Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SUNLIGHT: Batteries Included

Last Saturday was a perfectly gray day without a hint of sunshine. It was plenty bright enough to do just about anything a person would want to do, but the light (yes the light itself) was flat, featureless, with the personality you'd expect from a soggy paper bag. Itching to shoot something, it occured to me this might be a good time to try making my own sunlight. I've recently become a fan of internationally known photographer Joe McNally and his almost manic use of portable flash. The man can breath life into the dullest of subjects and photo assignments with one, two or more strategically placed flashes, colored gels and the insight born from years of experience out in the world shooting for major magazines and newspapers.

My preference would be to have an attractive model in front of my camera, basking in whatever light I throw her way. But my choice of subjects in the immediate area is rather sparse, so most of my experiments turn into excercises in self portraiture. I guess it's not so bad. I'm easy to find, fairly agreeable, open to new ideas and I work cheap. Not a bad set of traits for a model, especially since I just wanted to see what kind of shot I could pull out of a hat.

Looking for a wall I could throw a shadow against with the light from the flash, I opted for the little storage shed built out of sheets of OSB, hoping the texture of the wood would add some interest to the shot. A Vivitar 285HV flash, set on full power and plugged into a CyberSync receiver went on a stand off to camera right, about fifteen feet from where I leaned up against the shed. A color temperature orange gel (CTO) placed over the business end of the flash provided the late afternoon light. A CyberSync trigger went on the camera, the camera went on the tripod and after framing the shot up in the viewfinder, I started making exposures with the camera's self timer. With each shot I adjusted the position of the flash, shutter speed and aperture in the camera and my position as the subject. This is one of the better images that resulted.

Some tweaking with the high pass filter in photoshop brought out some detail in the shed and my clothes without getting too contrasty on my face. Using flash in this way offers possibilities to jazz up image ideas from the get-go and in some cases could save what would otherwise be a very blah image. Now armed with my battery operated sunlight, I can hardly wait to try it in future shoots.

1 comment:

Joan said...

Using yourself as the subject matter has proven to have some really good results. These are my favorites among all the pictures I have seen yet. Way to go!