Selfies. Ugh! Even the name coined for them is irritating. Ok, maybe I’m just being grumpy. But, really, if I see one more picture of a girl in a bathroom doing the duck face I’m going to punch someone in the neck!
That being said, a popular way for a lot of current photographers to learn their craft, try new techniques, or just stay in touch with their camera is to do self portraits. Now typically these are not duck faces in the “john” but rather more elaborate images. There is even a “365 Challenge” in which the photog takes a “selfie” every day for a year. I considered that for about 3 seconds and knew with my combination of personality flaws it would never happen nor did I really care if it did. I have other things to do with my time. But I do see the value in doing these SP’s and have committed to doing at least one a month’ish…..I’m beginning to think I have an issue with commitment. Hmmmmm…..
Honestly, I’ve sort of avoided SP’s in the past because they’re kind of a pain in the ass. You have to use a timer or remote trigger. You’re constantly running back and forth from your position in front of the camera to behind it to see what happened. Then back to tweak the pose or light or whatever. But there are some photogs out there doing some really great work with only SP’s. Check out, for example, the work of Brook Shaden or Miss Aniela. Looking to them as inspiration I decided to give it a go.
Over the winter I grew another “weight loss beard” which will make more sense if you read this. Before I shaved for summer I wanted to get a SP done with the beard. So I came up with a concept for “Action Jeff”. I chose a location out on the high desert and waited for a day without rain but with nice clouds in the sky. I had it all figured out. I would light it with 2 strobes. One main strobe in front and to the side for dramatic light on me and a second strobe behind in the old abandoned homestead I was shooting at illuminating the smoke (did I mention I was using smoke bombs as special effects?!?!?) and rim lighting me from behind. It was going to be so cool!
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate failing? I do. I loathe it. But I knew that I had to push beyond that and risk failure to make myself better. In the end I think I got a good image. But it was achieved through one tiny (and some not so tiny) failure after another. The location I used was 40 miles out on the desert. I lugged all my gear out there by myself and set everything up. Then the winds picked up. Then it rained. Then it hailed. Did I mention the wind? I had my lights set up and the lightstands weighted down to keep them from blowing over. It took me probably a half our to get the equipment set up. All the while the wind buffeted my main light but the added weights I put on the stand kept it upright. Once I had the power dialed in on the lights I decided to take a test shot before I lit the first smoke bomb. But that main light, that main light needed to be 10 inches higher because THAT 10 INCHES would make ALL the difference. And it did. It made the difference between a light that would stand up straight in the wind to one that would come crashing down destroying my strobe the moment my back was turned. UGH!!! But like any good professional photographer I had a back up light. So I lowered the stand 10 inches (see I’m no dummy!) and put the new light in place. Now for the special effects!
The smoke bombs or emitters as they are officially called don’t really have a fuse. You have to just light one end of them. To light them I used my trusty Zippo lighter. The wind. Did I mention the wind? Using the minimal shelter of the homestead I was able, after several minutes and one HOT Zippo, to finally get one lit. And then the sun came out. Now to the uninitiated the sun coming out sounds like a good thing. To a photographer, well, not so much. So I waited. And the smoke went away. I played this game with the sun and several smoke bombs. Near the end I got solid cloud cover. Unfortunately, that cover was accompanied by increased wind. On my final attempt to light a bomb the Zippo got so hot in my hand I could barely hold it any longer and never did get the bomb to light. So you won’t see much smoke in the image above. But I did learn that I need a small torch to light future bombs with.
The shoot was a success but I can’t say it was a lot of fun. I did a lot of swearing, sweating, and swearing some more. But I think I got a decent image and in the end that’s what I’m always looking for.