Sunday, November 29, 2015

Balloons On The Bookshelf

Photo #1
Larry Teshara (Photo #1), Director of the San Mateo Adult School, returned to his office after an eleven-week absence spent convalescing. His popularity with the students is apparent from an earlier photo "Get Well Card" taken on campus. The image was a source of pride for Mr. Teshara, and it hung on his hospital room wall and followed him throughout his convalescence.

Photo #2
The photo (Photo #2), described here, was the sort of shot that gets a lot of mileage, simply because my application of a very powerful flash helped provide a level of shadow detail that would have been impossible without it. Short of posing the group in front of a 20-story flat white building facing due north, I can't think of another way to achieve this shot. But I digress.

The day before Mr. T's grand return, students wrote messages on balloons and left them randomly about his office (Photo #3), making it abundantly clear they were happy about his return. Now, Monday morning and twenty minutes before his entrance, I visited the office with to check to see if ceiling bounce was a viable exposure solution.

Photo #3
This sketch shot proved that ceiling bounce would work. However, the rather barren appearance of the background and the numerous balloons lying on the floor made me wonder if I could completely fill the background with balloons. The achieve that effect, I did the following (Photo #4):
  • I found a thin, 4 foot long aluminum strip and placed it on top of the bookshelf. Then, using binder clips, I alternately attached balloons in a one-up, on-down pattern until I had balloons covering the top of the bookshelf. If you look closely, you can see a thin silver line across the top of the bookshelf, the edge of the aluminum strip.
  • I attached my Fat Gecko to the window and tied the helium balloons to it. I originally purchased the Fat Gecko to photograph a rolling motorcycle with a camera stuck to the inside of one of my car's windows, but the shot was never made.
  • For the last, randomly placed balloons, I cut a discarded piece of mat board into 2" wide strips. I used additional binder clips to attach the balloon to one end, and then shoved the other end between shelved books or under anything that was convenient and heavy. This allowed me to place the last balloons just about anywhere that there was a "bare spot".
With a few minutes to spare, the desk was now suitably "populated" with balloons.

Photo #4
To get the high angle, I used the Live Preview feature of the D600 rather than resorting to a step ladder. The SB-900 was bounced high and behind me. The lens was the 20-35mm 2.8 Nikkor that seems to be a real winner once the back focus issue was addressed.

Photo #5
One final thought: Larry has Photo Grey glasses which turn dark whenever he's outside. Anticipating this, I immediately handed him the lens-less eyeglass frames I keep at my desk for these situations. I didn't know if the darkened lenses or the glare would actually be a problem, but I decided to take no chances.

Larry fell into this pose all by himself (Photo #5), and I felt it revealed something of his true spirit, finally returning to the place where he truly wanted to be.