I recently had the opportunity to test the new 24.39 megapixel Nikon D3X. I currently use the Canon EOS1Ds MkIII, which shoots a 21.1 megapixel file, but I’m always looking for the best equipment, and I try not to buy anything without testing it first. In addition to some lens tests and landscape shooting, where I compared the lenses I would most likely be using to my current Canon equipment, I also put together a studio shoot to compare systems. I figured it made sense to set up a shoot with people and interesting lighting, since that is the main focus of my business. I was anxious to see what the camera could do under controlled conditions, with light falling on a subject from highlight to shadow.
With my good friend and stellar makeup artist Wendy Martin, we came up with a couple of ideas. One of my favorite places on the planet is California’s El Mirage dry lake bed. Inspired by that location, I’ve always wanted to do a photo of someone covered in cracked earth makeup.
Wendy knew all of the tricks for making this happen, and was quickly able to research and buy all the right supplies and colors for the shoot.
Next, we needed the perfect model for the shoot. We were hoping for someone with a shaved head and really interesting eyes. We looked at a lot of models, but my favorite was Curtis Brown, of One Model Management. Curtis is a veteran model, and has been featured in Soloflex and REI ads. He has killer green/hazel eyes. He travels all the time for modeling work all over the country, but we were very fortunate to land him for a day and collaborate with him on our shoot.
We booked a rental photo studio with Holly McDonald, a fabulous producer from 808, Inc., and were all set for our shoot. Nathan Lindstrom was on board as an assistant to complete our small crew for the day.
Wendy spent quite a bit of time mixing the masque material with various airbrush colors and a powdery red makeup, that almost looked like dirt. After experimenting for a while, we discussed airbrushing the cracked masque in various colors, particularly earth-tones, but finally decided that the reddish color would be a great contrast to Curtis’ eye color.
After mixing the makeup, it was time for Wendy to apply several thick coats to Curtis’ head and shoulders. She used a hair dryer to dry the makeup until it started cracking. Just the movement of Curtis’ facial muscles and skin caused the tight dry makeup to crack and give us the perfect look we were all after.
We had two different lighting schemes in mind, but eventually decided to stay with a very simple setup……one large Plume Wafer Hexoval, slightly to the right of the camera, equipped with a single Dyna-Lite 4040 head.
Everyone did a great job, particularly Curtis, who sat for hours with all sorts of gunk caked all over his face. He is a serious pro.
Both cameras produced great files, but in the case of this particular picture, I thought the camera I currently use, a Canon EOS1Ds MkIII, produced the best image. I shot several tests over a couple of weeks with the D3X, but this photo was instrumental in convincing me to stay with my current Canon system.
Read more about my Nikon D3X vs. Canon EOS1Ds MkIII test at Sportsshooter.com.