My friend, Josue Jasmin, was an instructor for a dance studio in downtown Stamford, CT in 2011 and he asked me to take group and individual portraits for a few of the dance studio's teams/classes.It was a fun session, but what struck me most from it was an "a-ha" kind of reminder.
I think about digital photography in a lot of ways, and one way I've always envisioned it, is that there are two worlds of creating digital photography: natural light photography and advanced strobist photography.
Natural light photography is self explanatory. But as for advanced strobist photography...
If you are not familiar with the term, "strobist:" when you see a professional photographer at an event and they have one of those big detachable flashes, that's referred to as a "strobe,” and “strobist” is well…a made-up word by professional and enthusiast photographers. (See: Strobist blog) So when I say "advanced strobist photography," think of the kind of work that goes into a magazine cover shoot; there are multiple flashes and they are set up off camera.
In my opinion, being able to create great work with advanced strobist techniques says something about patience, proficiency and a deep commitment to the art of Photography. I am aiming in that direction creatively and professionally. I always marvel over what photographers can do when taking strobes and placing them off camera. In particular, I'm fond of Joe McNally's work.
Up until this session, I had mainly been doing natural light photography or I was photographing weddings and events with my flash or "strobe" on the camera. I did not have (take) the time to practice any advanced strobist techniques. This session was a wake up call and a reminder to not give up on that kind of photography.
When Josue asked me to photograph this session, I knew it would be indoors. At the time, I did not own a lot of off-camera lighting so I decided to purchased a small studio lighting kit. I combined it with my current flash and did the best I could.
The actual "a-ha" moment or, "don't forget about strobist work" moment happened while I was setting up for some individual portraits. I had a small studio light off to the right side of the camera with a white translucent umbrella. Josue walked into my view and while he was directing one of the dance students on where to stand, I took a test shot:
As soon as I saw that in the LCD, it all came rushing back.
"That's why I love strobist photography!"
What was attractive to me about the image was the contrast and transition from light to dark. I love how Josue's face is lit, and his ear is lit, but then the back of his head is dark. You can tell that the light is falling away. You can see it in his jeans as well. I love the mood that can be set by directional light and I love how light falls off of a subject. With advanced strobist photography you can control those things and create them at will. There are endless possibilities.
After the test image of Josue, I was excited for the portraits of Josue's student that followed:
Trivia: this set was photographed in Stamford's City Hall which had been under construction for quite some time. It’s a lovely building with many historical murals painted within.
There were a few more of Josue's dance students that I photographed with this set up, but as the title of the post suggests, I want to keep it short. Just one look (one student):