Jo and I have bros for several years now. Going back to our time as fellow teammates and co-captains in college we still keep in good touch with each other. She lives in St Louis near the college while I had moved back to the Bay after I graduated. As such we don't get to see each other as often as we would like. So I always jump at any opportunity to hang out.
Last year in February we got to meet up while working a swim meet. The following August Jo came out to visit me in San Francisco. Finally it was time again for me to visit her again this past February while again working that swim meet. We had one whole free day to go on adventures at the end of my visit.
That morning I did a quick shoot with Bailey (see my other blog post) but then headed off campus back to St Louis. First we stopped for a quick lunch and drove down to lower Alton. This part of the town is older and has an interesting mixture of renovated classic brick stores and abandon warehouses. There is an air of urban decay that oddly fits in with the thriving community around it. Urban decay generates lots of lovely textures and backdrops. We walked around until we found a few nice locations.
Having shot my slide film with Bailey I had planned to shoot either Kodak Portra 400 or Kodak Ektar 100 for color with Jo. The former is absolutely wonderful, especially with low light and skin tones. The latter I had only used for landscapes which look nicer with the film's more saturated color palette. However unlike Fuji Velvia I know Ektar won't turn caucasian skin an ugly shade of red, making Ektar a good choice for all around vivid color.
I started off the first of our shoots in front of this red peeling painted door. The texture and detail immediately grabbed my eye, as did the color. Quickly I tossed a roll of Ektar in my Pentax 6x7 (with 105mm f/2.4) and got shooting. Jo has wonderful flowing yet slightly wavy hair. There was a bit of a breeze which I tried working with. We moved down the street and found an old warehouse with a nice mix of rusted corrugated metal and barren lot.
After I finished that roll of Ektar I switched to B/W, shooting a roll of Fomapan 100. Making use of the early afternoon direct sun I positioned Jo to be backlit and worked with using the sun as a rim light. We then walked closer to downtown where more life was present. Stumbling upon a shaded brick road next to a large brick structure I finished off that roll of Fomapan. The shade provided me with excellent lighting.
After this we meandered our way around hunting for a place Jo thought would be cool for a shoot. Eventually we found it; an abandoned staircase and balcony that was once painted a vibrant blue turquoise. Loading another roll of Kodak Ektar 100 I worked with placing objects out of focus in the foreground to make the shots of Jo pop. I've noticed that when shooting with super shallow DOF lenses that keeping your subject isolated between distant background and near foreground elements makes the image have a 3-dimensional quality.
Having exhausted that roll we hiked back across town and drove over from Illinois to Missouri. Along the way we stopped by the local fireworks joint to pick up some smoke sticks and sparklers for our sunset shoot. With amateur pyrotechnics in tow we drove back to the Mississippi river, but still on the legal Missouri side. Jo lead us to the location of a former dam which had a perfect wide open and cemented ground. After taking a nap waiting for the light we setup for our shoot.
One issue we immediately noticed was the wind. It was constant and cold. The next issue was trying to light our smoke sticks. The cheap Bic we had bought was no match for the river wind. Eventually we got one to light!
In preparation for the evening light I loaded the Pentax with a fresh roll of Kodak Portra 400. Having Jo use the smoke stick as a volumetric tool I was going for a portrait with only her face visible through colored smoke. With the wind this was only a partial success. After a few more attempts we gave up on the pyrotechnics and stuck to the wonderful dusk light.
As delicious as the golden hour, or even blue hour, is for portraits having to manual focus is a huge pain. Looking through the viewfinder, even at f/2.4, I often cannot determine what is exactly in focus. Looking over the final shots there are a few where I missed my mark as well. An idea for next time would be to bring a bright light source and assistant to shine the model so I can get exact focus, or perhaps using a tripod and a smaller f/stop.
Our last shoot was down toward downtown St Louis. Working with the street lights and other available sources we improvised another roll of Kodak Portra 400. Having only just received my alpha order of Cinestill 800T in 120 this week I am bummed I couldn't have used it for this shoot. The daylight balanced Portra 400 still performed quite well but for some shots it just wasn't possible to balance out the orange hue of some of the lights.
All things considered this was a fantastic day of adventure and catching up between old friends. I shot five rolls of film with Jo, not to mention four from that morning. I got a chance to explore several places I never did as a student too! I am looking forward to our next visit and set of adventures!