Tools of the Trade: A Test Shoot

Hull Technician -

While I was out at sea for the past three weeks, I had several projects that I was working on for the ship.  One of which is a cruise book for their upcoming deployment.  Cruise books are typically filled with lots of photojournalistic-style shots and traditional portraits of each member of the crew.  For this book, I want to create some incredible photography that will help the book sell and also display the impressiveness of the entire crew for their friends and families.

I had an idea to create very cool environmental portraits for each division on the ship.  In order to do this, I would want to capture each division in their element – with the tools of their trades.  To test my idea I decided to do a test shoot on our recent trip to sea.  The shot above is a little rough, but it will project the idea of what I want to try and do for each division.


As you can see from the diagram above, I didn’t have a whole lot of room to work with.  I had about 10 feet from the bench I was up against to the curtain, which would be our backdrop.  I set up the 24″ x 24″ Lastolite Ezybox at camera right with an SB800 at 1/2 power.  This was my key light.  I then set up an SB80DX at 1/16th power with a 43″ Westcott shoot-through umbrella for some on-axis fill.  As steep as the angle was between my key light and my subjects, there was no doubt that I would need some fill to pull it off.  I set up a third flash (another SB80DX) at 1/16th power hanging from pipe hangar with a Justin Clamp.  I gelled it blue to give some separation from the curtain and add some color.

I ran into a few problems that I will need to work out for the final version.  There is a bad reflection from the Ezybox in the safety glasses of the gentleman at far camera right.  There are also reflections of both my key and fill in the firefighter’s helmet.  The reflection in the SCBA mask needs to be taken care of as well.  The good news is that they will be fairly simple to fix with some small adjustments to their position and the position of the lights.  Could I fix them in Photoshop?  Sure I could.  But I would rather get it right in the camera.

The guys in the photo are Hull Technicians – responsible for things like the ship’s plumbing, firefighting, hull repair, damage control, welding and manufacturing.  You can think of them as the “handymen” of the ship because of their diversity in work.  What made it even more fun is that they were more than willing to get all dressed up in their gear in order for me to do a test shoot.

As you can see, there are often many challenges that must be faced when shooting on location.  Space constraints, time constraints, and general photographic problems are bound to rear their ugly head at some point or another.  It’s our job to combat them with patience, technique, and vision in order to make a great picture.  This test shoot was another learning experience for me and I look forward to getting the final frame for the book.


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