Lighting geekery alert: I don’t typically get much into how I took a certain shot, but the mood struck today. Over the weekend, I received what I think will become one of my favorite accessories: a 24-foot long “off-camera” ETTL cord for Canon flashes. Basically, this means that I can place a flash that is hard wired to my camera over 20 feet away from me when I’m shooting. I didn’t even know they existed until Syl Arena mentioned it at a workshop I recently attended. So, for this image…I shot with a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod & a Canon 24-105 Lens at 35mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 640. The key light, a Canon 580 EX II, was connected to the 5D hotshoe via the new cable and attached to a light stand at camera left, approx 12 feet from the subject. The key light was also gridded, gelled with a 1/2 CTB gel, and half-snooted (to prevent the wall from being illuminated by the key light).. all with Honl flash accessories (also worth their weight in gold). The key light was manually fired at 1/4 power. A second 580 EX II, gelled with a 1/4 CTO gel, was placed low, camera right to create the shadow on the wall and fired manually at 1/132 power. The whole thing took about 15 minutes of shooting and a little tweaking in Lightroom/CS5.
This weekend I attended a lighting workshop with Canon speedliter Syl Arena. Actually it was much more a seminar than a workshop in that I took exactly zero pictures. But it was great for reinforcing some of the stuff that I’d picked up about lighting over the past couple of years. My kit doesnt come close to scratching the surface of what Syl carries in his gearbag. Probably never will. But that didn’t stop me from coming home and trying to rig up some relatively elaborate (with my normal lighting scheme as the baseline) setup to get a shot that I had been thinking about since seeing reading Joe McNally’s book The Hot Shoe Diaries. Both Syl and McNally are lighting savants, and if I ever thought either would come within 100 mouseclicks of my blog, I wouldn’t dare attach his name to this attempt in any way. The image didn’t live up to the lofty goals I had for it when it was just in my head. But this is what you get when you have two speedlites with no wireless trigger and have to bounce a pre-flash signal around a corner and down a hallway with the help of reflectors, mirrors, and foamcore. I definitely had it coming.
This week, another in a line of questionable (to put it nicely) things happened. Someone pretty senior at my company, at least two levels about me, saw me with my black skullcap on and said, “Why are you wearing that hat? You look like a hoodlum. You look like one of kids in this neighborhood.” In my mind, she made a total ass of herself. I’ve written plenty about situations like these and how I have handled them in the past. In fact, in my first month at the company, someone made what I considered an inappropriate comment to get a laugh (which they did). I wrote about that incident in my 365 journal. This time, I just raised my hand, as if to say ‘You’ve said enough. Really.’ But I actually said, “I’m going to choose to walk away and ignore the words you just said.” Her response: “Oh, was that a racist comment?” What I WANTED to reply was: “If you have to ask…you already know better. So yes, its clearly a racist comment. And if you’d like to talk about this any more, I’m going to need our VP of HR in the room. For now, I’m leaving.” But what I actually did was just repeat myself. I posted the incident on my Facebook page and got lots of responses…most of them sympathetic (including my sister clearly “winning” the sibling rivalry for worst workplace insult by sharing that her boss had once called her Buckwheat). But the most interesting comments were from those who seemed completely shocked that people at my job have such racist attitudes. “Where do you work?!?” was one of the responses I got. Well, I work in America. Where there is plenty of prejudice to go around. And I would bet that most of us have ready access to people who posses racist attitudes. That’s a fact of life. But racist attitudes are different from racist behavior or racist statements. The latter are not things I can tolerate in silence. So I say something at work. And I share on Facebook, in public, where coworkers can see how I feel. It helps me stay focused on my personal priorities and hopefully sets an expectation that keeps me sane and excited about showing up everyday. And hopefully it means that I don’t wake up thinking about it or worry about managing someone else’s comfort when I see them at the office (I woke up thinking about this on Friday and found myself going out of my way to make sure she was comfortable around me when I saw her later in the day…there is not enough space on the page to get into what I think about that phenomenon, but I will just say that its a big part of why all this feels mentally burdensome). But even after I came home, I was still thinking about it. So, I’m hoping a little photographic therapy is just what I need. As for the attitudes…behavior is one thing, but trying to impact racist attitudes is, in my experience, a far more difficult and emotionally taxing endeavor (as we saw during last year’s Professor Gates debacle), and I don’t even think about trying to do it at work. I just feel like I need to ask for the baseline level of respect to which we’re all entitled. And that does not include being compared, in any way, to someone’s notion of a hoodlum.