Friday, September 17, 2010

03/52 Jay Diaz

This week I did what very well could prove to be my best smelling shoot of all 52. What could top it? Shooting R. Kelly in an actual chocolate factory? That's next week.

Jesse (Jay) Diaz is the brains behind Star Lounge an up-and-coming coffee shop located in Chicago's Ukrainian Village. Employing a completely different method of roasting than the norm (a fluid immersion roaster, pictured in the shoot), Star's coffee tastes very different than your standard beans. Think toasted, not burnt. The flavor is true to the bean, and by proxy the environment that produced it. Who's the mastermind behind all this? Flying Jay, of course. This man has an unparalleled passion for coffee that is extremely evident in his handiwork.

It is at this time that I must inform you, my dear reader, of my terrible plight. My roommate Jeff (pictured in 02/52) works at Star Lounge, bringing home their beans on a weekly basis. It is with a great sense of duty and with a heavy heart that I am forced, every single day, to brew this amazing coffee and drink it. I view it as a sacrifice not that I make for myself or those around me, but for the good of humanity as a whole.

Seriously though, I am kind of upset that drinking exclusively Star coffee for the past several months has pretty much ruined my chances of enjoying a cup from anywhere else.

Ok, enough of all this. This is a photo blog. Back on topic.

The idea of the shoot is simple. Photograph the man doing what he does, doing what he loves. I came in early and my friend Ahmed fired up the roaster and got to work while I was setting up (his photo shoot is forthcoming, I have different ideas for him). I knocked down the ambient until the only thing visible was the light on the roaster. This put me at a surpisingly aggressive exposure of 1/250 f/8 at ISO 200. Yes. I remembered to check the ISO this time.

Spooky crazy dark. The light still reads as being there, but doesn't affect the exposure at all. Must be pretty high wattage for me to have to drop to f/8 to get it this low. Now to build things back up. Here's where this week's screw up comes in. I tore down my lights before taking setup shots. Better than screwing up the picture itself. So, without further ado, I present to you: an MS paint reconstruction.

Now, in this photo you'll see several really inventive (read: dangerous) things going on. I love my new LumoPro LP621 "boom." Upon reading about it and subsequently purchasing it, David Hobby gave several really specific instructions on how to use it safely with strobes. I ignored each and every one of them.

He said to not use heavy light modifiers.

I used the heaviest one I have.

He also said to not use it with a compact folding light stand.

I used the most compact, tiniest (most fragile) stand I have.

The net results of these factors were that both the boom pole and the stand both flexed into really nice elegant arch shapes. On top of that, this rickety rig was suspending one of my SB-800s directly over a 460 degree coffee roster. No permanent damage was done... I think. Regardless of whether I'll live to pay for my irresponsibility or not, The boom allowed me to get my main light in position without a visible light stand. The subject is being lit from above and slightly to camera left. Here's Ahmed roasting while I set up my gear.

I also placed a flash outside the door to the right, providing a very soft edge. I controlled spill with a set of mini barn doors. I also used a rayflash as an on-axis fill. A risky decision, seeing as my subject wears glasses, but I was banking on being able to control speculars a bit by having him move around, and if push came to shove, there's always photoshop. With lighting from directly over head, some sort of fill seemed necessary.

Because of the light on the roaster, I ended up having to gel all three lights 3/4 CTO. I left the final snaps a little warm, as I thought it complimented toe colors of the room. The rest is pretty basic. If you've read this far, you deserve to not have to put up with my words anymore.

Strobist Info:
SB-800 through lasolite softbox above subject to camera left
SB-600 at back camera right
SB-800 in Rayflash ring adapter for on-axis fill

Camera Settings:
1/250 f/8.0 at ISO 200
Tamron 17-50 f/2.8

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