buzz aldrin epic portrait celebrity strobist

Buzz Aldrin – May 10th 2013
// by sam hurd

The Gear
Lens: Leica 50mm f/0.95

Camera: Leica M Type 240

Light Sources: Ambient Window

Light Modifiers: none

Technique: 3 Shot Brenizer Method

The Goal

Create a tasteful portrait with all natural light while making it look like I’m being professional.

The Vision

No time to plan for this one!

The Story

For this computer science major it was a huge honor to photograph a space super star and I was geeking out pretty hard. I was told about Buzz Aldrin coming by for a book signing and a photo a few hours before he was to do so. I didn’t even know the room we’d be in until 15 minutes before he was to arrive and as luck would have it I was stuck in this boring room again (same room that I photographed Mariska Hargitay and Ron Paul). Thankfully there were no chairs in the room this time… this is just an old photo I used in a previous blog post.

So, I had recently purchased a new lens that I was itching to try for one of these on the beautiful Leica M 240 camera. That lens is the undisputed king of bokeh… the noctilux 50mm f/0.95 by leica. It’s a pricey lens and probably not worth the money, however I enjoy knowing that I’m using a lens that most people don’t even know exist. It’s .95 aperture combined with a 3 image panorama using the brenizer method would create an insanely shallow depth of field. Only bummer with this setup was a white background that wouldn’t really make this effects apparent. I mean, you can certainly tell it’s shallow being that his neck and body and even his ears are so out of focus, but a more distant or textural background would have been awesome… next time!

The only notable item with this portrait is the fact that I faked it. Well, in a sense. You see… when photographing high profile clients I believe that it’s really important to quickly convey the sense that you know what you’re doing. Considering the number of weddings I’ve done and the fact that I do nearly all of them with natural light only (except for night photos) I knew I could light him well with the ambient window light. But asking Mr. Aldrin to stand in a white corner with the lights off and no lights on stands or modifiers might have been a bit of a stretch. So, I put up one anyway. Fully knowing I wasn’t going to use it I set up a paul c buff Einstein with an octa modifier and put it in continuous mode. With a bit of trickery I was able to make the continuous modeling light turn off when hitting the shutter and not flash at all in the image. It worked perfectly to give the illusion of using a fancy light setup while in reality I was just using the huge natural light from the wall of windows in the far corner. Pretty cool results, I feel.

The Lesson

Sometimes you just gotta fake it.