Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mean Lighting

I was experimenting with some old techniques (ceiling bounce) and a new technique (on-axis fill) on an assignment for the Journal, I captured this unusual photo of one of the speakers. I don't know if the scowl was meant for me, but I wasn't the first photographer to start using direct flash, just the most persistent. Granted, I made a total of 9 photos, this being the last one. When I chimped this shot, I suspect I got nervous, since he was state senator, after all.

The experiment involved using both an on-camera flash, bounced from the ceiling, and a remote second flash set to 1/32 power, held close to the lens axis. The fill effect was barely visible, but two tiny catchlights, one in each eye, add to the sinister look.
This second shot of another state senator using the same technique reveals the tiny catchlight in the pupil of the, along with the larger one created from the ceiling bounce. The tiny drop of light lightened up the shadows, but also brightened up the teeth, something I hadn't planned on. Check the enlarged cropped portion of the second shot.

This image was right out of camera, and since it was not destined for publication, I cloned out the extra catchlights on the classes.

One sad byproduct of the arrangement came from the manner with which I triggered the on-axis fill. I relied on the SU-4 optical triggering on the SB-800, but as a consequence, the remote speedlight went off whenever anybody's flash went off, so the unit was constantly popping. Next time, I'll add a Calumet Radio Trigger for better control over my remote. The Calumet allows manual control of the off-camera remote speedlight (set to manual output, by the way) while allowing passthrough control of a iTTL controlled speedlight mounted in the hotshoe of the transmitter.
Shooting angle influences the size of the primary catchlight. This shot, taken at a very low angle, allows a large portion of the ceiling to reflect in my subject's eyes, hence the large catchlights. The little catchlights are still there, and could be cloned out.

The addition of a low power, on-axis fill flash works well in some circumstances. It can produce an interesting look if there is not reflection from the key light, as was the case in the top photo. Of course, those second catchlights will be more noticeable the closer you get. Unfortunately, I can be pretty compulsive about these white micro-dots. But I know that if and when one of these photos were to make it to newsprint, that second set of catchlights will surely get lost in the ink dots.