Winging it with Mary-Joe and a Parabolic Umbrella

I had picked up a new parabolic umbrella from Paul C. Buff and wanted to try it out. I therefore put out a casting call for a model to have a creative, improv photo shoot. It’s been said, that one should always have an idea, or theme, or even a direction for a shoot. I won’t argue with that in the least. It’s certainly faster to go into a shoot with a plan of action, especially with an Art Director in the studio. And, yes, I do normally go into my shoots with a plan. That said, it’s also pretty good mental exercise to wing it once in a while. Just make sure that you do it on your own time. Why? Because when there is money on the line and the shoot all goes to pot, you’re able to pull something out of nowhere and still make it happen. Freestyle. Like jazz. In this case, all I knew was that I wanted to try out the newly acquired 1.6 meter (64″) Paul C. Buff PLM. That was my starting point. Furthermore, there’s no better way to try out a new tool (for me anyways) than to throw it in with the sharks and see what happens. Not exactly an empirical method of testing, but way more fun.

The lovely Mary-Joe volunteered for this little experiment. MJ, Amanda Wynne (our makeup artist) and myself stood around the table and looked at what we had to play with, then looked at each other, looked back at the table, then at each other again. Then we started throwing around some ideas. We did have one other item to include in this shoot though. My daughter had requested that for my next shoot I use her pink feather boa. Being a boa made for a 4 year old to play dress up with, it wasn’t exactly of a fully functional length. Amanda to the rescue on that one. So we basically had a parabolic umbrella and a mini pink feather boa to build a shoot off of… sounds like a typical day to me. Mary Joe fearlessly acquiesced to artful ministering of Amanda. After which, and having just watched a seminar by Matthew Jordan Smith, I was compelled to start off with some beauty photographs before we got to some fashion photography. Don’t forget, we’re working without a net for this shoot, so anything is fair game. We’ll get to the PLM later.

These were taken with the Elimchrom 70cm deep octa with only the translucent deflector, placed in front and just a little higher than eye level. I also had a bounce reflector down low to fill some of the shadows a bit.

After that, we set up the PLM and got down to seeing what it can do. Or rather, what the bliss of ignorance can try to make it do. Being an umbrella I had the option of using it with the umbrella hole on the light, but P.C. Buff created a handy dandy mount for both the Alien Bees/Einstein and Elinchrom lights (which are what we use in the studio). Thus keeping the PLM on axis with the light rather being slightly (or worse) at an angle. Here are some of the results play time with the PLM, just the PLM and a wall, no reflectors or other lights involved:

Overall, quite an excellent piece of light modifier. And if you play around a bit with feathering the light, where you position yourself relative to your model and if you meter correctly, yes, I said meter… with a light meter (big shout out to Mr. Frank Doorhof, ruling monarch of the light meter). You can do some funky stuff, like blow out your background and light your subject with only one light. Mind you, I’m sure you can do this with other modifiers, but I haven’t tried it with anything else yet. I’ll let you know.

Then, to close things out we had some fun using the PLM as a background. All that was done was I dragged the shutter and left the modeling light on on the PLM. Then I played with it in post… a bunch. You can see what it looked like without the fancy foot work in the intro image to this post.

Quick portrait of MJ to close out the shoot for the day

I may ,or may not (depending on time) do a more in depth review of the PLM. This post was more about letting go and just winging it once in a while. Personally, I think it’s a good thing to practice, because, you never know when the walls of a perfectly planned shoot will come crumbling down around your ears and you have to come up with something on the fly. Improvisational skills are just one more important tool for any artist to have in their bag of tricks. To pull out when you need to keep a shoot moving, and maintain the appearance  of control when, in reality, the world just hiccuped and kicked you in the unmentionables.

Cheers! ‘Till later.

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One Comment

  1. Wow I love how you described everything!:) I’m so excited for the Barbie Shoot it should be amazing!!!:)

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