The recent 2011 World DJ finals, held at London’s IndigO2 arena, was an opportunity for me to present an idea for a [quite complex] concept portrait photograph image to DMC boss, Tony Prince. This concept was simple in explanation, but intricate in execution. I wanted to photograph each individual DJ away from the actual and post competition mayhem, and composite them later into one unique shot. My original thoughts were to set up a main background setting in perhaps a dressing room at the indigO2, and have the DJ’s positioned around it in various areas. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the venue, just an hour and a half before the event started (thank you ‘London traffic’), the main dressing room we saw was both sterile in look and certainly non-conducive to an interesting or practical background and shooting scenario.
With literally an hour to go before showtime, I spotted a corner of the arena with some great background and foreground interest in the shape of a (disabled access) steel ramp, with railings, leading to a viewing area. With vertical blue neon lights and all manner of industrial wall and ceiling elements, this looked like the ideal place for an edgy composite. To get the full scope of this background scene, I set the D700 up on a sturdy tripod, with 50mm lens, and took a set of panoramic images. This was a lengthy process, very time consuming, and ‘time’ was something that was rapidly running out!
Whilst I took care of the background pano shots, Debbie liaised with Tony Prince’s representative, who’s allotted task was to bring each of the 12 world finalist DJ’s to be photographed (in differing positions within this chosen area). With just 30 minutes to go before the actual competition started, I had to review my original method of lighting the DJ’s. Originally, I’d envisaged using decent sized (3ft) octabox for capturing the talent, but there was just too much activity around us to start plugging in monolights, with trailing cables and wrestling with elaborate light modification. This was very much a ‘run & gun’ situation, but I still wanted decent light on the subjects or this whole exercise would be fruitless. The answer was to quickly pop a Nikon SB900 speedlight (with PocketWizard trigger) on a hand-held stand, fire it into a small Photoflex XS Litedome and have Debbie do her ‘voice activated lightstand’ thing (and darn fine she is at it too).
Shoot The Talent
The DJ’s arrived in pairs, I introduced myself to both, explained what was going down, and then positioned them within the composition where I’d envisage them posed. Working out a sensible arrangement for 12 DJ’s in your head isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but thankfully, it seemed to flow well and each world finalist was more than co-operative and professional as I dragged them around the main image area. Debbie was an absolute trooper and held the light-stand/softbox combi perfectly in position for optimal illumination on the talent, one by one.
With all 12 of these world-class turntablists shot and safe on my memory card, I quickly dismantled the gear we’d set up and then jumped into my other role whilst at the DMC 2011 finals – for the DV247 DJ Magazine, as a writer/reporter on the evening’s events. It is of course no secret that the USA’s, DJ Vajra was the victorious world champion that night – and my goodness, what a winning performance (which should be available soon on DVD from the DMC World website). The final image that you can see in this post, and in full size on our portfolio page, took over two solid days of post-production to composite – hope you like it.