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DTLA Behind the Scenes with Jessica Weaver

Welcome to the behind the scenes shot in DTLA with Jessica Weaver.


I was lucky enough, in two ways, #1, I got a chance to shoot with the wonderful Jessica Weaver, and #2, There was a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 | Art lens waiting for me upon arrival, I was one of the first to receive this lens. (I have a standing order for Art lenses, thank you Brendon at Samy's Camera)


So now, I have to get out there and earn this lens, and really stress test it and show what it can do.

I got a hold of Jessica, we chatted a bit to see what kind of shot we can do, something different. We needed to stand out, make this lens and her shine!

Now I had the lens, model, shot idea, time to find makeup artist and location.

I was able to find a Jenny Nguyen, she was willing to come try something new and pretty last minute as well.

Location scouting was next up, I didn't want to recycle any of my old locations as this shot had to be new, different, and pushing the edge of creativity, I hope everyone thinks we achieved it?

The night before the shoot, I drove near my old spots and saw a location I have been thinking about and decided to go for it, pulled up and into it, and guess what I found, a shoot going on with several import cars. I asked if it was ok for me to snap a few pics as I was scouting for an upcoming shoot, they said no problem. I guess I found a little hidden gem of a location.

So I did a few test shots, no flash, as I needed to know some settings for capturing the lights of DTLA. I snapped a pic of my G550 as it was parked in my way.

When I returned home to review the test shots, I found that I was able to shoot the DTLA buildings pretty well at such a high ISO (test shot was at ISO 5000)

I have my location!

Selected Equipment:

  • Nikon D810, Grip, and Battery from a Nikon D4S
  • Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art Lense (this lens rocks!)
  • 6x Yongnuo YN560 III Speedlights ,
  • Yongnuo RF560-TX Transmitter to control speedlights
  • Light stands and Gels

The Setup:

Setting up for the shot was tough, I had to shoot with some demanding settings:

ISO 4000, I needed to capture the city lights without a long exposure, and it was pretty dark out and clouds coming in.

1/200 Shutter speed, I could not go 1/100 as I was mixing ambient city lights and flash, and didnt want any motion blur.

f/1.4 Aperture, I am shooting this thing wide open! I need the speed to capture that background light! Luckily the depth of field on a 24mm lens for this shot will allow a slight bokeh on the background yet still keep so much in focus.

Lighting, tough as nails:

I wanted to mix the the lighting so it did not look like a flash shot (dark background), and so it also looked like we were in the middle of something industrial.

So I placed two small shoot through umbrellas in the front, and far back so I can light the model evenly with white light. Note: both the speedlights were set to 1/128 power since I was shooting ISO 4000

To get some colors, I placed various speedlights with colored gels to give a good mix and look like city lights being cast.

My placements:

  • Speedlight with Red Gel behind the G550
  • Speedlight with Blue Gel inside the G550 inside center glove box (open)
  • Speedlight with Blue Gel way off camera right
  • Speedlight with Purple Gel set wide 24mm and far back and up
  • Speedlight with shoot through unbrella placed in front very far away camera left a bit
  • Speedlight with shoot through unbrella placed in 45degrees camera right, in front of G550

If I can give credit to Bob Davis, as I watched his video on lighting over a year ago, and it inspired me to create not just light my scenes: Speedlites: The Power and Possibilities

The Makeup:

For the makeup Jenny Nguyen came to help us out. I wanted something edgy and different, I wanted to make Jessica look powerful, serious, and dangerous, and we needed some color that would work with our lighting. I also did not want an entire face paint either, it was a balance between makeup and edge.

I think Jenny did a wonderful job and I really think we nailed it.

The shots:

Jessica changed into costume, and instantly became the character you see here. She was a natural at this type of action shots. It was a fun shoot, everyone was upbeat and happy to get these shots.

We did a few poses and ideas and here is the outcome of this great night:

Don't forget to check out Jessica Weaver and Jenny Nguyen, as without them this shot would have not come to life as it did.

I thank them very much and look forward to more shoots with them both.

Mike Bradley

Author: Mike Bradley

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