Thursday, 15 October 2009

Take shot, take flight

A number of weeks ago, I teamed up with all-round nice bloke John Preston (of Preston Creative Design Consultancy), to illustrate some publicity material for another of his clients.

The brief was simple enough - photograph a single male subject against a bright blue sky, pointing a branded paper aeroplane towards that sky. The reality of the shoot, naturally, turned out to be less than perfect just as soon as the weather got involved.

Arriving in plenty of time, John and I had a scout around the area for the best location, taking into account the sun's direction, the patches of blue sky and the fierce wind that was blowing around the coastal area. It's one thing having a nice breeze blowing through, but on this occasion it threatened to jeopardise the shoot, given that the paper plane was relatively flimsy and our subject's hair could look a mess if he was blown around too much! The morning's weather had generally been pretty good up until that point and the ground was dry underfoot, so at least that didn't pose any real problems.

Whilst Mr. P went off to meet with our subject, I investigated further, picking out a shortlist of two possible 'sets' to work with. In each case, the sun would be behind the subject - acting as a back-light over his right shoulder (and in so doing, balancing the flash nicely). But my main concern was getting the subject sheltered from the wind.

Here's a quick diagram of the set-up (click to enlarge):

Our saving grace came in the form of some trees and bushes, roughly shaped like a letter L, which wrapped around us nicely.

Next thing, moments before the guys returned, it was time to set up my kit. As ever, keeping it very simple, I went with a single lens (50mm) and single light (SB-800, triggered by Pocket wizard, on a stand). Remember, the sun would be my 2nd light - after all, it's free, so why not make use of it?!

That's when things started to slip. And within a time frame of approximately 1 minute, the shoot was over.

In all I shot just 7 frames, including lighting and posing/angle tests, before the heavens opened and we were forced to run as fast as we possibly could back to the cars.

From memory, the sequence went something like: Sun becomes obscured by cloud... wind picks up... single patch of blue sky is replaced by grey rain clouds... torrential rain. What a farce.

Of course, there had always been a Plan B - to head for a local hotel which both John and I have worked with in the past. There, we would be able to set up a more typical 'studio' arrangement in one of the larger rooms, if needs be.

Amid the ensuing deluge, we peered at the back of my rain-soaked camera...

Job done. No need for additional pictures, no need for a re-shoot. The only call was for dry clothes and a hot cup of tea.

Once the pictures were turned over to John's team, they were tweaked a little - just enough to bring a bit more colour into that damn awful sky. The picture at the top of this post is a quick scan of the final document, showing the image as it appeared, so apologies if it doesn't exactly 'pop' off the screen.

In hindsight, and keeping in mind the less than perfect conditions we faced, I was happy with the way these photographs came through. Looking for the positives, the paper plane stands out well from the sky and the 'mood' of that sky ties in well with the accompanying text.

Sometimes, as they say, it's not the destination but the journey - and this shoot was a case in point. The greatest irony of all still remains that as I was driving back to the office, the clouds parted, revealing a great blue sky and perfect sunshine. Bugger.

Still, at the end of the day, the client was delighted with the end product - and that's what really counts.

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