Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Revealing Images: Lucha VaVoom

In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Lucha VaVoom.

One of my favorite times of the year is Lucha VaVoom, a mix of Mexican wrestling and burlesque in Los Angeles (and parts elsewhere) that occurs every four months. Each Lucha VaVoom last three consecutive nights, and besides shooting the dancers on stage and the Luchadors in the ring, I like to have a set up backstage to do promotional portraits for the Lucha VaVoom promotional campaign.

I've been involved with Lucha VaVoom since the first show more than five years ago. When I started, I took shots that were more artistic, especially during the Halloween shows, experimenting with dramatic composition and moody lighting, but that was difficult for the graphic designer to do separations for the layout of the programs and posters. I used to use a lot of lighting gear, which is cumbersome and heavy, especially since there are a lot of steps to get backstage. It also took a lot of time, something that is scarce behind the scenes. I have to be prepared for when the performer has that brief moment of being ready just before going on stage, and sometimes performers have to rush through like an assembly line. Over the years I have developed a quick and easy method that gives beautiful results and allows for clean separations but which requires a minimum of setup and alteration. I also use a different backdrop for each show, sometimes a seamless, sometimes a curtain, so I can identify each show depending on the background. Last October I chose an orange seamless for Halloween.

I use a Dynalite kit for easy travel, just using three lights of equal power positioned for optimum effect. They strobe lights with internal fans that are cabled to a small power pack containing an internal receiver, triggered by a transmitter on my camera. This way I can use the camera without being tethered to the lights. I bounce one light into a large umbrella near the camera position, this gives me a really soft source light from the front that is very flattering, and allows the subject to move in any position and look good, especially in the eyes. I only have to adjust the height to that of the model.

I also place a light and umbrella on either side of the seamless, highlighting the subject from each side and eliminating any shadows on the backdrop. This gives me a large area of soft light that the subject can freely inhabit, and lets me use it for each person who passes through. I can shoot at nearly any angle for added effect, working anywhere from full body shots to tight close-ups. Even couples or groups of people require very little finessing to make an attractive, usable image, making the focus of the picture the performer and showcasing his or her particular characteristics.

When I’m not busy backstage taking portraits I run upstairs to shoot the live show, and that’s a whole new bag of tricks.

~Don Spiro

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