30th Birthday Party

I recently shot a 30th birthday party for a client. It took place at the Camarillo Ranch, in its historic barn. As with all barns, it was a lot like shooting in a cave: large interior, high ceilings, and very dark! The ambient light was almost nonexistent, and the possibility of bouncing flash off the walls or ceiling was not an option. So I chose two approaches to lighting: one camera had an on-camera strobe, and the other camera had a radio trigger, firing two flashes placed at opposite sides of the room. The former was my fail-safe approach, for shooting people in out-of-the-way corners etc. The latter gave me off-camera lighting for a more dramatic effect.

The images directly above and below show the off-camera lighting effect. Above, the white light in the center is one strobe, partially blocked by some dancers (and the shutter is ‘dragged’, or left open longer than normal, to bring in the ambient DJ lighting). Below, one strobe is over my right shoulder. The other strobe is far away, but makes the background not turn to black. This is the birthday boy, below.

Almost all the images were shot on new Kodak Portra 400 35mm film, exposed at ISO 1600 and not pushed.

Below, someone in line for the photobooth.

The host greeting party-goers outside the barn.

Lots of line-dancing lessons that night!

I also shot a few images on my Fuji S5 Pro dSLR at the very end of the evening, like the one below.

Kids were welcome too! The image on the right was shot by my assistant, Lisa.

And what party would be complete without some Holga shots? The Holga is a cheap plastic camera that makes cool images, for those who aren’t familiar with it. I shot on Kodak T-max 400, rated at 800 and pushed one stop. On-camera strobe was a Nikon SB-20.

Some foam had fallen out of the camera that keeps the 120 film winding tightly, and so the roll had wrinkles in it that developed some light leaks. Holgas are known for all sorts of light leaks and ‘creative malfunctions’, and I think these look pretty cool!

4 thoughts on “30th Birthday Party

  1. Awesome photos!

    I have a question for you.

    How did you not underexpose since you used 4oo ISO film as 1600 with no push? I am scratching my head.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Elie! I *did* underexpose. That’s exactly what I did, intentionally. 🙂 So that I could maintain handheld shutter speeds and get some of the ambient light in, I intentionally underexposed two stops (rated my film at ISO 1600, when it’s nominally a 400 film). I didn’t have the lab push it however, because the film has an incredibly wide latitude. You can underexpose this film two (or even three) stops and still get very usable results. While I have underexposed three stops and then had the lab push it two stops, I have not yet compared -2 unpushed vs pushed. This is truly an impressive film.

    Oh, and you can shoot it at ISO 25 (overexpose 4 stops) and get nice results too!

  3. Wow Matt!
    This is incredible!
    I am surprised to hear about this immense latitude!
    Is this the new Kodak Portra 400 film?

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