Bright lights, big city
As you might have guessed from my recent posts, Laura Hollick and I were in NYC last week. We decided to take advantage of this situation to shoot some photos and video in that most iconic of Manhattan locations, Times Square. As a photographer, the challenge was going to be to be able to capture the energy and bright lights of Times Square, while at the same time featuring Laura in a way that made her stand out.
We brought in hair and makeup artist Tim Wilkins to help prepare Laura for the shoot. He did a great job creating a subtle, shimmering and almost elfish look to integrate her silver wig and silver leaf dress.
Once Tim was done with the hair and makeup, Laura and I hopped in cab and headed midtown and into the madness. Anyone who’s been there knows that it’s a total zoo at all hours of day and night. We quickly scouted the area and staked out some sidewalk for our shoot.
I wanted to show the very famous billboards and neon in the background, but allow a close crop that would put the focus on Laura. Shooting from a low angle allowed this to happen. I chose a low shutter speed (1/30) to slightly blur the action around her, and a wide angle lens (24mm) to create some slightly supernatural drama. The wide aperture of f/2.8 created the shallow-ish depth of field effect to separate her from the background as much as possible, but because the lens is wide, the background is still distinguishable. As you might know, the wider your lens, the harder it is to get really shallow depth of field. That was fine though, since I wanted to keep Times Square recognizable as our setting.
The general lighting of the scene was amply provided by the bright billboards all around, and I set them to be slightly over-exposed. I didn’t want the contents of the signs to be too distracting. Over-exposing them slightly allowed them to appear mostly white, with some minor details in them that weren’t terribly distinguishable. All of this meant that Laura was in silhouette, so I added a fill light to make her pop. I set up my trusty little Vivitar 283 flash up high on a light stand and put a diffusing lens in front of it to soften it a bit. With such bright backlighting and no modeling light to preview the foreground, it was like shooting in the dark. I could only see her dark form against the bright background in the viewfinder. I trusted my camera’s autofocus to keep Laura in focus, and just posed her based on her silhouetted shape.
We shot for about half an hour. I didn’t think that our little photo shoot would create even the tiniest stir amidst all of the madness of Times Square, but I was wrong. We amassed a pretty-good sized audience, who mostly stood behind me. Often, people wanted to pose with photos with Laura and ask us questions.
It was a little distracting, but also fun to think that we added something to the experience of a few New York City visitors. When we finished shooting, I was surprised by a loud round of applause that broke out behind us! It was quite a night. Here’s the final image we selected from the shoot.
Here’s another image I shot after I was sure we’d gotten what we’d intended to shoot. I experimented by putting on a super-wide lens (12mm) and moved the camera during the long exposure. I still used the flash to sort of freeze a portion of the action. I like the vibrant, semi-abstract feel of this one.
We also shot some video to promote Laura’s Soul Art® Certification program.
If you’re interested, read more about the Soul Art® Certification program.