Over Powering the Sun | Part II | Transcription
All right, we’re also going to teach you a little technique here called The Lean. What is The Lean all about? It’s about, basically, how often we get into situations where we don’t have a good background, but we do have what we call a good upground. An upground, essentially, is a background that is above you that is fantastic. You want to shoot it. You want to get your couple, and your subjects, and you want to shoot up…but it’s hard because if you don’t do it correctly you get this weird perspective distortion on the couple and so forth.
So we have a little technique that we use to shoot upgrounds. I would just imagine the best place to shoot this technique would be in the Sistine Chapel. Looking up at that ceiling, that would be absolutely fantastic. Although, I’m sure they don’t allow flash photography…do they allow flash photography? I dunno. Whatever, ok, that is beside the point, either way. The Lean is achieved by, essentially…to get an upground, the photographer has to get down low right? So we have to be shooting…let’s just say this little guy right here is going to be my couple, and this is my camera. I’m going to hold this to you guys just like this, so you can see it. To be able to shoot the background that is above and behind the subject, the camera has to get low. But, the problem is, when we get low like that, then the subjects feet end up being larger and then their heads end up being smaller. Why? Because they are extending away from the camera, essentially, from this angle.
So what we do, is we have the subject lean in from the hips. Let’s say that this is the subjects hip, and let’s say that they’re standing this way okay? So what we do, is have them lean in. Essentially, if you look from the camera’s angle…well it looks weird when you’re standing up and you’re just looking at it, but when you look from the camera’s angle it actually corrects the perspective distortion that the camera’s getting by shooting this way. So essentially we’re just evening out the subject and making them perpendicular to the camera. That is, essentially, The Lean in a nutshell.
Now, there are…just keep in mind, The Lean does require quite a bit of core strength. Your abdominal strength. So don’t ask your subjects to hold it for like 10 minutes long. Which brings me to the pictures over here, because what you see here is Jackie and Ryan. This was in the Bahama’s, Fstoppers Bahamas, for the workshops that we were doing out there. It was absolutely fantastic. We had a completely full class in both classes that we did there. So we had all these great students that we were teaching. What we realized very quickly was that Ryan and Jackie got extremely tired very fast holding this pose for 15 different students to take this shot. So that’s why we say let your couple relax after every time you do this. Basically, they’re facing each other, they’re holding hands, and then they’re going to lean from the hip into the camera to correct that perspective distortion.
Now here’s the trick. Obviously you don’t want to do this when you haven’t gotten the lights and everything set up and you haven’t set up the scene for the shot. So let’s walk through what we did to get the scene set up. We were using two to three Vivitar 285HV‘s in our example here. I dunno, I just wanted to list out what we exactly used, and then tell you not to use those because they frustrate me.
Anyway, let’s start from the top with our processes and tips, with composition and attributes. Well, with this type of a shot, when I want to get an upground, obviously what matters to me is being able to capture that background and showing that. Typically we’re running the aperture up. We’re closing down the aperture to get a good depth of field. When I do that, I know from experience, that when I get to around F11, F13, F14, F18, when I get to those numbers and granted there is such a thing as diffraction, we talked about that in Photography 101. Whereas, you go up, the higher and higher you go, the less sharp the image gets when you get beyond a certain point. Usually, that’s right around F8 to F11. But I know that around F11 to say F14, at that point, even when I’m shooting in midday sun, my shutter speed can get low enough that I no longer require a neutral density filter or high-speed sync. That’s just something that’s kind of in the back of my mind.
What I want with these scenes is I want depth of field. So, compositional attributes, we’re shooting between F11 to F18. We’re shooting for depth of field and for that starburst pattern in the sun, if we do get any sun in the shot. Sync, we know that F11 to F18 allows us to sync with a low enough shutter speed that we do not need a neutral density filter or high speed sync. So sync is A-okay.
All right, ambient exposure. Shutter speeds of 1/160th of a second to 1/200th of a second and ISO 100 is basically used for that more dramatic sky effect. So what we are trying here? We’re using the shutter speed to kind of control ambient light. If we need to we can also drop into low ISO on a 5D Mark III. A lot of cameras do offer lower ISO settings that you can use. Keep in mind that they can reduce a little bit of dynamic range, but when we’re adding flash and we’re doing this kind of stuff, sometimes it’s worth doing and we don’t really lose much dynamic range anyway. So we can use shutter speed with ISO to kind of control that background brightness. But what do want? Dramatic. So we’re darkening things down a little bit more.
All right, light direction and quality. Once again, our subjects here, we’re placing them with Jackie, our female subject, over on the left side. Ryan’s on the right side. So we’re lighting from right to left to fill into Jackie’s face and we’re going top down again. Always be going top down. Look at the shadows. You can see the shadows being cast down against the body as opposed to being cast up or being cast to the side. You want to create shadows in a natural way. Now, one quick note. So light direction and quality. Lighting from the right on the female subjects face we use variable for flash power. We stacked multiple flashes and why? Because we’re using this guy. Where is he? Where is he! This tank, this monster, (frustrated sigh) you are my nemesis. The Vivitar 285HV. Whenever I use this guy, I would stack three to four of them. Why? Because this had an atrocious seven to eight second full power recycle time. I would stack four of them so that I could run it at one quarter power and not have to recycle. Not have have to deal with that eight seconds between shots basically.
Now, as I’ve told all my students, the initial release of this was fantastic. The re-release of this, the initial release was back in 1970, the re-release of that…not so fantastic. I had great hopes, it just didn’t pan out to those. But here’s the problem, I thought it was going to be fantastic when they were released, so I bought 16 of those. I bought them for all the partners. Then, they said they hated them so they gave them all to me. I had 16 of them, and I still do. Up to this point, I’d finally gotten sick of them and now I do not use them anymore.
But here’s what I recommend. If you’re shooting manual, get Lumapro’s. If you’re shooting full feature, which is really my favorite way to shoot, it’s with the Phottix Mitros. If you are doing this exact same shot, you can pull it off with two of these guys at half to one quarter power. Okay, you don’t need a ton of these, just two of them at half to a quarter power. You’ll have a great recycle time. You’ll have enough power and so forth with both of those. If you have just one, you can use just one too and just deal with a little bit longer of a recycle time. Totally fine.
Now, one thing to note here. I want to show you what it looks like, because in the last video, remember when I said when we stack flashes we want to be careful of shadows? This is what it looks like when your flashes are placed just a little bit apart. I think the separation here was just because there were on different light stands basically. But they were still within inches of each other. You can see when we zoom in right there, with the arm, you can see a replication of that shadow. Now, it’s not a big deal because we’re shooting an environmental portrait in this shot. But just imagine if we’d zoomed up close or if your getting in tighter, or if we needed to see up close in this for whatever reason. That would actually become a distracting element in the image. Now, this is when they’re placed only an inch or two apart. So imagine if they’re placed six inches or eight inches apart, and you’re using three of them. That’s going to be even more exaggerated. Just remember, when you stack, get them as close as possible to each other.
It’s one of those things to kind of keep in mind when you’re also using the Westcott Triple Threat or the Cheetah three ring speed bracket. That they can create that effect too. Because essentially you’re putting the heads about…all of them are about six inches from each other. But if you set up with a triangle setup with all three, usually it becomes not so pronounced. They kind of even themselves out. If you only do two, then it might actually be noticeable. With a third one in place it kind of creates a circular effect almost, and so it evens itself out for the most part. But that’s just something to keep in mind. If you see duplication of shadows, it’s because the distance from flash to flash that are stacked is too great.
Okay, with our test shot, we’re looking for unwanted shadows. Particularly on the girls face because the shadows are going to come from the males face and shoulder. So we’re looking for any unwanted shadows in both of these shots. We’re good, at least at this point. Okay, zoom in close. That’s when you’re going to analyze those shadows and so forth. All right, we’re set up with our test shot. Okay the light quality and color looks fantastic at whatever we’re at. We’re at 5.5k here. Here, I love this warmth that we get at 6k, so we’re almost at 6k there, and it just has this great warm look to it with this beautiful tone in the sunset. It looks absolutely amazing. We leave it there, there’s no reason to gel or do anything else.
We pose, we frame, we shoot, we’re taking a low angle. Again, having the couple lean from the hip into the camera to correct that perspective distortion. When you’re standing there looking at them, it looks really weird. But once you get down low, once you see it from this angle…look at this shot right here. You can’t tell that their leaning into the camera. Generally, I don’t know why it is this way, but the legs, when they’re leaning from just the hip over like this. It kind of has the nice effect…I do know why. But it almost elongates the legs, and then makes the torso appear the regular length. So it has almost a flattering effect where the girls legs actually look longer than they actually are.
Okay, analyze, watch the shadows and highlights closely. Particularly when you’re having any movement in lighting setups. Major changes in light setup, the couples’ pose, or the camera position. Remember those three things. That’s it for this overall setup and for The Lean. So remember when you don’t have a great background…by the way, one quick tip that I wanted to give you guys too before I forget.
In the last slide, if I just go back to the last slide, I think I might have talked about this too in the previous…yeah we talked about it with gel too and Lighting 101. Notice that the subjects are placed in both these frames, in this frame as well, over the brightest part of the sky. Same thing here with Ryan and Jackie in both these shots. I always place them over the brightest part of the sky, generally where the sun is. So we put the sun directly behind them. Why? Because compositionally, we want everything to naturally vignette. So basically what happens is, you get this natural vignette where everything gets darker going away from the center of the image. And that brightness just pulls you right into the subject, and you have that highlight right behind them. Which not only creates a cool halo, it also adds that visual weight of drawing the viewers’ attention right into the center, where your subject and your composition is based on.
Just remember that when you’re composing these types of shots, kind of give weight to whatever looks better in the scene. If the water and the sky look amazing, shoot that. If the ground looks amazing, go a little bit top down, and you don’t need to do The Lean in that case. Go always based upon what your strongest features are in the scene. In this case, it’s the sky.