copyright, Martin Schoeller.
As a GTL fan recently brought to my attention, Martin Schoeller was left off Professional Photographer Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Photographers of All Time” list. Which is a grievous travesty (so much so I’ve called my local congressman. And actually registered on PP‘s website to log an official complaint). From his “close-up” series to his vast canon of celebrity portraiture, Martin demonstrates technical mastery, powerful framing and wonderfully subtle humor seen by few other photographers. He’s kinda the man. So in deference to this man so wrongfully snubbed by a silly list, I’ve decided to guess his lighting to open the week.
Back in 2009, soon after the release of The Dark Knight, Martin was asked to shoot Christian Bale for Esquire UK. Some very cool, close-up portraits were also published, but this shot of a sharply dressed jetty fisherman made me giggle outright. The attention to details like the old-school tackle box, multiple poles and a large flock of seagulls (I’m guessing his assistants had bags full of french fries to keep their attention) is amazing. Martin pulled this off with two lights and the strategically positioned sun.
Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f8, positioned 5 feet to camera right, a bit above head hight and aimed directly at Christian’s face. The grid keeps the light from falling off too much onto his upper body and legs. Another gridded, white beauty dish at f5.6 (-1 stop) sits 8 feet to camera left and is similarly aimed at his face. This light gives us the fill on his face but allows his body to go dark. The sun, though not nearly at magic hour, is low in the sky at f11 1/2 (+1 1/2 stops) to camera right and well behind Christian. Martin has a 6×6 frame with a silk positioned to camera right in order to soften the highlights on Christian’s face and suit (notice how strong the highlights are on some of the birds’ heads that were not diffused by the silk).
Comments: Not having much saltwater fishing experience himself, but a big fan of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Christian was excited for this setup. In between film changes, he practiced his casting into the surf and worked the lure further and further out each time. At one point, he unintentionally and inadvertently hooked something. The something turned out to be a 425 pound Blue Marlin that pulled him off the rocks, into the ocean. Waist-deep, he fought the fish for nearly two hours before finally battling it to the beach and beating out the previous local Blue Marlin record by 45 pounds. To celebrate, Christian treated the entire crew, as well as the medium-sized crowd that had gathered, to tequila gimlets at a nearby bar.