A bit of a fun portrait using studio strobes and gelled lighting.
This photo is from a themed shoot with model Helen Morgan Rogers and Mad Hatter Makeup Artist. It was taken in a wooded area at around midday so I had to get a bit creative with the lighting. Two speedlights and a shoot through umbrella were used to create this shot. Makeup was done on location and we had a few bemused looks as we walked a short distance to a clearing, complete with pumpkins, wands and other witch articals to where the shoot took place. The wood is very popular with plenty of trails and cycle routs and at one point there were some very excited children telling their mum that there was a real witch in the woods!The shoot was great fun and a huge thank you to Helen and Mad Hatter Makeup.
I wanted to have a practice balancing flash and ambient light so I thought I would try and make a photo of an old neglected shed at the top of my garden. The aim was to get a good exposure for the light outside of the shed and add flash for the inside exposure. I was thinking black and white before I took the shot as I wanted to make use of the textures. After converting to mono in Photoshop I found that the ivy had got lost so the idea of a colour pop sprang to mind. I rarely do colour pop but I thought it worked well in this image.
What are your thoughts? Do you like colour pop photos, is this something you already do or does it have the same effect on you as over cooked HDR has on me (I’m not a big fan!)?
One of the biggest challenges of taking portraits at mid-day is the harsh light that casts dark shadows under the eyes and chin etc. Add to this the high contrast and you can have a challenge on your hands. There are a few ways to overcome this, one could be to use fill flash to reduce the contrast and “Fill” in the shadows. This can be great if you have got the time to set the ambient and flash exposures manually but this can’t always be practical if you are photographing an event and are constantly on the move. TTL flash can be used but I find that it can be a bit unpredictable at times; the flash can be fooled by very light or dark backgrounds. Another method can be the use of a reflector to bounce light into the shadows, this works well and an assistant can be useful here. For this photo I decided to opt for open shade. I placed the subjects in an area of shade but had plenty of sky available to cast light onto the subjects. The benefit I find to this is that I do not need an assistant, you can readily see the effects of the light on the face and it helps to prevent that horrible squinting that you can get from direct sunlight. So what happens if I can’t find open shade? Well I’ll just have to use one of the other methods or get an assistant to hold the diffuser part of my 5 in 1 reflector between the subject and the sun!!!
So what is your preferred method of shooting at mid-day in harsh sunlight? Should we just stick to one method or is it important to have a few different techniques up our sleeves?
This is a head and shoulders shot of a girl doing an Irish dance. I went for this particular shot to avoid a lot of distraction in the background. It was taken during a dress rehearsal so there were lots of bags etc. on show. This also made for a more dramatic composition. Shot at ISO 6400, f/4 1/400 sec.
This photo was taken during sunrise at Saltford Marina, which is located between Bristol and Bath. Although it can be hard work getting up early on a Sunday morning, the results can be worth it. Add the bonus of enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside before most other people are stirring, and you end up with a nice relaxed morning, albeit a little cold at this time of the year!
The camera was on a tripod and triggered by a wireless remote to help prevent camera shake, 1/50 sec @ f/11, ISO 100.
It feels like the wet weekends are never ending at the moment in Bristol UK so I thought I would use it to my advantage. This is a shot on one of the walkways that leads into Cabot Circus, a shopping mall in the city. Some of it is under cover so that helps with not getting the camera wet!!! I liked how the colours form the signs and shop window reflected on the wet paving. This shot was hand held, ISO 6400, f/8 and SS 1/200.
This photo was taken in Millennium Square in Bristol, it is a modern water feature and I likes how it reflected the colours of the surrounding lights. The camera was on a tripod and a shutter speed of 2 seconds was used to make sure the cascade of water was sufficiently blurred to produce the abstract effect.
I decided to have a go at photographing some smoke. I set my camera on my tripod, put it into manual and used my Aperlite speed light in manual mode. I set the flash to 8th power which gave me an aperture of f5.6, the shutter speed was set at 1/160 ( to be honest I wasn’t too worried about the shutter speed just as long as it didn’t go above my flash sync speed). The flash was placed side on to the smoke and fired using a basic wireless trigger; the camera was pre-focused and as I use back button focusing the lens could safely be left on AF without the worry of the camera trying to refocus between shots.
I tried using a candle at first but the smoke that it gave off was a bit sparse and didn’t work very well. I think that people generally use incense sticks but I didn’t have any! I took a page out of a notebook and folded it into a kind of long stick and this worked well, I just had to be careful not to let the flame take hold for too long before I extinguished it to get the smoke.
I took the images into Photoshop, did a bit of transforming, added some coloured overlays and this is the result!
I have received a flashgun from a company called Aperlite, it was sent to me to product test and give my view on the product. The flashgun I have is a YH-500C; C denoting Canon mount. The unit itself retails for about £45 on Amazon so I wasn’t expecting too much. The flashgun arrived from Amazon and was well packed. The box containing the flash was quite sturdy as well. When I unpacked the flash, the first thing that I noticed was that it had a metal hot shoe mount (something that my £200 Sigma flash didn’t have) and on the whole the unit feels well built apart from a slightly flimsy battery door. Once the door is locked into place it feels sturdy and hasn’t given me any problems. The flash has a guide number of 58
The YH-500C has five modes: TTL, Manual, Slave 1, Slave 2, Strobe, auto zoom head plus it boasts thermal cut-out protection to protect from overheating (sadly lacking in my sigma which ended up in damaging the flash unit). The instructions do say that it supports second curtain sync, but as yet I have been unsuccessful in getting this to work. There is a PC port on the side of the gun and the option of attaching the unit to an external portable power pack. The head will swivel 180o to the left and 45o to the right and there are also markings for 45/60 & 75o for tilting the head. There are no buttons to press when moving the head but it locks in place quite with a reassuring click! The head zooms between 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 80mm and 105mm. The head also incorporates a wide angle diffuser and a bounce card.
TTL works as well as any other flashgun that I have uses and I like the ease in which I can adjust the flash exposure compensation by directly pressing one of the buttons on the back. Flash exposure is from -3 stops to +3 stops in 1/3 increments.
Manual mode is also easy to use and the power can be adjusted to 1/128 power in 1/3 increments. Again, power is adjustable by pressing a button on the rear of the unit; there are no menus to navigate through. I think this is a great feature as it makes shooting in manual quick and easy.
You are able to vary the power, speed and number of flashes in “Strobe” mode. I have had a play with this and it is trial and error, but then this was no different to my Sigma.
Slave 1 and Slave 2 work well; slave 2 ignores any pre-flash and does it very well. I have had 100% success in these modes and once again, power is easily adjustable. The slave modes are optical and not wireless so the flash gun has to be in line of sight of the master flash. I have used the unit with a Hahnel Combi TF wireless trigger with no problem whatsoever.
In conclusion, it may not have all the bells and whistles of the Canon 600EX-RT but I would have to pay another £400 for that one. What it does do, it does well and it is easy to navigate the menu which is clear and easy to see. As I work a lot in manual and use off camera flash I found the unit quick and easy to set up. I haven’t used the external power option but the 4 AA batteries last well and the flash recycles in about 3 seconds on full power. The build quality is good and I am more than pleased with the metal hot shoe mount instead of plastic. I would rather take this unit out on location rather than an expansive flash as if it were to get broken through being blown over I have only lost £45. Two features I would like to see on the unit are HSS and rear curtain Sync but if you can live without these two features then I would highly recommend this flashgun, I don’t think you can beat it for the price. The featured image was taken with the Aperlite YH-500C.