Until recently I only knew Next Models scout Brenda Rains through legends told by fashion industry veterans. Many know her as the agent responsible for helping make Mode Models Edmonton a player in the modeling industry in Northern Alberta and for being the woman with the fabled eye for undeveloped raw material with incredible potential. We met through Nikolas one evening at Lit the wine bar on 104 St. in Edmonton and we decided to stay in contact about working with some models she was developing. She held a casting at my studio and I invited Dong Kim and Harvey Meidrich to join Nikolas and me. And what Brenda brought us blew us away.
We used the former Red Strap Market which was formerly an Army and Navy and is now used mostly as a storage space by Gene Dub Architects during specialized construction projects like for the Alberta Hotel. The space presents so many possibilities due to its current state of disrepair. A side storage room with decaying floors and ceiling houses some artifacts from when the building was still the art market and furniture from some historical building projects. Each floor presents a different architectural and lighting challenge. And there is "unofficial" multi-level rooftop access.
I met Alex at a Starbucks two years ago and I continued to see him make my half-sweet-toffee-nut-white-mochas and one-pump-cinnamon-dolce-one-pump-hazelnut-half-sweet-java-chip-Frappucino-extra-coffee-sub-mocha-white-mochas fairly regularly without realizing his potential in front of the lens. Brenda spotted him and insisted that I shoot him. At first Nikolas and I booked Alex and Jenna to shoot on the same day but with the intention to shoot them individually. But Brenda decided to bring them together and coach them to move and pose together and after seeing some of her quick snapshots and seeing them on set together we knew that we had to shoot them together.
We had reasonable but high high expectations about many factors related to the shoot. The location was familiar and constantly evolving and while there was a certain level of familiarity with the space this familiarity only served to underline my fears surrounding shooting large format and fairly slow colour film in dimly lit rooms and with smaller battery-powered LED light sources if we needed any artificial light. With all of my lenses no faster than F/5.6 and with the only film options faster than ISO 160 were black and white we often shot at between half a second to two second shutter speeds. And it didn't help that when you tell a model to hold still their involuntary body twitching increases exponentially! In spite of the number of times I had used this location we continued to discover variants to spaces we had previously used or rooms we had never thought of using. And nature decided to throw us a completely new variable; water covering the floors of some of the rooms dripping through a rooftop two floors above. More photos after the jump. And there may still be a few black and white drum scans on the way from the first look . . . I still haven't processed all of the film yet.
One of the key images that I wanted to shoot with both models. With only Portra 160 on hand for colour film and with my desire to respect existing light and only enhance it with modest amounts of controlled light from an ARRI Locaster and a custom colour temperature adjustable LED panel we were shooting half second to full second exposure times even at F/5.6 on the Schneider Symmar-S/Caltar-II S 135mm F/5.6. [JADE GREEN] Toyo VX125. Scanned on the Howtek Scanmaster 4500 drum scanner driven by Aztec Digital Photo Lab Professional. Film processed by ABC Photocolour Vancouver.
Like the previous frame, this frame also suffers from a bit of motion blur due to the low light levels and slow speed of film but the slight bit of motion blur didn't negatively impact the final image . . . at least not for me. Existing light.
Some Fuji FP-100c45 9x12cm instant proofs.
In recent shoots I've become much more aware of existing light modifiers and how the existing location geometry can adversely affect lighting from one or two simple existing light sources. With this awareness and combined with designer artificial light sources like colour temperature adjustable battery-powered LED fixtures light modification is simple. Furthermore, using all continuous light means that any video footage shot on commercial assignments can more easily be conformed to the still photographs. Using LEDs have also allowed me to enhance dimly-lit locations for human actors/models without having to completely reconstruct all existing architectural lighting.
I took some frames with the 24-70 F/2.8 Nikkor and the D3.
And a couple frames of Alex individually. Nikolas had me search for an Amish-style hat which a costume store Justin Poulsen, my architecture photography partner, directed me to identified as a Zorro hat.
The only light source in this room was a window behind me that starts about a foot off the ground and terminates below eye-level for Alex.
And with window camera right.
I switched to the 60/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and tried to get as much camera and subject/background separation as possible for a series of images with both models in a fire escape stairwell in the north west corner of the building. Jenna's yield from this set was over 90% and she very easily created new poses and expressions for every frame.
We had mixed reviews of the hat . . . Brenda and a couple other fashion people seemed to dislike it but Nikolas and I liked it.
D3, 60mm F/2.8 @ 2.8, ISO 1600, 1/200s.
Alex looked a lot like Jude Law in several of his photos in the stairwell.
And uh, mandatory shirtless boy photo.
The last frame before I chickened out and pulled us all in from the rain for fear of water getting into the Leica.
Looking cold and wet.
Jenna after the rain.
We accessed the rooftops for a few shots during a break in the rain. The building's rooftop has three levels with top level accessible only by a wall-mounted ladder at the top of another ladder and the other two levels more accessible from the third floor and from an adjacent rooftop.
All rooftop images shot on Kodak Ultramax ISO 400 consumer grade colour negative film in the Leica M7. This photo shot with the Zeiss ZM Biogon 35mm F/2.
And with the 90mm Leica E55 Summicron.
To be completely honest I struggled a bit with what to do with Alex on the rooftop. I liked Nikolas' fashion styling even though it involved mostly Alex's own wardrobe if I recall accurately but I had difficulty interfacing his look with this part of the shoot location.
A couple more shots around the same HVAC.
Shot with the 50mm Leica Summilux at F/1.4 (I think).
I directed Alex to look a bit pensive and conflicted. This look wasn't exactly what I was going for and I admit to experiencing some difficulty describing what I wanted out of him but I still found this image interesting.
Grass growing on the roof.
Shot with the 35/2 Biogon.
A 35mm film frame of Jenna earlier in the shoot around the same location as the first frame in this entry. 90mm Summicron on the Leica M7.
Jenna the first time I saw her in my studio. Dong, Harvey, and I were immediately excited about her look.
And the first time we saw Alex. Again, I wasn't sure about his look until I shot him (after much prodding from Brenda). And after his first shoot I will forever be humbled in my opinion of my own abilities to understand an undeveloped model. I can't believe I didn't want to work with Alex sooner.
Totally feel your pain on the "no moving" thing although i havent had to go slower than 1/2 second yet... its definitely been an experience to go from high speed digital to nearly painfully slow lf.
Now if only i had more film holders...
Dig the portra shots, nice work with the light.