Jay P Morgan: Urban Skateboarder Portrait, Part 2

This is the second in a two-part lesson that explores shooting action in a dark alleyway. Click here to see the first part.

Adding Light to the Skateboarder's Face
The next step was to brighten up the face of the skateboarder slightly. I added a StarFlash 300w with a 20˚ grid attached to focus light onto his face. Positioned at eye level, this strobe would project a beam of light and brighten just his face, nothing else. I didn't want the trashcan or his clothing to be any brighter than how much the umbrella light was already providing, but I did want his face brighter.

Here is the three-light result below.

Adding Second Rim Light and Creating More Fill
To add more dynamic lighting on the subject, I next placed a StarFlash 650w with Small LiteDome soft box at approximately 160° camera left, 6-feet high, and pointing straight across at the skateboarder. I also added a scrim flag and a black flag to block light from the camera lens and lower its intensity on the ground. A 39"x72" LitePanel with white fabric was also placed at about 90° camera right to bounce in light from the small soft box.

Four-light & Reflector Result
At this point, we were very close. The alley needed light, but our skater looked very good. The shutter speed was relatively slow in order to expose for the background lights and caused the skater's face to be somewhat blurry. This meant I had to take some additional shots with a faster shutter speed to prevent blur in the face. Lots of shots gave me several options in the end.

Adding Light to Background
The last light I wanted to add was a cool blue light onto the buildings in the background. I placed this light - a Speedotron 4800 - approximately 40 feet away from the camera, 20 feet high, and feathered its aim across the buildings. I also placed a blue gel onto this light.

This light added detail to the alley. In the result, you can now see the buildings as they disappear into a single point perspective. When we added the blue sky back into the shot the alley had shape and depth. We realized we needed a flag to cut the light off the camera and eliminate the flare.

Controlling Background Light
Our flag was placed approximately 5 feet high, halfway between the camera and the light to block the light and prevent flare from occurring in the lens.

This majority of this light was hidden behind the flying garbage, and the rest of it was taken out in post-production.

Trying Special Effects: Smoke Machine
For an added bit of excitement, I tried some photos with smoke in the background, but ultimately decided I liked it better without because the smoke ended up cutting the depth of the alley, which was an important element to the shot.

Our assistant did, however, enjoy chasing the rats with the smoke machine. The rats didn't know what to do when the fog rolled in. The smoke he was using was a Rosco smoker with Rosco fog fluid. It's not a mist, but rather a strong smoke that fills the air rather than staying low. There are different types of smoke that perhaps we will explore in a different lesson....

Below is the final image, which I was very pleased with.

Everything came together nicely. As we shot, I kept switching T-shirts on the talent, which consisted of two skaters. One had a white T-shirt and the other had a yellow T-shirt. I shot mostly with the white T-shirt, but liked the yellow in the end best. When I shoot action or kids, I want more than one talent per position. After all, what if the skater had hurt his leg on the first jump or couldn't do the jump the way he said he could? It's important to have backup. You know, "Suspenders and a Belt".

The shot worked in the end. Julene (at www.morganphotoretouch.com) does the retouching for the studio. She did a wonderful job placing the sky back in. I love the production shot below that one of the assistant's took. It shows my whole world in one image. Strange location, lighting, talent in action, lights and crew.

This is what I live for. If only you could see the rats, it would all be there. I hope you've picked up a few tips on lighting from the lesson. Go give them a try and see what you come up with. Good luck!

Camera Gear
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Manfrotto 441 Carbon One tripod

Lighting Gear
LiteDome®: small soft box
LitePanel fabric: 39x72 inch Translucent
LitePanel frame: 39x72 inch Aluminum
StarFlash® 300watt strobe
StarFlash® 650watt strobe
StarFlash®: 6 inch reflector
StarFlash®: 7 inch reflector
StarFlash®: connector
StarFlash®: grid
Umbrella 45 ADH: Adjustable, Silver Lined
Speedotron 4800 Power Pack
Pocket Wizard Wireless Slave Units

To see more of Jay P. Morgan's work, visit www.jaypmorgan.com

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