Wednesday, September 8, 2010

02/52 Jeff Geesa

Okay, so let's get this out of the way right now.

I am so dumb.

I am really dumb.

...for real.

Now that I've preempted anyone else in saying that, let's continue.

I've been planning this shoot for quite a while now. It's part of a pet project which I feel will now cross over very nicely with my 52. The concept is to shoot friends and acquaintances replicating portraits of people who inspire them. Jeff is a dear friend and currently my roommate. Like Dirt McGirt said about Mariah Carey, we go back like babies and pacifiers.

Jeff is an artist, musician, and photographer. His work is very conceptually driven, finding a base in the uncertainty of knowledge, puns, and absurdity. Duchamp would be very proud. He's based out of Chicago Illinois by way of Indianapolis Indiana.

The inspiration for the shoot? A portrait of Marcel Duchamp, an artistic genius gutsy enough to confront the entire art world with what amounts to a giant, extremely well-thought-out "fuck you."

The original portrait, taken by Arnold Rosenberg (please correct me if I'm wrong) is an awesome shot but lit in a pretty basic way. My goal was to replicate the photo, while subtly improving the quality of light. First thing that drew my attention were the specular highlights on the chess pieces. I much prefer larger, longer, sexier highligths, more toward the front of the pieces. For whatever reason, my boredom this evening inspired me to create a softbox out of a cardboard box I had sitting around. This combined with my lasolite hotshoe softbox would allow me to light the pieces from front camera right, and Jeff from the side, as Duchamp is in the original portrait. Bonus points to the cardboard box, whose flaps function perfectly to controll spill. A slightly harder source as an edge from back camera left rounds out the setup. Here's a pic of just the homemade softbox illuminating some of the awesome chess pieces we borrowed for the shoot.


All strobes, no ambient. Exciting ambient shot.


Now for the hardest part. The composition. I tried my best to get everything exactly as it was in the original. From the minimal perspective distortion in the original, I guess that the original was shot with a 50mm or slightly longer. The APS-C sensor equivalent of a 50 being a 35mm lens, I went with that after some toying around. In retrospect, I'm slightly suspicious that the original was shot with a bit longer of a lens, and the piece of glass was suspended up farther from the floor. Because I shot this in my apartment and was working with whatever we had available, I did what I had to do to make it work. This was taken sometime during the setup process.

Now comes the part where I tell you I spent upwards of 45 minutes arranging the pieces on the table. Then next comes the part where I tell you we knocked them over before all the lights were set up. Now you feel sad for me, but not too sad, because I mean really. I was asking for it.

Oh, and me being really dumb? When I was testing lens focal lenght, I was shooting test pics for this on ISO 2000. And I forgot to change it. Don't ask me how I failed to realize that it was weird that getting a decent exposure at 1/250 somewhere around 1/8th power on my main. I can blame part of it on the JRX system not having labeled stops. Let's call that 15% of the problem. The remaining 85% we can chalk up to user error, which will surely rear it's ugly head many times during this project. Lucky for me I was replicating a black and white photo, though the color version could be worse.

Strobist Info:
SB-800 through lasolite softbox directly to the right of the subject
SB-600 through homemade softbox at camera right
SB-600 at back camera left

Camera Settings:
1/250 f/9.0 at ISO two freaking thousand
Tamron 17-55 f/2.8