What do you do when you have access to a fully equipped studio, a large range of modifiers and a variety of seamless backdrops? Why, break out the speedlites of course and find the corner of the room that is used for storage of random bits of furniture and assorted electrical gadgets. It goes somewhat against the grain here in Taiwan where there seems to be a growing trend for people to equip themselves with a large range of studio gear just because they can. In rare instances, such as the studio I used for this shoot which is a working commercial studio, the people with all this gear actually make their livings with it, but more often than not, it’s simply a hobby and they have high paying jobs that allow such luxuries. While there are some incredibly talented photographers here, there are a lot more who think that having all the gear is the recipe to success. They look at the work of someone like Joe McNally and think they need enough lighting gear to light a small city despite the fact that he mostly works with one or at most two lights. As the old saying goes, it’s not what you got but how you use it.
Making new year resolutions is not really my thing but this year I am endeavoring to shoot more personal work that doesn’t always fit in with the work I create for a living. Ideas will often come to me but in the past, unless they have a connection with my predominant genres, I’ve usually put them in the box marked later and never actually gotten around to following up on them. This year, I’m aiming to actually put a few of these into practice and this Taipei Noir shoot was the first. A lot of the inspiration for this style of shoot came from the work of Mark Krajnak and his noir series.
For this I arranged some talent to come in one Sunday afternoon, booked some studio time (mostly for the space not the need for a studio as such) and lined up a couple of assistants. One of the assistants cancelled 15 minutes before the shoot started so my wonderful wife Selina jumped in to help. We used two basic locations, one indoors and then another outdoor one in the city. Lighting was all small flashes and with the exception of the use of a single lightstand in one scene and a Justin clamp in another, the flashes were all handheld. A few gels, some Honl grids, a Lastolite Ezybox and some Phottix Odin ETTL radio triggers completed the gear. Small, portable and fast. In fact, from first shot to last we only needed 3 hours to cover 3 indoors scenes and 4 outdoor ones. And that includes set up, tear down and taxi ride from the studio to the outdoor location.
Strictly speaking this may not meet the definition of noir but the inspiration and idea came from there and I’m sticking with. The concept did evolve somewhat during the course of the shoot and I feel that the resulting photographs are stronger for it. My three models for this, Patrick, Mark and Hannah all did a fantastic job and there’s talk of working together again on another conceptual shoot in the near future. I already have a few ideas in mind for that one. All in all, this shoot was a lot of fun to conceive, arrange and undertake.
As well as providing studio space and acting as a voice activated lightstand, Dilip shot some behind the scenes images. I’ll be offering a peak at those in the future as well as a full rundown of all the shooting details, lighting diagrams and more images in the next issue of my newsletter. You can sign up to that on the top right of the page if you haven’t already done so. In the meantime, here’s a small slideshow with a few more photographs.
On an unrelated note, there are still a few places open in the 2012 China workshop that will be held in Guilin, China with myself and John Batdorff. Click on the image below for more details and to sign up. This promises to be a once in a lifetime trip so don’t delay.