As anyone who’s been to WPPI can tell you, it’s pretty insane. Between the Classes, Expo Booths, Parties, Socials, After Parties, Dinners, and well…everything else that Las Vegas can throw at you, seeing everyone / everything you want too is next to impossible, let alone keeping your professional schedule in check! 2016 was no different, however this time, I was on a mission. I decided to start a new photo project digging back into an old one for inspiration…one of my favorites of all time, Film Noir.
As I began casting for this project, a lot of friends from the industry had expressed interest in being a part of it, and we all felt that WPPI was a great time and location to make it happen….no pressure right? Well, I started the planning phase pulling in my local friends to help me scout for locations and readying them to be assistants…as well as completely overloading my car with an insane amount of gear. I figured it was better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Well, what’s one of the first things that any working professional in the photography industry will tell you? It’s Murphy’s Law; Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So plan for it! I found the perfect location for the shoot, an old speakeasy mob bar that looked incredible and had everything I needed….except permission from the owner! (even the staff were excited for this project) So in a last ditch effort, I planned on using a Whiskey Bar in the MGM hotel, but there was a poker tournament going on, and we weren’t allowed to disrupt it…so…option 3 came to mind. Instead of pulling everyone in for one large crazy shoot, i’d find them one by one and shoot individual dramatic shots around the hotel and convention center! But, just like mentioned before, everything will go wrong! Once the trade show started, we all realized that scheduling was going to be insane even on a one on one basis…so a project reboot needed to happen.
Struggling, I met my friend, fellow photographer, and Profoto employee, Chris Fain, for a drink and started discussing the struggles and options ahead of me. After several drinks, and MANY MANY ideas, nothing was sticking against the wall. What we did agree on, was that I needed to borrow his new OCF Beauty Dish to work with on my B2 lights regardless of what direction I took.
So, Chris gave me his new travel Beauty Dish (Which is AMAZING by the way) and off I went! We got up early the next morning and started setting up the OCF Beauty Dish on a single B2 light, (which took less than 2 minutes), threw it on a Manfrotto Light Stand Extension, and with the help of my friends Bryan Dockett, Enrique Malfavon, and Darcy Evans acting as my Talking Light Stands, we hit the show floor to start our hunt for the roaming Pro-Photog still not knowing exactly what I was going to shoot.
I Knew the Noir theme wasn’t going to happen, I also knew that everyone I did manage to find was going to have VERY little time…so no matter what, The shots had to be quick! Using the Profoto TTL Air Controller for my Nikon D800 I decided to “meter” my subjects faces on the fly using the TTL mode then flipping the lights back to Manual to maintain the settings. Everyones skin tones were different, everyone was in different ambient light, and crowds. Let me tell you, metering with the TTL method was incredibly fast! It literally took me no more than 30-60 seconds to get all the shots i needed with everyone I found!
How do you do that? Well as detailed in the Profoto blog above, Using the Air Remote TTL-N set on TTL mode, I filled my frame with my subjects face. Yep. the ENTIRE frame, and fired a test shot. For all of my shots, my “Talking Light Stands held the light a few feet away from my subjects at about a 45 degree angle and we tried to keep this as consistent as possible throughout both days of shooting. I also had my D800 with 85mm f/1.4 G set to ISO 100, F8, and a shutter speed of 1/200 for EVERYONE! Once my camera and the controller adjusted my power on the fly, I flipped it back to Manual mode, and then framed my two poses. One looking into the light, and one looking directly into the camera.
Now, how did we come up with the idea for the double exposure? Well that credit goes to David Valentine! Long time Trade show friend, he was “lucky” enough to be the first person I encountered on the show floor and was relatively easily convinced to step in front of the camera. We had already spoken about the theme issues and ideas, so at the time, we were more or less just playing with the light setup and posing/settings in the show floor. All it took was David to nail a perfectly cheesy pose to remind me of those amazing 80’s style glamor portraits…and a dream was born! I was going to bring the 80’s back….but if the internet has taught me anything…is that if you put some lasers and a cat in it….well…it was bound to be legendary! So into action we leapt, scouring the show floor for familiar faces and even anyone who was just brave enough to step in front of the lens. Over the course of 2 days, we managed to shoot about 30 Portraits and as you can see from the screen-grab in the slide show below, with no effort, ALL of the exposures were consistent and nailed throughout! (My love affair with my Profoto Lights grow stronger every time I use them!)
With all these raws in hand, the next step was to blend them together and build a Photoshop Template file to start creating the masterpiece…but…I was due in Chicago a few days after this show to shoot C2E2 for Reed Expos. Basically, I had NO time, so I called used my “Phone a Friend” ….literally…and called Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch to have him build the template in Photoshop for me to start merging in my glamor models! I remember saying something along the lines of “One theme, two words – LASER CATS!” and well, that was all it took! He was on board with this dream project and was just as excited as I was haha. It only took him a few days (Since he was traveling also) but what he sent me was MAGIC!
From here I simply had to place all my photos into the document, scale them, and mask away. Lets face it, everyone was so beautiful no retouching was required! I was so excited about this I ended staying up until about 3 or 4 in the morning finishing everyone shots and sending them copies to proof and give me a finale approval to post! I went to bed and well…woke up to a barrage of love! So much so that people had already started to share! (sorry for the delay on writing this hahah) So here we are! I’m a day or so behind with the blog post but the end result is still the same! The Laser Cat Phenomena is out there and i’ve already gotten several Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls about others wanting to have their portraits done this way also! Next up is for me to do my own self portraits so I can join in the fun!
Before rambling any further I have to thank each and every person who was gracious enough to step in front of the camera for this CLEARLY insane and goofy project! While there’s to many to name here, just know that I love you all! And thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I can’t wait to see you all again and do something even crazier next year! (Prepare yourselves for PPE folks! haha)
Special Thanks to Enrique for capturing all of these awesome BTS photos for the project, and to Chris Fain & Profoto for lending me the gear to run around the show and capture these with! I owe you all!
The lesson learned here, is even with the best laid of plans, things will often go wrong on your shoot. So don’t be discouraged and give up, just keep shooting and roll with the punches, as you never know how your new, improvised vision will play out! Just like with my cheesy 80’s portraits, they could become something viral and loved by everyone!