Too Much…. The Magic Bus

Wow- Sunday was a busy day. And a very diverse day. Three locations, three models, 100’s of miles and 100’s of images… and it was all a blast. I got more- and better- images than I was even hope for. And despite 6 solid, draining hours of shooting, everyone was laughing and having a great time throughout.

Home Studio

I started around noon, making my living room into a home studio. Threw up a quick background, a big softbox and a reflected fill light- basic clamshell lighting. I had a great soft light from the windows, and I wanted to try and use that at first, but then I decided to just dial in the lighting.

My daughter got home at 2 from a Color Run, so I used her to dial in the lighting. I tried blowing some fine powder in front of her, thus the towels on the floor! I added a magenta backlight and loved it- just used a clamp on the background light stand. It popped her hair, and while I doubt it would have been all that good for a normal portrait, in the case of the color run picture, it works.

Lani and katieKatie and her mother Lani arrived around four. I had wanted to try some stuff with head shots, so I shot the images I needed. Because Lani is always so helpful in these shoots, I did some of her too. She was a little uptight and stiff, so I got Katie in there with her. We started on the crazy lines like “Look at me like you are trying to seduce me!” and the ice broke; suddenly we started getting a lot more relaxed images. I LOVED the interaction with mother and daughter, and kept them at it until I got the images that really show how these two really act around each other. That, and the Samoas (Girl Scout cookies that are to die for!) really helped us shoot that special relationship between these two!


On The Road Again

The studio stuff was fun and relaxed- made a great start- but it was not what we were out to shoot that day. We were going out to a location I had found that included an old, broken-down Motel. Of particular interest to me was a graffiti bus- the “Magic Bus” nearby the motel. I did some initial scouting on The Photographers Ephemeris– a tool I highly recommend for outdoor photographers- and discovered that we would have a nearly full moon rising just 20 minutes after sunset. Wow- two for one!

I break down what we need while the girls update their make-up and cloths. Into the car, and after an adventure’s first stop at Carl’s Jr (and trust me, girls in fishnets and red lipstick will still turn heads on a Sunday in Salt Lake!), we drive out into the desert. We also had another full box of Samoas, thanks to my wife!

The girls LOVE the motel. let me tell you a little about how I shoot this. I get us to a good background. I know this is going to look great. I put a good model; in front of this, and we just go to town. I have general ideas of how to pose and what to do, but I am all about improvising. Taking advantage of what we have. I also trust my models to do what they do, and give me what I need. 

For this image, I could barely see anything; the sun was blowing out the whole frame. I have enough experience to get the framing even if I can’t see it…. and I have worked with Katie enough to know I can just shoot a series of frames and I will get something. 

Again, thanks to Lani my human light stand, who is trained almost as well and my models, and gets my flashes in exactly where I want them. I am shooting fast here, and having her as an assistant and moving the light around so fast keeps us moving. We are losing light fast, and when the moon comes up, we are going to have a very limited time to get what we need. I suppose my background as a news photographer helps a lot here- I work quick in a live setting, get what I need and move on. I work on the fly. This is not the same as run-and-gun. I am not shooting a lot of pictures, and then hoping and praying for something good. I KNOW I’m getting something good and without chimping. I just have to move fast.

One thing that helps is upbeat music. We were blasting the Hamilton soundtrack out there. It keeps us all going, and helps break up the monotony. And it keeps up our pace!

We are 10 minutes from sunset, so time to change up the scene. Off to the Magic Bus we go. Same modus operandi- shoot quick, move to a new set up. Again, the sun is blinding in the viewfinder- I am shooting straight into the sun. But that dynamic light is what I want. Lani is moving around like a mad-woman, getting the angle of fill just right for me. The changing light also means I have to ride my exposure on a minute-by-minute basis… nothing is easy out here for me!

Clowning on the SetI shoot 5-10 images of Katie, then switch Tori and and Katie out. Ten more images and switch. The pace is fast, the music is keeping the energy up- no one is tired; we are all on board and pushing the limit. The sun sets and then the light show starts. We keep shooting, but we have to stop just to take in the views. The sky is exploding in purples, reds and oranges- it is inspiring.

And just as quickly- it is gone.

The girls all go into the car for some Doritos and and to warm up, while I get ready for act two. I have seen a lot of pictures of The Magic Bus, and a good share of them with the sunset… but I have never seen any with the moon! Thanks to The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I know EXACTLY where the moon will rise. I set up the image so the moon will be in one window, and the model in the other.

Selfie timeOne fairly hard thing to do (if you think about it) is to light for dark. You need light to see the objects, but oyu can’t expose for the light. I also like to strong kick with blue (in case you haven’t noticed, I like color!). I get the exposures all balanced just as I see the orange glow (yes, Orange!) of moon rise on the horizon. Within a minute of when TPE predicted.

I get the women out of the car and we start shooing again. Bang-bang-bang and switch. We had too much light here, so back off the flash. Shoot more. We are just nailing it. I am getting the color and the exposure I wanted. The models are nailing it! We shoot until the moon is getting too bright, and call it a night. After all, we still have 100 miles to home!

On the way back, we hit what is becoming a tradition on out of town shoots for me. We stop along the way and all get chocolate malts (or whatever- I get the malt!). Shooting is fun- way fun- but it is surprisingly draining. A littler sugar rush never hurt anyone!

We get home after about a six-hour shoot. Everyone is tired… but real happy. We accomplished what we wanted and much more. We are all proud of our work. And we have 400 new images to prove it. This this:

Moonrise at Magic Bus

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