Evening with a pro


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Oct 14, 2007
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Montreal, QC, Canada
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Pro photographer that is... lol

Last Saturday I spent an afternoon/evening assisting a professional photographer in an urban style engagement session (or e-session), and I must say, it was a very special event. I've done a couple weddings as a 2nd photographer, but this was totally different and just as rewarding.

We had made arrangements for a location and time to meet and I (of course) arrived early to check out not only the location chosen, but to do a little scouting around. Well I found 2-3 incredible areas and he did as well and I was pleasantly surprised to see that our choices were near identical.

I did not even have my camera this time, as I was to be an assistant and so I was happy to carry some equipment and hold the main light which was a light stand with a Canon speedlight and a medium sized softbox.

The couple arrived on time and by then my new friend and I were acquainted and ready to rock. The area where we were shooting was a photographer's dream... a large overpass, train tracks, many buildings with fresh graffiti, many completely abandoned.

The weather was windy and chilly, only a few degrees above freezing but our very good looking couple was gung-ho and were both excited and exciting to work with. I noticed that I was given a little "artistic" leeway and started playing with the angle of the light that I was in control of and it took me a couple of hours before I was able to start to anticipate. As Ned talked, he would now and then mention that in about 15 or 30 minutes we would need to change location but I did not notice a watch on him, so I mentally kept track of the time and checked now and then and politely reminded him when we were within 5 or so minutes of a limit.

I think he was surprised as he was not expecting me to be really paying attention to him, but I was very attentive to everything he was doing from timing to camera and light settings and positions to his smooth ebb and flow of his style and manner.

For me, the climax of the event was our second last shoot location, inside an abandoned building. This was a one story building someone had boarded up and placed additional sections of fencing over. I don't know who, but someone a long time ago removed a section of the boarding and fence and left an opening and that is where we slipped in.

Imagine, if you will, an area of about 100 X 300 feet completely dark and 2 large holes in the ceiling/roof on either sides of the one large room that let light stream in from above in an almost church-like soft beam of light. Beneath those holes, accumulated snow and ice about 5-8 feet wide and 2-4 feet high, dirty from the elements. An the walls... those walls were AMAZING with incredible splashes of colored graffiti everywhere. The place was a shambles with the walls all removed, wood planks and water everywhere, but Ned and I just smiled and realized we'd found a photographer's gem. We even joked about never telling anyone of this place, making it our own private secret location... lol I think the couple's favorite part of the building was that they were out of the biting cold wind and we could get shots of them without their jackets.

We had a nice amount of time and wanted to still get several sunset shots, but if we'd had 2 more hours to spare, they could have been easily used up while taking advantage of what was inside in this one place easily. Again, I reminded Ned that we had a sunset to catch, and it was a good thing... we had maybe 10 minutes before it was dipped below the horizon and we were now moving fast, even running. Our couple jumped into their car, turned on the heater and we drove back quickly to our original location.

Things were moving fast, we practically ran from the car to set up the lighting as the couple frantically made a change of clothes in the back seat of their car. The sun was at the perfect moment when they ran up to us and we had no set up to do, Ned was ready and shooting before they could be told what position to take. We rolled from position to position non-stop, taking several lighting configurations and shooting quickly. As soon as the sun dipped completely behind a building, we switched gears, slowed down a little and focused on lighting the couple in such a way that the sky and it's myriad of colours could be captured.

I was pleasantly surprised that my friend already had placed a picture and comment about this e-session in his flickr stream. I look forward to seeing the rest of them and hopefully we will get a chance to work together again in the future.

This is the way I feel we all should learn and play, if we get the chance. What a GREAT way to spend a Saturday evening!
Awesome story Jerry. I find it very inspirational. I have done the second shooter / assistant thing with a local pro a couple of times, and it is indeed a very rewarding experience if you've got the right mindset. I loved it, and I'm glad to see someone else who has an equal passion for learning the craft like this.

never heard of him, but he's got some skillz. pretty cool that you get to chase him around and hold things - good stuff, Jerry!
Thanks guys. I just noticed that he added a several more shots than the one picture that I initially saw to his set. It is a very interesting style and to see the results compared to what it was like with me there, is different and very interesting!

It doesn't look it, but it was chilly that day! :)
I think it is a great experience for anyone that has not done it regardless of your own personal level of experience in photography. When first considering it, I could have had the mindset of "oh, my equipment is already better than his and I've shadowed a fine professional at 4 weddings, what could he offer me that I did not know already??", but I did not, I was curious and intrigued... especially after I saw a few shots in his flickr stream... which in comparison with this shoot, is way different.

Everyone has something to show you and all one has to do is have an open mind. It is very interesting to see how his style works and how different one can make his pictures look compared in their final format versus what it looked like at the time I was standing there and saw the conditions with my own eyes.
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great job jerry, im sure it was an awesome experience that you were able to take something from.
the pics look FANTASTIC!

well done.

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