almost instant shadow to highlight transition, just what the doctor ordered for this shot! The light was placed six to seven feet from the subject to camera-left. It was high enough and "feathered" back enough to give me that Rembrandt triangle of light on the opposite side of the subjects face to the "key", beautiful!

Just out of frame to camera-right is a 72" reversible panel, black side to the subject. This 'soaks' up any light spill and has the added advantage of adding density to the shadows keeping to the theme of the crisp contrast to make the most of the texture.

My final light was placed to camera-left, slightly behind the subject, its a very simple, bare speedlight with its head slightly 'zoomed'. It was fired through the foliage of a ficus tree (the Weeping Fig, Ed) and trained on the background directly behind the subject to offer separation from the grey vinyl background. The idea of firing the speedlight through the plant was to add the scattered shadow on the background, a further layer of texture within the picture. A very simple approach that has resulted in imagery greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

What about post:

Again all blemishes retouched away, stray hairs tamed and the compulsory 'gloss over' with Aperture 3's skin softening brush before creating a black and white image courtesy of the amazing Silver Efex Pro by Nik. Job done! ;0)

Contact Damian McGillicuddy

1st Published 01/10/2011
last update 12/11/2019 13:27:13

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