Guerrilla Model Shoot in DC

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 1250, Lens: 50mm

I had a concept where I wanted to get a series of editorial/fashion shoot photos in the shortest amount of time, with minimal gear, but look like it could have taken place over a few days. I also wanted the photos to look as “pro” as possible but with minimal attention drawn. I had no flash or reflector, and I only used a Gorillapod in the metro. Many places in Washington DC are fine for photography if they’re for personal use, so I specifically wanted to avoid giving the impression of conducting a paid shoot. I scoped out several locations and discussed outfit changes with my model and good friend Chelsea and we came up with a plan where we could get 3 photos in about 90 minutes. It took less time than that and we were able to squeeze in a burger from Bold Bite.

Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: ƒ/1.4 Lens: 50mm, ISO: 320

The first shot was in the grand hall of Union Station. The sun bounces off the adjacent building and floods the room with sunlight. The connecting theme of these photos is motion, travel, and D.C. We wanted to feature D.C. locations, without using the obvious monuments and sights. When the earthquake hit a few years ago, massive renovations were performed on this 100 year old building. My favorite change however is the removal of the rotunda bar in the middle of the grand hall. It’s all much more open and spacious and it feels more like a grand train station.

I wanted this photo to have a timeless feel. I originally had a vision of a mod, 1960s look, but really want to just stick to timeless, but moving forward. I try to avoid making the camera crooked, or Dutch angles, but every now and then they give a little punch, or upset the balance in your favor. After I took a few shots with this angle, I had a hard time getting excited with the results from when my horizon was perfectly flat. I feel like though our subject is sitting and waiting, I wanted to provide some movement to the image, and the tilted angle does it great. I feel like it fills in for the passage of time. There was a large video monitor on the wall and I angled a few times to avoid it. It really takes away any timeless aspect.

I also wanted the image to be slightly dreamy. The bright light and blown out background help portray the train station in a pleasant, almost ethereal manner. I don’t want you to think of waiting in a train station as dingy or agonizingly boring, at least in viewing this photo. I want to invoke memories you may have of when travel was exciting and exotic, or maybe pleasant feelings you have of vintage travel ads.

Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: ƒ/1.4 Lens: 50mm, ISO: 320

I moved around a bit and thought if maybe our model was doing something, it may be a bit more engaging than waiting. I do like the “stolen moment” of causally catching a beautiful woman applying make-up. Its slightly voyeuristic, however ultimately there is a little more tension in the first image. How long is she waiting, is she going someplace? Meeting a person, is that person late? The image of Chelsea sitting and waiting created a deeper emotional response, so ultimately I selected that one.

Found a #monk with a #selfiestick at #unionstation #dc

A photo posted by Andy Jones (@ageowns) on

While taking these photos we encountered this monk with a selfie stick. I asked him if we could take his photo before doing so. Part of me wishes I could have gotten the candid pic of him using it, but I like that he’s looking right at me, so you know I wasn’t “spying” on him. But it was ironic that we were trying hard to work on this ephemeral, timeless photo, and then a monk with a selfie stick walks right up to us. Anyway, we were in this spot for just about thirty minutes tops. We then grabbed an Uber and hit the National Gallery of Art.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/1.4 Lens: 50mm, ISO: 2000
There’s this beautiful moving walkway between the two wings of the National Gallery. The space is bedazzled with thousand of twinkling LEDs and it makes for great photos. Photography is permitted here for personal use but again, we didn’t want to attract undue attention. Yes, I could have gotten some much different looks with a handheld remote flash or even a reflector, but I thought having those would give the impression of being a pro shoot, and the gallery is really picky about what types of stuff you carry around (nothing on your back, no tripods, etc). The lighting changes, and it can get dark, but if you’re ready, and go with a high ISO, you can get some great lighting. We traversed the hallway three times, getting tons of great images. The lighting changes constantly, so you get your pose in mind and then just fire away as you move. At one point a museum employee stopped walking through the hallway and just watched us. Like I said, this wasn’t a pro-shoot so we weren’t doing anything wrong, but I decided we had been here almost 15 minutes and had gotten tons of great photos to work with, so we just left. The image at the very top of this article is my favorite from this batch, as well as the overall favorite for the day. Chelsea is still clearly the subject, but the inclusion of the dots, bokeh, and converging lines makes this shot unique. I like this one above, however the shot at the very top shot is my favorite because of Chelsea’s expression and pose, combined with the ambient lighting, and the particular pattern.

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture:, ƒ/5.0, ISO: 200, Lens: 50mm

While we were making our exit we decided to grab a photo next to this fountain wall below the pyramids. The trick is that it was just about noon, so the sunlight was hot and blowing out everything. Typically one could use a reflector or fill light, but for our guerrilla trip we were shooting without any type of gear. I ended using a higher aperture and lower ISO to get a good balance between detail of the fountain and lighting on Chelsea’s face. Since we were in an art gallery, I selected one where Chelsea seemed the most statue-esque in the way the light was attaching to her face.

Shutter: 0.8 seconds, Aperture: ƒ/3.5, ISO: 640, Lens: 28-135mm
I’m a big fan of these long exposure shots with the metro. I love the juxtaposition between standing still and blurred motion. There’s a lot of energy and perceived motion, even in a still image. The big trick with the DC Metro is that you’re not allowed to use a tripod within the station. But the rule applies directly to tripods. You are allowed to use a monopod or a Gorillapod. The main concern with a tripod is the safety and convenience impact on other riders. I was able to set up the camera on the gorillapod right by my feet, as to not be in the way. We also positioned far away from the escalators, as to not get foot traffic in the way. The main draw to this spot was the illuminated, mostly white, advertisement. It was casting a great light in an otherwise darkened area. Sometimes I prefer the huge, iconic vaulted walls, but I liked the intimacy that the ceiling helps provide. I loved having my Canon 6D with wifi. I can use my phone as the remote, so I get a live preview of what the camera sees (so I cold adjust the framing and focus without lying on the ground) and I can review the images shot without moving the camera and can adjust as needed.

Shutter: 0.8 seconds, Aperture: ƒ/3.5, ISO: 640, Lens: 28-135mm

I really like how I got the electronic patterns and part of the vaulted wall in this shot, but ultimately I’d select the image above this one as the one Metro shot. I like how the speeding train is providing just pure stripes. Also, I found with the low angle, I like having Chelsea’s feet and part of the floor in the shot. Also the framing and posture in this photo isn’t 100% what I wanted. Metro arrivals are sporadic, especially right now due to Safe Track, where trains are delayed and single tracking for safety improvements. So we’d set up, shoot five or six frames as the train went by, then switch to the other side of the platform for the next train arrival. If you’re going to do a shot like this in the DC metro, it’s best to pick a station with a center platform so that you can get more space between the edge, the model, and the camera. Safety first! Plus you have the benefit of shooting with alternating trains.

Shutter: 1/4, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 1250, Lens: 15mm Fisheye

You may remember this image from my gymnastics photo essay. I think it’s a great way to reference the DC metro without showing one of our dirty and outdated trains. The new 7000 trains look fantastic, but you never know when they’re going to arrive.

I feel my proof of concept was a success. We weren’t on the platform of the metro more than 12 minutes. And we were barely in the National Gallery any longer than that. Chelsea is a joy to work with, we are frequently on the same page when it comes to concept, but she also brings ideas to the table. Overall our mission was to slide in, get some pics, and slide out without being noticed, or impacting anyone. And I’ve proven I can knock out a handful of location shoots in an hour or so, and not look like time crunch was a factor.

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