I’m back from Africa (a marathon 50 hour door-to-door return trip with delays, rerouting, and all the things that make travel a joy these days). More on that later.
In the meantime, I got the word that my Buenos Aires piece is laid out and published in National Geographic Traveler, and I’m allowed to share some outtakes with you.
One of my favorite shots that didn’t make the cut is this one of tango dancers in the San Telmo neighborhood.
It’s one light, an SB 800 or 900 (I forget which one) on a long boom pole, held above the dancers by my friend, Bernardo Galmarini, the best travel photographer in Buenos Aires, who helped me on the assignment.
We used a Rode boom pole, less convenient than everybody’s favorite paint pole, but it collapses down to under three feet, as opposed to just over four feet, which makes it infinitely easier to fit into standard sized luggage. Bernardo is up on the staircase on the left (you can just see it in the corner of the picture).
We zoomed the flash out to its longest setting, gelled it double orange, used Tungsten WB, snooted it (alas, I forgot my Honl snoots, so we created the snoot with newspaper and gaffers tape). Bernardo kept re-aiming the light until we got the shadows more or less where we wanted them. I had minus two on the camera, and plus one on the strobe. ISO 800, 16-85mm.
That’s the tech part, and it’s fairly straightforward. For the the real-world part that makes the strobist degree of difficulty pale in comparison, hit the jump.
We found the dancers in a nearby square…they are a super couple and we negotiated a rate to hire them for an hour of modeling between 6-7pm. It was key to do this shot during twilight, because any earlier, or later, and it wouldn’t work (at least not with one light) because we had to underexpose the ambient by about two stops, but needed some ambient to fill the surroundings. And I emphasized the need for punctuality about 15 times during our conversation (hey, I realized I was in the languid south, and knew what I was up against, punctuality-wise).
Then we found this nice courtyard, but the shopkeepers wanted a “location fee” and would only keep the courtyard open till 7pm. After a long, long negotiation, Bernardo was able to convince them that I wasn’t Cecille B DeMille and we had a limited budget, so we go the location for a semi-reasonable fee.
So we set up and did some test shots with Bernardo’s girlfriend and waited for the models to show up.
And waited, and waited, and it was 6:30pm and the light was perfect, and my time on location was already half over.
At 6:35pm, desperate, I went out into the streets of San Telmo to look for my models…I found them, casually sauntering down the street (what can you say, dancers don’t appreciate the need for punctuality in photography–even after being reminded 15 times– and photographers don’t really understand the need to stretch our hamstrings—even though my chiropractor tells me weekly how important it is!).
I hustled them into the courtyard, and got them into position at about 6: 45pm.
And what should have been the calm hour-long master session in the manner of McNally or Hobby, became the typical Krist Keystone Kops 15 minute race against the clock. The light pole sections started slipping, the dancers were getting bored with the same pose, I was dripping sweat all over my D90’s LCD, the shopkeepers were tapping their feet with keys jingling in hand to lock up the courtyard.
I got a series of them at ground level and then went above and did some overhead views from the second story balcony. At 7pm it was over, the dancers were gone and we were out on the street. But we managed to get a couple of good ones along the way, thanks to two great tango dancers, and two tap dancing photographers!