Failure is inevitable. Failure is good. Failure will teach you.
With that out of the way, let me tell you how I failed my most recent personal photo shoot.
It started with a concept. A model, slowly rises out of the water. Black goggles cover her eyes and water pours down her face as she stares down the camera, looking deep into your soul.
With a grand concept like that, I was bound to fail. Nevertheless, Alexandra and I had fun and I ended up with an image I rather like. This was my second time working with Alexandra, who has been modeling on and off for the last 7 years. I called her the day before my shoot and gave her my basic idea. Even though she's still getting over a cold, she agreed and I picked her up and headed out to the location.
She jumped in the (very warm) pool and we started shooting. Light was provided by one Einstein 640 with a 20 degree grid. I had her go underwater and then come up approximately a bazillion times. I had her stop and hold at a variety of positions. I tried a few different techniques to make things work, and this is the best of them:
It immediately became apparent to me that the original concept simply wasn't going to happen. Not with the ambient light in the pool. Not without a C-Stand or a VAL (strobist terminology for Voice Activated Lightstand, or someone holding the light on a pole). So I had her take the goggles off her eyes and we did a few frames like the one below.
Again. Not what I was after and not an image I'm particularly proud of.
I knew I wasn't going to like these nearly as much, so I bailed on that concept and asked Alexandra to swim through the sunny spot in order to take advantage of the ambient light that I had been trying to conquer.
In doing so, I ended up with the frame I like best from the shoot:
Sometimes it takes a major concept fail for me to realize that the best way to shoot is to use what you have available. Half the wall of the pool is windows, and we had a bunch of sunlight streaming in. We did 4 or 5 takes of this and wrapped the shoot. I'm going to go back next week with a different model and a different concept. I'll probably tackle my original concept again when I've decided how I'm going to light it (probably with a C-Stand and a big softbox)
Speaking of stands:
I use the Heavy Duty 13' stand I bought from Paul C Buff. Getting a light with any kind of modifier up even 8 feet requires weights on the stand for stabilization. I know a lot of photogs use sandbags or lead shot bags. I've found a cheaper alternative:
These are ankle weights from Gold's Gym. I bought them at Wal Mart. 10 LBS (5 each) for $8. They're super portable and they velcro to themselves, so I can keep them directly on the stand. I'm going to buy two more so I have one for each leg of the stand, and one for the middle. That'll be 20 LBS of extremely convenient weights that I don't have to take off my stand. Makes the stand a bunch heavier, keeps it stable and keeps the weights out of my bags. Plus, they're super cheap and they don't leak at all!