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Shoot: Meeja R.

July 16, 2011

Shoot: Meeja R.

Recap from the shoot with Meeja R! It was friday evening, and we had planned to do a shoot together during her time up here in town. No particular theme in concrete, so I had the freedom to try out a couple new things.

Mainly, using Off Camera Flash and trying to balance it in well with the ambient so it is not too “in your face”. Location shoots with studio lighting can be cumbersome. Lots of equipment to carry, and it’s biggest downfall, the lights don’t follow your subjects around as they move (family, kids, couples…) So with her friend Tyler here to help, and with her patients, this was a perfect opportunity for the exercise!

My other objective was to give the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM lens a try. Courtesy of the fellow local photographers over at Velvet Lotus Photography, they were kind enough to lend me the lens for the weekend. My initial response? A bit long for my taste. Probably just not used to it. But a great OOF from the wide aperture. Compression from the relatively long focal length was fantastic. Perfect for portrait photography.

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Starting The Shoot:

We started the shoot indoors with some straight forward studio style shooting. It usually takes me a while for me to get into the groove of things. So starting off simple works really well for me. Warm up first, then go on an adventure : )

    • – Solid white paper background.
    • – 2x Vivitar285HV’s one on either side behind pointing at the subject’s back (RIM light).
    • – AB800 with a large softbox camera left (KEY light).
    • – All triggered with Cactus V5 Wireless Triggers.

If you are looking for a good workhorse, but don’t have the money to buy a TTL Flash, then the Vivitar285HV is the right flash for you. It’s all manual, and doesn’t come with any bells and whistles. But if you just need a flash that works, and you’re on a budget, you can get one of these for ~$100(US) these days.

As for wirelessly triggering these flashes off your camera, I use my recently upgraded Cactus V5 Wireless Trigger. They are a hotshoe based wireless trigger. They don’t carry TTL information, but if you are using manual flashes or studio lights, it get’s the job done.

AB800 is a large monolight by Paul C. Buff, and in this case I used it along with the large softbox. The softbox is fantastic for creating soft whole body lighting. I’ll be explaining more on the AB800 a little later.

If you are new to Off Camera Flash, and this diagram doesn’t quite make sense to you, I highly recommend David Hobby (Strobist)‘s blog. It’s a very very very long tutorial, and you probably wont understand it the first couple times you read through. But if you are serious about getting into this type of photography, I couldn’t recommend a better place to do so!

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Going Mobile:

So we went mobile. Although we had Tyler to help us out (seen here bored, playing with the bush), I decided to keep it pretty simple.

Medium stand, Shoot through umbrella, AB800, and Vegabond Mini (Battery for the monolight).

My purpose was to blend the artificial flash into the ambient as unintrusively as possible. So only using 1 light as the key. The ambient provides the rim light around the subject, and the surrounding. The photos to the left show Meeja with and with out the key light (The sun was behind the cloud at this moment so the ambient is a little underexposed).

I placed Meeja one the corner of the gazeebo so the sunlight was able to create a rim light around her (see my previous post about rim lights with ambient lighting). Then the monolight was placed to the side so it would light her face evenly. With the 85mm I had to be at a very far distance to get a whole body shot, but the wireless trigger has a range of over 100m so no problems there.

The f/1.8 allowed me to blur out the background fairly well. The longer focal length also compresses your photo (less background in your photo), so I was able to get everything in nice and tight. As you can see, I also shoot through leaves of nearby trees so it adds a bit more perception of depth in my images.

You would imagine, that with the placement of the monolight, it would actually be within the frame… And it was. And as you’ve probably guessed already, this is actually a composite image. The right half of the final image is actually another image. A horizontally flipped image of the left side of the gazeebo. I placed it so the gazeebo actually looks smaller than it actually is, while also masking out the flash as well. The flare above her is also done in post.

With good amounts of photoshopping you end with the image as you see at the top of this article!!

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Overall:

I’m pretty happy with how this particular image turned out. I hope to get this down to the point where it is almost instinctual to find the nice Ambient vs Flash balance. The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM also performed brilliantly! It is as fast autofocusing as a Canon L lens. The OOF and compression allows you to compose your image with smaller background distractions. 85mm put me farther away from my subjects, and away from the lights than I would normally like. It’s harder to keep a conversation going, and the distance I have to run back and forth to change my light power output settings increases (Gotta get a remote power setter…)

But overall, the pros overweigh the cons. If I get a chance to purchase another lens, this fairly affordable lens would definitely be my first choice.

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