Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category
The Gulf Photo Plus gang has just posted the video from the shootout with David Hobby, Zack Arias, and Joey L. It’s a hoot. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the crowd was the real beneficiary of all the humor, sweat and photographic expertise that was on display during each shooter’s allotted 20 or so minutes. I hadda boogie to the airport, so I missed the processing of the Polaroid with Joey L, but I was privileged to kibitz a bit while David and Zack knocked it back. It was, at the end of the day, after all the “I will crush you” bantering that occurred, just an event based on mutual respect and friendship amongst all the instructors. That of course, and treachery, skulduggery, pocket wizard frequency manipulation, swiped Canon cameras, model mayhem (in the sense there were two, instead of the assumed one), and some dip in the audience with a microphone offering inane commentary.
Check it out HERE.
So, referring to yesterday’s blog post, definitely not practical to line the Northeast Amtrak corridor with SB units to create window light. I got lucky photographing then Senator Biden with soft light on a cloudy day, and even luckier with the Tri-x in my camera. (No worries about the greenish windows often present on trains shifting my color transparency film over into “aquarium” mode, and making my subject look like Swamp Thing.)
But now, in our digital world, in a more static situation, it is easy to make window light with speed light.
As I always tell Thomas Wingate, who’s a great friend and an American original, his face belongs on Mount Rushmore. It is the road map to an interesting life, well lived. I not only enjoy photographing him, I enjoy the time we have when we just say cameras be damned, let’s just hang. This has occasionally involved putting the camera down and picking up a beer, or several. While you cannot make a picture with a can of beer, it is potentially an important component in terms of imagining your next picture.
In this instance, Thomas is being lit by 3 SB 900 units, placed outside the smallish window of the jail cell in Eaves Ranch. I viewed the small size of the window as an advantage, actually, as it is easily sealed off with one 3×3 Lastolite skylite panel.When I say sealed, I really mean that. When doing this, it is generally advisable to let no other stray daylight in. Hence the Avenger c-stand with the extension arm. That arm is able to angle the panel right flush to the side of the building. The only light gettin’ in there now is comin’ from the speed lights.
I remain inside with the camera. We ran a couple of SC-29 cords from the hot shoe of the D3X to a commander SB-900, justin clamped to the bars of the other window. You can see it, over there on the right. It is talking to the window lights for me. I put three out there, which may or may not be overkill. If I had just one, it would be working pretty hard, to be sure. So the extra lights, to me, make sense, especially if you want to move with any speed through a set of pictures.
So here’s the beauty of wireless flash. I can stay in the jail cell, talk it out with Thomas, and shift my lens/f-stop combo seamlessly. I went from the 70-200 at F8, used for the above pictures, to a 200mm at f2 for the snap below. Without going outside to change the lights. Cool beans. Don’t know which version I necessarily like better, but, when you are moving fast, the ability to flip a couple switches and get a distinctly different result, to me, just enhances your versatility as a shooter, maximizes the efficiency of your location time, and can, at least occasionally, endear you to the art director, if such a person is present on the set with you. Clients love it when you can change on a dime. Versatility and flexibility can mean you’ll get called back, which is generally desirable.
And then, just to see the reach of the light, I put the magnificent Mawgie in there. I’m not saying Mawgie is the type of lady who might get arrested on her wedding day, but hey….
A bunch of my favorite folks, a few speed lights, and a jail cell. What more could one ask for? More tk…..
Got a good class here in Santa Fe. We started rocking and rolling yesterday, just examining light shaping tools, exposure differences, control of light, both with big and small flash. As I said during the day, we shoulda all been arrested, ’cause we were having too much damned fun. Professional boxer Clara de la Torre came in to be our demo model. It was cool. We did some pretty simple, straightforward umbrella stuff, and then decided to head in the direction of bad ass light.
I’ve messed around with this type of light before, which is pretty ideal for athletic bodies. Thing is, I mostly have done it with small flash. For this, we kinda went gaga, and mixed 3 different light sources. The main overhead is an Elinchrom Ranger plugged into a beauty dish. It is, as you see, table topped over Clara, coming right down on her, shading her eyes, making her look like she belongs in the movie poster for Goodfellas. Then in the background, we got identical strip lights going, both running off Quadra packs and heads. Right down at her knees are two SB900 units, banging into a silver Lastolite reflector sheet. Then, in front of her, and low, is another SB900, zoomed to 200mm to tighten the light spill, and further concentrated by a Honl 1/8th inch grid. On top of the grid I layered some gaffer tape, to cut the light down to a super specific spot, i.e., Clara’s eyes. Then of course I drove Dustin and Sarah, the studio assistants, completely nuts by having them edge down the spill of the beauty dish with hand held tri-grip solids. As you can see, they took that puppy down to basically a sliver of light. Sarah’s side is more completely flagged. Dustin kinda screwed his side up:-)
Then, I opened that Pandora’s Box known as Photoshop, which to me is like a large, ornate mansion with about 75 rooms and 15 bathrooms. I’m standing in the lobby, looking for luggage assistance. But, here’s the great thing about the internet. I hit one of my stored Strobist links and voila! I got a path to follow in PS. DH has a detailed high pass layer deal in there that is simple but pretty cool. Naturally, like a kid with a new toy, I went Nike on the file, and got the top result. The file outta the camera is below, after dropping a black point. Of course in the original file, there’s my Honl grid, poking into the bottom edge. Didn’t bother me too much, it being in a dark area. Rather have the light where I want it in this instance, than pull back and lose some of the snap and concentration in the face.
Did I overdo it? Dunno? I’d love to hear if you love it/hate it. The light of course, was what I was after during the demo. Really liked the feel of the strips. Nice and smooth for the rim. Did this on previous occasions with mutliple small flashes serving as the backlight, triggered again by an overhead beauty dish. Got the below, which is nice, but as you can see, the rim light effect is a touch more splashy and uneven, due to the smaller sources.
This is also done without the benefit of the low, frontal, gridded SB unit, hence really nothing in the eyes. This is Aaron, who’s been on the blog before and is a supremely capable athlete. This iteration of this style light was just about attitude and physicality, and not dedicated to seeing eyes and facial detail. More tk….
I work with Kelby Media a bunch, and, as I have said before, they are like family. So much so, the intrepid Scriv, their videographer, volunteered his lovely wife Kandra for a shoot we did not too long ago. (Why do guys persist in doing this to their women? Putting them on the spot? What part of “Honey, I don’t like surprises,” can’t we figure out? The phrase, “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation, really. And it’s often uttered, methinks. Might be right up there with, “Thanks for the gift, honey! Got the receipt?”)
Anyway, Scriv talked Kandra into doing some work in the studio. I figured it was a good match, me and Kandra. She teaches kindergarden. She is also one of those very typical photo subjects–not exactly prone to love the camera, not completely certain of what to expect out of the whole process, not really trusting the photog (who the hell is this guy? he’s from New York!), and just, in general, a wonderful, attractive, bundle of anxiety. She kind of walked through the studio door like it was Stargate, you know, and there was this weird universe on the other side, with flashing lights and people assuring her it was all gonna be alright, fun, even.
Fun? Yeah, we all tell our subjects that. Then why are they out there on a big sheet of white paper all by their lonesome like some poor X-ray patient, just about naked on the table, eyeballing some Dr. Frankenstein roentgen machine, looking around for the lead shield, while we huddle behind metal and machinery? Ever think about that when you tell folks this’ll be “fun?”
Anyway, we started simple. One light. That ‘s all we were allowed. Straight flash. Okay, a party picture. Hot shoe, TTL Accurate exposure, shadow on the wall.
I still get giddy when it works, though, which is indicative of how much I get out. Maybe it’s because I grew up with flashes that had all the subtlety of Thor’s hammer and would basically irradiate your subject. As a measure of how long I’ve been doing this, check out the scene at Studio 54, circa 1977-78.
Sly, post the first Rocky.
Making a living on the streets of NY, as a kid with a camera. Geez….I look at where we are now. These pix were manual focus, manual flash, manual f-stops and shutter speeds. Lots and lots of misses, trust me.
Back to Kandra, still ill at ease. Understandably. My first picture did not merit confidence. In terms of light it looked like a close cousin to the pix above. But as I said to her at the time, this will get better. She was clearly unhappy, and did not trust my usual line of patter. (Remember she’s a teacher, so she has a real good BS meter.) Here’s the thing. I was being straight with her. I told her it was looking good, and she just needed to relax. She countered with, basically, you tell that to everyone, so I don’t believe you. I looked at her right back and said, no, if it wasn’t going well, I would call time, re-group, and let you know it wasn’t working, ’cause that’s my job right now. That full frontal veracity seemed to convince her that I wasn’t, you know, completely full of shit.
Next frame…..we start to craft light for what is a terrific face. Again, just one light.
This is one speedlight through a big Tri-grip one stop diffuser, with a little bit of passive fill off the floor, I suspect, it being white. The size of the Tri-grip comes into play here. I generally use the smaller versions for ease of handling, but this was the biggie, the 48 incher. It smooths out the spectral nature of the small flash, and opens the door to some worthwhile portraiture. You can tell the position is above her face and slightly right of camera angle from the fall of the shadow on her camera left cheek, and uh, the fact that the diffuser in in the frame. This part of my approach I don’t recommend.
This is pretty much the set, one light, off the camera, 70-200mm lens, with an SB900 as a commander.
With A clamps, we pinned the monster Tri-grip to an Avenger boom arm to make life easier for Drew, and to enable him to hold a fill board and a fan. I figured Kandra took the leap here, so we were gonna give her the star treatment; hair and makeup, lights, camera, fan, her own trailer, a 3 picture deal, office on the studio lot, the whole nine yards. (Actually, out of all that, I think we maybe gave her about five or six yards.) The addition of a fill board really perked up the light a bit, and of course, the fan gives the windswept look. (All production pix by Erin Nutini.)
Shot this at 5.6. One speedlight and a fill board, TTL. This shoot brought up a couple things in my head. One is, to work inside the box. I know everybody talks about “thinking outside the box,” but in this instance, because we were all about one light, I was inside that one light box. No “27 Speedlight Joe” today. I had one light and a camera. I harked back to the words of legendary photo director and creator of the “Photography at the Summit” workshops, Rich Clarkson. He always admonished photogs who brought too much gear. “When you bring all that stuff, you have no clarity of thought.” He’s right. Sometimes it’s good to not have options. (Jay Maisel offers his own variant of the same theme: “The more gear you take, the less pictures you make.”) You may look down the block and say, whoah, that would look nice with a 600mm, but darn all I’ve got is this 28.” Not necessarily a bad thing. On this day, your eyes see like your 28, and if you work it right, they will see quite clearly.
The other thing is the confidence level of your subject. If you can brew that up somehow, and engage them in the process, and make them feel good about themselves and what they are projecting into the lens, it is so much more than half the battle. All faces have their own particular power, irregardless if they get in front of a camera frequently, occasionally, or not at all. Those folks who run screaming from a camera might actually have the greatest power. It is the photog’s job, out there in the shadows of the set, to unlock that power. Whether it’s with your light, your mood, your manner, or your BS. We have to open that door, and, once open, we then have to return to our subjects that promise we made to them by inviting them into the studio. To take care of them. (Asking someone to come in and do their portrait is an unwritten contract that obligates both parties.) Our subjects venture a great deal. They expose themselves to an unflinching process. They move, smile, and turn. The camera simply stares back. It’s a machine. We have to put a human face on that machine, and our leap of faith, our potential risk, has to be as great as theirs.
Kandra survived. (Scriv, who volunteered her for this ordeal, survived, too. I knew behind the lens, in addition to making good pictures of Kandra, I held Scriv’s life in my hands:-) She even, I think, had some fun. On another shoot at an old junk yard, once again, we needed subjects. She volunteered herself this time. And this time, she stepped in front of the camera like she owned it. Very cool.
As I always say, what could go wrong? 5 hours of live lighting in front of 950 people. Thankfully they were very gracious, easy going people, who were an enormous source of support and good will all day long. Very cool.
Day started with Drew, Will and I on the loading docks at 6am getting a boatload of gear up into the Wash. DC Convention Center. Ah, the glamorous life of a shooter. At that point, it’s just a matter of racing the clock to get ready for the doors opening at 9. Both Drew and Will worked incredibly hard, going full blast with only 3 hours sleep.
We started simple. Basic TTL strategies, using umbrellas, Tri-grip reflectors, diffusers, you name it. The guys are very tolerant of me, cause, while there is a general plan or outline to the day, I often riff a bit here and there, and try stuff just for the heck of it. We were blessed with two terrific, talented people in front of the lens, Jen and Tory, who worked with us. Tory didn’t even hold it against me that I called him Corey a good deal of the day.
Simple umbrella and a fill board for Jen.
Then a single Tri-grip diffuser for Tory.
Which became two Tri-grips, with Drew and Will hand holding both, along with the flashes.
Tory has one of those faces that really work well with all manner of light, and most folks reacted well to the idea of doing moody, simple light, TTL, really quickly. The two pics above took about 3 or 4 minutes to do, even with me burbling incoherently into the microphone.
Then Tory went the exec route.
This was an interesting set, in that I got myself into the woods using 4 flashes, all of which needed different power settings, but only had 3 groups to put them in to set those power ratings. Something hadda give. Luckily, I was able to play with positioning of the lights, and eliminate the 4th flash when the low flash directly in front of Tory put enough catch light in his eyes. It was a good place to be, though, cause it was good information for everybody in the room. We were on the doorstep of either making TTL work, or sending the flashes a message to all go manual, then ratio one of them down, power wise, with the time honored method of neutral density gels, or just forgetting about wireless hoo hah and going with a radio/manual power solution. Everything we tried was valid, and it was fun for the audience to kind of participate and work this out.
Then Tory got into athletic duds, and we tried another iteration of rim light with gels, and a Honl grid light for the face. Never really finished this photo, but it was going in a good direction. Will is just off camera to the right, hand holding the gridded speedlight.
For the last hour, we bring out the Rangers, just to show how strategies might vary between big lights and small lights. Went with an overhead beauty dish for Jen, with a small softbox underneath of her, for a pretty straightfoward beauty light look. Popped an SB900 into her hair for good measure, again taking a look at ways to mix different types of flashes. Will employed the wind machine, aka the eyeball dryer. I couldn’t resist dropping in a little glamour glow on this in post. The post stuff is really seductive, I tell ya, even for a goober like me who doesn’t know how to use it. I mean, I’m capable in a meager way of doing basic darkroom stuff, but I look at PhotoShop and filters and stuff like I’m a twelve year old holding a rocket launcher. “Wonder what this button does? Holy shit! I just blew a hole through my photograph!” Personal opinion? There are some filters and sliders and moves out there now that should be labeled, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”
Then at the very end, we put a Ranger Elinchrom with a long throw reflector at the back of the auditorium, along with an SB900. Just threw light at the stage. Any guesses which this one is?
Then of course, at the end, we asked for some audience participation to be Jen’s entourage/bodyguards. Da guys were a hoot.
Lotta fun. Hectic day. Each setup transpires in minutes, and we go non-stop. Many thanks to everybody in the audience, Will, Drew, Jen, Tory, and the Kelby gang, who really know how to pull this stuff together. More tk….