Welcome to Photo Of The Week! This is a new idea I am trying out so I’d really like to hear your feedback. The plan is to post an image every Tuesday afternoon with a little bit of text about how it was shot.
Let’s start off with this image of Georgia. It was shot in a multi-storey car park in Birmingham – I am all about the glamourous locations! The blobs in the background are actually traffic lights and a few lamp posts on a junction about a mile away.
I shot this with a 70-200mm f4 lens, zoomed to 200mm (to compress the background and bring the lights as close as possible) and wide open at f4 (to blur them into nice large blobs of colour). If you check the EXIF data, you’ll see I was a quite a high ISO at 1/100th of a second. I needed to give the traffic lights in the background time to burn in but shooting hand held at 200mm stopped me going below 1/100th for my shutter speed. This meant I had to drive the ISO up to 1250. Luckily my Elinchrom Quadra packs can be adjusted down as low as 25 watt seconds and the 70cm Deep Octa softbox it was in (off to camera right) was soaking up about another stop of light, leaving Georgia perfectly exposed.
When everything goes exactly to plan it’s easy to get the shot, but what if your ducks aren’t in the same pond, let alone in a row? That’s when you’ve got to work harder to pull something out of the bag. It tests your mettle and pushes your ability to make the best of what you have to work with.
I came up against this sort of situation again recently at Santa Pod. The Fast Show is the first show of the modified season in the UK and being March, the weather can be is bit hit or miss. In this case, it missed. In the first few hours we had rain, then sleet and finally some snow – none of which is conducive to running cars down a drag strip!
Trying to dry the track as the sleet comes down
But… everyone was there and trying to make the best of it, including one of my clients who now sponsor a lane on the strip and needed some publicity photos. The Performance Direct girls Faye and Hayley were brave enough to come out from under cover so it was time to get planning. Here’s the thought process:
A closed drag strip is bad for all the people wanting to see how fast their daily driver can do a 1/4 mile but good for me as it means I can use the freshly resurfaced start line as my location. The wet surface will also give a nice reflection of the girls red wellies.
With my 70-200mm racked out to 200mm I can compress the scene and bring the famous Santa Pod sign closer.
The sky is a very flat, dull grey so to get some interest in the clouds I will under expose by 2 stops.
Underexposing will mean Faye and Hayley are dark, so I need a flash. It’ll make the red and white outfits pop nicely against the grey background too.
It’s pouring with rain so I’m using one of my old Nikon SB24’s. I’m not risking one of my Quadras.
I’ve got limited power with the flash so I’m going to have to crank it quite high and use it bare. Too windy for a softbox anyway.
I’ll fly it on a boom as I need to get quite a way back at 200mm and I don’t want to have to Photoshop the stand out in post.
A quick check with the light meter tells me im at f/11 at 1/160th. Test shot of the back of my hand to double check.
Time to get the girls on “set”!
Finessing the pose: The ancient art of Brolly Tweaking
It was wet, windy and cold so I had to work fast but with everything thought through and dialed in while they were in the warmth of the media centre I could concentrate on getting a good pose and composition and be done in a few minutes.
Here’s the final set up. Shot from a low angle, zoomed to 200mm, flash high, to camera left, client looking on and Fay and Hayley doing what they do best.
The final set up
And here’s the resulting image, used by Performance Direct across their various channels. Big thanks to Faye & Hayley, Matt at PD, Suze at Santa Pod for her hospitality and Darren for the behind the scenes shots.
No this isn’t a post about financial planning but it might just save you a few hundred quid!
I don’t know how or when I developed this habit, but every time I drop something, I instinctively stick my foot out to come between it and the floor. I’ve heard this called the Barman’s Catch and the principle is when you drop something, you interrupt the fall with your foot just above ground level, effectively meaning the dropped item stops, then just rolls off your foot and falls the last few inches. Far preferable to a full 4 foot plummet!
It’s a good habit to get into as I am far happier to have had a few bruised shins than a hefty repair bill!
There are no photos to look at in this post. No behind the scenes videos. No tips or advice. Just one simple nugget of info that will hopefully go out into the world and save someone a little of their sanity.
On the advice of Zack Arias and Frank Doorhof I decided to dabble in the world of flash meters and treated myself to a Sekonic L-306S.
Out of the box, in with the battery and I’m off and running, playing around metering ambient light. Being a typical bloke/geek I didn’t bother with the manual but the 308S is fairly self explanatory so I fired up a flash and set about trying a little strobe metering to make sure everything was working as intended. It wasn’t.
No matter what power I set the flash to or where I held the meter the display always read “EU” – the symbol for underexposed – not enough light to even register. Once or twice I got a reading but then back to “EU” it went.
I started to think the meter might be faulty so I took drastic steps and sat in the lounge and read the manual! I even checked the videos on the Sekonic website. My male pride was restored when I realised I’d made no stupid mistakes. I also noticed that the meter was displaying “0” as I’d expect and not “EU”. I turned it off, back on, switched modes and it was working fine so into the studio to test again. “EU” straight away – no reading!
And then the penny dropped. Cordless Flash Mode sets the meter to wait until it sees a flash and then meters it. Simple and effective but confused by my energy saving LED lightbulbs. The 50Hz flicker LED bulbs give off is like 50 very low power flashes every second which the meter was detecting. The bulbs in the other room are halogen – no flicker, no confusion.
So the lesson is, if your flash meter is not doing what it should, make sure it’s not because of your light bulbs!
It was David that made me realise you could use lighting to lift your photography in any circumstances, not just pre-planned location shoots or studio work. Through his blog and DVD’s he made me see that with a combination of knowledge and using the right gear you can apply light in any situation.
At the time it was harder to source the right gear in the UK but eventually, and with some help from MPEX, I was about source what I needed: Two Manfrotto Nano 001B folding light stands and a pair of Westcott 43″ double fold umbrellas. With the addition of a strap and a ball bungy, you have all you need to fly an umbrella in seconds in a package you can throw over your shoulder and carry anywhere. Just add your flash.
As as case in point, let’s take the Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC. You never know what opportunities will arise, it’s busy, and the lighting in the exhibition halls is nothing short of horrific. The perfect place for a bit of nimble off camera lighting!
So here’s Faye, working for a client of mine at ASI2013, lit with my Strobist kit.
What we have here is a single Canon flash in manual mode, being triggered by a simple radio trigger. No ETTL cleverness here, I like to keep it simple.
So step one is to get a base exposure and there no science here. My camera was already at ISO640 so I left it there, shutter speed is 1/160th, just below my camera’s max sync speed and aperture is f8 to tame the horrible ambient light. Shutter speed was my only hard limit here – I could have traded ISO and aperture a little but f8 was a save depth of field and there’s no noise at ISO640 on the 5DMkIII.
Next up was flash power and the way I set this is even more low tech. I put my hand where my subject will be and take a shot. I have hundreds of photos of the back of my hand in various locations now. There’s a gallery show in it one day, I’m sure.
If it’s over exposed I drop flash power, under I raise it. That’s it. With enough practise you can get it dialied in with 2 or 3 tries. I think in this case I was at 1/8th power.
Now you have the camera and flash settings locked in, as long as you keep the flash the same distance from your subject, you can move around as much as you like.
Here’s a wider view to show the position of the flash. If you look towards the rear of the Lamborghini Aventador, where my flash isn’t lighting it, you can see just how yellow the ambient light was.
And a couple more :
And to wrap up the post, a little BTS video to give you a better idea of just what was going on.