The forecast called for showers, so I prepared my monopod-mounted Gary Fong Light Sphere by adding a plastic bag raincoat and utilizing an inexpensive radio trigger purchased on eBay. Some more information on that project can be found here.
Calibration: That's an uptown way of saying "What Aperture at What Distance?" Keeping things simple, I put the strobe/dome assembly on a camera, stood 5' from a non-reflective subject, set the flash output to quarter power, set the shutter speed to the highest flash sync setting, set the ISO to 800, and made photographs, changing the aperture until I liked the results. As it turned out, the best aperture was 5.6. I repeated the operation with the flash at half power at a distance of seven feet, and again got my best results at 5.6. I re-checked my settings outside and got the same results.
I had no illusions about the Dome's ability to "soften" the light. Frankly, when the Dome is used outdoors, it doesn't improve the shadow edges at all. I use the dome for its ability to create a "ball" of light that doesn't have to be pointed. Yes, I lose a lot of light, but now I don't have to worry about pointing the flash in the wrong direction - light goes everywhere, and at pretty much the same intensity.
For this night shot, the lack of detail in the shadows if expected, along with the relatively high position of the Dome. Having a streetlight in the background was very helpful in establishing the contrasty nature of the lighting, making the image entirely believable. It doesn't shout "flash".
The streetlight in the background was included to help the viewer connect to the high overhead placement of the existing lights. It something of a testament to the effectiveness of the Fuji 10-24mm lens' internal anti-reflective treatment. The lack of ghost reflections (disks of light) is a welcomed feature in any lens, especially in one that I use so frequently.
- An X-E1 with my 10-24 zoom lens,
- A new X-T2 with a new weather resistant 23 F 2.0, and
- An older X-T1 with 56mm 1.2 lens.
Just a reminder: If you use multiple lens/body combinations in the field, you might want to set all of your manual adjustments (exposure time, aperture, and ISO) to the same settings. Fewer things to think about, especially when things start to get hectic.
The movable "Ball of Light" provided by the Cloud Dome offers many advantages. If we look at the image (Photo #6), we can see that the dominant accent light is coming from behind my subject. If you look at the shadows cast by the chairs and the two spectators in the background, you can get a pretty good idea of where the light is coming from. My flash, coming from high camera left, gives me the modeling on my subjects face. Another interesting side effect is the exposure of the woman on at camera right. While she is closer to me than my main subject, the flash to subject distance is very close to that of the the flash to my dressed-in-white Stormtrooper. The distance was so similar that only a minimum of burning was required to equalized the exposures.
Right Lens, Wrong Body: I ultimately submitted to lead photo (Photo #1) for possible publication in spite of the too-tight cropping at the top edge. My choice of the X-E1 / 10-24 lens combination was a mistake, because the body does not have a rotating LCD panel. This made low-angle shots a hit-or-miss affair, as I wasn't about to lie down in the mud to make the shot. Photo #7 has a slightly better composition, but no engaging expression on my main subject's face. Had I used the X-T1 or T-2 body instead, I could have composed the image with the LCD panel rotated for waist-level viewing. This one one mistake I will NOT make again!