Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strobe on a boom


Originally this was going to be "Softbox on a boom" but the wind was way too strong, so I had to remove the softbox and go with a bare flash. I saw how nice the wet street looked, along with the warm sky, and I wanted to use a warm flash to push the blue street scene even bluer.

Here's the setup shot (we just both moved further into the scene).


1 Vivitar 285hv
flash at 1/4 power,
at wide zoom,
through 3/4 CTOrange gel,
strobe was on a boom arm,
1 meter above subject, 1 meter in front and .5 meters to camera left of subject.

Here's the scene with no strobe:


Post settings were simple. I cooled the WB some to bring the flash a bit more neutral, while retaining some warmth. This pushed the street very cool. I did a quick adjustment brush for the sky, reduced exposure and upped the constrast, clarity, and saturation, as well as doing a slight warming overlay to make it pop a bit.

If I were to do it again, I would have moved Agust further into the shadows so that his head doesn't break the line of the roof. I'd also have put a flash outside camera right, with a blue gel, and a very low intensity (maybe 1:8 of the main) to give a slight rim light affect.

Friday, September 26, 2008

No more DIY stripbox

Appologies for the long silence, I've been in Texas at a conference, and work has kept me busy. Frequent updates will return now.


I took delivery of my official stripbox, and it is mighty nice. I like how it folds down flat, is much larger than my DIY version, and has less of a hotspot, thanks to the internal, removable baffle.

The best part about a softbox, is how soft, yet volumetric it can be. I love the options of rotating it in different axis to achieve different affects. You basically put it lengthwise in the axis you want to be soft, and perpendicular to the axis you want to be defined and volumetric.

Here's the setup shot, click through to flickr for notes.


2 Vivitar 285hv
main flash at 1/1 power,
through 1/8 CTOrange gel
at wide zoom,
through a striplight (30x132cm),
Striplight was vertical,
top was about 2 meters height and bottom .6 meters,
.5 meters in front and to the right of subject, aimed at face,
rim light was at 1/4 power,
through 1/4 CTBlue gel
at wide zoom,
into a frosted container to act as a bare bulb,
.6 meters to subject left, and slightly behind,
at 1.8 meters in height.

This was just a quick exercise to practice with the stripbox. I find the more small informal practice sessions like this that I do, the more seamless it fits into my more planned shoots. I already know how it will behave, how to set it up quickly, what settings will most likely work, and what will happen if I rotate it, or swap out a different lighting modifier.

I used the secondary light to not only cast a bit of rim light, but also to light the background a bit, which is why I used a bare-bulb modifier. It's just a frosted container, but it turns the flash into an omni directional light, rather than a directional one. This way some of the light got on my face, as well as the wall. Since the stripbox bled quite a bit also, you get a nice blue to orange gradient on the back wall. If I'd wanted to keep the wall relatively clean, I'd need a barndoor or flag for the stripbox, which I do not have yet.

I'm in the process of putting together a lighting/camera case that I want to work out of exclusively. It will be a two light, two stand kit, and I want it to be as flexible as possible. When I get it completely ironed out, there will be another gear post covering it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Striplight part 2


1 Vivitar 285hv
flash at 1/2 power,
at telephoto zoom,
through a striplight (20x90cm),
Striplight was vertical,
top was about 1.5 meters height and bottom .6 meters,
.5 meters in front of the subject's face, and slightly behind subject.

A website I frequent is having a self-portrait competition. I noticed from the many submissions so far, they were all very different from the classic portrait techniques. When I was in art school, every time a brief was given, it had an immediate obvious interpretation, but was open to more experimental stuff. Every member of the class would try to push the brief to it's utmost limits, and do something as obscure as possible. This left the class interpretation relatively untouched, and I routinely tried to work on something well done, but that fit the more obvious example. I found it fun to try something basic and simple, but try to work more on quality rather than getting lost in originality purely for it's own sake.

I wanted to use my homemade striplight again (I have a real one ordered on the way, I love striplights now). I originally tried some straight on shots, like this:


And while I liked it, and it looked how I envisioned in my mind, I decided to try a few more poses. Again, I ended up getting my favorite of the shoot (the first image) when I tried this. I also found that the different poses ended up working with different crop formats.

One thing that I like so much about striplights, is that you get soft lighting, but can still reveal volume and shadows. It's only really soft in one dimension, which gives tons of room for interesting lighting setups. I was originally planning to get this main strip light setup correctly, then I was going to pop in a 2nd flash, but it worked so well as is, there was no need.

striplight_portrait-2 striplight_portrait-3

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Magazine advert dissection

Time for another dissection. I saw these in a local magazine and loved them. They're from a prominent fashion label, and I assume these are corporately sponsored shots that are disseminated to smaller magazines. What I like is the simplicity. I think if most photographers tried something this simple, it would end up looking far too garish and ugly, whereas here I think it's stunning.

Setup shot:

I am positive it's a single light source. What I'm unsure of is the shape of the light and what kind of modifier was used. I do not think it's barebulb, the shadows are far too soft for that. It could possibly be a large beauty dish, but it's more likely an octobox or softbox, with a grid. The shadows are still quite hard for most shoots, so the light was definitely further away. The grey wall provides just a bit of bounce. You can see it open up the shadows of the guys face. It's possible there is some kind of bounce or reflector at the front of this room, angled so it doesn't add much to the wall (leaving the dark shadows intact) but keeping the clothing from going completely black. I'm unsure of this aspect though.

Great shoot, stunning images. I definitely want to try something like this in the future.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Moonlit portraits


This doorway proved so interesting from the earlier shoot, that I got the urge to return after dark. I wanted to emulate the look of moonlight and a warm interior light.

Here's the setup shot. You can click through to flickr to see the notes over where the two lights are located.


2 Vivitar 285hv
main flash at 1/16 power,
at wide zoom,
through 1/4 CTBlue gel,
lightstand was at full 3 meter height,
exactly even with camera,
background flash was at 1/8 power (hacked vivitar),
wide tele zoom setting,
through 1/4 CTOrange gel,
light stand was at 1 meters height,
even with subject and 1 meter to the left (inside the alcove),
aimed up at the wall to bounce around as much as possible.

The goal was to emulate moonlight, so I gave the main flash a blue gel. In hindsight, I wish I would have put my silver umbrella on the stand, to make the light just a bit softer. Moonlight is normally a bit hard, but I think I could have gotten away with softening it a bit. If I'd had a third light, I would have snooted it, and put it slightly to camera left, and aimed just at his head. That way I'd have gotten a more even light on the face with less shadows. As it is, I did a quick adjustment brush over his face in lightroom, and boosted exposure a half stop, as well as contrast, clarity and sharpness.

The goal of the shoot in my mind was this shot below. I couldn't get any ambient to show up at f/5 and 1/60 of a second at iso 400, so this is entirely lit by the flashes. I started with him in the doorway, and adjusted the background light till it was proper brightness. Then I turned on the main flash, and it was fine at 1/16. I managed to get the light ratio fairly quickly, so the rest was getting the composition and pose that I wanted. This one hit all my mental expectations.


Once I had the shot I was after, I started playing with angles and also switched to my telephoto lens (85mm) for the first shot of this post. I ended up getting my favorite shot of the shoot when I changed angles. This shot below was from getting much closer to the wall and angling up slightly. This is also the main one that makes me wish I'd had a third flash to add just a tiny bit of light to his face. If I'd had it, I probably would have made the blue of the "moon" flash a bit stronger, maybe 1/2 or 3/4 CTBlue. I would have placed the third flash almost even with the camera from this shot below, put it at full height, with a snoot, and a 1/8 CTBlue. This would have brought the focus of the shot to his face, and would have kept me from having to emulate it in post. It would also have evened out the lighting on his face, so that there isn't as much dark running down the center.


After I was happy that I had enough shots, I asked Agust to swap with me, so that I could have one in the same setup.