Case Study 1 | Dramatic Sunset | Transcription

Now of course, you guys have seen all the shots that we’ve gotten in this scene with Jill. I want to talk about the approach, and when you get to a scene like this how exactly do you work into the final shot? Basically when I arrived here, I saw this beautiful sunset. Whenever I see a beautiful sunset, I’m sure every photographer kind of thinks the same thing. “How should I shoot this? Oh my gosh, the time is running out. I got to get into a position. What do I want my composition to be? Do I want it underexposed? Do I want it to be bright and airy? What do I want to look like?” I find it really helps in this situations just to slow things down.

I’ll even take moments like when I’m shooting with clients, I’ll take a moment and I’ll say, “Hey guys, give me 5 minutes. I just want to figure out how I want to shoot this shot.” During that 5 minutes, I’m just letting them kind of relax and talk amongst themselves may be with my lighting assistant while I kind of figure out exactly what I want to do. It takes the pressure off me in trying to kind of keep them occupied and keep them entertained during the shoot, and also trying to figure out everything I want to do in camera. Now, what I’ll do is I’ll usually take a quick test shot just to see what it looks like. For this test shot, I left it a little more on the bright side to see, “Do I want to go for that more bright and natural look, letting part of the sky blow out and keeping part of it?” Do I want to drop it down a little bit?” After I took that very first shot, I thought, “Well, that doesn’t really look that great. It doesn’t look super dramatic.”

What do I have over here? I have a model. I have Jill who is … I mean she is the kind of epitome of dramatic. She has this beautiful gaze, this smoldering eyes. She has an incredibly blue bikini on. She looks fantastic. She’s fit. Everything about that shot to me screams dramatic. I thought, “You know, the first step in that is going to be underexposure.” I want to go with an underexposure. What I do, I often do this. I’ll put the gel on to my camera. I basically put a gel into the camera. On this one I don’t think I’m using the grid, but you could or maybe not use the grid; it’s up to you. It really depends on whether you’re getting spill or not. If you’re not getting any spill, then there’s not any reason to use the grid.

What I did was basically underexposed. Right here, we’re essentially at … Let’s see. We’re at 41mm of focal length on the 24-70 Mark II. I’m at 1/200 of a second at F5.6 in ISO 100. The beautiful thing about shots like this by the way is that you don’t need a neutral density filter. These are shots where regardless if it’s bright or if it’s sunset, you can run the aperture up. You really kind of want that everything sharp kind of look. It looks fantastic. It looks great in this kind of scene because it’s a clean scene. If it weren’t, if we wanted to blur out things, then we have to worry about that. Generally in this type of the scene whether you’re in a day or nighttime, you’re not going to need ND filter because you’re running the aperture up anyway.

What did I do? I set it up. I left my white balance at daylight. This is basically daylight white balance. I think this is around like not quite daylight, it’s like 4800 Kelvin. It’s on the warm side. I put the CTO Gel on just to see basically what is this shot going to look like? What I’m doing is I’m thinking in my head, “I probably want to do the CTO, but I’m not sure yet. Let me just take my underexposed shot of the background first. Then let me take another shot with a drop down.” Right now, I can see her skin tone is way too orange because the CTO is on already, but that’s okay. I’m not too worried about that. This is just a test shot. After I get those I think, “You know what? I really love the underexposure. I think that’s the right decision.”

The thing is that the bikini doesn’t really pop as much as I’d like it to. Also, the background is not as blue as I’d like it to. The water is not as blue. If I can get that water, and the background, and the sky to kind of be that same poppy blue, it’s going to have a really beautiful kind of harmonious effect in the overall image. I want that. What I do is drop the Kelvin. I dropped it to a … We’re at 3600 Kelvin right over here. We get this beautiful blue. My flash didn’t recycle for the shot so we ended up getting just a pure silhouette. It’s great because then you can see exactly how dark it was. If I didn’t add any additional light, she’s literally blacked up. We can’t see anything except for just her form.

Once we have that configured, I have my gel on the flash. I set up my assistant off the left with the silver. Again, why the choice in the silver? Because once again we want dramatic. We want a kind of harder and more specular light. I’m not too worried about it being a little bit more contrasted because we want a more dramatic image. I want some highlights along her body to kind of show off her form, to show off her figure, and all the features that make her attractive and beautiful. That light is kind of perfect for that because it gives me more of that edge. It shows more of that features in details versus a white that might be too soft and too wrapping to really accentuate those feature.

We get this beautiful silver light. What do I have my assistant do? Typically my assistant is just going to hold this, like this. They’re going to hold it so it’s kind of slightly topped down because she’s on her knees right now. She is a little bit lower than where my assistant is standing. They’re holding it a little bit top down, so lights coming from top and going down to her. Then, they’re going to angle it kind of down and towards the ground. I have my assistant actually doing something called feathering. What we’ll do here is if I aim this at the ground like this and I flash, you’re going to get a lot of my flash spilling onto the ground. It’s going to look just a little bit too modified. It’s going to look like we added light. I don’t want it to look that way. I want it to look very natural and very subtle.

I have my assistant feather up. Rather than bouncing down towards her, he’s still keeping the angle the same. Light’s still coming top down but he angles the reflector back. What that does is it allows the light to hit this and basically skim the surface of the ground. We’re skimming the surface of the ground covering more of Jill and less of the ground. You can barely see a little shadow here coming off of her because the flash is very lightly skimming the ground; but most of it is on her. The rest is just kind of going up into the sky and is not affecting the image. That’s where I wanted to focus on. I wanted to focus on her expression, her figure, and you could see it kind of trails off. We have this beautiful shadow like right along the legs and it looks fantastic. Otherwise, it end up looking like this whole bottom area was lit with flash. I feel like it really take away from the image. Again, these are small things that’s a little small bits of refinement that makes a huge impact on the actual image.

For the final gear, what are we using? I believe for this shot I used my 580EX II. I’m totally down to use on-camera manual flashes. Manual flashes are fantastic and they work totally fine. The only thing is that notice how dark the shot is? It’s extremely dark, right? In situations like this I’m always thinking, “Well, if I pop a flash that has a really great recycle time on to the hot shoe  manual and get a really great recycle time especially in the Newer flashes with that 1.5, 2-second recycle time at least for the first 15, 20 shots, the problem is there is no AF assist. Without that auto focus assist in a scene like this where she’s just blacked out, it’s very, very difficult to focus. That’s why using a full featured flash, the Phottix Mitros, plus a Nikon SB-910, a 580EX II, or any other just full featured flash is fantastic because it gives you that focus assist in dark situations where your subject is very dark.

So 580EX on camera, we have our 5D Mark III, we have our 24-70. I’m using a gel sheet, just the standard CTO Gel sheet. You can also use your MagMod. If you are getting spilled, then by all means you can use a grid to control that. I wasn’t really getting a spill based on wherever it’s bouncing and so forth. Then for the reflector, on this one I believe we just used the standard Westcott 40-inch 5-in-1 silver. That’s really it. That was the steps. What we end up getting here with one single on camera flash that’s been modified. We end up having this image that looks as if we have off camera flash. It looks like we have a one or 2 light set up. We have this beautiful light coming from the background.

Notice that I also placed her head in all these shots, I placed her head over the sun. I’ve mentioned briefly why I did that before. If you guys remember, basically our eyes are naturally drawn to highlights and images, right? If we can kind of use those highlights, those natural highlights in an image to draw attention to our subjects, it makes for a more powerful photo. Putting her head right over the sunset is the brightest area of the sky. Basically that’s highlight on the water, and the highlight all around her head. This is the brightest area of the frame. It just accents and perfectly kind of lifts her out. It brings attention right to her. All these things are thought about to get to this final image. Make no mistakes, there are no mistakes in getting this point. We just have to think through methodically, slow things down, and work through step by step to get the shot.

Notice, I didn’t just go from nothing to this shot. I worked into it in a series of different shots. Once I had the right pose, once I had the right everything, the light set up, my cameras and everything, then I start working with my model and saying do these different poses. Let me get these different shots. Working with her and waiting for the waves to come up and get different looks and so forth. That’s it for the scene. Hopefully this little bit of case study analysis helps out with this particular image.

CHAPTER GETTING OVER THE FEAR, HYPE, & MYTHS

CHAPTER 2: THE BASICS OF FLASH

CHAPTER 3 UNDERSTANDING LIGHT

CHAPTER 4: ON-CAMERA FLASH GEAR BASICS

Chapter 5: DIRECT FLASH DONE RIGHT

Chapter 6: STUDIO LIGHT? JUST BOUNCE IT!

Chapter 7: MORE LIGHTS, REFINEMENT, & CREATIVITY

Chapter 8: CASE STUDIES

Chapter 9: BONUS CHAPTERS

Total Course Run Time: 8H 17M 4S