Off camera flash

LIGHTING TECHNIQUES IN PHOTOGRAPHY

Log Lady

Who killed Laura Palmer ?

Twin Peaks has been, without a doubt, the emblematic TV series of the 1990s. Mark Frost and David Lynch managed to bring experimentation to the world of television, something unheard of to date. I liked this series so much that I dedicated the “Stiletto” series to his famous living room with red curtains and “zig-zag” floor. I also wrote a post about its production process.

Off camera flash workshop en Montevideo, en el lIava highschool.

When Agent Cooper is asked who killed Laura Palmer, he replies, “It’s a code, you just have to crack it.” The series is full of codes and symbolism and one of them is wood. It appears on the bodies of the victims, in the natural settings, and in many, many interior scenes such as the Grand Hotel du Nord, the police station, the Packard-Martell and Johnson house, etc. In turn, a very mysterious secondary character is Lady Leño, who always carries a log in her arms, with which she talks.

Log Lady

When I entered one of the classrooms where I took the photos and saw some horns, I asked the model to hold them and I thought of Lady Leño and her trunk. After all, I suppose that in the town of Snoqualmie, Washington State, where the pilot episode of the series and the movie were filmed, there must be more than one deer in addition to many logs.

Twin Peaks 002

The photograph was taken during a session of the workshop “Strobist, a different way of lighting” that I gave in Montevideo a few months ago. Once again, the IAVA Lyceum was the scenario used as you can read in a post already published in this blog. One of the peculiarities of this building is that many of its classrooms are lined with dark wood paneling from the floor to a height of 1 meter, in addition to preserving the typical wooden desks, so common in the sixties and earlier.

This serene and timeless atmosphere also made me think of some photographs by Erwin Olaf, a great photographer whom I admire, as much as the master David Lynch. And also in Gregory Crewdson, who like Lynch, works around the idea of duality, where a beautiful surface can hide very dark things and it ends up being healthy to immerse oneself in that darkness, to learn from life.

Erwin Olaf
© Erwin Olaf

The photograph

The classroom is an amphitheater in the style of a medical classroom and I liked to place the model in an angle where a door with the number 13 behind it opened. The wood paneling on the wall was very nice but had two problems, it was dark and it was gloss varnished. The difficulty of this photograph was to avoid reflections of the light source from the camera, while trying to achieve detail in the wood. Another important aspect was to be able to shade the model’s shadowed cheek and keep the detail in the horns.

Lighting scheme

Family of angles

By placing a second fill flash to the right of the frame, its reflection was visible on camera, so I had to be very careful where to place the fill. The advantage of working in today’s digital photographic world is that I was able to shoot until the fill was out of the “family of angles” where it could not be placed. I have already explained this concept in another post, when talking about the reproduction of glossy oil paintings.

I used a Godox octagonal softbox of 1 meter diameter, somewhat away from the model to maintain a certain softness but not as enveloping as when the window is placed close to her. On the right I placed a simple white reflector to reduce the contrast on the skin and clothing. Since the position of the light relative to the model and the camera formed an angle very close to 90 degrees, I aimed the light meter not directly at the camera, but slightly turned towards the light source. In this way, it would avoid overexposure on the cheek.

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The model’s styling was to be that of a schoolgirl looking more grown up than her actual age, to give an image of maturity that was going to work very well with the initial idea. Then, when changing classrooms, the model was to function as a young teacher, in charge of the Taxidermy Department. I have always been fascinated by this world where amateurs or professionals usually have technical knowledge in aspects as varied as anatomy, sculpture, painting, dissection and treatment of skins.

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The reflections

In the Taxidermy room, the technical problems were greater. The room had many showcases whose glass reflected everything that was placed in front of them, as well as allowing transparencies and the viewing of other showcases.

In this case, the light was positioned higher and I decided to bounce the light from the flash to the ceiling, which was white. The result was a more diaphanous and wider light that helped to avoid reflections from the showcases. I had to put black “flags” to prevent the showcases and the ceiling from being too brightly lit, so that the model would have more prominence.

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And so I return to “Log Lady,” or the “Log Lady,” who near the end of her role in the series said: And now, an ending. Where there was once one, there are now two. Or were there always two? What is a reflection? A chance to see two? When there are chances for reflections, there can always be two – or more. Only when we are everywhere will there be just one. It has been a pleasure speaking to you.

Lighting scheme of a session at the Iava highschool in Montevideo as part of a professional photography course. Lighting scheme

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