“Okay guys,” I said. “That shot looks great. Just… try to look like you’re not freezing your balls off, okay?”
It was one of those shoots where many things didn’t work. For a start, it was windy out there on Ainsdale beach. Windy enough that my octabox kept trying to turn itself inside out, or act like the biggest weather vane ever, or crash to the ground, lamp and all, when my assistants and I were busy doing something else.
We evolved a system for dealing with the wind, which was basically that one person should hold on to the light as though their life depended on it, and the others do anything that needed doing as quickly as possible.
We started out on the beach itself. Mostly, this involved fighting to keep the light pointed in the right direction, and waiting for stray beach-goers to wander back out of shot. We did briefly try a smoke pellet to add some atmosphere but no dice. It came out as a smoke line.
Ainsdale Beach has behind it some grassed but easy-to-conquer dunes (in contrast with Formby beach, further down the coast, whose dunes are rather more formidable if you’re carrying a box full of camera gear). We moved up into the dunes to shoot something with a slightly different feel to the flat desolation that the beach provided.
The light with the octa looked too soft for my liking, so we took it off and just shot with the bare bulb of the flash, walking the ambient down to between 1 and 2 stops under the flash exposure.
For the last couple of shots we moved to the boarded-up facade of an old hotel behind the dunes. It’s a beautiful building, but rather sad and dilapidated in its abandoned state.
It was here that other things started to fail. My Bowens TravelPak, essentially a car battery that powers my Gemini lights on location, stopped working with no warning. It wasn’t a battery problem, there was just no response at all from the unit.
However, one always has to have a backup, because equipment can and will fail. So I fell back on my trusty Nikon SB-28, attached to an octa box using a cheap eBay S-mount adapter. It didn’t provide tonnes of power with that spread of light, but by bumping up my ISO I was able to get the performance I needed. Since a speedlight’s flash duration is much shorter than a studio flash, I was able to increase my shutter speed to 1/250th from 1/125th, allowing me to compensate for the extra stop of ambient that the ISO bump gave me.
And so a successful, if not necessarily un-calamitous, shoot came to an end. I love working with the Partisan boys, and I hope I’ll get to shoot with them again. They’re doing a tour of the US in September and October; if you’re in New York or LA you should definitely check them out. You can find details over on their website.