Ambient light and dirty hands: meet Peter Brown

A week or so ago I found myself photographing Peter Brown, owner of Cumberland Ave. Garage (my friend Matt swears by these guys).  There always seems to be an antique car or two there, Peter’s passion.  On the day of our shoot, a 1921 Model T Ford was sitting, wheels off, in a corner of his garage, waiting for a little TLC.

I was there to get a portrait of Brown, but he was busy working in between my setups–it was a busy Monday with a line of cars needing work.  So I started by lighting the space and photographing him within it—all small lights.  In fact, I prefer working in such spaces with my small lights because of their portability and flexibility.   If you’re trying to light dramatically, you want the right amount of light in the right places.  Big studio lights tends to light everything you want and some things you don’t want, too.

I started by lighting the Model T—one flash in the interior, several working the inky black exterior  and the flourescent -bathed shop walls cluttered with tools.   My favorite is actually a tight shot (see just the headlamp of the Model T jutting into the frame.  I like the look on Peter’s face and his body language.

 

Portland Maine Mechanic Peter Brown
Peter Brown, owner of the Cumberland Ave. Garage on Portland's Munjoy Hill.

At the end of the shoot, I did a simple three-light setup in the bay with the colorful garage sign behind him.  I gelled the lights, but let his face go a little yellow just because I like the warm tones.

Portland, Maine Mechanic Peter Brown
Peter Brown gets his hands dirty.

Sometimes the light you find is better than anything out of a can.  While Peter did a weld repair,  I was able to show him in action in his environment.  This is the kind of stuff we’d encounter routinely on assignment for the newspaper.  Quick couple of portraits, enhanced by ambient light, and an interesting angle on a man going about his business in his environment.

Portland Maine Mechanic Peter Brown
Ok...that looks cool. Strobes off, ambient light on...