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Balancing Act

Balancing Act

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you’ll know I like shooting on location. I love all the choices I get when it comes to balancing strobes with the available light – juggling all the variables is so much more fun than shooting in a studio where you have complete control over the lighting.

Shooting at night takes that to the extreme. Capturing what little ambient there is can be tricky when your flashes want to nuke everything with light.

I came up against such a situation a couple of weeks ago, so here’s what I did to stop my model, Sarah, from floating in a sea of under exposed blackness.

The image above was taken out by Pendigo Lake at the NEC near Birmingham in pitch darkness. So dark in fact that I had to ask friends to light the area with mobile phones while I set up. Without some artificial light on her, Sarah wouldn’t register at all.

Before the Quadras got powered on though, I found my ambient exposure. If I went straight in with flash, I’d have ended up with a good exposure on Sarah but a dark background. I wanted the coloured lights on the other side of the lake as my background so I left the strobes off for now, slowed my shutter speed and cranked up my ISO. The sweet spot turned out to be 1/20th second, f/4 at ISO 1600. Obviously shooting 1/20th handheld is usually a no no but when using strobe, the very short duration of the flash will freeze anything it hits. Plus, as there was no ambient light falling on her, I knew Sarah was going to be free from any motion blur from camera shake.

Then came the lighting on Sarah: A Westcott 50″ Apollo softbox (review of this coming soon) camera right and a gridded strobe camera right, slightly behind her.

As you have to start somewhere I set both packs to 1/4 power and fired off a test – let’s just say it was a little over exposed! Even at minimum power (25 w/s) on the ‘A channel’ on the packs I was still going to end up with a glowing Sarah if I wanted to keep the detail in background. I could have closed my aperture or lowered my ISO 2 stops to restrict the amount of flash getting in but that would have forced me to go to shutter of 1/5th of a second – slower than I was comfortable hand holding.

So instead I switched my Quadra heads over to the packs “B channel” and dialled all they way down to 8w/s – just enough power to balance the ambient light and produce this set of images.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2010

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2010

If you have even a passing interest in cars or motorsport you can’t help but love the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Every July, Lord March opens his grounds to tens of thousands of petrolheads. All the major car manufacturers build what can only be described as huge showrooms and the top F1 teams roll up in their trailers.

An event not to be missed by any respecting car nut!

Modified Nationals 2010

Modified Nationals 2010

The Sextons Grid Girls weren’t the only thing I shot whilst at Modified Nationals this year. Here are some more shots from the show.

Sextons shoot in “Studio J”

Sextons shoot in “Studio J”

As Zack Arias said in his recent 3 day extravaganza on CreativeLIVE; a studio is any place with a floor and a couple of walls where you can control the ambient light. That includes a barn on an agricultural show ground in Peterborough. Ladies and gents, I welcome you to “Studio J”

I’d shot in one of these barns before so I had a fairly good idea when I got there what I wanted to try. A quick word with Chris, driver of the Skyline and shepherd of the Sextons Grid Girls, and everything was set.

The idea was to cross light the car with slashing hard light coming on from 45 degrees camera left and right but keep the girls lit softly with a more central shoot through umbrella.

Here are the results:

Thanks to the Emmas, Gemma, Jen and Chris (And sorry to the other Gemma! I’ll get you next time!)

Georgia Graham Location Shoot

Georgia Graham Location Shoot

Last weekend, FHM Holiday Honey and car show regular, Georgia Graham made the trip down to Bristol from the North East for a shoot. We’d been planning for a few weeks, so by the time the day arrived I’d compiled a list of locations to go with her styling ideas and although nothing was set in stone, we had a good idea of what we were working to achieve.

For the gear heads; we were travelling light as we had to carry everything with us so all the shots below were lit with speedlights, using everything from Westcott umbrellas to home-made grid spots. Two Manfrotto nano light stands did the bulk of the work while my assistant for the day, Helen, acted as a VAL for the 3 light setups. Camera-wise, I used my 5DMkII with my 24-105MM L F4 and 70-200mm L F4 lenses.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Thanks to Georgia for making the trek down to Bristol and for being such a pleasure to work with. You can find out more on her webiste www.georgia-graham.com or follow her on Twitter.