In today’s Slanted Lens lesson we shot in Boston on the USS Constitution. It is the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy as it was built in the late 1700′s. We had a great talent who we hired in the area. The wardrobe looked amazing as Julene was able to find clothing from the film Master and Commander for our shoot. We flew it in from Los Angeles.
In this lesson we look at how to light a large space at night. Some may think it takes a tremendous amount of equipment but I found that two or three well placed strobe heads can create a very effective look. We also used smoke as the atmosphere for the shot which enhanced the look of our images. More on that thought to come in the lesson. It was a great shoot and a great privilege to shoot on the USS Constitution in the historic Boston area. I am very pleased with the results. Keep those cameras rolling and keep on click’n.
In today’s Slanted Lens lesson we’re in Boston shooting on the USS Constitution. This is the oldest commission ship in the US Navy, was built in the late 1700′s. It’s just a great privilege to be here shooting in this historic Boston area on such a national treasure such as the USS Constitution. Today’s lesson is a look at how to light a large space at nighttime. Now some may think it takes a tremendous amount of equipment to shoot a large space at night. This is a huge ship but we’re going to light it with 2 or 3 well placed strobe heads. I think we can do so very effectively. There’s also my secret weapon for shooting at night, we’re gonna talk a little more about that as we go along. We had great talent that we hired here in the Boston area. Julene brought the clothing in from Los Angeles, it was used on Master And Commander. Most of the wardrobes from movies get sold to some kind of a prop house or wardrobe house in Los Angeles and she found this clothing, great look for these guys. While we were on location Lens Pro To Go delivered to us a Kessler Stealth Slider. Now this is a great service, you get the equipment sent exactly to where you need it, there’s no cost for shipping and when your done, you put a little tag on it and ship it right back to them. You know I love this slider by Kessler as well, it’s compact, it shipped really easily, it’s a great piece of equipment. We got to the ship when it closed at about 4p.m. in the day. The equipment was loaded onto the ship and we started setup for our shot. You know the only pause we took was when the canon was fired at sunset. That was pretty cool, my 2 camera guys were up on top and they got the shot of the canons as they went off on the side of the boat. Great way to start out shoot. Before the sun got too far down I shot a few shots with just an OctoDome. You know it is very easy to shoot when the sky creates contrast on all the elements of the ship or the area your shooting in. I could see the rigging and everything because the sky is creating that contrast for me so here’s a shot with an OctoDome in the natural light creating the contrast with the globe and the rigging. But when it gets dark, I am going to have to create that contrast. Lens Pro To Go shipped this 5D Mark 3. It is my choice for a shoot like this because that censor is so clean and the blacks especially at nighttime, it makes for a great platform or shoot off. We’re going to have a lot of black in this ship as we shoot at night. Our exposure tonight is going to be F8 at a ¼ of a second. Yea we’re trying not to burn in the skyies we’re not too concerned about changing the shutter speed because the ambiance is not a factor. So we’ll stick with that faith with a fourth of a second and do the whole shoot. Let’s look at how we set up our lighting to shoot at night so that the light looks natural and not pushed this is our first image with only the ambient. You know you can see a florescent light on the cannon I don’t think in the 1700′s they had florescent lights on the cannons so that’s gonna have to be retouched out.My first light is a Photoflex small OctoDome with a grid this is going to be on the captain’s face up front. That will be our key light. Each of the next 2 lights we’re going to put up are going to be Dynalight strobe heads, they have the travel reflectors there’s no softeners. I want a really hard light to rim the people and the set in order to create definition. So with that thought the light we’re going to set up on camera left is a rim for the guys just behind the captain on the cannon. Here’s our image with the second light. Now this is the most important light when your shooting at night on set that’s going to be our rim light from behind, it will light up the entire set drawing lines on the elements on the boat, the rigging, the ship itself, the cannons. This really helps to kind of keep this from looking like a black hole and give us nice highlights on everything on the set. It gotta come from behind and as deep as we can place it. The ship really has come alive, now you can see all the detail in the rigging and the cannons, not a bad look but it’s not done yet, it’s a little too harsh. We really need smoke to create atmosphere in the air and to tie the whole image together. Because of the cannon we can use hard smoke, it can look like there’s actually smoke in the air. There’s a purpose for it in the shot. I use this when there’s fog or some reason that makes sense to have smoke. Then you can use it just as hard smoke on set [FIRE!] If you don’t have an element like that then your going to diffuse it a lot more so it just becomes atmosphere, but in doing so it gives you some kind of basis to tie the image together to soften the hard lines, makes the whole image work better together. All right, fine, this is the secret weapon I talked about. It is used by most DP’s and photographers to shoot at night. You know take a look at the end of Skyfall at all the night shooting they did, you know it all has smoke or atmosphere. We rented a smoke machine in Boston that is the oldest Rosco smoke machine I’ve ever seen but it worked wonderfully, gave us the smoke that we needed. Here’s our image of all the lights in place and the smoke. This is a montage of some of the unedited images. After I shot this little sequence of the cannon going off I did a few shots just as portraits of our four guys. I let the light be a lot less control looking on their faces I don’t mind if a little bit of shadow creeps in it. It feels very natural.
This was a great shoot the images however need more of a vintage look so I’m going to head to Nik Software to finish up. I’m going to go to bleach bypass. I’ll push the brightness up to somewhere in the 20′s. I want a little bit bright on his face then I’m going to go to the saturation. I’m going to pull a lot of the color out of the image. I’ll drop it down to almost a negative 40 now we’re gonna go to contrast and we’re gonna push that up into the 30 to 40 range. Now we’re going to go to our next layer which is a film effects called vintage and when we click that on its going to give us a white vignette on the outside edges. We’re gonna pull a saturation back to about to negative 10 or 11. We have the opportunity to warm this up if we want so we’re gonna push it up to about 67 percent and we’re gonna pull that vignette in. We want that vignette to be a little white on the edges it kind of gives it that vintage look we’ll set that about 45 percent. We used film type number 2 we’re not going to change that. As we hit OK that will save those changes and apply it to our final image. This has been a great shoot working here on USS Constitution. You know, really thanks to the US Navy for allowing us to come and to shoot here on this amazing ship. As kind of a wrap up though remember the most important light your going to set when your shooting at night is that back light. It’s going to rim and give definition to your large background. You can put a blue gel on it, give it a nice cool look. That cool look will also pick up in the smoke. That smoke becomes an element that draws a whole scene together and it really helps us to not feel so harsh from the lights that we set up. So keep those cameras rolling and keep on clicking. The drawing is still open to win our Glidecam2000 all you have to do is go to theslantedlens.com and enter several different ways there. Don’t miss out you’ve got until December 30th so get over there and sign up to win that Glidecam2000.
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With more than two decades of experience Jay P. Morgan brings to his commercial studio two special qualities: a keen appreciation of the bizarre and a knack for flawlessly executing elaborate shots. Through The Slanted Lens, Jay P. shares his knowledge about photography and videography.