I am often asked about the stories behind my pictures, and today I will begin the first of many posts about the unique stories behind some of my work. I am starting with a picture of American Comedian Dave Chappelle for good reason. Out of every celebrity I've ever worked with, I think Dave Chappelle was the most appreciative and complimentary - which is great for the photographers' ego. He gave me plenty of feedback and appreciated the way I worked, my vision and put all his trust in me - something often unheard of in this industry.
For many of you who don't know who he is, let me give you a quick rundown. Dave Chappelle is arguably the world's greatest comedian - like the Michael Jordan of Comedy. His hit TV series sold more DVD's than any TV show in history and beyond the fortune and fame, he's a fan of my work, so he's alright in my book! While I was hired primarily to shoot his tour in Melbourne and Sydney, Dave also wanted a few portraits to use for promotion......
....so now to the picture. I had about 30 seconds to shoot it after a show before heading to the after party and the set was shutting down, so time was critical. I always tell my students to spend at least 50-70% or more of their time planning, and the rest shooting. Precise planning is key, especially when you have such limited time. I asked production to turn on the house lights and backlight on Chappelle. Now all I needed was the key light (main light). I decided to use the Ice Light as my key light because like the environment, the light would be constant and shooting would be fast, and I'd be able to see the effect of the light and shadow as I pressed the shutter. All I needed to do was put the Ice Light at a power level and distance that matched the ambient light in intensity. All too often I see external light sources like flashes used in these situations where the added light looks very obvious and un-natural. The key to keeping artificial/added light natural is getting the balance right with the environment.
Technically, this is quite a simple picture, but getting it right in-camera is a trademark of mine so I controlled everything with manual exposure mode. The first thing I did was select a colour balance around Tungsten (3200K). I don't use a light meter anymore, so I selected an ISO of 1600, and aperture of f/4 which was one stop down from maximum aperture, giving me a little more depth of field and a tad more sharpness on a 14-24mm lens, set to 14mm. The resulting shutter speed in manual exposure mode was 1/100sec, which is a little slower than I normally like to use, but at 14mm i was confident in getting a sharp exposure if I balanced my elbow on my knee. As the lens was so wide it was important I didn't tilt upward too much, and I kept his head towards the centre of the frame where the distortion would be kept to a minimum.
Lastly, Dave isn't the type of celebrity that loves to pose. He loves to do his own thing and has the trust in me that I'll handle the rest. All I did was direct his body position a little and the result was final. Hope you like it!
EDIT: Here is the picture recently used in Times Square, New York to promote Chappelle's upcoming shows.