Friday Adventures: 24th April 2015 The Art of Film Noir with Neil Freeman at Nikon School, Center of Excellence.

Over Christmas Nick won a voucher to study with the Nikon School. Not finding much to his liking (except a residential course that would have cost him more than he saved) he was a sweetheart and gave me the voucher.
Having never had any formal training in photography, all I know is self taught, I jumped at the chance.
 
Nikon School, offers a wide variety of courses.  Most are day courses run in London at the Nikon Centre of Excellence. 
 
Stylistically Film Noir Chiaroscuro lighting appealed to me but the course also offered me a challenge. Working with a model is something I have never done. I usually shy away from capturing the human form all together! So this course seemed perfect.
I travelled up the day before and, after meeting an old school friend for coffee, visited the Tate
Modern to view the Salt and Silver Exhibition, see my seperate post here.
 
I stayed in the Hub by Premier Inn. A perfectly compact hotel near Leicester Square. Which is clean,
convenient and excellently priced for a hotel in the centre of London! I slept soundly, it was actually a lot quieter than most hotels I have stayed in. There was a small issue with the staff not replacing a
towel that was filthy on my arrival. But they kindly gave me a voucher towards my next stay after I
complained. 9/10 I would highly recommend this hotel to any photographers who need a comfortable stop over whilst in London. Holborn station was a 15 minute walk and then just a couple of stops to
Oxford Circus. Which in turn is a short walk to where the Nikon School is based.
On arrival I came into the showroom where all manner of Nikon goodies are on display and the friendly staff are happy to chat about the products. It’s not actually a shop so there is no kind of pressure to buy or invest in costly gear. You can just have a good old chinwag with the experts.
From here I was directed to the training room. Seat and training packs were laid out ready. Backdrops, reflectors and studio lights leant up against the walls. After grabbing a tea I sat down and my fellow students began appearing. There were some really lovely people, a few had been to courses before.
There were a few professionals and just as many enthusiasts.
I got on particularly well with an actor/photographer Rosemary Rance, check out her website. Rosemary started out taking her own headshots. Actors need to update their headshots ideally around every six months, which can be costly, especially when you consider actors are mostly self employed. When people started complimenting and asking who had taken her shots, she started up her own business! Rosemary offers affordable rates and sessions tailored specifically to actors needs, informed by her own experience.
Our tutor Neil Freeman began by talking through some basic camera settings. This is where I began to panic. I suffer from anxiety, see previous blog post about my photography and OCD. Situations where I feel I could be judged (even positively) cause me a lot of problems. When Neil explained we’d be using Single point auto focus and spot metering, the blind panic began to take hold. I suddenly thought I had no clue. I wanted to make my excuses, that I was in way over my head and quietly bow out. “Fortunately” I couldn’t because if I had opened my mouth at the point I would have burst into hysterics.
So I took a deep breath and thought about it for a minute. It all came rushing back to me. I always use
spot metering and I have my auto focus set up for back button focusing. I did make sure to tell Neil, once I had regained my voice, that I wasn’t confident with the more technical side of things. And he said “That’s okay. You don’t need to be.”
 
Thumbs up Neil.
Neil went on to brief us on the shoot. We’d be using either one, two or three speedlights and would be focusing on high contrast, chiaroscuro, lighting. We’d be using light to build depth in our images in three main groups: Main Subject light, Background light and a Kicklight/accent light.
We had a brief run down on the Nikon CLS flash system. One thing did annoy me greatly about the course. It was advertised that we would need to bring a speed light, which in fact we didn’t. Neil used his speedlight/s, as we only set up one shot at a time. Those of us without commander units just passed one of Neil’s between us, as only one of us could shoot at a time anyway. I had bought a cheap Youngnuo speedlight because I’d never used a speedlight before and I had no idea if I would ever use one again and I didn’t fancy spending over £100 on a Nikon model! As it turned out we’d have needed the most expensive model anyway. Those who had the cheaper Nikon model were also disappointed to hear their speedlight didn’t have the right settings to achieve some of the looks created. So I didn’t get to use my speedlight that I bought especially for the occasion.
Neil was, however, happy to share with us some ‘gear hacks’ for studio equipment. So that was a neat bonus that will save some money in the long run. We dissected the shots we were recreating by asking ourselves four questions about the light:
What is the Quantity,
What is the Quality,
What is the Direction,
& Colour (which since we were shooting black and white we didn’t use).
Once we knew this we could begin to build out picture. Neil asked us to set our cameras to ISO 100
(I had to do 200 as my D300s doesn’t go that low) F4  and 1/125. And what did we get with that? A black screen. But! This was exactly what we wanted to start with so we could achieve the high contrast shots. Neil described this as “using our camera’s as a dimmer switch”. We built each group of light, isolating each one and making adjustments until we were happy. After cycling though all three we then made the final adjustments using all light groups together.
For each shot, a member of the group took the role of Director of Photography and another was photographer. As a group we decoded the lighting, the DOP having the final say, while the photographer altered shutter speed to achieve the perfect look. We then all had an opportunity to work with the model and adjust the settings and angel of the shot.
Sadly time constraints meant we were limited to three shots each, per pose. I made a few basic errors
mostly due to my nerves. I wasn’t too dis heartened though as I had gone to take away techniques not perfect shots first time round.
After shooting a few poses we stopped for a lovely lunch laid on by Nikon.
 
We then posed a few more shots inside and then moved out into the streets of London! Neil spoke about how a lighting stand is too cumbersome and requires a licence if you’re using it outside. So instead he uses a Manfrotto MN175F Spring Clamp with hotshoe mount. This is particularly useful because if can be clipped onto a fence/railing/bar ect or even a hand help lighting pole to light from above! The best thing is it doesn’t require a permit.
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
First shot of the day. Did notice I had focused on the necklace rather than Courtney’s eyes. Neil was very kind though and said I’d “Nailed it”.
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
The next pose I tried from different angles and had a go at directing our model. Courtney has a massive amount of patience and kept a beautiful composure through out the whole shoot. Even with 12 different people telling her how to pose!
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
Whilst outside waiting for my turn to shoot I came across this AMAZING cigarette. It really leant itself to the old school gritty glamour of the day! luckily I had brought along my 105mm Macro to use as a portrait lens so I was able to capture this little beauty!
 
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
 © Katherine Broadbent
 
A couple shots of my trust DMs. With the spotty tights I couldn’t resist!
 

© Katherine Broadbent
 
One of the final shots of the day. Again I caught Courtney’s face slightly out of focus so I’ve added a little film grain. The idea was to work with the blur!
 
All in all it was a really brilliant day. Even though I didn’t pay for the day myself I would defiantly pay to go back and on a different course because it does reflect, in my opinion, value for money.
 
 
As always you can keep up to date with my projects over on Flickr.