Alf, The National Print Museum

17 01 2013

Late last year I was asked by the lovely folk at TotallyDublin to go to the National Print Museum and take some photographs of the people and machinery there. I didn’t know we had a National Print Museum at all and I just presumed it was in some place that it really wasn’t. Thankfully I’m *always* early for stuff like this, so when I got word it wasn’t anything to do with the Book of Kells in Trinity (honestly, even I don’t know how I got that impression), a quick taxi-ride took me over to it. Alf (the man above) was being interviewed when I arrived.

Left to my own devices, I plodded around the place, taking some shots of the machinery and setting up my portraits, by placing light stands here and there. The machinery was baffling, but thankfully after his interview Alf came down and talked us through every machine there. Every one. It could’ve been a real bore, but when you meet someone with a real passion for something like Alf, it’s easy to get sucked into his stories. I learned about Slugs and bleeding and how you could lose and arm or tone up your arse muscles in an old printing factory. Better still I learned how to spot a fake Declaration of Irish Independence (It’s the c’s, they didn’t have any in the font they started to use, so they’re all in a calligraphy-type script – Oh, and the large letter P in ‘republic’ is just an R with a lump taken off it.)

So there y’are. That’s the background to this, but I was asked by a few people how I got this shot, so I’ll do a little run through it.

Strobist Info: 

Right, so the image is composed with two light sources in a cross-lighting pattern (Have the lights facing each other and the model between them). First off I took an ambient light reading. It was exceptionally dark in this part of the gallery. I needed a narrow aperture to get detail in everything around Alf, so I settled on f/11 after a few shots (I normally start at f/8 and wiggle from there). 1/50 @ ISO 2000 (yup, thousand) was where I was otherwise. I needed to get some background detail in here and as I didn’t have a tripod with me, I had to limit the shutter speed to 1/50 as my lowest possible factor. Thankfully the D700 can handle this kind of ISO tom-foolery, so 2000 was acceptable at the time.

Right, so next I brought in my background light (the one flaring to the right of the frame). I placed it behind Alfie at an angle that’d light the back of his head and also the work space around him. It did a good job. Although it may be somewhat over-exposed on the white area in the back, it had to be somewhat to pick out the details in the keyboard below that. As you can imagine, given the settings mentioned earlier, the flash was at a relatively low setting (1/8 for the background if I remember correctly). I had it at it’s widest point, so as to illuminate as much as it could in the scene around him.

With that all looking fine-and-dandy I introduced my second light – a small softbox held above and to the left of Alf (facing the other light, essentially) by one of the helpful staff members there. As far as I can remember it was about 1/16, but I’m open to argument. The softbox has seen better days, but it still gives lovely light. If you click the image there you can see it large on Flickr. I just love the fall-off from it.

There y’are now. Not a perfect solution to this scene, but one that I came to first whilst working on my feet. If I was to change anything, I’d go back, open up that aperture, knock the background really out of focus, blur everything up to the keyboard by his side and adjust correspondingly with the flashlights.





FAT – Fringe Festival Photoshoot

1 06 2010

You know the deal by now, click the image to see it larger

Having been contacted by the lovely people behind FAT, my first photoshoot was arranged. The bag was packed, two strobes in tow and my new umbrella set-up was taken along too. I was very excirreh.

Turned out the photoshoot was in a bathroom, so the umbrella was abandoned as it was far too big to fit into the room itself when open, without obstructing someone within the shot. So I was shooting with two bare flashes, hidden within the scenes. I took a reading of the room, getting a nice scene and as per David Hobby’s Strobist advice, I underexposed two stops (I actually brought it down a little more later) and adjusted the flashes to below 1/10 power each (because they were direct and not being dispersed by the umbrella). There was a little bit of flying by the pants going on here – tweaking on up and one down as need depended. Small spaces are a nightmare to shoot in – too much bouncing light and the cluttered room drew odd shadows all over the place. 90% of the time the flashes were pointed directly up, hoping to eliminate these shadows and give a nice, even spread of light.

Thankfully the girls and boy knew exactly what they wanted, and almost how they wanted it, so I was left with the simple task of shooting beautiful people, who were not camera shy. I needed to give minimal instructions – “watch your positioning” and “faces towards me” was about as difficult as it got – these guys knew how to work a camera. Took a load off my mind, I was worried about directing strangers, being bossy to them in their own home. But I got lucky first time out.

The show is an interesting concept; it looks at the fascination with image in today’s world and the importance placed upon glamour – even in things that are not necessarily that beautiful. Don’t take my word for it – especially given my ability to get the wrong end of the stick and appalling grasp of the English language. Check it out yourself (link will be added when available!)

I toyed with the images in Photoshop afterwards, but nothing too strenuous – high pass filters, gaussian blurs, fiddling with curves and colour balances. Here are some quick examples:

Here I selected the pants of Stephen, both bras on show and the lips’ of the ladies. Each got a selection of their own and an adjustment with the colour balance tool. The pants  became quite garish and needed the saturation to be pulled down and a small bit of dodging and burning to get them looking somewhat realistic. The yellow bra was changed  from a pale purple, and Im quite happy that it comes across believable enough. Think the yellow is needed too – the primary colours really make this image ‘pop’!

The lips are a little bit overdone, but I think that’s part of the point! Again, this was just a colour balance tweak.

The whites of everyone’s eyes (everyone except Oonagh’s – whose you can’t see anyway) have been boosted. I took this idea from a book of wartime photography I was given. I  didn’t realise this was an after effect, but in retrospect, who the hell has eyes naturally that white?! I first utilized this in the Faithless edits, but i think I’ve come to use it to  better effect here.

This one is a little bit more constrained. The main edit here was brightening up the foreground. The flashes (yes, I know, you can see one on the bath there…) were all aimed high, resulting in lovely tones up top, but a very shaded lower part of the image. A quick selection and curves adjustment got it up to something a little better, without taking the focus away from the main character in this scene. Think this one came out nicely exposed, the outside window is still clean and not burned-out and the faces are all well lit!

Lovely floor too, innit?

And finally there was the headshots.

This came out best:

It was desaturated using the colour balance method, her face was selected inverted and then the rest of the scene was subject to a gaussian blur of 3.7 pixels. Her eyes were  selected and given a smart sharpen and the lipstick was made darker with a small bit of burning.

Unsurprisingly, it’s already been a hit over on flickr (modest, me? yeah, I know). Less than 60 after being  uploaded it had been favourited. As had quite a few of this shoot. Beautiful people in revealing clothes will do wonders for your flickr stats. I’m up to 300 views in less than an  hour after this batch was put up.

As always there’s more over on my Flickr

Oh, and there’s still more editing to be done – 700 shots from yesterday and I’ve only gotten around to addressing about half so far, so stay tuned!