Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we are traveling through small little towns way off from the beaten path going through Utah into Arizona and then Nevada. And our goal is just to find interesting people to photograph. We’re going to stop and ask at a restaurant or a business. We’re going to look at, kind of seek people out that we think would be interesting to photograph. But we don’t know them. We don’t have any clue who we’re going to photograph. We’re just going to come into town and just start looking for individuals to photograph. The goal is to set up a backdrop, like a gray backdrop, behind them. It’s a portable backdrop made by Westcott. We’ll set that backdrop up. We’ll do a great portrait of them with a wide lens to give us some perspective. And then we’re going to get in a little tighter lens to isolate them on that backdrop. So I’ll be setting strobes with that backdrop so I’ve got controlled lighting. But it’s just an interesting way to isolate them from the background. A fun way to use that portable backdrop to see how it goes. So we’re going to stop at our first city and see what we got.
So our first stop was Fairview, Utah. We found this little dinosaur museum and went inside. Paul was there. He said, “Yeah, I’ll let you photograph me.” We came outside and set up our backdrop. The lighting was a bit of a challenge. It’s high sun light. I couldn’t get my lights in as close as I wanted. But I got them in pretty close. We got a nice shot there. But I think I learned a lot of things. I learned that I need to get this into the shade. If I can work in the shade then I can get light on my person on the backdrop. Then I can balance that with the background. I definitely want the high speed sync. That’s helped a lot. Going to high speed sync is going to help me to crush that background and to keep it under control with the face in the foreground. It’s always a balancing act because I’m trying to use some of that sun as a rim light on the person and I’m trying to light the face with a strobe. But this first one worked out pretty good. I think we can improve it a lot.
We’re going to go to the next place. So when we photographed David at the Mount Pleasant Museum I just went in and asked him if we could photograph him out front. I thought the buildings were interesting and cool. But I did learn one thing. Julene kept going, “Put the backdrop in the shade.” So I moved the backdrop and him into the shade. That gave me complete control over the backdrop and his lighting so I can set up my lights. I actually started three-point lighting up here. I’ve got a strobe as a key light. I’ve got a rim light and I got a reflector to be able to bring in to open up the shadows just a little bit. So I learned a little bit in this scenario trying to get that backdrop into the shade. Also, this is the first time I shot not just him on the backdrop and him tight on the backdrop. So we have contextual with the backdrop and then tight on him. I also shot some shots of him with just the buildings in the background. I actually love those a lot.
So on our drive we bumped into a couple of sisters who run this restaurant behind us. Incredible bratwurst and mustard and dill gravy on potatoes. It was awesome. So to light this I was going to put the sun behind them which I really like, but that shows through my backdrop. So I moved the backdrop to the side where the sun’s a little bit side lit on their faces. But I moved the backdrop so that you didn’t get any sunlight on the front of it or on the back of it. The sun’s coming straight in at it from the side. And that way I don’t get any light through it in the back or light on the front of it. So it’s a little darker then. I brought my light soft box in as close as I could get it because I’m shooting in a broad shot super wide. And that super wide gives me, you know, it just gives me everything here. So I can’t get my lighting instruments in very close and I just lit up their faces with a soft box. Then I use high-speed sync to bring the ambient up or down. So I get a nice amount of light on the background and nice light amount of light on their faces and it looks fabulous.
All right, so this is a fun one. We’re going to move on to the next one. So we drove into Spring City and I really wanted to see a beekeeper. And so I looked up beekeepers, Julene did. She said there’s a Honey Company here. So we drove over to their house and met Stan in the backyard. And he said, yeah, you can photograph me. This worked out really well. I mean, we struggled with the same thing we’ve been struggling with in other locations. And that is that backdrop lets light through it. Which is just, you know, that’s the way backdrops are. But we moved into the shade. We’re able to isolate it so you have him in the shade or turn it slightly so that the light is looking at the edge of it. We’re not getting a backlight on the backdrop. We bring our FJ400. I’ve dialed it all the way up as powerful as I can get it to be able to give me a nice highlight on his face. Then I’m going to move my shutter speed up and down to where I get a nice background. Get it as bright or as dark as I want it to be. That combination just gives me great images. We’ve shot great images from the wide to the tight. So let’s take a look at some of those right now. I’m shooting at f/8 at 1/100th of a second which has given me enough depth of field to kind of see his bee yard and to see the bees. If he puts the frame in front of me I can see his frame and also his face in focus. And that just worked out really well. And I’m on that 35-150mm lens which has been really nice. Because at 35mm I get some contextual shots and at 150mm I get some tight shots on that background.
So we stopped. I was driving down the road. As I’m driving down the road I see this little Mom’s Cafe and the neon was on. It was beautiful. It’s late in the day and I thought, “Oh, we have to shoot there.” So we flipped around and came back and parked. I ran out the door and knocked and they were closed and Carly comes out and says, “We’re closed.” And I said, Can I photograph you out in front of the sign here? I’m from Los Angeles. I have a YouTube channel. I’d love to do a photograph of you. And she was kind enough to, after she closed up, come out and let us photograph her. We got the neon in the background and put up our backdrop. I had to use long exposures here. So I did 1/25th of a second and 1/50th of a second to just be able to burn in the sky and things. Because we were very late into that blue light. You get that blue light for 20 or 30 minutes. And we’re right at the tail end of it. I was like at f/5.6 to give myself a little bit of depth of field so I can see into the sign in the background. Then we had the point where the light finally fell and now the sign became too bright. So I may have to composite some of this together in the end. But I got some great shots of her on the backdrop. And then her without the backdrop just with the scene behind her. So it was a lot of fun. I’m so happy. It ends the day perfectly. I am thrilled.
So our little photographic journey is coming to an end here. We’ve been photographing for a couple of days going up this valley, just stopping and asking people if we can take their picture. We shot them on this tight contextual, you know, tight shot on the backdrop. Then we went into a really broad contextual shot the shows their surroundings. So it gives us portraits and then a contextual shot of them in their surroundings.
So we’re using that portable backdrop by Westcott. That actually has become very easy to set up. It’s very quick. It’s just a few things that goes up. So we’ve been able to do these portraits in about 45 minutes. Sometimes you get talking to the people and that takes longer. They just want to chat. But I’m feeling like we could roll in and do one of these and roll out in 45 minutes. An hour at the very most to set up, do strobes and then leave.
So using strobes has been a great experience for me because I’m in different lighting situations every time. We didn’t worry about looking just to shoot at evening in magic light. But we just worked our way up the valley and we took the light that it gave us wherever we were at. And then we had to make it work.
You can’t put a light behind a backdrop. That’s just not the way they’re made. Things show through. You see the patterns through them. So we had to learn how to get that backdrop in the shade or turn the backdrop so that the sun was not hitting it from behind or from the front. Because I wanted dark in the background. So it just became a real balancing act. And being able to coordinate all those things, balancing sun with strobes, setting up the strobes and getting the strobes in close enough to be able to give me a nice highlight on the face.
So I’m going to do more of these in the future because I love this kind of tight shot on the background. But I really love this contextual shot where you’re out in the field or out in some weird place and you just see the backdrop isolating the person. But you see the studio taken outside. So there you go. Follow us here on The Slanted Lens. Leave us a comment. Keep those cameras rollin’ keep on clickin’.
As a touring music photographer lately my regular clients have been Halsey, Kasey Musgraves, Marina, Madeon, Porter Robinson. It’s very important to be able to read the room and know when you should be clicking the shutter and when you should just be putting it away and enjoying the moment. And sometimes if you’re not sure, sometimes just go, “Are you comfortable with me photographing right now?” and they’ll say it and then we’ll go. You know, always get their consent. It all, it just depends on the person you’re photographing. Sometimes they’ll say, “You know what, it doesn’t matter. I could be crying on the floor, I could be doing this, I could be completely no makeup, it’s fine. Shoot everything.” Some artists are more of a, “Let’s wait until I’ve got my makeup on.” It just depends. You always gotta gauge it. Hi, I’m Yasi. I’m a touring music photographer and my SKB case goes all over the world with me.