Had my first location shoot with a paying client this past weekend. When they came to me and asked me to shoot their family portrait, they didn't have anything special in mind but said they trusted me and would let me decide - no pressure right?
Well, I love the outdoors and decided to do a outdoor shoot in the middle of the Arizona desert using the unique profile of the Superstition Mountains as the back drop.
Even though I was planning a 'golden-hour' shoot I knew we would get out there earlier and would shoot individuals in harsher light, I need fill light and my Speedlites weren't going to have the muscle to fight the bright Arizona Sun, So the 600ws studio strobes would be the key to this shoot and they would be powered by a newly built DIY pure-sine pack on loan from a Friend and my 725VA UPS as backup. I used a polarizing filter to cut through the haze and deepen the blue in the sky and it's 2 stop density also help to get the shutter speeds down to the 1/200 I needed for the strobe sync (I packed an additional 2 stop ND filter just in case though). I rented some pocket wizards to trigger the strobes - no way was I going to be at the mercy of my Cacuts V2s and their less than reliable performance on this shoot.
I used a second body for my 85 F1.2 lens so that I wouldn't have to change lenses and risk getting dessert dust on my sensor. I used this lens to close to wide open exploit it's wonderful boken, this put the shutter speeds way up in the 1/4000 + range while I could have used my 580exII for fill, I instead used a diffuser to soften the light (another first for me)and when I got it right, the light is magical. To really get the best effect you really need to get the diffuser as close to the subject as possible.
Lastly, the one thing that made this shoot go off so smoothly besides the prep was my assistant, Alma, who also happens to me my wife. She helped me by modeling while we were out scouting locations, manned the GPS to find our spot later, but what was invaluable was her people handling skills, she built a repore with the little ones while I was shooting individuals with other family members and made them comfortable when I was shooting them. I know I wouldn't have been able to make a 3 year old act natural chasing her around with a 52" diffuser and sticking a big lens in her face, but with Alma, it was just playtime...
The only big mistake I made on this shoot was that I forgot to set my second camera back to RAW after shooting jpgs when I was cleaning it's sensor earlier that week. Not a total blunder as all the shots were nicely exposed and I didn't need any tweaking.
This was one of the smoothest sessions I've had in a long time, and had allot of fun shooting it. One last first, I used the slideshow module in the Lightroom 3 beta to make a quick video of proofs for client and was able to deliver that by the next day which really hit a home run with them.
So, a recap:
Strobes on location - Rock.
Pocket wizards - Rock harder must add to the shopping list.
Diffusers / Reflectors - Sweet, add to wish list.
Awesome Assistant - Never shoot again without one!