Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker for living history museums. You know, those places where folks dress up in period costumes and re-enact life in the days of yore. Think about it, how else can a travel photographer illustrate the “history” of a destination—there’s no shooting in the past tense (not like you writers, with your fancy tenses and facile flashbacks!) So, yes, my name is Bob, and I’m a living history-shooting junkie.
But the lawman in this shot, a cool guy named Michael, is not in a museum….
He’s an actor and he’s hanging out in the Eaves Movie Ranch outside of Santa Fe. And I wasn’t on a magazine assignment, but one of those instructional DVD shoots for Nikon that I’ve been lucky enough to host lately. This one was for the old N80 (remember film?). I had an interesting subject, a great setting, lousy light, and a few minutes before they needed me on set. Now, one of the truisms of working on those DVD shoots is that the videographer’s needs come first…and that means that I don’t have a lot of time to make my own shots. (I know what you’re thinking: “in a photography how-to video, shouldn’t the still guy’s needs come first?”, but you, dear reader, are probably still functioning in the rational world!). So if I have an idea for an “off script” shot (that is, a still shot they don’t need for the video but I’d like to have, well, because it’s there) on these gigs, I have to move fast.
One of my friend Joe McNally‘s favorite techniques is to stick a strobe or two outside windows and shoot them into the interiors. Movie and TV guys redirect shafts of light into windows and doorways too, only sometimes, they just use the sun. By utilizing everything from mirrors, to flat reflectors called “shiny boards”, or in this case, the Gold surface of a 42″ Impact 5-in-1 fold-up reflector, you can grab a shaft of strong sunlight and send it fairly far into an interior.
So in between video shots, I recruited my buddy Stephen Hussar, one of the world’s best documentary videographers, as a grip and asked him (nicely!) to redirect a shaft cold blue midday sun from the middle of the street (made gold by the reflector) in through the doorway of the lawman’s office, and voila! Michael is lit with a moody, sunset shaft of light. It’s a cool technique if you have a traveling companion along, and even better if he or she has some “chops” working with reflectors (over the years, my wife Peggy has become a reflector holding ace).
Here’s another friend, Bermudian photographer Marshall DeCouto, directing a shaft of light into the window of a historic property I was shooting on the island for a guidebook gig:
Inside, I’m shooting a static, fairly boring still life (but it was on my shot list, and by god, you don’t ever want to miss a shot that’s on a shot list if you do these guidebook gigs.) In the end, I actually preferred the “before” picture to the shot with the golden shaft of light coming in to illuminate the still life, but at least now the editor has a choice of picture on the left (without the reflector) or the picture on the right (with the reflector sending in a shaft of golden light).