Boundaries Project. Part 1 / by Neil Alexander

As part of the A-level I am currently embarked on, I am working on a project based around the theme "Boundaries". In light of the recent goings on with completely innocent photographers being tarnished with the "terrorist brush" (see numerous articles on the BJP for example - here, here or here), I have chosen to focus on the suspicious nature of people, and how often their snapshot vision of a scene is interpreted in a completely incorrect manner.

So I decided that to try and highlight this flaw, I was going to shoot a series of potential crimes in progress, in various locations, with different models and lighting. I have garnered a rather alarming looking list of possible offences, and I am trying to construct scenes in my head and then on paper for how I would like the result to look.

I've been preparing the first two for too long, and finally managed to get off my sorry ass on Monday night and shoot them. It was to be my first real shoot with models and my new off-camera lighting set up. I've been playing with it with several weeks now, but it was finally time to put it to proper use.

I've had this particular location in mind for a shoot for some time now. It's an alleyway / car park right in the heart of Stockport. You would never know it was there. At one end there is a long alleyway and I wanted to stage it so that the girl coming through the alleyway could have been about to be assaulted by the bloke hiding round the corner, or he could have been her boyfriend waiting to meet her from work.

For the car shot, I wanted to give it a similarily ambigous feel. Someone could have been about to try and take the vehicle, or it could have been a friend coming to say Hello.

This shot hasn't come out quite as well as I had anticipated as I dont't feel that there is a sufficient level of ambiguity in the resulting photographs for it to meet my requirements for the project.

Strobist: Both images were shot with 2 SB900s. For the first shot of the girl down the alleyway, I positioned a strobe behind the wall in the middle, about 2 foot off the ground zoomed to 200mm with a 3 inch homemade coroplast grid to pick out the girl. The second unit was positioned camera right, also with a grid, zoomed to about 100mm if memory serves. Quite challenging with the lighting as there were 3 security lights in the frame and they were on a 5 minute timer. Though by knocking my shutter speed right down to 1/60 sec, and pumping up my ISO to 800, I found this to be sufficient to cut out most of the ambient light. These were triggered with my fantastic new PocketWizard Multimaxs which true to their word, have never let me down. Looking at the first series now, I could probably have used a slightly longer grid as there is quite a bit of spill around the girl onto the door frame and surrounding walls which I'm not all that pleased with.

I've learnt such a lot lately from studying David Hobby's Strobist DVD set that I mentioned in an earlier post. This truly is an awesome tutorial and I'd highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about off-camera flash.

As the models had offered their time in exchange for prints, I felt that once I'd got my ideas in the bag, it was only fair that I offer to shoot a few portraits for their own portfolios. These were shot with one SB900 and a shoot through umbrella, quite close in for the head shots, but a little further away for the full length shots. I'll post some of these images over the next couple of days.