Light and Choosing a Location

I’ve said it many times, I have an intuitive feeling about lighting up a bar. I mean, what’s not to like? Mood, atmosphere, patches of darkness and highlights and reflections. A canvas to paint with light. Come in, take a deep breath of stale beer, and sit in the corner. Angles are often confluence of factors. The best place for the subject? Can I show you the ins and outs of the place at the same time? Can I fire this up effectively in the time I have? Define it, camera spike.

You try to choose the place for the subject wisely. Luckily today in the field I photographed Dominic Minix, a great guitarist, singer and performer in the New Orleans music scene, who is always full of energy and talent. Dominic has a lot in stock of both. While discussing the shoot on the phone, there was a calmness to her voice and demeanor that instantly let me know we would get along great on set. He makes beautiful music, and physically, he is one of the magnetic subjects I have ever photographed.

Back to the bar and lights. I cheated, actually. I didn’t look into the alcove of the bar, where endless darkness reigned. I looked outside, at the window, looking for an angle of incidence/angle of reflection, which could reward the lens with a sliding beam that runs the length of the bar. Which can occur naturally, or you can make your own. Looking out the window and capturing at least a little of what they have to offer is a way to work faster and blend your light with what’s there.

Besides windows, I’m also looking for sidewalk space. Somewhere to put three Profoto B10X Plus units outside, away from foot traffic, warm them up and blow them up. That’s what illuminates most of St. Roch Tavern in NOLA. I took this photo around 10am and it doesn’t look like that at all. (My metadata tells me it’s afternoon, but I just flew in from Romania and didn’t change the time clock on the camera.)

This is what the place looked like when I walked in.

After turning it on, it looks like this.

Warm light slides through the window and creeps along the railing. I moved the upturned bar stools into the path of the light so their chrome legs could catch the spotlight. I doubled down on those highlights by placing three Profoto A10 units in their foot stands and placing them in the juke box just outside the frame to the right of the camera. They are given a gel, a grid and directed to the leg of the chair.

For Dominic, it’s just a soft box of 1×3 RFi strips with a cloth grid to the left of the camera. Attaching an umbrella destroys all the look and feel created by a background strobe. (I lucked out because the backlight creates a highlight on the shadow side of her face.

Had my first serious frame with Dominic at 10:35. The last frame is at 10:56. All of the images were taken with a Nikon Z 9, and a Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2S, which are wide-open wonders.

Light spoke, and changed. Always handy for a bar.

More thx….

Posting Lights and Choosing a Location first appeared on Joe McNally Photography.

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