Wednesday, August 24, 2011

evening lighting

we were on our way back from dinner with the kids and the sun was behind the clouds before sunset... so i had to grab the camera, a flash, and the reflector.
i am not fond of light backgrounds outdoors... just a personal taste i have developed... especially around the head of my subjects
so i chose the tree as the background... that means getting lower than my subjects because the tree is fairly close (say 15-20 feet away from subject)

i grab my 70-200mm lens... i have really learned to enjoy this lens for personal portrait work

i have my wife grab the reflector and my SB800, which is incidentally triggered by the cactus v5
i find the cactus just right for my needs with the SB800

since i am shooting A mode and my fstop is around f3.2 and ISO 200, so i guess at 1/4 power.  my wife is holding the flash in one hand in front of the reflector (which is on the silver/gold mixed side) to match the warmth of the almost-sunset.   she stands about 6 feet away from the subject

here's the shot...

the sun is coming in from the subjects left side and my light is popping from subjects right side

i am trying to match the sunlight in intensity (a nice thing is about using strobes with sunlight is that they match color value quite well versus the mixed lighting you get with indoor lights)
also important to note here is that my exposure value is at -1 2/3 and i am on pattern or matrix metering
this exposure value allows me to pop my subject in brightness by decreasing the ambient light (the items not influenced by the flash) and then correctly exposing the subject
---we have to be careful of the shadows on the subject brought by the flash... the sun is a softer light source than the bounced flash -as evidenced by the softer shadows on the subjects left cheek/neck

next image... 
no flash... only ambient light
settings --- keep the ISO at 200, still bright enough for that, even with 135mm zoom
also keep the A priority and then set the EV up to -2/3  because it's all natural light now and i don't have that fill flash to compensate for the decreased EV
shooting now at f2.8, which it could be argued is giving me too short of a focal length (as evidenced by baby in focus while mommy is out of focus (slightly))

i am still not placing the light directly behind me... instead i am adding some depth by having it at about 5pm if 12 noon is at the subject
in this case, we can add some vignette around the edges to enhance the light on our subject and potentially even use some gradients with exposure decreased (here i went to LR and used 3 gradient filters with decreased exposure values of about -1.2

pic of the day
you can almost see the setting sun in the eyes of the subjects here
that evening light combined with the reflected sunlight behind them off of the grain creates a very soft  and warm light

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have a challenge for you.  Try a silhouette.  I haven't done much with silhouettes.
But a few things that are fun about the silhouette is that it forces you to simplify.  The subject is simplified to an outline.  The lighting is simplified to simply underexpose your subject.

Put your camera in M mode, if it's not already.  Let's go with ISO 200, f4 and shutter speed of 8000.
Get your subject between you and the sun.  And you may find the focusing is a little difficult.  The focus on the camera works best with contrast.  So if it is only seeing the dark (underexposed) subject, it can struggle to focus.  Manual focus may be necessary.
Play around with the shutter speed, maybe go down to 4000.
Even play around with the f stop.  If you hit an fstop of f16 you could get subject and your background in focus.  Remember to slow down your shutter if you do that.
Another important note is to keep the background fairly well lit.  You can really lose your subject, as in my example here, if the background has a similar light (or dark) value.

ISO 200, f4 at 1/8000 95mm

Here is another attempt but with better composition with my background... or as Cliff likes to say, juxtaposing the subject with the background.
ISO 200 f4 at 1/4000 116mm

Remember that your background really speaks in a silhouette.

Happy shooting... would love to see some links in the comments to you silhouette shots.

PIC of the Day: This shot at ISO 100, f5.6 at 1/2000  300mm

Saturday, August 13, 2011

quick tip

When shooting skies, make sure you try a few with a really wide angle lens.

I find that when I shoot wide angle, it accentuates the drama and movement in the sky.

This was shot at 11mm from my front porch. (Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens with a D300s)