A story of a last minute shoot.
Hello people, this is my 3rd post on my blog and I've decided to add a little video. A behind-the-scene video like a lot of my fellow photographers do. I just didn't have the time to do one in the past, and I thought, to finish off this fantastic year, I'd publish at least one before 2015. This article will be about Improvisation and last-minute photo shoots. I usually do not recommend people to improvise but sometimes you don't have much choice. As I only work with professional dancers today, It is sometimes hard to plan everything. I depend on their schedule, I catch them on tour, before workshops, before shows or competitions, and you have to find, at the last-minute, locations and Ideas. This adds stress to the photoshoot and you absolutely have to hide this feeling from the artist you are working with. You are responsible for the mood and energy on set so, even if you are improvising and stumbling upon difficulties, you have to make it feel like it was planned. You certainly don't want your model to feel insecure and uncomfortable by showing him that you don't know what you are doing.
So yes again it's all about dance! I had the chance to catch dancer Mamson from the Wanted Posse before he gave his workshop here in Strasbourg. For those of you who don't know the man, he is one of the world's finest house dancers. His crew is known internationally and has won prestigious hip-hop battle competitions. He came to my hometown to give a workshop, and he was kind enough to give a little bit of his time for an improvised last-minute shoot. We only had an hour and a half before his workshop. Since Strasbourg is a cold city in November, I had to find in less than 72h an interesting location indoors for the occasion. Thanks to a friend Remy we were granted access to "Fort Frère in Oberhausbergen".
To spice up this session, a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to meet Ana from Broncolor in their headquarter in Allschwil, in Switzerland. If you guys are not familiar with Broncolor, it is in a few words a brand that proposes professional lighting systems. I've tried other brands in the past, but not on my personal work, so it was really the first time for me to use state-of-the-art material on a shoot. For those who follow me on Facebook, I've talked about this already. I've discussed the fact that I've worked with one, and only one light for about a year. I also explained the way I worked during this past year in a previous article. My approach here wasn't really different. I decided, on this one, to use only one flash head for a direct comparison. The system is just bigger (in size) but doesn't take that much more time to set up (less than 5 minutes). It happened really fast, I barely was thinking about my flash. Once my settings were dialed in, I was able to concentrate on my photography. Broncolor was kind enough to lend me a traveler kit system. It consists of 2 flash heads, a 1200 L move generator, and a wireless remote. They even gave me a light modifier, the Para 88.
Usually, with my Speedlite, I use hyper sync to freeze the action and control my ambient light. Here I didn't have this option as I needed a pocket wizard controller for Hyper Sync. I was shooting indoors, so it was easy for me to freeze motion as there was very little ambient light. I just had to set a shorter flash duration on the broncolor move, and this could be done with only the push of a button.
For the second artist, the story was a bit the same. Bboy Guillaume aka torture was invited to Strasbourg to judge a hip hop battle event. We again didn't have much time either and the location was found at the last minute, but you've got to accept it! We headed to Shiltigheim, it was freezing cold and I wanted to use as a backdrop a metal structure there that I used already on a past shoot a year ago. I usually avoid using a location twice, but it was the closest place we had and we had to make it quick.
Shooting with him was particular. Guillaume is not a posing person. He has to move constantly, so it was impossible for me to tell him to stop and rework a move he just did. We tried a few times but we were incapable of reproducing a genuine pose or move with the same intention as the first time it occurred... Sometimes some artists can't help overthinking a move or pose and it just doesn't look right. Repeating it over and over again won't work so we have to work differently.
I just told him to move freely and I tried to capture the moves that I liked. The pace was fast but the broncolor never let me down. This highlighted an element I really liked about the system. The fast recycle time of the flash. With my Speedlite at full power, there is a slight delay that doesn't allow you to take consecutive shots. It is also not recommended to do so as the Speedlite is not built for such purposes. The fast recycling time and the constant light quality helped me concentrate on my photography and nothing else.
This was a long day! Even though I'm used to improvisation, I was a bit worried. Using new material and not having time to prepare is not something I would recommend, but it all went well thanks to the Broncolor system. For a first try, I was quite impressed by the system although It wasn't enough for me to make definite conclusions. Will the next 2 shoots confirm my first good impression? I'm not trying to make a direct comparison to the material I normally use. But I'm just asking myself this simple question:
With the work, I'm actually doing, and the ones coming ahead, is it worth it for me to invest in such a system?
My experience with the system isn't over yet as I had a rendez-vous in one of the biggest modern libraries of my city for a special shoot. This was the perfect occasion for me to continue my tests. So here it is, here is how it all turned out!
Feel free to give me feedback on the video, or ask me questions about my work.
Rendezvous in a few days for a 2nd video?