30 Jun 2015

Martini in Brick

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Brick is a three-level club in Tarnowskie Góry, Poland, situated at Krakowska street. It’s an avenue leading to the market square, with many shops, banks and the like: simply a city center, though very small in comparison to other towns. The bottom level of Brick has a dance floor for parties, at the ground floor there is a cafe and at the top level – a restaurant. I have taken photos on the dance floor many times.

On the official website you can take a virtual tour of the club and view the locations where the shots described below were taken.

This photo shoot took place in the second half of 2011. A lot has changed in my photos since that time, but let me come back to this topic later. I have done many photo shoots in Brick. I have also taken some beauty shots there because the dance floor has enough space to enable one to set up a mini- studio. Thus, before I started taking photos in the flat belonging to make-up artist Karolina Zientek, I had taken them in Brick, in Tarnowskie Góry. My own housing conditions did not allow for taking photos, nor would any model be able to find my place. Add to that the public transport consisting of one bus line, with one bus per hour (and sometimes per four hours!)…

Let’s come back to Brick. This time, instead of the dance floor, we headed for the top level – to the restaurant. We wanted to take shots over a cup of coffee, but, as is often the case, our plans changed during the work.

Martini in Brick

We began with a vertical shot of the whole silhouette. My model was, as usual in that period, Klaudia Danch, whom you have already seen in many of my photo shoots described here (in the previous post, she was Lara Croft – and not for the first time, too). She had styled her hair and made the make-up by herself – and the result was very good. My assistant was Matt “Pro” Prociak.

Sunlight was coming in through the windows, even with a 1/200 s exposure time and ISO 200, because the shots were to be taken with a low aperture value. I didn’t want to increase it as I preferred to keep the model separated from tables in the background. I finally set the aperture value to 1.8 since I was afraid that with 1.4, the legs would fall beyond the depth of field too much. The shot is shown below:

Martini w Bricku

Nikon D700 | Sigma 50mm 1,4 EX DG HSM | F/1,8 | 1/200 S | ISO 125

The key light was Yongnuo YN-460II positioned behind a transparent umbrella (which was my basic modifier for a long time). The background was filled with the available light coming in through the window visible in the photo and through another one on the same wall (though you cannot see it). That’s it. Well, we did experiment a bit with lighting the top left corner using another YN light, but we concluded that it would be better to leave that fragment darker. Below you can see a test photo which shows the share of the available light:

The second shot required more work though:

135 mm | F/3,5 | 1/200 S | ISO 100

I used a much bigger focal length, so we had had to rearrange the interior to squeeze in: we had pushed the table as far back as possible to keep the background correct. I stood leaning against the wall and tried to choose the frame carefully because it was so tight that I wouldn’t really be able to crop it afterwards. We had pushed aside the tables between Klaudia and me so that they wouldn’t be visible in the photo. The details required quite a lot of work, too, including the Martini bottle: we finally turned it side ahead (to prevent the inscription from drawing too much attention), but then I saw that it looked best in one of previous shots and chose to publish that one. Theoretically, I could have taken two shots to create one, choosing the best elements from each, but I’ve never done that, so I didn’t even think about it back then.

As previously, the key light was Yongnuo YN-460II and the transparent umbrella; I had nothing else at that time, anyway. In order to make the hair shiny and standing out from the background more, I lit it with another light, but with no modifiers. I also added a reflector which lit the shadows on the face a bit by reflecting the key light. Once again, we faced the dilemma of lighting the top left corner, but I chose not to do it that time, too. The light coming in through the window seemed just right to me.

Brick Tarnowskie Góry

So we had two photos – not an impressive photo shoot… I started thinking of taking additional photos with the model on the couch. I had already taken two such shots in Brick, but using the couch on the club’s bottom level. The restaurant couch is totally different: it’s crimson and made of leather. The wall behind it is different, too: it’s fully made of bricks.

Half-light, or let’s get dark

Klaudia sat on the couch. I positioned the light as usual and the result was… disastrous, with loads of reflections and the couch looking very flat, without any concavities visible. At that moment I got an idea: if I directed the light at the scene more from above, it would probably acquire more depth. I gave it a try. I lit the scene from above, or from nearly under the ceiling straight downwards (as in previous shots, I used a speedlight and an umbrella). Then, I adjusted the distance between the speedlight and the wall to get the best result possible. The first shot was this:

Mrocznie w Bricku

Nikon D700 | Sigma 24-70 | 24 mm | F/5 | 1/200 | ISO 200

And then I knew: from that day on, my photography would go in a particular direction. I understood that shadowed areas in the photos were what I liked most and that one could obtain such atmosphere with light alone and not with Photoshop. Thus, we did another shot:

Mrocznie w Bricku

Nikon D700 | Sigma 50mm 1,4 EX DG HSM | F/5 | 1/200 | ISO 200

The part of the restaurant where we were working was closed because of our photo shoot; only the barman watched with astonishment what we were up to. For the above shot, I replaced the lens with a slightly longer one and thus the proportions changed: for instance, fewer bricks are visible because they are bigger.


As I’ve already mentioned, that photo shoot significantly changed my attitude towards photography and lighting. I understood that I wanted to pursue that direction and take photos using shadows and not only light. I started thinking that it was high time I bought my first studio light and a 70 cm beauty dish with a honeycomb grid. That modifier would allow me to light the scene selectively and provide hard light, which would be an interesting novelty because umbrellas give very soft light as a rule. But I’ve already written quite a lot about beauty dish, especially in “Beauty dish – the magic of hard light”, so if you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should make up for it as soon as possible.

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I have taken beauty and fashion shots for a few years. I publish the results of my work on this blog together with photo shoot descriptions, setups, backstage photos and everything that is significant while photographing. I try to diversify the equipment I use during my photo shoots.
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