Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fashion on a Rooftop

I got the nice chance to support JZ Couture with a few pics of their current collection.

The Flash set up was a mix of SB800, SB900 and a Metz 45er.The basic set up can be seen in the following picture:

I used three SB 800 all set to SU-4 Remote Mode and Manual. All of them were for most of the time on full power. I used two umbrellas in lieu of a proper soft box.

One SB900 was on top of the camera and acted as commander in SU4 mode in Manual and doubled as fill light. Most shots were taken in Portrait orientation and I turn the Camera so that the flash is on the Opposite side from the main flash assembly. The fill flash setting was varied depending on my distance from the model and was between 1/8 and 1/32. I really like the distance display on the SB 900 it is an good help to get the right setting.

The red glow in the background was produced by a Metz 45 CT5 set to manual and triggered with a simple Metz remote cell (Mecalux 11).

The camera was set to manual.

My workflow is as follows:

1) Get the perspective right.
Select the lens, the right place to be for the photog and the model. I usually take some test shots of the scene at this step. And ensure that the manual setting is about right for the ambient scene. I usually start with 1/250 and the aperture indicated by the exposure meter of the Camera Matrix metering. (Matrix as this is the setting for the background)

2) Main light and fill
Set up the Main light and place it so light the model at the spot chosen in step 1. Again Test shots
The level of main light and aperture are chosen so that the main light is about 1 step higher than the ambient. (close the aperture one stop from the value determined in one, and bring enough light in the main light to be OK. (Now you know why there are three SB800.)
The fill is then seasoned to flavour between 1/4 and 1/16 depending on your distance to the model. I like the fill to be around 1 stop below main light. Test shots.

I expected strong colors in the dresses and went for colorful lighting.
In this test shot the ambient and main are set. The flashes have all 1 CTO gel and the camera WB is set to tungsten.

3) Add any background light as per your taste. The red filtered 45er gave me a dramatic light on the building structure and a glow in the lift doors. As it lights the background the intensity is set by placing it nearer or farer. In practice I found that these kind of background lights are no hassle as they can be left at the same setting and do not need to be disturbed if you or the Model moves.

4) As the light fades the time is adjusted downwards to keep the ambient at the desired level. Once the sun has set and the intense blue sky appears, there is quite a latitude to get lighter or darker skies by playing with the time setting.

5) I tried to direct the Model in a way so that she is at a fairly constant distance from the main lights. If that is not possible for a specific pose I adjust the aperture to compensate. (Do not forget to adjust the time accordingly if constant background exposure is desired.

6) In case of step 5 or in case of just me taking a different shooting angle the fill flash needs to be adjusted as described above.

I love to have the constant changing ambient light and go through different light settings and moods. Unfortunately the light moves fast near the equator and our blue hour is more like twenty minutes.

Also in Dubai there is every day a breeze that picks up at around dawn, which is generally nice for all residents, but evil in terms of setting up lighting equipment at the time. My best solution so far can be seen in the set up shot above. Three of the big (5l) water bottles just about seem to do the necessary to keep one light stand stable. Cheap, effective and reusable.

Overall I was happy with the set up. There were no misfires of the SB800 and the Metz let me only down when the battery was weak and the recycling times got too long. A quick change solved the problem.

One of the examples without the red background flash.

The second evening we started a bit earlier. The day has been hazy but the light in evening was nice and soft. I wanted to have more subdued colors. No gels and WB kept to daylight. The background with a green fl gel.

For this shot no background lights no ambient, just main light and fill.
With enough light the gray park deck surface becomes nice and light.

This is one of my personal favorites. I used the same main lights, but from the "wrong" side. So that the shoot through umbrellas are used like normal reflective ones. Very nice soft light. I also used the fantastic Nikon 105 mm 2.0 DC for this shot. I just love the crisp sharpness of the lens coupled with very nice bokeh.

Honestly a great experience and much more fun than test exposures of flash.
However the flash experiments and sporadic research must continue.
They will continue!