This Sundays Crew

This weekend was a total slam! (But in a good way!!!!)Sunday was reserved for more personal work, and we took the time to shoot a portrait of our friend Gary Hedrick. Gary is a designer from Elefhantworks who also works as a freelancer with us over at Work N’ Gear where we have been shooting product photography.

Portrait of Gary Hedrick of Elephant Works, and "Kicked in the Head"

Portrait of Gary Hedrick of Elefantworks, and

Nantasket Beach, Hull, MA

Nantasket Beach, Hull, MA

Ready for the dork contest

Greg gets ready for the dork contest

Gary is an amazingly talented artist.  Aside from his accomplishments with his painting and design, Gary is probably best known for his membership in a kick ass band called Kicked in the Head where he was the lead singer.

Richard on no sleep...

no sleep…

Gary has a really hip style, and a very cool look, and when we started working together on the Work N Gear project, I knew immediately I wanted to photograph his portrait.  I knew that he was too well known for his music, so I wanted another angle.  We decided to shoot him out on his surf board at Nantasket Beach in Hull, MA.

Always the ham...

Always the ham…

Nantasket would not only provide a cool backdrop, it would allow us to push the envelope again an use the Profoto 600B in another extreme location.  Little did we know however, that the day would prove to be the demise of the brand new pack!

Our day had pretty much not stopped since 7am the day before.  That Friday, we began with a 7am call where we jetted into Weymouth Design for video interviews.  From there, we hit the road out to Western Ma for more photography.  Saturday night ended with a 1.5hr drive back to the studio where we could finally rack out at a little past 1am.

Richard explains why he looks sexier in his wetsuit

Rabbit explains why he looks sexier in his wetsuit

3 am comes far to soon on that little sleep, but Rabbit and I had to pack the truck at 4am so we could be at the beach for our 04:45 call time. (Thank Christ for Dunkin Donuts)

Thank Christ for Dunkin at 4am!

Thank Christ for Dunkin at 4am!

This morning, we were fortunate to have two really cool interns with us, Peter MacIntyre and Matt Gaskins, both of whom really helped out with moving all the gear down over the seawall and on to the beach, as well as shooting some blog photos, and helping with the lighting in the surf-line.

Peter kicking ass

Peter kicking ass

I was really after two main images.  One would be a standing portrait in shin high water, and the other would be a more challenging chest deep (for Rabbit and I) portrait of Gary sitting on his board in the surf.  Since we have done this sort of thing before, I knew that it was probably best to start with the safer shot (not so deep water,) so that we would be guaranteed to get some great images.  Once that was in the can, we could move out to deeper water, and temp fate.  If we got shot down with a disaster, than so be it.  At least the day would not be a waste.

Gary waxing his board

Gary waxing his board

We had checked the surf report the night before, and it was calling for 4 foot swells.  This would have been really bad for the image, but we decided to go for it anyway, and sure enough, the weather cooperated.

Today we were shooting with the Nikon D3, and chose the 14mm 2.8.  This would let us stay pretty close to Gary out in the surf, but allow for a nice wide background.  We also carried down the Filmtools cart to the beach.  This provided a very nice stable clean work surface to get stuff organized on the sand.

The first place to start with a mixed lighting problem like this is to figure out each component.  On one side you have the ambient light (which changes at sunrise and sunset,) and on the other you have the strobe, which doesn’t.

Matt Gaskans

Matt Gaskans

I always find it easier to start with the constant, so I tackle the strobe first.  As far as what we would use to light the subject, we brought several implements to try, but we pretty much stuck with the small Profoto 3′ Octa.  This would give a really nice light that would wrap around Gary’s face, but wouldn’t be too big as to flood the water below.

Heading out into the surf...

Heading out into the surf…

We knew the ambient light was going to be very low, so we started the ISO on the D3 a bit higher than normal (400) and set the Profoto pack at its lowest power and began to meter.  You can see the progression of the test in the photos below.  The first is just the softbox at head height pointed right at Gary.  The second has the box higher and a smaller aperture, the third is more over Gary’s head and lower (which is too dramatic,) but pretty much the correct exposure.  The final shot would eventually have the light a bit out in front of Gary, and closer to the camera.  Also for what it’s worth, we ended up shooting at f6.3.

First test

First test

Second test

Second test

Third test

Third test

Final lighting solution

Final lighting solution

Next we would have to figure out the ambient light.  This is pretty damn easy.  All I do is slow down the shutter speed until you start to get a nice color saturation in the sky.  We were shooting at roughly a 2sec exposure.  This I may point out is perfectly fine to do, as long as you are using a tripod, and your model can stay reasonably still.  Don’t worry if you get a little gush around the subjects body and head.  Sometimes it can be pretty cool.

Richard works with Peter

Rabbit works with Peter

Shooting in ankle to shin deep surf is easy.  The water was not all that cold, and we were prepared with wetsuits.  We shot about 30-40 frames, and moved on.  With some good images on the disk, we puckered up, and headed out into the breakwater.

I suppose we might have called Profoto and asked the techs if there was actually any real danger to holding a portable generator whilst standing up to ones neck in the ocean, but it seemed like a much better experiment to take on first hand.  Besides, Rabbit volunteered, so who were we to let him down?

With the pack on top of his head, and the softbox aloft on a large stand, the two of us waddled out deeper and deeper.  According to Gary, it would be much more comfortable outside of the break.  This seemed like a reasonable thought, so we continued on until we reached the dreaded, “nipple depth.”  It was at this point, the point at which water pours into ones waiters that I started to think  this might not be such a smart idea after all.  But hell, we were in it now!

Portrait while out in deeper water

Portrait while out in deeper water

Once situated, we moved fast.  We were pretty much in command of our exposure values, so we were free to focus on framing, and light placement.  The hardest part of all was keeping Gary still.  We were standing securely on the sand, but Gary kept floating in and out with each swell.  We were out there for about 8 or 9 minutes when the waves started picking up.  The first weren’t so bad, but they got progressively taller.  We would shoot one frame, and then have to jump as high as we could whilst holding the camera and pack over our heads.

Camera, post killer wave...

Camera, post killer wave…

This went on for about 5 or 6 waves until disaster struck.  (It was actually quite amusing in retrospect, but at the time, we were unsure what to expect.)  We knew it was over when we were hit by a 5 foot swell that engulfed the pack.  I guess it wasn’t a total disaster because I was able to lift the camera about 10 feet into the air by holding the bottom of the tripod, but we knew it was the end when we heard a loud BANG from the pack.  We pretty much made a run for it, all the while laughing our asses off.

Retreat

Retreat

Glad to be out of the water...

Glad to be out of the water…


Of course that wasn’t the end of the foolishness.  We had to go grab the Sony HVR-Z7U camera, and head back out and shoot some “B” roll.

Jump!

Jump!

By the time that was played out, the light had fully developed, and there was nothing left to shoot.

Profoto 600B is officially WASTED!

Profoto 600B is officially WASTED!

We climbed out of the surf like fat, freezing wounded seals, peeled off the wet suits and dried off.  The 600B was junk, along with a Pocket Wizard Transceiver.  The D3 had also taken a heavy dose of salt spray along with the Sony HVR-Z7U.  These two however I knew would clean up fine and weren’t on the worry list.

All and all it was a fantastic morning.  We are very happy with the images we made, and are grateful to Gary for giving us his time.

Another crazy day at work

Another crazy day at work

Thanks also to Matt and Peter for braving a cold 4am call time.  We couldn’t have pulled it together with out you!

Final Portrait

Final Portrait

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