Thrilled that Nikon USA is starting to roll out a series of stills and videos roughly titled “Performers.” I came up with the notion to address the multi-faceted capabilities of the Z camera mirrorless system. Z7 is hi res, handles action, but is the camera I would think of for a set piece. A posed portrait. A defined moment that is, to a degree, under the control of the photographer. The Z6 is more of a photojournalist’s camera, lower res, but fast, with an excellent extended hi ISO range. Great for low light, behind the scenes, quiet documentation. Both cameras embrace any manner of light in a beautiful way.
And, performers’ lives correspond to the above. On stage, working out, in the ring, dancing, playing music–that is all part of their public image. The stylized moment the world wants to see, pays to see. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot of work going on. The not so glamorous, grinding work of honing your craft well enough that people will buy tickets, or come to your classes, or listen to your music. You don’t see those moments, from the audience, or the crowd view, but they are the grist, the underpinnings of the life of a performer, be that performer an athlete, a dancer, or a musician. The glorious moment when all is perfect and they are at their finest, posing for the glitzy tour poster? The Z7! The quieter, off-the-radar hard work and private life? Z6! Both fit in the camera bag, side by side, quite easily.
The mandate of this job brought us to a location in upstate NY. Every once in a while you run into a place that is like a lighting smorgasbord. You browse about, selecting at will. Hmmm, I’ll have a little hard light over here, some bounce-off-the-floor glow over there, and maybe I have to add a bit of sauce in the way of artificial light over in this area. This warehouse location, found by Lynn DelMastro, producer supreme, in our studio, was such a place. You walk in and the light and the talent is there, like lovely, isolated parts. It’s up to you at camera to put them together. As Jay Maisel has famously, and repeatedly said, light, gesture and color.
Both pictures above are from the same area of the warehouse, albeit at slightly different times and therefore rotations of the sunlight. Our subject, Josh Cummings, is in different positions, relative to the light, and expressing different gestures. These are straight up as the light presents itself, without the application of so much as a fill board. Great opportunity here, and I was able to move fast, without lights. I was directing the action and placing the action.
Keep working the room! Another available light situation. Or is it?
Certainly the light from the rafters is hard sunlight. But there is a glint off the back and near shoulder of Joshua Cummings, which helps separate him and give his musculature definition. That comes from a Profoto B-4, fitted with a 1×6 strip soft box, controlled by a fabric grid. It is off to camera right, and sort of behind Josh, who is just whaling away on those battle ropes. Amazing athlete. Shot with a Z7 and a 14-30mm S lens. Again, I am thoroughly directing the action and timing.
But above, the incredibly fluid fighter Ray James is moving so quickly, shadow boxing to the rhythms in his head, I am not in control, really. Fast reactions are needed, both from the shooter and the camera. Z6. Again, straight up, available light. Tough situation for the camera, with the hot light and shadows.
And then…back to flash, in a big way. Not subtle. Light is expressed for a portrait and is real, palpable. He is standing for the camera. Z7.
All the natural light is behind Ray. He is being lit by a Profoto B1-x, camera left, with a 1×3 strip light. There is one more light in the picture. Way right, fitted with a tight spot grid, is a B-4, aimed at the boxing bag. It puts a glimmer of light on what would have been a blob like shape. It defines the bag as a boxing bag. Minimal effect, but, I felt, necessary.
So, from available light, to one light, to two lights.
More info on the Nikon Learn & Explore website.