Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Light Where You Need It

If I Was Any Happier I'd Have To Be Two People. I heard that expression is used only in the South, but it pretty much sums up my feeling after I made this shot.

The event was a fundraiser for HIP Housing and was held at Sparky's Hot Rod Garage in San Carlos. I had been assigned a "trifecta", or three photos to complete in one day. The first, in Redwood City, was just a few miles south, and the third in San Mateo, a few miles north. I manged to arrive before the event officially started, so I had a chance to find an interesting background. I decided that any shot I took would have to include the big "Sparky" sign in the background, a spiffy car, and some cute waitresses in the foreground.

The first thing I needed to do was establish the base exposure. I usually start out using aperture priority to determine my base line exposure. If I like what I see, I lock the settings in manually. Final settings on the Nikon D7000 were 1/60, F 5.6, ISO 800.

Accent Lights: I added my first accent light to brighten up the P-40 hanging from the ceiling. Because I didn't have a light stand, the lighting angle was far too low. This was apparent when I saw a shadow from the wing on the fuselage. But I did get some additional light on the plane and on the "Sparky" in the background. If you look behind the Budweiser sign, you'll see a faint shadow on the wall created by the accent light. Good enough. I placed the light so that the the flash head was hidden by the post next to the background car, while the sensor eye on the body was "line of sight" with where I would eventually make the photo.

The second accent light was positioned to "skip" over the surface of the near car. If you look at the shadow on the floor, you can accurately guess the light's position. I added a gobo to keep the light from hitting the lens. There is a major hot spot which would be covered once I got my "talent" in place. You can see the effect of these two remote speed lights here.

My Ooops Moment: I had now committed two SB-800 speed lights to the project, and had only 1 left. Up until now, it was the hot-shoe mounted Master, but now I needed it off camera, behind a Zumbrella, to light up my subjects. I could have used the D7000's built in flash as a commander, but I had assigned the accent light aimed at the plane to Group C, and the built-in only goes to Group B. Rather than re-set my two remotes, I dug out an SC-28 cable, screwed it to the spigot on the umbrella stand, and attached it to the camera's hot shoe. I now had full iTTL control without changing any settings on the master unit, but was forced to keep my light as close to the camera as the cable could stretch. No matter, it was on the end of a hand-held monopod, well within the cable's reach.

Cut! Everything was now in place. I spoke with my two supermodels Charlie and Maddy, arranged for some props (the shake and the sundae are plastic), and got them into position. My machinations must have been really interesting, as this couple watched me while I worked, probably not realizing that my wide angle lens was capturing them too.

Thanks For Working With Me. Since this couple really didn't seem to understand their effect on the finished photo, I asked them to be part of it, suggesting that they look at the two girls. As you can see, I got 50% compliance. So  after I made a shot and showed them the results, I thanked them and told them my next photo was a gift to the girls' mother, so I wanted just the two of them in the photo. This they seemed to understand, and they moved on to other attractions.

Here's the final shot, before cropping. Some light levels adjustments were made, but other than that, it's very close to the "right out of camera" version.

The two highlights on the rear fender of the car were probably caused by light bouncing back from the inside of the shoot-through Zumbrella. Had I used a Lastolite E-Z-Box, this could have been prevented. While I love the concept of a portable speedlight softbox, the smallest Lastolite is much bulkier than a folded umbrella of any stripe.

A final note. One piece of equipment that really works is the carbon fiber monopod sold through Adorama. It's light in weight, comfortable to hold, and relatively cheap. This model has the collet type locks, the ones that you grip and twist. I don't like the flip-lever locks because they are uncomfortable if you're forced to grab them while you're working.

Now it's on to the next assignment, a Crab Feed in San Mateo.