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.