Here’s another slow motion test/moving headshot I did with actress Elizabeth Lee.
My original intent was actually to shoot Liz in a thunderstorm. I thought it’d be pretty epic to get a shot of her by the water with some lightning in the background. The weather forecast said it was going to rain, but it didn’t. Hell, it wasn’t even windy. So much for that.
Of course, that’s no reason to not shoot. Just look for another opportunity.
I started grabbing some basic slow motion shots of her walking around South Street Seaport. There are some giant spotlights on the rooftops there that light that cobblestone walkway at night. I thought maybe I’d use them as rim lights and interesting background. After shooting a couple of takes in the area, it just wasn’t working out. There were too many people. The angles I was getting weren’t forming the right relationships. The ideas for shots weren’t jumping out at me as anything really interesting or spectacular and I was forcing the shots. In other words, I was forcing pre-conceived notions into the space that didn’t fit and I wasn’t letting the space give me ideas. I think in general, that’s the mark of a good location, it inspires ideas organically and effortlessly. It’s full of answers.
South Street Seaport is a great location, but I just wasn’t in the right place. So we headed over to a small alley that I know about near the side entrance of the Seaport Museum. When I shot the first take, I knew we were in the right place. Things started to come together and I was getting ideas for images and what I wanted Liz to do. I’ve seen her play parts as a disturbed/frightened woman so I felt that the dark character of the place at night fit her, and from there it was fairly easy to come up with and play with ideas. I didn’t have a structured narrative in mind per se—these slow motion tests and moving headshots, to me, are more about interesting compositions and gestures mixed together with flattering close ups. But I did have a general idea of how I wanted the piece to feel, and I got a lot of great material from watching Liz inhabit the space and work with the architecture.
This was shot with just ambient light, no reflectors, on a 24mm f/1.4L and 50mm f/1.2L on a 7D. Contrast was set to the lowest level and I took saturation down two notches in the picture style. A lot of the work gets done in post with color correcting and color grading to get the images to really pop. I also had to apply a denoising plug-in to deal with grain from when I had to shoot on 1600 ISO. As good as a video might look coming right out of the camera, good color correction and grading adds a ton of production value.