After I got back from my shoot in Jacksonville, I went right to Butler, MD to shoot family photos for an old friend. Shelley was one of my photo editors at the Miami Herald in the mid nineties and now she’s married with two boys.
Butler is a small country town about 45 minutes outside of Baltimore. The area is beautiful, but this city boy can’t go too long without feeling the desire to walk down the steps of a dirty subway station.
This guy, whom I photographed in Shelley’s back yard, is probably one of the few things that would warrant a double-take if he was seen walking down the streets of New York City.
We spent most of the first day hanging out and talking about old times at the paper. I also wanted the kids to get used to me being around so that they would act naturally when I took photos.
I always wanted a trampoline when I was a kid. Now I had a chance to jump on one and could pretend that I was only doing it out of professional obligation.
At dinner, Shelley had a laugh at my expense because I’ve never shucked an ear of corn. She then casually mentioned that there was some great color in the sky. Photo time! I grabbed my gear and brought the kids out to a clearing in front of the house.
I used my Nikon D3 with a 70-200 mm lens. It was quite dark, so I set my ISO at 800, aperture at 8.0, and shutter speed at 1/5 second. For lighting, Shelley was my VAL (voice-activated light stand) and held an SB-800 off to the right hand side.
Focusing was difficult because I could just barely make out the boys’ silhouette against the sky.
The next day I made photos of everything they did – playing in the barn, showing off their bull whipping skills, and horseback riding.
Yes, I rode a horse and no, you can’t see the photos.
That evening, I wanted to make a “Bergman” portrait. It took six of us, but we moved the trampoline from the back of the house to the front where I could get a clear view of the sky.
The boys had some friends over and they all play lacrosse, so it was just a matter of getting them to jump in the right place without getting hurt.
For this photo, I used the 14-24 on the D3, set my ISO at 200, aperture at 9.0, and shutter speed at 1/250 of a second.
In the front and to my left, I placed 2 Nikon SB-800 strobes inside of a large Chimera softbox using my two-flash speed ring. It was overcast, and the sky was grey, so I put a full CTO gel over the strobes. That way I could set my camera’s white balance to tungsten and “blue” the sky while still keeping a relatively neutral color on the boys.
I also put two separate SB-800’s in the back – one on each side. They were level with the trampoline just below the camera frame and pointed up about 45 degrees. I used the Nikon diffuser with no gels to create the blue rim light.
I triggered one of the two softbox strobes with a pocket wizard and set the other three lights to slave wirelessly in SU-4 mode. All strobes were at full power.
I was solely in charge of child wrangling because the other adults were enjoying cocktails off to the side.
Of course, I joined them after the shoot. After all, it was my professional obligation.