Working with Ariel

The Shot of Ariel at the Worldwide Photowalk
A couple of weeks back we got together with about 32000 of our friends for the annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk. I was hosting my own in the afternoon – taking about 50 walkers through the city of Dunedin, FL. In the morning, however, I got a chance to be a walker and just hang out with Scott Kelby’s group over in Ybor city- an area in Tampa that I happen to think is really cool!

Its wild- Ybor city reminds me of a mash up of New Orleans and Little Havana in Miami. The city really gets a bad vibe because of a rash of crime that’s associated with the nighttime bar scene. In recent years the place seems to have cleaned up it’s act, and it really does have a cool vibe to it – mostly anchored by it’s massive Cuban presence (which I personally love… mmmm. Cuban sandwiches.. )

Hey? Is that an SB900 There? Can I Snag That?
We were walking down the street and my buddy Kathy threw me into a Cuban Tobacco bar to check out the Tabacqueros hand rolling some cigars. A bunch of photo walk people followed us into the place, and it turned out to be a shooters paradise.

Cameras were going off wildly at the guy rolling cigars by the window, but for me – that wasn’t the shot. He was in front a window at around 11am, so I knew the backlight on him would be intense. Behind me was a totally different story.

ariel1Ariel is the owner of Casa de Tabaco, and was sitting there watching all of the photographers in his place. Wearing a white shirt and hat and holding a cigar, he smiled as I approached him and immediately agreed to pose for some pictures.

Another problem,- The bar was darker than the window, and there was a skylight, which meant that there was cool light around him but there was no way tthat we were getting light under him.

Everyone’s firing like mad – but I just don’t think it’s going to work. I see next to me a guy who has an SB900 on camera. I ask if I can borrow it. Switching to all manual, I power the flash down and go camera right and slightly behind me about eye level with his face and I hit a couple of frames. As I was doing it, I knew that the picture would have some problems, but I knew that the shot would definitely be a LOT better than not shooting it with Flash at all. Scott Kelby sees the back of my LCD and starts yelling to everyone that I –nailed- it. Now, I’ve known Scott for several years now, and have worked under him for 2. It STILL never gets old when someone who you really admire starts saying that you’re onto something – even if you know deep down that this picture is going to fall apart when you bring it into Lightroom.

When One Door Shuts, A Window Opens.. Or Something..
Sure enough, when I get it home I take a look at it and all of my worries were right there staring at me. Because it was such a small and tight light, I knew that the shadow behind his arm was going to be a problem. I needed to soften that light up, either by putting it in an umbrella or softbox, or trying to pull it away for a bit. It all happened in seconds.

Again, back to another conversation with Scott Kelby who brought up another idea. Paraphrasing, his thought was that the shot that I had was probably a lot better than most of the shots the guy is used to. Why not ‘do up’ the shot, print it, and bring it to him? That way, you can give something back and let him know you want to spend some time doing the shot a little better? Great idea!

ariel2I fiddled with it a little bit in Photoshop, setup a print, and brought it to Ariel and he was over the moon with it (even though I wasn’t). I told him I would like some of his time in the near future to setup the shot a little better, and not only did he agree.. but we agreed over a Café Con Leche – something you should NEVER turn down if you are in Ybor city!

The following week I went back and spent some time working with Ariel, and got a couple of better shots. The entire experience highlighted a bunch of cool things:

  • When shooting with a bunch of people, don’t just fall into the ‘click it quickly’ mentality. Stop and think for a couple of seconds. Are you going to regret doing that shot by not putting in some thought into the shot?
  • ALWAYS consider Flash if you are indoors. I always keep in the back of my head “Yah.. this would be cool.. but if X part was lit a little more.” That’s a flash moment waiting to happen.
  • If you make it a point to take someone’s picture, try to give something back to them. A conversation, a print, make sure that they are not just props in your explorations. As Pixelated Image photographer David Duchemin says, “The people we photograph are not props & they are not theme-park mascots there for our purposes”
  • You never know when one opportunity will turn into two. Just ask.

I’ll share the setup for the new shot in another post!

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