Anatomy of a Model Shoot at Montauk Point

Montauk Point at Sunrise, July 12, 2010
Montauk Point at Sunrise, July 12, 2010

Ok… so those of you who have seen my landscape work know I love Montauk Point at sunrise. I’ve been shooting landscapes for about the past 13 years, using this area as a setting a half dozen or so times. It’s been my muse lately when I’m home.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more and more involved in shooting people, and have started trying to work that into my love of shooting landscapes.  This area of Montauk has piqued my interest in that regard- classic lighthouse on a bluff, huge, glacial rocks, crashing waves, and dramatic sunrises that never seem to disappoint.

The Finished Photo
This is the finished photo for my concept. I was very pleased with it- from Rebecca's expression, to the color tones in the sky and the wave crashing in the background. I love it when a plan comes together!

So over the past few years, I developed an idea in my head for a shot involving a model. I wanted a model, wearing a red or burgundy gown.  I figured some kind of evening gown or even a nightgown would work. I have to say I am shocked at just how hard it is to find such a thing!! (I finally did find one in a discount dress shop. )

I had been contacted by Rebecca via Model Mayhem- simply a friend request.  I looked at her portfolio, loved her look, and also saw that she was getting back into modeling and might want to do something fun for her portfolio, provided she would willingly arrive at the location at 4:30am! Surprisingly enough, she said she was a “morning person” and had no problem with this. So I scrambled to find the dress and pull everything together. I wanted to use these images to demonstrate presenting an idea to a model for a spec shoot, for a talk I gave at the B&H Photo Event Space yesterday.

Rebecca In White
This was the second outfit Rebecca wore for the shot. The sun was up higher now and I used a reflector just over my right shoulder to kick light back into her face and body. I added to the light it was bouncing by bouncing my flash into it as well. Settings: ISO 100, 1/300 @f4. Exposure compensation was -1.3. Flash fired at even exposure.

We arrived at Montauk Point at 4:30 am, and began the fairly short hike down the beach to the location.  I showed Becca the dress and she showed me the outfits she had brought. I figured once I got my shot, we’d

do a few outfit changes and get some more for her portfolio.

Now, the site does have a few logistical problems- the rocks and waves make it difficult to set up lights, but the last thing I wanted was to shoot with direct fill flash.  I also wanted it to balance nicely with the ambient lighting, which while colorful, was fairly dim. My solution was simple bounce flash.

Settings: ISO 100, 1/300 @f4. Exposure compensation -2/3. Flash fired at even, bounced into a reflector just to the right of Rebecca.

Bounce?? Off what? A rock? No… I set up a 36 inch gold reflector on a light stand.  The warm tone of the gold mimicked the  warm tones of the sunrise, and then it was just a matter of adjusting flash output via flash exposure compensation until it matched.The moral? Just because you have to use the flash on camera does not mean it needs to be direct flash on your subject.

The image was made using the EOS 1D Mark IV, with EF 24-105 f4L lens. Expsoure was 1/60, f4, ISO 1000.  The Canon 580 EX II flash was used, bouncing off the gold reflector to camera left. Flash exposure compensation was set to -1 1/3. File type was a RAW file. In post, I brought up the saturation and contrast a bit to bring up the sunrise color, careful not to affect her skin tones abnormally. This shot was taken within the first 10 minutes of shooting- after that, it was all gravy. Rebecca was amazing. I hope we get to work together again.

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