Always on the lookout for faces, right? Even when there’s a lovely face provided for you.
I was on assignment for the Lastolite Group in the UK, and I did some shooting in an amazing place, with a wonderful subject, seen above. The grounds belonged to Richard Jobson, a film director, and in an earlier life, lead singer and guitarist of the formative Scottish punk rock band, The Skids. As soon as I saw Richard, I knew I wanted to make a portrait of that legendary face.
The fashion-y pic at the top of the blog is lit softly, as one might when approaching a soft, beautiful, youthful face. It is a combination of fair degree of the available light, mixed with an Ezy-Box Hot Shoe soft box, and a Tri-grip fill board. It’s all designed to be sort of a soft puff of light, just a touch. When you dance with available light like this, the parallels between lighting and cooking really ring true. A healthy dollop of available, and a dash of flash. Final combo, 1/800th @f1.4, ISO 100. Shot all the portraits featured here with the D800E, which has now given way to the D810.
Richard’s face is an entirely different story. There’s hard won lines in his face, and a wonderfully craggy, piercing look. It’s an amazing face, with a formidable quality. You don’t confront a face like this with a wuss of a light source. I still used the 2×2 Ezy-box, but I installed an egg crate over the face of it, to give it less spill, and more direction. And I placed it in a not so friendly angle, steeply overhead, to accompany and partner the already inherent drama of his visage. As I always mention when I teach lighting, there’s styles and approaches to light that will be dictated by your assignment. This lighting approach could be cool for an editorial portrait of a edgy film director, or rock star, or an author. Light the CEO of the Let’s Project a Friendly Image to Our Customers Corporation for the company brochure, and the resident art director will beat you to a pulp with a baseball bat. Friendly, it ain’t. It’s a flash with an attitude.
I started with Richard with an even more radical source. the Lastolite Uplite. It’s a convenient contraption that lays down on the floor and lets you project a light, with more or less softness, up into your subject’s face. Use it as the main, again, you’ve got some attitude. Use it as a fill, and it can calm down, or lighten up raging shadows. Below is the uplite as the only source.
Okay, not applicable to all situations, true enough. But Richard is one of those folks who can pull it off. This is 1/200th @f2.8, ISO 100. We were operating here in heavy open shade, so the flash had no trouble overcoming the available light, and making it recede to the background. His face is almost totally flash. Hence a bit of drama.
Now, put them together. The overhead soft box and the underneath uplite. Play with the ratios. Which is stronger? That’s to your taste. In the below frame, the uplite is filling only, not dominating the conversation.
Now, there’s a strong catchlight in his eyes from the lower light, and only the hint of the upper one in his right eye, perhaps leading you to think the under light is doing most of the work. Not the case. He has deep set eyes, and the steep position of the overhead combine with them to produce just a slight glimmer of its presence in the photo. But, it is doing the heavy lifting here.
There’s a whole video Lastolite created about this, which goes into more depth than I can here. Check it out at this link. In fact, there’s a whole page of various video selections you’ll find when you get there.
They were fun to do, especially seeing as I was directed by the mad genius himself, Drew Gardner, who has added video direction to his already considerable catalogue of visual skills. In the below pic, I have obviously screwed up again and Drew is correcting me.
Lastolite is continually coming out with interesting stuff for all manner of flash, particularly small flash. I’ve been happy to chip in with some ideas, and they’re located at this link.
Another bonus of the day? In addition to this wonderful location, group of subjects, and crew, I found, on a typically English, misty morning byway, one of my favorite pictures of my wife Annie…..
One of those good days in the field. More tk.