Andrea (Stranger #91/100), Seattle Pike Place

Just back from Iceland and the Pacific Northwest I have some 1,927 (50Gb of) landscapes to process, but first I thought I’d share a few strangers. For fellow National Park addicts, I highly recommend building a trip that throws in a city in the middle – not at the start or end – to offer contrast to all the wilderness. That’s exactly what Seattle did for us, offering a zap of energy and hustle in between all the mountains and fir trees.

Dropping into town late on I followed our motel owner’s advice that Pike St might offer a healthy dose of raucous edge, without ever being life threatening.

Down towards the market end, I fell into conversation with a couple of interested locals regarding my tripod and reflectors, when a pretty frightening send up of my English accent cut through the night, offering exaggerated, if entirely faux, interest in my explanation. Meet Andrea.

Smoking amongst a few hangers on, she continued the barrage of mockery for a minute or so. All searing blonde hair and emerald tattoos in the street light, and wildly electric, she was a “must ask” stranger.

I outlined the project, and – maybe feeling bad about the verbal assault, she agreed to get a shot in the couple of minutes before she started her shift at the revue bar the growing crowd and us were stood behind.

With limited time and no planned background, I figured I would have to use the light – ambient and strobe – to remove distracting elements and give her emphasis against the haphazard brick wall. Unfortunately my flash had other ideas, the batteries dying on the first shot… (it is a critical failure of the Canon 600EX-RT that it has no battery life indicator – criminal given its cost). This sparked a rowdy chorus of jeers and whoops from the ever increasingly dense crowd, those of which I’d commandeered to hold light stand and reflector being particularly vocal – “even I know you ain’t got no shot when you ain’t got no light, surrrrnnnn”, etc.

Andrea discarded her spent cigarette and turned for the club just as the kit came fizzed back to life. Time for four shots, of which this, the last had the most natural character.

We checked the images – Andrea, I and the two loudest critics of the shoot. “Ok… the boy can take a picture,” one offered in re-conciliatory tone, and right or wrong as he might be, after the mad three minutes juggling act of finding background and mastering the light, felt pretty good.

Andrea revealed she’d learned her exceptional English mimicry to mock UK friends whilst living in Florida, and that she’d done some magazine shoots in NYC. There was a lot more story to tell, curtailed by the start of her work, but appropriate that it was missed – this one was all about the energy, pressure and fun of our little flash mob of shooters, assistants and spectators.

Info for Strobist;

The key light is from a Canon 600EX-RT shot through 43″ umbrella, camera left at a 30* angle, a foot out of shot, fired from ST-E3-RT manual mode at 1/64. I’ve got another unrelated stranger holding the umbrella (on a tripod) a foot above Andrea’s eye line, so as well as lighting her it blocks a streetlamp. I write about this technique of using a shoot through umbrella to diffuse streelights over on my blog!

There’s a 1.2m gold reflector held by yet another unrelated stranger just to Andrea’s right.

This is portrait #91 of my 100 Strangers Project – check out the group page and get involved.

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