Dusk + Modified Pocket Strobes | Transcription
Dusk + modified pocket strobes – is there an ideal time? Because we know that basically pocket strobes don’t put out that much power. We get 50-60 watt/seconds, so modifying it in midday light really isn’t the ideal thing. So we need at least 3 plus of them to modify during bright midday light. When is that ideal time or situation? I would say the ideal time for a single pocket strobe with modification is right around dusk. Basically, just after the sun sets all the way to 30 to 45 to even 60 minutes after the sun sets if you’re working outside or before the sun rises if it’s in the morning. I know, many of you are not getting up for morning sunrise shoots, but they’re actually pretty awesome and I would highly encourage you to get out and do it. Even though, you’re going to be really tired, but it’ll be worth it.
The other times that are great to use modified pocket strobes is when you’re doing, of course, indoor situations. So an indoor lighting and so forth, you can get a lot of great results just out of a single modified pocket strobe. This is basically that kind of a situation that I wanted to walk y’all through. This is that dusk … We’re working about 10 to 15 minutes after the sun has set. By the way, 10 to 15 minutes after the sun has set you get to a point in the sky where, which we call basically peat color. We talked about this before, but basically peat color is when the clouds drop just below, or sorry, the sun drops just below the horizon and it under lights all the clouds in the sky. Now, if you have good clouds, you’ll see the sky just light up like a ball of fire. It looks absolutely amazing and it lasts for maybe 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops. You just get amazing, breath taking images and during that time a single pocket strobe with modification is totally sufficient.
Let’s talk through this shot. Now, the actual light source and modifier that we’re using in this shot is the Bolt VB22 with the Westcott Rapid Box. The Westcott Rapid Box is another one of my favorite on the go pocket strobe modifiers. For this particular scene we’re actually out in the desert and we were actually trying to use this guy to try and get used to him and everything. I had the Bolt VB22s when we were shooting this shot and rather than basically switching out to a pocket strobe, I kept the Bolt VB22 on there.
Here’s the problem. With this type of a bare bulb system going through this soft box, we get a few different issues. You’ll notice that I’ve placed this as far forward as it’ll go on this little hot shoe bracket right here. The problem is, since this is a bare bulb modifier, or since this is a bare bulb flash, it doesn’t get completely into this modifier. Meaning, that we have a little bit of this bulb that’s visible. The issue with that is not only do we have a lot of light lost from this, we also get a lot of leak that’s going to bleed into the camera. Basically, we’re going to get a flare from this light coming into the camera. Which, is going to reduce image quality, it’s going to be noticeable, and kind of obnoxious. We actually had that issue quite a bit when we were using this for a different scene.
This is not the flash that I’d recommend for this modifier. I’d recommend the standard pocket strobe. A Phottix Mitros, a Canon 580 EX, Nikon SB 910. Just a regular pocket strobe to go on this that you can fit it into the bracket well. I just wanted to give you that note, because a lot of times when you’re using medium strobes and other types of flashes and when you’re buying things and testing them out, you’ll find that they don’t necessarily fit certain types of modifiers as well. We use this just because of convenience purposes, but for this particular shot you don’t need a medium strobe. This is a a medium strobe, but you really just need a pocket strobe to pull this off because you don’t need that much power. I just wanted to state why we’re using this and it’s because it was already on there, it was already mounted, it was ready to go and we didn’t want to lose our light in the sky. All right, Logan would you be so kind to take this off set? Thank you sir.
All righty, so let’s go ahead and walk through how we shot this image. Now, we’re shooting on the Sigma 35mm Art. Again, a fantastic prime lens. Looks absolutely awesome. For composition and attributes, the main thing that I’m thinking of is I want to shoot around F4. Why, because I do want to have some depth of field here, I do want to be able to see detail in the sky, I want to be able to see if we can see any grounding on the shot, I want to be able to see what’s going on behind her. Of course, the ground got dark enough where we don’t really see that much of it, but I was kind of thinking we would see a little more desert in the shot. So I was prepping for that.
We’re using F4 to kind of increase depth of field, increase sharpness 1/100th of a second for our shutter speed. The shutter speed is the second compositional attribute that I’m thinking of. Why, because I’m envisioning her basically ruffling or basically kind of creating a motion in this cloth to create an interesting shape in this shot. What I want to do, is actually not completely freeze that motion. I want to show a little bit of that motion, let a little bit of it capture in the ambient light and then freeze most of it with the flash. So I thought it’d be cool to have some motion in the image.
So I’m thinking about the 1/100th of a second for my shutter speed is also part of my compositional attribute of showing motion. Okay, so from there, I mean sync speed we’re good. We’re shooting in low light conditions less than 1/10th of a second. Our sync is okay, we don’t need to do anything. Our ambient light exposure is set to 1/100th of a second, ISO 100, and that provides for that dramatic look over the sky. So you can see in this image, we’re at 1/100th of a second, F4, ISO 100. Again, I’m kind of warming things up to kind of have that rich warmth in the sky color and everything. It looks beautiful at 6,000 degrees Kelvin. This is actually no flash. Let’s see here, I mentioned Bolt VB22, but that’s actually a typo. That should not be in there.
With the test shot, our initial shot was around 1/64th power and that was this shot right here. So, the Bolt VB22 is at 1/64th power, which in pocket strobe relation would be like 30 seconds, 60, 8, quarter, I don’t know. Like one quarter to 1/8th maybe. We’re getting a lot of light loss out of the Bolt VB22 because it’s also spilling backwards like we talked about out of the back of that modifier. This is probably maybe like 1/8th to one quarter power if we were on a single pocket strobe. With the test shot we get just not enough brightness. What we end up seeing is that the ambient light balance, our background is still brighter than our subject. What we want to do is reverse it we want this background to be a little bit darker, the subject to really pop, we want Yvette to really pop out in the shot. So we need to basically bring it up by 1 to 2 stops.
The ideal power setting for a modified pocket strobe that’s held at probably at this distance, is going to be between one over one to one half power. The distance from the flash to the subject is actually quite a ways right now. It’s actually about like 15 to 20 feet. So for that type of a shot, we’re lighting from left to right and you wouldn’t need a significant amount of flash power because your inverse square law is losing. It’s telling you that you’re losing a lot of light.
So now from light direction and quality, we’re shooting from camera left. I actually have my lighting assistant. Actually on this shoot I was so fortunate to have my good friend, Trevor Daley, he’s an incredible wedding photographer, just an incredible photographer all around. He’s like one of the best in the world. He came out and helped me on the shoot. He’s actually holding our boom stick to camera left and we have the boom stick with the Westcott Rapid Box set up over there. So we’re lighting from the left side. Why, one of the reasons is because I know my subject. I’m not dealing with 2 people in this shot, I’m dealing with 1 person. One of the reasons I’m lighting from the left side is because I know that my subject actually she favors the left side. So I’m lighting from the side that she actually prefers. Yvette kind of prefers that left side lip.
The other reason is because our ambient light is coming from kind of that direction. We can see kind of that brightening in the sky happening over here off to the left side of the image. We’re kind of lighting from that direction to almost simulate if there was daylight on her face it would kind of be from that direction too. We’re kind of simulating or following the natural light in the scene to create a better and more natural look. Where the shadows are falling off, we have this really nice natural look to the shadow area and everything like that.
Also, we’re lighting at quite a distance. Which, normally if you had a Westcott Rapid Box or any other modifier and it was held close to the skin or close to your subject, you would have a very soft light. Right, but at 15 to 20 feet that becomes a pretty small light in comparison. So, we end up getting a getting a much more defined edge along those shadows. Where if we zoom in, we can actually see just how defined that is. The shadow wrap is actually pretty sharp on this type of an image because the light source is relatively small to our model. That’s okay because we’re shooting an environmental portrait. We’re shooting out wide and it’s really more about her in the scene, and the outfit, and the whole thing put together versus just her face or something like that or the lighting on her. So I’m totally fine with that.
Light color, again, we’re good with our test shot. Our test shot showed good color around that 6,000 degree Kelvin range. So we’re not going to modify, we’re not going to gel. I like the rich tones in the sky. I’m not going to go and CTO it and then blue it all out. Although, it would look cool too, but I just want to keep the natural light here. We pose, we frame, we shoot.
Now, we pose the model on camera right. We use the cloth as kind of this leading line to kind of lead into her. This is the tricky part, basically, where we’re essentially having her whip up and down this cloth and we tried a variety of things. At one point I had Olivia on the outside, who was doing hair and make up and wardrobe, I had her kind of help ruffle it, but we weren’t getting a very natural shape. Then what I told Yvette to do, was basically start to shake it. I want the motion to come from your side, but right after 2 or 3 seconds of motion I want you to let the arm basically kind of relax with a subtle bend in the elbow and relax the muscles so that way the muscles are not all tensed along the arm. So she did that, we had to run it a couple times, and then we got this beautiful shot with this nice curvature shape and leading up to our model.
Now, if I were to take this into Photoshop, I would probably just smooth out these lines so that we have these nice curves that go up and into her and it would be really cool looking, but I dig the shot overall. I had her hold onto the dress with her left hand because I really liked the pull on the dress and I wanted to show that and reveal her legs as well coming through that slit right there in the front. So I thought it looked really cool.
Now, this is a complex scene and it’s going to require quite a bit of review and just making sure you have the right balance between ambient and flash lighting. Why, because there’s several things going on. We are shooting with manual flash. We’re shooting with a VB22, our pock wizard is on our camera and that is what’s controlling the Bolt off camera flash. Which, means that we’re firing first curtain sync. There’s a couple things that I want to review in this.
Number 1, I want to look at the motion that’s captured in the cloth and make sure that it looks okay. Make sure that it doesn’t look bad, and I liked it. I liked the way it was kind of moving. I thought that I could have maybe slowed down the shutter speed even more, but I was happy with the shot and we were losing light very quickly. The other thing I want to make sure is that the shadows and the wrap and everything that’s hitting her … Notice how her face right now, the angle to the light, we’re getting mostly Rembrandt lighting. Maybe a little bit of loop, but it’s pretty dramatic as far as the shadow. So it’s somewhere in between loop and Rembrandt. Not quite Rembrandt, not fully loop, but still pretty dramatic. We want to make sure that the light, the way that it’s kind of being cast into her, it looks flattering and it looks natural.
One of the areas of concern that I had was just in the legs. I wanted to make sure the back leg wasn’t completely concealed in shadow, because if the back leg was completely in shadow then it would look essentially like she was missing a leg. Right, so we want to at least show a little bit of form there and I love how it just kind of goes black and kind of implied as it goes up higher in the shot. We have this beautiful dress lit right here. We have a really good look overall, but we want to make sure we analyze these things and make sure that in camera our balance from background to subject is a good balance. It’s a desired balance and to make sure that our camera settings, like shutter speed, is adequate to capture the motion of the cloth as she kind of swings it. As well as the flash balance and so forth.
So that’s it for the tutorial. Just remember that the ideal times for a single pocket strobe with modification is either dusk, just after the sun sets or just before the sun rises or in indoor lighting conditions where you don’t need as much power. From there, it’s going to come straight down to ambient light versus flash balance. Once you have that dialed in, look to other things like the motion of the image to make sure that you capture the correct motion and whatever you’re looking for in the particular shot that you’re taking.
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