I love shooting in striking locations because it helps to add another level of visual interest to my images. The location can help tell the story, or it give graphic impact to a series of photos.
What’s one of the main problems with going out on location? You must control the light, and you must also manage equipment on location. I like to keep it simple… as simple as possible. I find that I don’t need an entire studio setup outside or 10 lenses to do the job. In fact, I can accomplish almost all of what I need with a reflector and a couple of lenses. If it doesn’t have to be complicated… why complicate it?
This February I was invited to do a shoot for the online photo show “Framed” where I could capture my vision, shoot an editorial, and also educate an audience. At the time I was out in Las Vegas and was close to a location I had been dying to shoot for ages. Nelson Ghost Town is less than an hour from Las Vegas. It is an old ghost town (and tourist attraction) filled with old cars, buildings, and even an old crashed plane. In other words, its a photographer’s playground! It has been used on the set of dozens of movies, fashion editorials and even music videos. One of my colleagues had photographed there a few years before and I had fallen in love with the images. I love the location so much that I am actually hosting a fashion intensive there this fall! The owners of the location have transplanted old buildings, gas pumps and a variety of props that make this look like a ghost town frozen in time from decades in the past. That is what I am drawn to for this location… its feel of being frozen in time (not just the props or grunge textures).
I did my research on the ghost town, and studied the types of images that had been created. Most were lit with studio on location or lots of reflectors, including a lot of the environment. I wanted to do something unique and eye catching, so I decided I wanted to create images that felt frozen in time. I decided to play with the concept of two sisters that were trapped in this ghost town. They were not only trapped in this location, but also trapped in time. I wanted to convey the sisters as lonely, down-trodden, and showing that they were each other’s only support and interaction.
If you take a look at the images I have shared here, all were taken with a Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens on the Canon 5D Mark II. This lens is incredible. It is sharp, it focuses quickly, and it has a beautiful narrow depth of field (the bokeh blur is striking!). In addition to the quality of the lens, it is also very light and portable. Unless I need a tight headshot, this lens allows me to capture a wide range of images… from mid-length shots to environmental scenes all at 1.4 (or other wide apertures).
NOTE: If I need some really tight beauty shots (just headshot), I would select a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens or a Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens. If I am trying to keep my setup light and minimal, the fixed 85 would be a better choice.
Furthermore, this shoot utilized no flash or studio on location. Even better, I didn’t even use reflectors in these images! If you take a look at my equipment list required for this shoot: Sigma 50mm 1.4 and CF cards! Its NOT massive amounts of equipment that makes the photographer, but instead their vision, composition, light and the way they portray the scene.
To plan this shoot I had my stylist Tia Reagan acquire clothing that looked like it was from the late 1800s and early 1900s to give an aged and elegant appearance. I selected two models from a local agencies that looked like they could realistically be sisters or at least from a different era. I spent less than an hour at this location before the sun dipped too far behind the mountain for good quality of light. I only had a short period of time, but because I had my equipment minimal, I wasn’t fussing with lights or moving a lot of equipment, and therefore had plenty of shooting time.
A great deal can be accomplished with a good quality lens, an awareness of light, and strong compositions.
The result of all our efforts was Season 3, Epsiode 9 of FLIX on the Framed Network. You can watch my interview, see my behind the scenes of the shoot and more.