Seattle Performance Photography

I am often looking for ways to give back to the photographic community. One of the ways is by volunteering to assist instructors at Photo Center Northwest. For this semester I am helping out in Patricia Ridenour's class on motion.

This past weekend we had a field trip to photograph aerial artists at Versatile Arts studio here in Seattle. I am friends with the owner, Bev, and a number of her students and instructors, and have photographed in their space before. I was going to a comfortable location with friends. There are a few different spaces to work in here, so selected the dance studio to try some stroboscopic techniques with the students in the photography class.


As you can see in the lower left corner, I tested some things out on my self before the class started. And next to me is my dear friend Courtnee who was our host for the evening. Courtnee helped direct the aerialists, changed out rigging as needed, and was also a model for the photo students. Thanks, Nee!

The technique I selected for this series came about when I was looking at the spec sheet for the Speedotron Force 5 monolights. They claimed 4 flashes per second at its lowest power setting. So, I set up two of these units with gridded reflectors. A 7" with a 40-degree grid on one side and an 11-1/2" with a 35-degree on the other side. They were set up in sort of a cross pattern, skimming across the model and red silk. They took some finessing to keep the lights from spilling onto the walls of the space. This was further complicated because one of the walls is all mirrors.

The next challenge was going to be triggering the strobes. Pocket Wizard Multi-Max to the rescue. I went online to take a look at the manual for the PWs and quickly found the settings (*/menu > A > C) where I could set the interval between flashes (I chose .35 seconds) and how many flashes (I set it to 6) on each trigger. This info is on page 36 of the manual if you need additional information.

Exposure was somewhat trial and error. I took a guess at about ISO 100, F/8, and 2 seconds (to accommodate the multiple flashes) and that worked pretty well. What was nice for the class is that this is one situation where we could have multiple photographers working at the same time. Normally, I ask that only one photographer work at a time to have a clear interaction with the subject. But these were going to be more abstract images and I could count down 3..., 2..., 1..., and everyone could open their shutter and take advantage of the multiple pops of the flash.

I started out with my camera on a tripod, but quickly ditched that for more "creative" control. For some images I spun the camera around during the exposure. For others I zoomed the lens during the exposure. For most of these images we left the strobe units' modeling lamps on, but turned down, to help with focusing. We had them set low so as not to add much to the exposure. On some images you can see warmer (more orange color) streaks between the flashes. This is most obvious in my self-portrait in the lower left where I had the modeling lamp turned up brighter.

And before you ask, the photo of Courtnee was lit with a 12x50 strip bank light, not with the reflectors and grids used on the other photos.