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Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category

The Sky is the Driver

Aug 14

In Lighting at 7:01am

As I usually mention when teaching flash lighting, the most important light to observe and work with is not represented by that carton of flashes in the trunk of your car. It’s the ambient light level you encounter on location. Even if you go into a coal mine, and there is no light, that lack of ambient illumination becomes the driver for your flash solution. Likewise, outside, on a sunny day, that nuclear blast of photons up in the sky pushes you to light…or not. So, ironically, when you go on location as a “flash photographer.” no matter how many watt seconds you are packing. the ambient light is the key light to observe and react to. Read the rest of this entry »

Knocking Around With Flash

Aug 11

In Lighting, Seminars & Workshops at 5:48am

It’s been a busy year, so much so, I didn’t get around to doing a KelbyOne live seminar until late June. They are fun to do, and it looks like I’ll do a few more as the year progresses. The Kelby folks actually changed the name of the tour in the middle of things (thanks guys:-) so it is now called “The Power of One Flash.” Good example below. A very patient lady helped me out by coming out of the audience in San Jose for this one flash snap.

It’s a one flash deal, but the flash is ping ponged off a white foam core board. It faces away from the subject, hits that board, enlarges and softens dramatically, and then hits a 3×3 Lastolite Skylite Rapid Diffuser, which is very, very close to her face. When the already bounced light translates through that, it gets really glowy and soft. It’s basically a home made soft box I make on stage.

At the top of the blog, the pic is three flashes, but I don’t get to three until the fourth hour, and only use the that many for about 10 minutes. The rest of the day is pretty much one flash treatments, which I regard as a serious act of restraint on my part.

The gentleman in the hat is lit with two rim lights, off to the sides and behind him. I shot in tungsten white balance, so the white light SB-910 units go blue. With a little underexposure, they get dramatically blue. The front light is a little beauty dish that used to be made by Flashpoint. Sadly, they don’t make it anymore, but I loved the controlled snap of the light, especially when used, as it is here, with a honeycomb grid. It’s tight, and really pops the subject, but let’s the other lights do their thing, as it’s overall field of coverage is really defined and narrow.

Also experimenting with a new style of umbrella. It’s big. (Called a 4 in 1 by the Lastolite folks, it is 51″ so the coverage is excellent.) Used in reflected fashion, it easily drapes Brad and Jan here in rounded, soft light. (This big source gets trotted out in the last hour, where I show some Profoto large flash units, and contrast that approach with multiple speed lights into one shaper.)

Then, with the addition of a tri-grip silver reflector, and some banter, we ended up here. These lovely folks have been together a long time, over 20 years, as I remember. Many thanks to them for coming onstage.

But turn the umbrella into a shoot through, firing only through the center port, you can make it a character driven light, such as the treatment here of Chet, also a wonderful volunteer from the audience.

The above pix are shot with the exact same light source, the 4 in 1, but configured in a different way, which yields decidedly different results.

Next one of these stops is Cleveland!¬†Having fun doing these, and many, many thanks for all the gracious folks who come up onstage and help me out during the day. Most people don’t imagine at the beginning of the day that they will end up with a photo session in front of 300 plus people, but for a few, it works out that way. Hey, I get a great subject to work with, and they get a new Facebook profile picture. All good……more tk…..


Profoto at the Opera!

Jun 26

In Jobs, Lighting at 2:35pm

It is always advisable to travel light going into China. It is a country of many rules and regulations, and that age old photog ethic of “Damn the rules I’m here to make pictures!” can be blunted a bit if displayed to the wrong, say, customs official. Hence, I was exceedingly grateful that Profoto USA, Sweden and China all pulled together and offered the assistance of a strobe package for my latest visit.

The city of Beijing is a fascinating place, filled with practitioners of ancient and time honored art forms, such as Chinese opera. I was very lucky to work with these actors and actresses for a few hours.

I was using mostly B1 units, for the first time. First experience in the field, for me, with these guys, was all positive. They’re not just good, they’re terrific. Solid state, built like a little armored vehicle of light, and just locked on in terms of the getting the signal from the air remote. (I always approach the transceivers, signalers, radio remotes, or smoke signal system associated with specific lighting brands with a bit of trepidation. In some instances, it feels like an afterthought, and performs like one. No worries on these. Even at distance, reception was reliable.)

For the basic light setup, I had a 4×6 RFi soft box overhead of camera, and a 2×2 under for beauty fill. As I backed off, to incorporate the actors in their staid, traditional poses and stage personae I noticed the ornate ceiling of the theater was going black. I put one B1 back there and just banged it into the ceiling, and it had more than enough juice to bring out the detail.

All the above were shot at one second on a D800E, which is a super resolved, sharp camera. Hence I really relied on the power of the flashes to chisel out the details. In the tight beauty portrait above, for instance, the right side of the frame does have the vapor of motion about it, which I ended liking in that instance. But most of the time I’m keeping my tripod steady, and encouraging the actors to make their moves, and then hold, hold, hold.

I love working over in Beijing. The folks I work for are pretty exacting in what they want, but you also get to have fun as well, such as with a legendary chef and his helpers in a famed duck restaurant. Below, I’m just blasting some B1 light through a shoot thru umbrella, working fast, and hoping to get out of this busy kitchen’s way before the chef decided to take a cleaver to the annoying photographer.

I learned a lot on the trip, and had a blast with, what was for me, some new lighting gear. I’ll be continuing to experiment, which at the end of the day, is what a career as a shooter is all about.

Quick note: Tomorrow, Friday, I’m in Seattle teaching The Power of One Flash Tour for KelbyOne. I’ll be using B1 units on stage for the first time, which again, is a new wrinkle for me, and it should be fun.

More tk…

A Postcard for FDNY

May 29

In In The Field, Lighting, On Location at 7:51am

Ten House is located on Liberty St., spitting distance from the World Trade Center site. They just got two new rigs, and it fell to 10 Truck chauffeur, Aaron Burns, who doubles as the house photog, to shoot a postcard of these brand spanking new machines. A postcard, and maybe a shot to put on the wall, if things worked out. Read the rest of this entry »

More Flash Play….

May 12

In Lighting at 12:58pm

Another way of involving a bunch of people while teaching lighting is to use a piece of paper as a light source. In the photo world merry go round of light shapers, light tools, light modifiers, bouncers, scrims, Velcro doohickeys, and bendable whatchamacallits, sometimes just a piece of Xerox paper will do. Tape it on the screen of a computer, and bounce your speedlight into it, and you have a simulated computer light source. Embellish the scene with additional sources. Stir in gels. Mix it up with a light fitted with a grid. Link it together and fire the whole shebang with line of sight TTL. Five flashes, fifteen minutes, done deal.

Or, you keep it cool, simple and elegant. One light into the screen/paper, 1/1000th @f2.8, incandescent white balance. The windows in the background do the rest.

Or, you can make your buddy look like a mad computer genius (which he is), as I did with RC Concepcion, below.

However, sometimes you are confronted with almost no usable light in the background, as in the picture way up top of the post, so you break out a few flashes and have some fun. I had a great crowd at the GPP PopUp in Singapore, and we simply decided to involve a bunch of folks, and turn the auditorium into a nonsensical riot of color. First up, of course, was the copy paper white light/main light, Group A, dialed in to a good exposure for my three person research team. I forget the exact setting here, but in the world of TTL, you often have to dial down the power for this key light. I don’t have line of sight from camera POV, but I have found what happens is that if you fire your commander flash with the dome diffuser on, there is often enough radiant light from that initial pulse scattering around to reach the sensor on the light propped up on the keyboard.

Then, you have blackness in the background, which can turn into….any color you want. I put theatrical green gels on two speed lights, and dished them out into the crowd. They are at about 45 degrees back from the computer, and firing hard light towards my research crew up front. They are hand held, so positioning is, well, seat of the pants. But it works, except when the whole audience is laughing so hard the guys holding the lights can’t keep them aimed properly.¬†

The small foreground fillip we worked into this scene was to cast a fourth protagonist off to the side, the evil poacher who is sitting there copying my award winning research team’s formula off their computer screen. To illuminate this gentleman, Cali is holding a speed light attached to a paint pole, and fitted with a warm gel and a grid. I have to isolate this figure with a splash of light, but that splash cannot be a wave of light, as would be produced by, say, an umbrella. It has to be a directed pin prick of flash that hits my corporate spy, and not much else. If you hit the scene with broad, random light, the directed nature, not to mention the color, of the light you have already created gets swallowed up.

Lastly, mostly for giggles, we threw a red gelled speed light into the background. Directly behind the group, firing backwards, it has a limited spill and play. (You can see the arm of the person holding it.) Doesn’t look particularly good.

Hand held, off to the side, it produced this shot, which is what I led this blog with.

Below, is a sketch ( I use that term loosely) of the overall scene.

All speed lights, SB-910. Camera is D4. Lens is 24-70mm. Again, a fun way to demystify flash, and light a big room with a few speed lights.

More tk….