Tuesday, May 17, 2011

32/52 Kenneth Varner

Not often is your subject's foot a few inches away from your face, nor is that foot often above their head. Looks like I can add this week to the long list of unique experiences I've encountered through this project.

Kenneth Varner is a Capoeira Instructor at Gingarte Capoiera of Chicago. For those who don't know, Capoiera is a style of martial arts developed in Brazil. It was created by African slaves as a way to learn to defend themselves. Their masters disallowed them from fighting, so they disguised their methods as a dance. One doesn't fight a bout, one plays a game. It's an amazingly acrobatic art form that emphasizes strength, agility, flexibility, and balance. I first met Ken when we worked together at the Drawing Room as servers. Ken is extremely kind, considerate, and has a very strong sense of justice. All the better that he's currently looking to go to law school. I know if I found myself in hot water Ken would definitely be first on my list to bring in to save my behind.

The ideas we had for this shoot were two-fold. When people photograph capoeiristas, they often focus on the action and flexibility component. Understandable, as it's really impressive. We wanted to show both this side of things as well as the preparation and culture that serves as a basis for the acrobatics and impressive stuff. 

For the exciting stuff, I used two lights behind the subject to provide a lot of defining hard light, and a soft key high camera right. I thought this gave a very athletic look. My goal was to get the background to drop off to black, which we more or less acheived. Here are some of the sporty images:

Yep, that's wide angle, and yep, his foot is inches away from kicking me in the face. Good thing he wasn't moving a muscle when I took this. Ken patiently held this pose for several minutes while I took a bunch of frames and probably made him wait for me to move lights around.

Once again, suspended animation.

As for the other shots, we did some photos of ken tying the string of a berimbau, a traditional Brazilian instrument. I also shot him playing one and reading music.

For this one I cranked the ISO up to 1600, allowing the natural light from the windows to do the heavy lifting. I then keyed him from camera right to add a nice gradient to his face. 

For more kick-you-in-the-face pictures, check out the rest of the set on flickr.

Strobist Info:
SB-800 high camera right through silver-over-white umbrella with sto-fen diffuser
SB-600 back camera right through barn doors
SB-600 back camera left through barn doors

Camera Settings:
1/200 f/6.3 at ISO 320
Nikon 17-55 f/2.8@ 20mm

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