Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wedding Bell Blues

1/180th second, F 11.0, ISO 200

Vintage Wedding Gowns
Wedding Fashions Throughout Time was 
scheduled for May 18, 2018, and I was anxious to make a photo to help publicize the event. Two models would be at the Historic Courthouse for a final fitting of their gowns the week before, so I jumped at the chance to make a flash-enhanced outdoor photo at the Historic Courthouse in Redwood City.

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Location lighting has become far less daunting since the introduction of the Godox AD200 flash, a self-contained, speedlight sized flash that packs a 200 Watt-Second punch. Not only that, the designers have given a lot of thought into how the unit would be used in the field, and they created a mounting system that integrates both the need to secure the flash itself while providing an attaching point for a variety of light modifiers. They came up with the Glow S-type Bowens Mount Bracket which has a hole to accommodate umbrella shafts at the bottom of the mounting ring. There are also recesses to accept the Bowens mount compliant soft boxes. And as a final pleasant surprise, the mounting ring's diameter is the same as the "lollipop" mounting disk used in the Lastolite E-Z Box softboxes. It costs about $20.00, about what you would pay for a conventional umbrella mount, but much more versatile considering the options you get for mounting light modifiers.

If you bought the AD200, you know it comes with a bare bulb adapter and flash tube. When used, it allows light to completely fill the corners of a softbox's diffusion surface, reducing hotspots and giving a more even light distribution for softer lighting. The clamping arrangement of the  Glow bracket simplifies the mounting of the AD200, and just about any other flash or speedlight.

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With those 200 watt-seconds at my disposal, I didn't think twice about using a softbox. This weekend I used an Adorama Glow 31" x 31", an obvious knock-off of the Lastolite E-Z Box. At about $40.00 (mount bracket included), it costs less than one fourth the Lastolite unit. The softbox collapses into a compact bundle which you then stuffed into its own zippered bag. Adorama thoughtfully provides a semi-rigid case that holds both the collapsed softbox and the necessary mounting ring, allowing you to gather everything you need except the flash itself, and a dedicated triggering device. Since I knew my car would be parked a short distance from where I would be working, I brought a 12' lightstand, mainly for the stability provided by its long legs.

I chose my location, a covered seating area beside the square, because it allowed me to better control my flash exposure without having to deal with any direct sunlight. The image at the top of the post was the best of the bunch, and I subsequently submitted it for publication. But at the last minute, I was asked to pull the image in favor of one showing only one bride.  Since we had been experimenting with a bouquet toss photo, I was able to submit this image instead. 

1/180th second, F 9.0, ISO 200
The visual elements are too spread out for my taste, and this shot would not have been my first choice. Normally, the bride would throw the bouquet over her shoulder, but I needed a face to go with the dress, and this was the result. It is funny that she looks more like she is about to catch the bouquet, rather than having just thrown it. Timing was critical, and it took nearly a dozen attempts just to get this shot. Try as I might, I never got a photo with the bouquet much close than this.

Glare Spots: Softboxes provide a broader light source resulting in a gentler transition from highlight to shadow. I might add that this is not the same as lowered contrast, since that is the result of light bouncing off reflective surfaces such as the wedding dress or bare skin. Softboxes also create huge glare spots on glasses, as you can see here. This photo was not submitted because of the glare, and serves as a reminder that when shooting from a low position, the height of your light source could cause some trouble.

This combination has proven itself powerful enough for outdoor work. I will replace my preferred light stand with a short monopod held by a relatively tall assistant. Hopefully, I may be able to test at Carnaval in San Francisco.

Here's the final image, as it appeared in the May 15, 2019 edition. Again, the exposure proper balance between the shadows and the highlights give both saturation and detail to the entire image, with no inky shadows or blocked highlights.