A while back, while on a shoot for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art here in Northwest Arkansas, I was asked to get a shot of the museum’s executive chef and the Director of Culinary for their members magazine. Time was short, the kitchen was starting to prep for dinner service, and every second I was there I was inconveniencing someone. I had to get in and out quickly and create a dynamic image in the process. Here’s how it happened.
Whenever I’m in a commercial kitchen shooting, there are a few things that are almost always guaranteed: tight spaces, stainless steel everywhere, potential reflections off of said steel, and poor lighting. Check.
I wanted the chef (Bill Lyle) to be cooking. I wanted the Director of Culinary Services (Case Dighero) doing something interesting — we settled on mixing a drink — and I wanted it showing motion with lighting that was at least a little bit dramatic.
The quarters were tight. I turned off a grill in the corner and, after it had cooled a bit, moved it out. Sliding in between the grill and the stove, my built-in backup sensors were warning me that I was about get a little too cozy with a grease-splattered wall, and I didn’t have much wiggle room.
I put on my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens so I could zoom in and out a little from where I was standing, since I couldn’t use my feet to adjust the composition at all. I brought in three lights: Two Paul C. Buff Einstein E640s and a speedlight. The speed light was placed in the rear of the room behind the subjects to give some back-lighting and some light for the background. The Einsteins (with Vagabond Mini battery packs) were placed camera right, one on each subject. A stripbox with grid was used to light Case. Easy. I had to get a little creative with the other one, though. My 47” octabox was just too big to fit in the space. Luckily, one of the museum’s graphic designers was there and agreed to hold the octabox and light for me — partially collapsed — and point it at Chef Bill.
Here's my beautiful lighting diagram:
If you'd like to buy a print of this work of art, let me know.
And some BTS shots, courtesy of the Creative Director.
Look how bossy I'm being!
Cue the lights, the emphatic pouring, the fire. It worked, and only a couple of 'takes' were needed.
Oddly enough, in the final version of the magazine, two different images were combined for the spread, and unfortunately the fire went missing. It was probably just to make room for text (poor planning on my part ), but if there were other reasons, I wasn’t told. In any case, it was a fun shoot, and I always look forward to working with the museum. It's always something different, always interesting, and usually a bit challenging.
Have you ever had to solve problems on the spot during a commercial shoot?
(If you say no, you’re probably lying.)