In today’s blog, I will be discussing two of my favorite shoots from the past year from start to finish. They showcase my love for fun and unique subjects, working on-location, and using Photoshop to bring elements of a photoshoot together to create a strong final image.
SWAT TEAM SHOOT:
In the Spring of 2008, the Howard County (Maryland) Police Department hired me to shoot a variety of promotional and recruiting material. I photographed patrol vehicles, K9 units, bicycle officers, community relations, etc. Although, the SWAT team portion of the job was by far my favorite. Maybe I just watched too many action movies with my big brother growing up.
We started the day in an abandoned high school near Baltimore, Maryland. They were running training exercises pretending to rescue hostage victims from terrorists. I took a lot of natural light shots with my Canon 1Ds Mk2 body and my trusty Canon 16-35 2.8L lens. Due to the low light scenarios, I shot at 1000iso at f/2.8 and very slow shutter speeds (around 1/10 of a second). I had to use something I learned from living on tour buses and shooting thousands of photos of bands in low-light back rooms and concert venues, control your breathing and use any object (wall, pillar, an assistant’s back) as a makeshift tripod when you can’t bring one with you.
Next, we moved outside to do a set-up portrait of SWAT team members in action with their armored assault vehicle and their new Bell 407 pursuit helicopter. Boy were the neighbors concerned to see a police helicopter hovering 20 feet off the ground next to the old high school and 7 SWAT guys with large guns pointed at a guy with a camera.
The biggest issue we faced with this photo was the wind produced by a low-flying helicopter; thus, using my favorite Photoflex Extra Large LiteDomes were out of the question. In fact it was so windy, I had to have 4 police officers volunteer to hold my lights with only 7′ reflectors attached to make sure they didn’t blow away. Trust me when I tell you that I was eating bits of gravel for a week after that shoot.
As you will see in the video, I used 3 White Lightning X1600 strobes (660/165 true Ws, 1600/400 effective Ws) set to 3/4 power with 7′ silver reflectors attached as fill to the left and right of the SWAT team, and a White Lighting X3200 strobe (1320/330 true Ws, 3200/800 effective Ws) with a 7′ silver reflector set to 3/4 power to be used as the main light. I set it a little higher than my subjects and pointed it down to give them a dramatic overhead light. I wanted to shoot with enough light power that I could shoot at 1/160 at f/18 at 100iso, thus, turning a bright sunny day into a moody dusk shot.I used a police radio to have the helicopter position itself in the frame. The shoot itself took only 15 minutes. Any longer and I believe we would have died from rocks to the head from the low-flying Bell 407.As for on-site power, I used 2 Innovatronix Tronix Explorer battery packs (a great value for the dollar) and my SUV, which I converted into a 2000 watt sine wave power inverter, but that’s an entirely different blog for another day.
I couldn’t contain my anticipation to sit down the computer and begin editing. Here are the initial steps I made when I did my post-production: