Today on The Slanted Lens, we are going to try something new. Instead of our normal lighting breakdown, I am going to share my thoughts on a steampunk train shoot. I am going to go through every shot I made and explain what was going on through my head at the time.
We are back at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, this time doing publicity shots for their Steampunk Carnivale. They had a family dressed and ready for me to shoot by their train, so check out how I handled the location, lighting, and the dreaded bright white shirt.
After watching, please let me know how you like this format and if you find it helpful. We can make some of these for past videos as well.
Thanks for watching. As always, keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on click’n!
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Hi, this is Jay P Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens lesson, I’m gonna do something just a little different. I’ve always had the sense of what’s going on on set and I like to be able to communicate that, what’s going through my head, what I’m feeling, so I’m gonna try by just going through every single slide that we shoot. We’re gonna post every single slide, there’s 400 and… 419 slides here. I’m gonna just go through them one of at a time and as I’m going through them, I’m gonna talk to you about what was going on in my head at that time. I’m just gonna take that from the top and see what happens. First up, the Orange Empire Railway ask me to come and to be able to do some publicity shots for their Steampunk Days. Now they wanted it to be a family, so they had a family they brought there that we could photograph. I had not met then before we arrived. I showed up with myself and three assistants, but we weren’t there to do that shot. We we’re there to shoot the train in the evening for the HMIs and LED lesson than we did but I told them we’d shoot the publicity pieces for them, so I used two of the assistants to be able to help me on this. I could’ve easily done it with one. If I had to, I would’ve been able to do it by myself. So let’s just take a look on what happened.
First off, out of the cart, we built a Triton with a small battery. The reason is because it’s on a stand with the battery and a small OctoDome, makes it very easy for me to move with it, to move different places. It can move very quickly. That gave us a lot of flexibility, so we could get to different places on the property and move everyone around and work very well and very quick. I’ve got a couple radio slaves, one on the Triton and one on my camera, so I can just keep radio and connecting to that. So as we start, here’s Caleb. He’s looking like his having a very dark day. He’s looking a little sad, so we brighten him up, a little too bright and I’m playing with that tilt shift lens and said, you know what? I don’t want things to be out of focus here. We’ve been using the tilt shift lens earlier but I really wanna see everything. I wanna see the family in focus, I wanna see the train in focus, so I switched off to just a normal 24-70 lens. That gave me a better view. I’ll shoot some with the 7200 but most of this will be with the 24-70. You know, the biggest problem we got when we got there, set toward the front of the train was that, there it is. We’ve got, you know, the train, we’ve got this huge piece of equipment that’s moving people around and wasn’t gonna sit still for us, so we had to shoot it when it came into the station. So I just did a quick shot looking towards that white shirt and I just shot her. Every time I see a white shirt on set, I just hate it because I know that it’s gonna be impossible for me to like, make that look right. It’s just a difficult thing on set.
The other one I can’t stand is a black shirt. So white shirt, black shirt. They both kill me just about the same. Okay, so I got my four people set up here and what’s really frustrating about it is, it’s four people and of course I boxed them in. I set two in the back, two in the front, guys on the camera left and girls on camera right and it’s just, it’s two boxed and so as I went through this thing, I got the strobe going off so it’s opening up the shadows but of course her white shirt is blowing out on me, so I’m gonna try to move the camera around a little bit to the left to try to avoid some of that white shirt. It just became pretty tough with that white shirt, to be able to make that work. So I moved them around, I pushed them more into a triangle, I put Dad to the back ‘coz he’s very tall and I tried to work them in more of it like this. So somebody at front, two to the side and dad in the back, so it really made it work a little better but of course there’s that white shirt up front and the only thing I can do is try to tilt that octodome up a little bit so it doesn’t hit them but I never really got that to look very good and of course the train rolls in and out and at that point we’re done.
So I’m sitting there going all right, we’ll set them up on this little cart on the side. I kinda spread them out into a nicer horizontal. I got the little girl up on a suitcase and of course she’s freakin’ out, the strobe was way too bright. I got a couple shots that are okay but there’s no train. There’s nothing here that really works and I’m looking at it going, there’s a huge pole in the background. I mea,n everything just feels, didn’t feel very successful to me. I tried a little angle in order to be able to see them from underneath, which sometimes will help if I can look in the blue sky or something. But again I’m looking right into the sun. You see it right in the background there and just it still was not working for me. So, I played with this for a couple of minutes, tried to get Dad up front, Mom in the back, a little bit a depth and it just never really quite came together. When we get to frame 82-92 it’s starting to work, dad is up front, we see the… if the train was in the background it’d be sweet. I got him to hold up his little arm piece so you kinda see the, the steampunk stuff but in the end, I just wasn’t lovin it. It was okay but it wasn’t my favorite. We threw them back down. I put them into a two, one, one up front, where I’ve got mom and dad at the back, taller son in the middle, little girl at front. Little girl was the shortest one there and it’s killing me ‘coz she’s in a white shirt so I’m having to fight getting to see her and I just… what I should’ve done is said stop and said and look, we gotta get her into another shirt ‘coz this just killin’ me but I didn’t. I just kept going on. I don’t know if she had another shirt but that was a mistake in my part. Again, I opened up my exposure a little bit here. I tried to see if I can, you know, make something happen there but now I’m fighting her shirt and the train but here comes the train in.
I get several shots here, like two or three. Of course, the little girl’s kinda looking off, scared about the train coming by. So that became a little bit problematic but… so we got a little bit going on. She eventually put her ear, fingers up to her ears ‘coz the train was too loud and she didn’t really like that too much. Well, after I shot this little sequence, let’s go find a parked train car while wait for the engine to come back. So we went down the tracks, I found little culvert where some people could sit down, stand up. We got a pretty harsh sunlight coming in from the right hand side, so I got to deal with that somehow. Either I’ve got to get an exposure on the foreground with the Triton, which is gonna allow me to stop down or to slow my shutter so that sun is not gonna be so powerful but it really becomes difficult. So in the end, I decided to just go ahead and throw a flag up and knock the sun down on them. Torin is holding up a great big 39 by 39 light panel. That’s gonna knock down a lot of the light on them and make a little nicer image. I love this thought of the kid kinda hanging out, leaning forward, dad kinda leaning back. It just was a nice setup with the four of them. A frame 83-43, we’re getting a nice, we knocked most of the sunlight off their faces and we got the son leaning out. We’re just trying to get something that’s happening. There’s Torin standing there holding up his ocotodome and back to our family.
I’ve love this sense of depth when you got somebody foreground/background, kinda pushing forward and leaning back. We’ve taken all the sunlight off of them now, so we’re just dealing with the highlight coming from the strobe. We moved the strobe around now, so it’s more in the direction that the sunlight is at. It’s not directly at them but it’s more from the sides, so it gives us a little wrapping on there faces. I like it when we get into this perspective here, where we see down the trains. We see the four of them, we’re looking down the train. We’re getting a lot a deep perspective with that. Well, we got a nice image there. We got the little boy in the back or the front, little girl in the back. Of course, I’m gonna wanna switch these two and I bring the little girl up front and of course we’re back to this white shirt that’s killing me once again. So putting on her, if I’d had a flag in my hand, which I didn’t have at the moment, I would’ve tried to knock that down but it didn’t really work. So, I pushed mom up front. I’ve kinda played around with the different people coming up and back and just kinda keep working that thought. You’ll see in the frame there, we see the little boy kinda get… you see his face kinda come up in the sun so we’re trying to keep that sun off from everyone. So it’s a small reflector. We’re trying to keep everybody covered by it. Again we’re trying as… fill up some time while we’re waiting for the steam engine to come back. I love mom’s purse so I put her up front with little round purse to give us a little… ah, kind of little sense to the Steampunk. I thought that was a lot of fun but I didn’t get the great sense of the people behind him… her so, I pushed, I brought dad up front, kids in the background and just kinda work that grouping there. I like seeing the train, down the side of the train. I wanna keep that perspective as much as I can and still work our group together, so I’m trying to build the group up into the train and see this line that kinda pushes down the side of the train. So for me, the point is just keep moving everyone around and keep working on, chumming it up with a grouping that works for me. With four people, it’s tougher so I’m trying to move people forward, people back. I’m just changing them constantly. You got not just the size of people issues but the numbers. We got big dad you know, to tiny little girl. So we just have a different arrangement here we gotta keep playing with in order to make it work.
Again our light though is mostly that ocotdome from the Tritan. It’s just opening up the shadows there, getting a little light on their face. Most of the time, I had it off to the camera right side but then I moved around over the camera, kinda give me a nice light on their faces. I like some of these. I should have pushed dad to smile a little more. I love this one. We get this little girl right up in the camera ‘coz she’s got such a sweet face and we see the train going in the background and I think we could’ve played with that one just even little more, but she was really cute. When I got her up and away from my light enough, her white shirt wasn’t killing me quite so bad even though it’s still pretty dark, or pretty bright. All right, as soon as the steam engine got back we grabbed everybody, we ran up to where the steam engine was and, for a minute there, I’ve got just the steam engine. So first off, I threw the little boy in there and I’ve got this really heavy sunlight on the side of his face. I threw a little girl in there but I’m feeling a little dark in there, the shadows on them, so you see I opened it up with the strobe there, that octodome right above the camera just to open up their faces a little bit. We just played with the two of them together. You see it without and with the light, just enough to open up the shadows so it just doesn’t feel quite so deep and dark. Our strobe start to go on and off here for some reason, on and off and we found out later that it’s because the radio slave batteries were dying and so it wasn’t firing every time.
We moved our whole group in next to the steam engine, we get that nice line of the steam engine going down and our group of people next to it. I thought I’d play around with the thought of getting dad on his knees, so I dropped him down to the ground, and just have our group behind him and the depth of the train, as much depth as possible and we shot there for few minutes with that strobe opening up the shadows and gave us a nice setup here. Thought this was a nicer set up ‘coz we got dad so tall, we got him on his knee and it kinda gave us a lead in line, kinda moved us up to mom and to the kids. It was a nice setup. We got the train just kinda streaming away from us along the side. When I move little girl up front, she’s way too hot, too close to the light. I kinda just ah, blew her out and so we had to make an adjustment if that was gonna work. I never quite got that under control the way I liked it, so I just moved her out. She’s in such… I moved her right up next to the light and the light… she was already in a white shirt and we had problems. so it just wasn’t the place to have her. So, I pushed her back in, brought the little boy up and we shot a few more here. My sense about it was, okay we see the side of the train. We’ve… but I’m just, I wanna just see train and so we moved right to the very front of the train. I put them out on the tracks, light right behind me. I’m still at eye level looking at them, so I can be up, so I can see the engine behind them. I like the angle a lot. I pushed in on some, where I can just see the four of them and the train in the background. And also I was really… see how our lights going on and off sometimes? We got that sun now round enough. I mean, if I can’t use the sun in the shot, which is pretty hard to do, I’m gonna want to get it as far behind them as possible, so it’s a rim light. So it comes over the back. That’s just the safest place for me and I can then put my light in and that’s kinda what I did here. We got them up and the sun’s behind them, I put my Triton up front and just open up there faces.
I got myself so that I started to play with horizontal and vertical here. Then I started to get lower. I dropped myself down almost to the ground, I laid on the rail road tracks for a while to shoot and the problem with that is you got this tall dad and he’s pushing up and covering a lot of the train but you got great railroad tracks coming in force perspective across the camera, so that was fun. And so it was a nice setup. Of course, there goes the glide camera that sneaks into the shot. It was Lars, slipping by with his glide cam, shooting some behind the scenes. Again we’ve got that reflector on the camera right side now, where that the little girl’s in place. I’m gonna… she just… that white shirt is killin’ me. The sun’s, we’re trying to knock the light off from her and keep that reflection down so it’s not to o bright. And again, our strobes are going on and off. We didn’t finally figure that out ’til midway through but eventually got that under control and got new batteries on there. Little girl was not happy about sitting up on the train, so I mean, I didn’t realize it at first, that she was really upset about it but I just kind of stuck with it and I started realize… it finally dawned on me, she’s not happy up there. It was a great place for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t wanna be there. It didn’t work out that well. I kinda turned it somewhere. I moved around so I see the front of the train but I can see down the side of the train. That just gave me an interesting perspective, as far as front and side. A lot of depth in that image and that was a nice look at our family. You see the reflector sneaking into the side there? We’re trying to keep that heavy sun off from mom or of the white shirt up in the top. Our strobes kept going on and off until we finally figured that out. I love to get on the ground, I love to lay on the ground to shoot because I just get that nice really heroic look as you look up at people. Here’s a nice perspective and there’s a shot right there where I’m on the ground, looking up on the train.
I would retouch out those power lines, easily done, throw me a real blue sky in there, maybe not and it gives us a nice look. This is where I finally felt like it was working. Up to this point, we got some that worked here and there and they’re nice enough but I didn’t feel like it really started to work until we got here. Again, we got this kind of diamond shot where we got mom, little girl and dad, to son on top. So it’s kind of diamond, kinda grows. It’s a little too stacked. I wish that the sun wasn’t directly above mom’s head. I’d like to move him over so I kind of brought the camera around a little bit, to make it so they weren’t exactly on top of each other and actually these worked out nice. I didn’t realize they were that nice. All right, well, we decided to kind of finish up on the side, brought them out again and started of by sticking them in that square setup again. Boys on the left, girls on the right and shot there for a couple of seconds. Didn’t take long to figure out that wasn’t working, so I pulled little boy off to the side so I have nice little grouping. The little boy kind of leads out. Train lines move into him, get this nice movement of the family and then goes on to the deep, kind of a engine in the background. I now moved to a 200 millimeter lens ‘coz I just decide it’s time to get some stuff with the train out of focus a little bit in the background and looking at our family. So I shot a lot of this stuff on 200 millimeters. I’d shoot for a while with just the front engine of the train and then I’m gonna try to get them to come way down the tracks. I like these. I would sweeten these up by removing some of the phone poles but I just, I like the look of that 200 millimeters. I think actually my favorite of those, when I got slightly off to the side, so I see a little more… little bit of the side of the engine, the family. It was just a nice setup. We went through to last setup, we got the full engine horizontals. You know, a lot of times for PR stuff, they’re going to want a nice strong horizontal for the website or something. Going back to the, the family up front, I brought that Triton over to the side to kinda give me a little light from the left. It was a little bright here as we started off so we toned it down and that just gave us a nice light on their faces.
I started playing with a little bit of a thought of I put the two kids in a foreground and then I’ve got dad and mom walking by in the background. So there’s just thissense of them strolling with the kids up front and the train in the background. That was a nice setup. I did a few of those and then we punched in for our family group. We’re just about finishing up our shot here. At this point, I’ve been doing 45 minutes to almost an hour with the family and the kids are about done and of course there goes the steam engine. It pulls away again. So there’s just a little bit of a look at the process. You know, a lot, it’s hard for me to look at these and to talk about settings. I mean, I’m trying to shoot at somewhere between a 60th of a second to 200th of a second, to just kind of crush the sunlight down just a little bit and then bringing that Triton just to open up the shadows. So it’s a run and gun method. I just know I’m gonna lose a lot of images. It’s just the process but as I keep shooting and keep adjusting, I’m gonna slowly work into a sweet spot and I make myself, I just beat myself up about, it’s not looking right, I’m gonna keep working until it feels better, it feels better. It’s amazing. You can say okay, it’s really looking great now. If you walk away shooting two or three frames from that, you’re in trouble because little girl’s not gonna be right, little boy’s not gonna be right, dad’s not gonna be right and just need to work it. When you get into a sweet spot, just keep working with your talent and get as many frames as you can. It will give you a nice look from everyone.
So there’s just a little look at doing this shoot out, as from frame from frame. I hope that’s interesting to you. Again, that Triton battery operated, very mobile. We set it up to able to move quickly, so we can shoot a lot of different shots. Our goal is to get you know, six to eight great images you can send out for public relations purposes. I’m not looking to walk away with this with 200 images by any means but there’s a good array of images there that are strong, will do the things that they need them to do, so I felt like it was very successful. So you know, this is the first time I’ve done this, where I just sit down and look at the images and stream of consciousness. If you like this format, if you think it’s worthwhile, just let me know. Give a shout out and let me know if this really is valuable to you because if it is, I’ll do these on some of our older lessons and post them on our website. So again, get out there and shoot and keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
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