Shooting at Eastern State

Shooting at unique locations often has the effect of jump starting one’s creativity.

As such, I try to take every opportunity I can to push myself outside my comfort zone and challenge myself to work in new environments.

Such was the case a while back when I got the opportunity to do a photoshoot with one of my favorite models and frequent muse, Tina, at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

From the ES website:

“Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone…”

Normally closed to professional photographers and models without special permitting and fees, I got the opportunity to shoot there on a hot summer night a couple years ago.

The conventional wisdom among photographers is that juxtaposing beauty with decay is a powerful way to create captivating imagery. There is certainly an abundance of beautiful decay at this haunting (and some say haunted) location.

There was a lot of ground to cover, and I wanted to be able to move fast and make maximum use of the limited time I had, so I opted for  minimum equipment. I chose a hand held DSLR and only 2 lenses, a 24-105 and my 70-200. I brought along 3 off camera speedlights, but mostly only used 1 or 2 on most images. My wife Bonnie served as my voice activated light stand… hand holding my main or accent light for 90% of my shots.

Working with an experienced model like Tina made shooting so much faster, as she required little direction. I could just explain my vision for the shot and she would nail it in just a few tries, then we could move on to the next series.

Below, please enjoy some of the many fun and awesome images we created that evening.

I can’t wait for another opportunity to photograph there. Unfortunately, Eastern State has discontinued their practice of opening the site to professionals one or two evenings per month. Hopefully, they will reconsider at some point in the future.

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