Client Session: El Matador Beach

Here is another portrait session from the lead up to Christmas. I’m honored that families send out my images for their holiday cards! I also get a little thrill when I look at the display containing the Christmas cards I’ve received, and can say “I took that one, and that one, and that one…” I can’t ask for a better job.

This family wanted the beach, but not a flat and dull beach. They wanted rocks! Drama! Excitement! So I gave them a beach along the Malibu coast, and we had great weather. I had an assistant with me, as I usually do with this beach; it’s a trek down a rough trail, and I usually need to move quickly and set up quickly.

When I have an assistant, I put my main light on a paint-roller pole, which is capped by one of these gizmos. This is much more portable than a light stand, easier for an assistant to manage, and thus less likely to tip over in the wind (because it has to be held ALL the time). My fill light goes on a small light stand, and is usually either bare or with a small modifier on it, and thus less likely to catch the wind. In this case my main light was a Metz Mecablitz 60, with a 43″ umbrella. I don’t recall if it was a shoot-through or reflective umbrella, as I switched to reflectives around this time. Fill would have been a Nikon SB28 strobe, possibly with a Lumiquest SoftBox III on it.

The camera I used was a medium format 645 Bronica ETR-s, with a 75mm lens. This is a manual-focus camera, but that wasn’t a problem since my subjects were not moving, and I was using a tripod. The ETR-s is pretty decent for running around too: focusing is pretty easy and it’s not too heavy (for a medium format camera). I also used the New Kodak Portra 400 on this shoot. I believe this was my first shoot using this wunder-film.

And in case you’re wondering why I’ve switched from digital to film for my portrait work, here’s just one of the reasons:

Digital has a very limited dynamic range (which is the range of shadows to highlights it can record). While film isn’t infinite, it can handle a much greater latitude with bright highlights. Look below at the two examples. The one on the left is the film image, and the one on the right was shot digitally. Look at the water through the rock arch behind the kids. While both are bright to the point of burning out, you can see details in the waves on the film one. The digital image is completely blown out, with only a dark rock even making an appearance at all. And the sand is blown out in places on the digital image as well, but not the film one. Having that wide latitude is such a wonderful benefit.

But that’s not the only, or even the main reason I shoot film.

I shoot film because it looks freakin’ fabulous! 🙂

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