Couple folks have asked about Wilma of late, the Neanderthal beauty I shot for last July’s Nat Geo cover story. She has hit stateside evidently, and there are rumors in the hallways of Geographic that they may be preparing a tour for her, kind of nationwide, rock and roll type extravaganza. She’s getting her own bus and and entourage. Evidently since the cover, she’s gone diva and there’s just no dealing with her:-)
Anyway the above pic did not run in the mag, which is cool. Thought I’d show it and discuss a bit, because there is some camerawork here that is really simple, but can appear hard or complex. First thing I always deal with for Geographic is that I do no post on any photo whatsoever. Every frame I shoot goes to my editor, and those frames are straight up raws that come out of the camera. Don’t touch ’em. Don’t go near ’em.
Which means anything I offer to them has to be a field solution. Done deal, in the camera. Fancy or not, lit or not, street shot, portrait, big production–it all goes to the mag just as it came out of the camera. And they are cool with at least receiving things like double exposures. If they run them, it is noted to the reader.
So this is a double that was done in-camera. Programmed a D3 to two exposures, lit each face in turn, and the two exposures became one file. You can see below the rough physical layout of the shot.
The notion sprang from a chance meeting with Marina, the current resident of the land where the new batch of Neanderthal DNA was found. It was that discovery that prompted Geographic’s re-examination of the Neanderthal life style, and the construction of Wilma, our red headed star. (She was exquisitely crafted by the Kennis brothers, who are amazing artists, and great guys to have a beer with.) Marina, a lovely lady, and a modern, slightly red haired female, owns the land that Wilma might have once walked. It got me to thinking.
It lead to us putting black material on the side of a barn, and building this impromptu studio in broad daylight. As you can see, I have identical light sources (shoot through Lastolite all in one umbrellas, and Elinchrom Ranger packs) positioned off the the sides of our subjects, who stand in profile to the lens (70-200mm). The angle of the light is from behind them. (Imagine each of their noses to be 12 o’clock. The lights are at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, respectively.) This angle of the approach of the light to each of their faces ensures there is drama to the profile, and serious, quick fall off into shadow on the camera side of their faces. This gives me dark shadow area to play with as I mesh the backs of their heads together. Too much detail back there, and the mix of their hair and their craniums could get confusing and messy.
Ran the lights pretty hard, power wise so I got around 11 to 16 as an f-stop. Two reasons–depth of field across their near eye and nose, and snuffing available light. No stray ambient allowed. Black background. The only thing the camera sees is what you light.
Shooting was pretty simple. Each exposure was made with a single pop from each light. (Each pack was programmed to its’ own Skyport channel.) To enable multiple exposure mode on a D3, you need to go into the shooting menu and program it (up to 10 exposures) for each multiple you shoot. The setting expires after each exposure made, I guess, because the precise, organized engineers of camera like this view photographers as scatter brained and irresponsible, so much so that we would shoot a whole day with multiple exposure engaged if this setting wasn’t programmed to be a one frame at a time deal. Saving us from ourselves, yet again:-)
The sleight of hand, if there is any, is to use the focus cursors for lining up each image. (This is just the way I do it, there are others, to be sure.) I go to focus mode where I have one cursor highlighted in my viewfinder, and I locate it over the near eye. Then, for the second exposure, I toggle the cursor to the corresponding left or right or matching spot where I then put that little red doober right on the near eye of the second image. That way, I know the images will line up. I keep the zoom the same, and in this instance, I had the additional help of Bill Marr, the art director of the Geographic, holding a string, literally, from the edge of my lens shade to the nose of each of the ladies. That way, as I did my little two click dosey doe with the camera, I knew I had the same distance from camera to subject. (Great having an AD like Bill in the field, something that happens only rarely. He’s got a terrific sense of the picture on the page, and he was a shooter himself, so he knows the reality of location work. All hands were welcome on this shoot, ’cause Wilma’s 200 pounds, and we had to carry her a good ways into the woods.)
Only shot a few frames, and I as I mentioned, it was not published in the story. But it remains a good memory of that take, and a worthwhile stab at an impromptu, different, field solution to a problem. The pic of Marina and Wilma that did make it into the mag is below, with Marina playing with Wilma’s hair, and Wilma spectacular in a fur wrap.