Friday, 21 March 2014

Elena (Stranger #38/100), London Southbank

Via Flickr:
Those of us who treat the 100 Strangers Project as a learning project, as much as a photography project might be interested in Arsene Wenger's comments ahead of his one thousandth game in charge of Arsenal.

"You learn more from the lost games than the games won. Certainly because you go into deeper analysis, you question yourself more, you question the players more and you learn basically the most from the higher the level goes up. You learn the most when the pressure is there, when the talent is against you and when the pace of the game is at the top, top level. This is where you learn."

I include the whole quote, as it's definitely when we push ourselves as photographers that we can learn the most. Last night was just such a situation, written up below.

The incredibly patint strangers that put up with my attempts to fix the various challenges noted below were Elena (above) and Nikki (image in the comments). They were great to work with, and put up with wind and rain as I delayed their evening stroll along the Southbank. I'm afraid I'm not sure I've done them justice in the final pictures - sorry, girls! Our chat was so interesting though, and the encounter was such a powerful learning experience, I wanted to post them anyway.

Elena is from Italy, Nikki from Germany. They're working together at the British Museum on placement during their art history studies. It sounded like the most incredible experience, working with the museum's collection of illustrations.

Without any intention, artists and art historians feature heavily in my project so far. Michelle is another student of art history, and Niamh was on an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, whilst Tristan Ra and Stoyan are both painters. Stoyan even joined Colin and I on last night's shoot to experiment with a strangers project of his own.

They've all been super to shoot with, and whilst Elena had some super smiling frames, this one with the colder, neutral stare was the most powerful of the set.

Thank you both for being so generous with your time in inclement weather. I hope you like the pictures and can forgive me the mistakes along the way. Working with you both was extremely useful and has helped me improve as a photographer - so I appreciate your stopping especially.

This is portrait #38 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

In terms of challenges, I'd like to note them here as much for my own reference as anything else. Shooting in rapidly diminishing light, I suddenly found myself breaking a number of rules. My on camera flash suddenly switched from fill to key light, as the daylight suddenly fled. I pushed my ISO to 3,200 - which I only use for B&W typically. I dragged my shutter to 1/30, when I aim for 1/200 on a 100mm lens. The last two were necessary trade offs, but the first was something I should have realised and fixed by taking the flash off camera where it could be a more atmospheric key. The reflector/on camera fill set up works well as a kind of beauty light, but when the ambient light goes down and the on camera becomes the de facto key, it's maybe a little flat.

We did take the softbox off camera, and Colin kindly held it as a voice activated light stand. That soft box is a little small, however, and those shots were just too harsh and hard. What was needed was some prep before approaching anyone setting up the big softbox, as we did later.