The Hat, or rather, this hat isn’t really a hat. It’s a prop. A prop to be used in various photos.
Last summer my wife and I were perusing the Central California coast taking in some sun, surf and the occasional winery for some tasting. We stopped at a gas n go in Cambria and I cam across this hat among all the other stuff you find in such places. We both looked at the hat and simultaneously expressed how we absolutely needed to buy it. Not to actually wear, mind you. But as a photo prop. So I coughed up the $10.99 for the hat and away we went. As you can see, The Hat is truly awesome in the kitschy way that is unique to road side gas n go’s throughout various slices of Americana.
The photo above was done using a Yongnuo YN560-III Speedlite with an ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid camera right. Yeah, yeah it’s a hat; The Hat, but I really dig this hat. I like the photo too. The Rogue Grid is one of those modifiers that aren’t really very versatile, but it’s way cool when you want that look; that hard light, heavy contrast look.
Anyway, after we bought The Hat we continued south with the hopes of finding some seaside location in which to shoot some pics with our newly acquired prop. We finally found a place just north of Cayucos. It required a short hike through a grassy area down to a small rocky beach. I took one of the Yongnuos and a stand with me. The mid-day, bright harsh sun–which a lot of photographers hate–was perfect for what I had in mind. Trust me, don’t be afraid of harsh mid-day sun.
As it turned out I couldn’t use my stand because of how windy it was, plus our location had some serious surf rolling in. So I had my son hold the light. I also used a 3 stop ND filter. Even then I still closed down the lens to f10 in order to push the background down to what I was wanting to do. My wife, being the trouper she is held on to The Hat and stood in the water and dealt with the stiff wind. Did I mention that the wind was pretty cold?
Yeah, there’s that.
We fired off a bunch of different shots; enough to where I had to let the little Yongnuo cool down for a bit. At first I was trying to get some full body shots, but the bare speedlight just wasn’t the right tool for that job, so I opted to get in close and use the light to fill in the shadows under the hat yet still retain the heavily contrasty hard light.
This is my favorite shot of the bunch:
This shot is almost exactly what I was trying for.
Of course I also took some shots without the hat during the same session. With this one I took some post processing funkiness liberties:
I was trying to catch a shot with some flying birds in the background and had my son running around with the light while I was positioning myself. If I remember correctly my wife wasn’t really in take a photo mode. She was just hanging out. The lighting is definitely wacky, but I like it OK. More importantly, I got my flying birds.
We’ve since employed The Hat in other shoots. This shot is in Idaho at a place called Crystal Mountain just outside of McCall. It’s much along the lines of the seaside hat pic above. This, too, was using the little speedlight camera right, but through a shoot through umbrella:
This one was shot with the D750 and I used a 3 stop ND filter so that I could open up to f2.5 for background separation. I particularly like this shot.
After this pic we headed down the mountain and ended up on the Salmon River. This one I did not use the ND filter. The canyon was socked in with smoke cutting a lot of the sun out. I did use the speedlight, though. Again it was shot through a white umbrella:
I think that The Hat works great here with the rustic nature of the surroundings.
This last pic is another hard light pic, shooting into a sunset. You guessed it, I used the speedlight again, but this time it was bare thus the hard light and contrasts:
I really like this shot. A lot of people wouldn’t, but I do this for myself. It looks like a country singer’s album. I will say that in hindsight I think that using a shoot through umbrella would have been better.
Side note, this pic was taken near the Snake River and it was a muggy buggy bastard. Mosquitos were so thick that I thought we would be carried away by the hungry little monsters. Trying to catch a shot between swatting them was a challenge.
Anyway, from the Central California coast to the Idaho wilderness to my basement studio, The Hat served me well last summer. This upcoming summer we have some more road trips on the docket and I have big plans for The Hat.