Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The title of this post means Church Light in Icelandic.


I saw this church several weeks ago at night, and knew instantly that it would be a perfect setting for a shoot. I had several friends lined up to ask to help pose for the shoot, but either my schedule or theirs precluded it. After buying a new jacket and wanting a way to show my friends, I figured I would do a trial run with myself as a the model. A bit more difficult, but this way there was no rush.

I did a bit of planning beforehand in my mind, I knew I wanted to:
Use symmetry as a framing element,
Use the running lights of the sidewalk to draw the eye in,
have the entire church visible,
have a contrasty dark blue sky,
and try not to overlight it.

My first step was to get a good angle and decide on a lens. Originally I tried my 10-20mm, but it was far too wide, and it's minimum aperture at 20mm is 5.6, which was horrid for the lighting conditions. I knew I needed my 35mm f/1.4 to pull in enough light. I set it up on a tripod and got a good angle, then using my remote trigger, I tested at which running light I should be even with for proper framing. Then I used the live view to fine tune the focus onto that running light, and locked the lens to manual focus. At 1.4, the DoF is incredibly narrow, about .4 meters.

Once I had the angle I wanted, I wanted a photo using natural light only, so I could try to emulate it. Here is a photo with no flashes used.


It's not a bad lighting scenario, but the lights are heavily tinted (streetlights) and not bright enough. I setup my flashes so that they sat at the same angle as the streetlights, and angled them up so that it would feather downward and not create a glaring shadow at my feet.

Here is the setup shot:

2 Vivitar 285hv
Right flash at 1/16 power,
at tele zoom,
angled up,
light stand was at 1.5 meters height,
left flash at 1/32 power,
at tele zoom,
angled up,
light stand was at 1.5 meters height,
5 meters to right of subject 3 meter forward from subject.

In hindsight, I wish I would have used CTOrange gels. I had to fake it in post with a photo filter in photoshop, as the lights were far too blue when I balanced for the rest of the scene.

Once I had the lights the brightness that I wanted, and a good angle, I poured water all over the sidewalk (I had brought a 2 liter bottle of water) in order to get some reflections off the ground to add more lighting interest.


For post settings, I took the sky from the first shot, and used it for all the subsequent shots. It started getting cloudy after that shot, and the sky was just a flat orange from the city lights bouncing off the clouds. I edited the curves of the sky layer to bring up the blues and greens in the highlights, and the reds and blues in the shadows. Then I balanced all the light sources. I used a warming filter for the subject to kill the blueish cast of the flashes, a magenta filter for the green flourescents of the church lights in the background on the ground level, and a color correction layer for the sidewalk to remove the magenta cast of the WB correction that was used on the entire scene. If I'd used CTOrange gels, I would have had one less light source to correct in post. Then I used the high pass method of sharpening, but limited it only to the subject, and the ground that was in focus. I used this same mask to smart sharpen as well. I think bokeh becomes incredibly ugly when sharpened, so I leave it out of that step.

Once I had everything setup, I could just stand there with my remote trigger and try a bunch of poses, trying to think about how the flash would fall on me based on the angle I was standing, and also thinking about where my weight was distributed, how my stature and posture would make the final image look, and making sure to straighten any wrinkling of my clothes from those poses. It would have been great to have had a stylist on hand, but you work with what you have!



  1. Mjög flott! Good pictures and awesome lighting as usual!


    but yes this is good