Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘lighting

Soft, Wrapping Light

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Suki likes to hang out in the same room where I keep all my photographic equipment, so often times I’ll just go in the room, set up, and start photographing her. She’s there anyway, right? Last week, I decided to get a nice shot of her face, especially since I didn’t have a chance to go outdoors and make an image of her for week 11 of my 52 week project. There aren’t any large windows in the room and it was late afternoon, so it was artificial light or no shot. Suki is just about as soft to the touch as she looks, so I wanted to convey that softness in the photo.

Light from a bare strobe is not soft. It’s hard and harsh. So to make it as soft as possible, you need to diffuse it…a LOT. This is how I did it:

What you see here are two SB units (SB-800 and SB-900), firing up into an all-in-one umbrella with its reflective shroud in place. The light from the two units will hit the umbrella and come back down towards Suki, but not before it hits another layer of diffusion: a skylite diffusion panel. Using two units increases my light volume and keeps my recycle times shorter than using just one, since all this diffusion makes the SB units work harder. Now I have a bigger light source relative to my subject, and a softer quality of light (learned all this from Joe McNally!).

Poor Suki. Relaxing in a room, and all of a sudden these huge pops of light start going off above her head. This was her initial reaction to the big diffusion panel:

The sounds of the camera, the pop of light, the whine of the flashes as they recharge, the big beeps they make to indicate they’re ready to go, someone’s voice saying “look at me! look at me! stay! stay!” …. it’s a lot for a dog to hear and see. But Suki’s pretty used to it now.  In fact, she gets bored and sleepy after a while:

But hey, the final week 11 shot was worth the trouble, right Suki?!

Camera: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC and Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8

Sunlight in the Evening

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I took this photo Bridget by the window in our study a couple weeks ago. The interesting thing about this image is that the source of light is not the sun. This shot was taken late at night, long after the sun had set. I was experimenting with using strobes to re-create the look of sunlight softened by a window.

I placed one of my Bowens monolights on a light stand out in the backyard, roughly ten feet from the window, positioning it towards my subject at an angle that the sun might be at in the late afternoon. Its lowest power setting from this position gave me f/8 at ISO200. These lights are powerful!

The window diffused the incoming light, which wrapped around Bridget nicely and created a daytime sort of look in the middle of the night. I don’t have a way to fire my SB units via a radio signal yet, but when I eventually add that capability, I might try using this technique much more often in a variety of locations.

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/8 ISO200 1/200 Second

Written by Jonathan

February 23, 2010 at 9:43 am

More Glamour Shots

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR at 155mm f/11 ISO100 1/125 Second

Here are two more images from the photo shoot I blogged about yesterday. Bridget’s look is very similar in all three in the series, but I like the crop and posing differences between all three. In these two images, I introduced a small amount of skin softening using a masked 25 pixel gaussian blur layer in CS4. I don’t think her already soft skin needed this treatment, but I thought I’d give it a try. The result sort of reminds me of a makeup add in a Japanese fashion magazine.

I had a blast with this little portrait project! Check out more shots here.

Beauty Shot

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR at 112mm f/11, ISO100 1/125 Second

Interesting story behind this image that I just finished post processing minute before posting this: I was studying studio lighting last night and came across information on using beauty dishes. I thought to myself “I sure wish I had one of these!” Well, just out of curiosity I went down to my garage to see if just maybe there was a beauty dish somewhere among the boxes of lighting equipment my father gave me recently (he used to have a studio set up in his garage when he shot professionally).  I actually found one! I was stoked. I had Bridget put some makeup on and we did a photo session.

Out of about 40 or so images I took last night, this one was my favorite. There are others that I love as well, but I haven’t had a chance to touch them up yet. Since I was going for a very bright, “beauty” style image here, I wanted to pull out all the stops and really go at this in both Lightroom 3 Beta as well as Photoshop CS4. White balance, black levels, and contrast were handled in LR3 Beta after the shoot, followed by a retouch in CS4 that included using the heal brush, clone stamp tool, patch tool, liquify, levels, unsharp mask, dodge, burn, screen layers, multiply layers, you name it (I can’t even remember everything I used!). It was all quite exhausting, so I’ll have to post the rest of the images later.

This shot was taken in our living room with a beauty dish set high above her with a large soft box behind her aiming toward the camera, creating a great wrap of light around her face. Even before the retouch, I thought this was just gorgeous image of Bridget. She looks absolutely positively stunning.

Written by Jonathan

December 15, 2009 at 9:52 pm

It’s Hard to Type with Paws

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 at 195mm f/8 ISO200 1/125 Second

What do I do when it storms too badly on the weekend to go out and I’m stuck indoors? Photograph stuff around the house, like Bo Bear here. Bridget wanted me to take a picture of him in his new red shirt that she bought for him at the Build a Bear store this past weekend. I figured, why not make it interesting and use a couple SB units to make a moody shot?

I placed two laptops on the coffee table in our living room, originally planning to make Bo look like a really busy, multi-tasking bear. The shot didn’t look right, so I just kept the second laptop out of the shot (to the left of the frame) and used it to bounce light towards the Bo from camera left. I gelled an SB-800 with a full CTO, attached a dome diffuser, and aimed it at the second laptop’s screen, which had a white piece of paper over it. This would act as a main light, set to TTL at -1/3EV. This main light is aimed at Bo Bear, but is also rotated to spill some light on the laptop he’s looking at, otherwise half of the frame would be a completely dark box.

Coming in high from camera left is a bare SB-900 zoomed to 200mm and set to manual (SU-4) at 1/128 power. The small kick of cooler light coming from the SB-900 puts a nice highlight to the upper rim of the laptop and also casts blue light on the left side of Bo Bear’s face, simulating the light that would come from the screen. The computer screen is active in this shot, but wasn’t putting out anywhere near enough light to create the effect. Both flashes were triggered via CLS using the D300s’ pop-up flash as a commander.

The rainy window behind Bo Bear and his laptop was actually throwing quite a bit of backlighting towards the camera because this shot was taken during the day time. I wanted more of a night-time, moody look to the shot, so I used a higher shutter speed to really underexpose the daylight in the background.

Written by Jonathan

December 12, 2009 at 11:53 pm

The Grip!

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Or as Joe McNally (my hero) would call it, “Da Grip.” One of the many things I learned from studying Joe’s work is a camera hand-holding technique that I’ve found to be very solid (above left). The shoulder makes a steady base for the camera to rest on top of and keeps the camera’s center of gravity close to the body. The left hand can brace the right hand for extra support, or can even roam free to hold an off camera speedlight. It’s a great technique if you want to get your flash off the hot shoe and create some directional light when you’re on the move, but there’s only one catch: you have to shoot left-eyed.

I’ve always naturally put my right eye up to the viewfinder, so it took some getting used to. But after forcing myself to use the technique for a while, using my left eye started to feel natural as well. The effort was worth it because once you lock the camera in the grip, you think “wow, this is rock-solid!” I’m pretty comfortable using either eye now. But one more thing is needed for this technique to work: a grip! What?

A battery grip, that is. Before very recently getting the MB-D10 battery grip for my D300s, I had trouble with “Da Grip.” Without it, the camera is not tall enough to rest on your shoulder and still get the viewfinder to your eye comfortably. The only solution is to raise your left shoulder, which makes it a less stable platform than when it’s relaxed.

I was hesitant about getting the MB-D10 for a while. It has, after all, turned my D300s into a giant, D3-sized monster. It’s also pretty expensive. But the added ergonomics, particularly when shooting in portrait orientation (above right), made it a worthwhile choice.

About the images above (a screen capture taken straight from Lightroom 3 Beta’s library module):

I took both of these shots in front of a mirror, which means I had to cover the pop-up flash in order to use it trigger the SB-900 I had off-camera, otherwise the commander pulse coming from the camera would have hit the glass and ruined the shot. So I used a hot shoe attachment that blocks the visible light coming from the pop-up but allows the infrared to pass right on through it, which the SB-900 can still see. It appears that some of the light bounced off of the back of this filter and hit me, however, heating up the right side of my face a little. I must say, the accessory looks a little goofy, especially in the image above right, where I look like some sort of weird cyborg.

So yesterday I had a day off (woohoo!). I spent the entire day with Suki and the camera (not the best combination if you want to concentrate on taking pictures), and we were all over the city! I look forward to uploading some images this weekend.

Written by Jonathan

December 4, 2009 at 10:54 am