Ciudad De Mexico
Mexico City is massive — there are more people in Ciudad De Mexico then New York City. The city is stunning and feels both ancient and hyper modern at the exact same time. With such a vibrant urban environment comes a wonderful selection of interesting and dynamic individuals to document.
The CDMX streets are colorful, vibrant and active with greenery creeping into the city from all angles. There is a special quality to the light. As it filters through the layers of smog covering the city and through the overhanging greenery then finally into the streets, it takes on this amazing golden, diffused quality like nothing I have ever seen before.
I had the great pleasure of exploring the city for a long weekend from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19 with my girlfriend, Delaney, her bandmate, Amy, and Amy’s boyfriend Sam — all of whom are incredible musicians. Delaney had been to the city before, but for the rest of us it was our first time.
Soul Stealing Abroad
I fell in love with the people, the attitudes, the food, the culture, the affordability and will be writing another post very soon about the trip in general with more dazzling photos. Today, I want to share some of the off-camera flash portraiture I worked on while in the city along with some technique and with some behind-the-scenes photos to show how it’s all done.
Sunday afternoon, I roamed the streets of the beautiful Mexico City neighborhood of Condesa with my affordable and portable LumiQuest softbox to get some street portraits and continue my “Soul Stealing” project.
The project is ongoing, but in short I'm using my camera to capture the "souls" from the interesting characters I encounter.
My technique is pretty simple, and the LumiQuest Softbox fits in perfectly with the way I work. I simply fold up the softbox and slide it into the laptop compartment of my backpack. I have a cheap and cheerful Yungnuo Speedlight and master control unit that allows me to control the flash power and zoom of the head remotely and a foldable, lightweight flash stand — and of course my camera rig, a Fujifilm X-T2 and 16-55 mm f2.8.
I carried this equipment around all day without any problems and got some amazing shots with my tiny, portable studio. It took about 15 minutes to setup and I could fold the stand down, leave the softbox and flash setup and just throw it over my shoulder while we walked.
As far as shooting technique goes, I just underexpose my background and use the flash for a little bit of soft fill light to correctly expose my subject.
I'm usually shooting in the lowest native ISO my camera will allow — ISO 200 — at the maximum flash sync shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. I often use a four-stop neutral density filter to help bring down my ambient exposure even more. I then use the flash to light my subject to taste.
I use the flash power output, the camera's aperture and the distance of the flash from the subject to control the exposure of the subject. I try to keep my aperture around f5.6 to f8 to get a nice creamy background yet still give me enough depth of field to allow a sharp focus on my subject so that it really stands out.
Check out my behind the scenes photos for a look at light placement.
The dog culture is Mexico City is popping and there were dogs and dog owners out everywhere walking, hanging at the patios of cafes and restaurants and inside the stores and shops. For whatever reason, they happened to be really into having their picture made.
I did encounter a language problem. Having a pretty girl with me and the flash setup did inspire confidence in people and helped bridge some of the gap. I would approach people and ask "Un photo?" and for the most part get a "si" in return.
The Traveling Party
Along with the soul stealing, I had the pleasure of traveling with some beautiful people and took every advantage to drag them into portraits to document their wonderful style against the marvelous background of Mexico City.
My LumiQuest softbox was an invaluable tool for portrait making while roaming the streets of Mexico City. It's lightweight enough to carry around all day, affordable enough to replace if it's stolen or knocked over and creates a unique quality of light. I feel like I've just scratched the surface with this setup. Stay tuned as I continue to use this rig to capture the amazing souls I encounter as I explore in both in Austin and abroad.
We fell so deeply in love with CDMX that we're looking at getting a part-time apartment there. So, I will likely have many more souls to share from this wonderful city. Stay tuned for big things and my struggle to learn Spanish.