Sunday, October 27, 2019

Minimal Location Lighting - Fall Rendezvous

1/320 second, F 5.6, ISO 500. Open Shade white balance preset. Focal length 75mm (112mm APS equivalent)

Rendezvous!  I had a chance to photograph the participants in a Fur Trade era Rendezvous held in Marin County. Most people are familiar with Civil War Reenactments, but "Rhondys" celebrate a period in American history that predates the War Between The States. It can be described as that period that started after Lewis and Clark's expedition and ended in the late 1830's when the demand for beaver pelts evaporated with the introduction of wool felt for making hats. These hearty souls, commonly called Mountain Men, would venture into the Rocky Mountains to trap beavers for their pelts, Once a year, they would come to the lowlands and meet with merchants at a "rendezvous" to trade the plews (processed beaver skins) for supplies (and liquor!). The event was an excuse to let off some "steam" and indulge in some rough and tumble play. 

Today, all sorts of people meet at club-sponsored rendezvous to celebrate the life style and self sufficiency of the Mountain Men.  Participants dress in period correct clothing, camp in period correct "primitive" tents, cook their meals over open fires (when it's safe to do so), and test their marksmanship skills, just as they did 150 years ago.

The plastic tool box sits beside the tree branch used to identify the mark where the subjects would stand.

The Setup: I decided to make some formal photos that the club might use for their web site. Since the fall leaves were in full color, I chose a fully-leafed maple tree as a background. The morning sun was streaming through the leaves so the background gave me a variety of bright yellows to work with. I found a suitable "mark" on the ground for my subjects to stand on, and then proceeded to set up a light stand to support a shoot-through umbrella. The flash happened to be a Godox with its built-in radio trigger. Any flash that could be fired off camera could have been used, but the fast recycling time would definitely speed things up. The flash was position about 7 feet from my subjects, the distance and exposure determined using the "selfie" method. The camera was a simple, 6 megapixel Nikon D70. I used both a 28-70 Tamron and a 70-300 Nikkor.

Focal Length: 140mm (210 APS equivalent)
For the photograph at the top of the post, I positioned my lady pioneer in the shade of a tree so that the dappled sunlight would create highlights on her shoulders. I instructed my subject to lift her chin until she could see the entire umbrella. This would prevent the brim of her hat from casting a shadow over her eyes. Just before shooting, I would re-direct her gaze towards the camera. Unfortunately, my subject tilted her head down at the last moment, casting a slight shadow on the eyes. Since this was the best smile of the series, it's the one I will post. 

This 3/4 length shot (right) was made by backing away from my subject and increasing the focal length to 140mm. This de-focused the background even more, making it more abstract. Since the distance from the subject to the flash remained the same,  no changes in exposure were necessary, providing I stayed with an aperture of 5.6. I was not using a constant aperture zoom lens, so extending the focal length always decreased the maximum working aperture. F 5.6 was a  valid setting for all of the lens focal lengths.

Posing Note: I wanted the end of the rifle barrel to be at the same level as my subject's eyes.  I used the plastic toolbox shown in the layout photo to support the weight of the rifle while elevating the muzzle to eye level. The box was outside of the frame and wouldn't appear in the final photo.

Focal Length 75mm (APS equivalent 105mm)
Gary Cooper: I couldn't help but think of Gary Cooper when this reenactor struck a stern, man-of-the-frontier pose. I shot from a low angle to give the illusion of height. The longer focal length of the lens minimized any foreshortening, so his hands appear in proper proportion to the subject's face.

Full Length Shot: By simply backing away from my subject, I could produce a  full length portrait. If you look closely, you can see that the illumination begins to fall off slightly below his waist. When "aiming" your shoot-through umbrella, try to point the shaft directly at your subject's face, not at the center of their body. You'll want the facial expression to be the visual center of attention, so make sure it's the brightest region in your photograph.

Final Notes: These photos were not made with my primary cameras. The Nikon D70  I used was removed from active service long ago. The appropriate APS lenses were relatively inexpensive when compared with the constant aperture zooms I normally use. But these lenses have proven themselves as sharp enough for most purposes. When using these older cameras, it is important that you frame your image as tightly as possible so you can use every last one of those precious pixels. I set my camera to create both a normal JPG and a RAW image simultaneously. This way I can fine tune my exposure in RAW when major exposure corrections are necessary, and use the JPG when it isn't.

It isn't necessary to spend a lot of money on a lithium battery powered flash if you need both power and fast recycle time. You can always use two flashes set to one-half power.  This will shorten your recycling time significantly. I described the home-make double flash mount here. You will also need a reliable trigger, and one suitable candidate is described here.

Monday, October 14, 2019

First Friday At CuriOdyssey

Getting To Know You: This ferret is one of the permanent guests at CuriOdyssey, a museum that provides natural history encounters with wildlife indigenous to the San Francisco Bay Area. Ferrets are illegal to own as pets in California and Hawaii, so this little cutie will live out its life in the confines of the museum.

View From On High: I was using a Fuji X-T2 with a 16-55mm 2.8 lens zoomed to its widest setting. I have been avoiding my 10-24 lens, in spite of its history as my go-to lens. Its zoom range can be something of a curse: When set to the 10mm setting, it can introduce extreme foreshortening, the exaggeration of the relative size of the nearest and farthest subjects in the frame.  Using a slightly longer lens forced me to increase my subject-to-camera working distance. For this shot, I held the camera in a high overhead "Hail Mary" position just to get everybody in the frame. I really appreciated the tilting LCD panel on the X-T2 because it made framing much more precise.

From  SLR Lounge 
What About Flash? I used a Godox Round Headed flash triggered with the dedicated on-camera remote. I decided to bring the dome diffuser, a grid, a rubber snoot, and a magnetic gel holder holding a Full CTO equivalent filter, all components included with the Godox accessory kit. As it turned out, the dome was the only modifier I used because it would spread the light over a broader area, giving me some leeway when it came to the flash's position relative to the subject. 

I also mounted the flash on a short monopod for more options for light placement. Because I was working in a crowd, the short monopod minimized the chance of hitting someone. That extra 18" of reach provided two lighting options. If I wanted better modeling (shaping with shadows), I could increase the flash-to-lens axis distance. I could also increase the distance between the subject and the flash to decrease the contrast between the near and distant subjects. This shot is something of a compromise between getting the flash high enough to provide some modeling and far enough away to achieve more even lighting on my two subjects. 

You can see the subtle differences between the near and far sister. You can see that my near subject's pink jacket is just a tad brighter than her sister's. A bit of highlight burning would have evened out the brightness, but I wouldn't have improved the image much.

The Shots I Won't Show You: It took 41 shots to get that particular photo. That might seem excessive, but capturing a photo that has all of the faces visible, all the eyes open, and enough detail to support the caption can often be a matter of luck. One blink, one grimace, or a shy ferret can instantly make the photo an "also ran". This shot might have made it, but from this angle, the background is a little too busy for my taste, and the ferret is a little hard to make out.

1/60 second, F 2.8, ISO 12800, White Balance Overcast preset. Flash with CTO gel.
Just Messing Around: With my money shot in the can, I was free to experiment with lighting solutions I could use when working a room as large as this one. The ceiling accent lights all pointed down at the exhibits on the floor, and the color temperature appeared to be close to conventional incandescent lighting. By leaving the camera's white balance preset on Overcast, the rendering was warm and artificial, exactly what you would expect from an available light shot.

If you're wondering, the orange fantasma was a kerchief launched with a stream of air provided by the clear plastic "cannon". In this shot, it's highlighted by the ceiling accent light that's visible in the background.

Godox Flash with a CTO gel, aimed at the ceiling
Despite this photo's natural appearance, it was flash-enhanced. I attached a CTO gel on the flash and proceeded to bounce the flash at full power off the right, dark wood ceilings. Needless to say, I lost a lot of light, but the high ISO setting and wide open aperture allowed me to brighten the shadows while maintaining the ambient light feeling. Because I used a radio trigger, I was free to place the flash on a nearby table. If the flash had been positioned nearer my subjects, that bit of bright white light shining through a gap in the flash head could have might some problems. It could have been sealed with a bit of gaffer tape if it had been noticeable.

My bounce surface, burnt to a white chrisp.
This shot shows the flash lighting up the ceiling. You can see that the bounce surface was huge, and the lighting was extremely soft. If you're wondering about the severe over-exposure, fear not, because the light that actually lights my subjects was much less intense.

My closing comment?  Don't be afraid to use higher ISO settings to help you normalize
harsh ambient key lighting. Also, you can never have too much power. Bouncing off of this high, dark ceiling wastes a LOT of light, and the more you have in reserve, the better.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Installing CTO Gels On A Godox V1- Update

Buy yours here.
Dribs and Drabs: Well, the gels started to arrive. By Saturday, September 21, I have samples of all of the bits necessary to properly gel my Godox V1 Round Headed flash.

The Color Temperature Adjustment Kit: The Kit consists of a collection of round gels tinted to the accepted hues which included four levels (Full, Half, Quarter, and Eighth) of orange, green, blue, and something called "minus green", a magenta tint which I assume is the compliment to the green series.

I ordered one set from B&H Camera and one from Amazon, and the latter arrived first. I don't think the Chinese had fully embraced the concept of a licensed distributorship, based on the fact the Amazon delivery arrived with a Chinese return address.   Adorama chose to market the Godox product line under the Flashpoint name.

All you want are the two clear gel holders.
Mounting The Gels: You need to get a Flashpoint AK-R16 Gel Set to properly mount the gels. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the 4 gels (3 degrees of orange, one of green) are not true CTO gels, and might be suitable if all you need is to warm you flash's output. Using the round gels from the Color Temperature Adjustment Kit will provide more accurate color match. 

To mount the gels, start by installing one of the clear gel holders into the magnetic retaining ring. Just align the four nubs on the clear holder with the four slots in the back of the retaining ring, drop the holder in place, and while pinching the holder between your thumb and index finger, rotate the holder to lock it in place. Next drop the desired gel in place. Finally, install the second gel holder and lock it in place. I used a used dental explorer to push the tab into alignment. One could also drill a 1/16 " hole near the edge of the holder. You can now use a toothpick to help with the installation.

This approach requires the purchase of a Gel Set for every gel you want available for rapid deployment. This could become costly, but nowhere near as much as the similar Mag Mod filtration system. You could also get by with a single Gel Set and changing the gels in the field, a tedious process at best. But it you must go this route, don't forget to bring a toothpick.