Saturday, August 29, 2009

Annuta Final

I called this picture Annuta Final because it was the last shot of the entire day of shooting out at San Gabriel's Mission Church. This is one of over 600 frames shot on Tuesday August 25th for E. Chao Makeup that specializes in wedding day makeup. Annuta and Sophie were two of the models that I introduced to E. Chao Makeup and two of the five that I shot that day.

This particular photo reveals the more challenging elements of shooting outdoors. The problem with shooting outdoors is that unless you know how to light, you are at the mercy of the sunlight. Even if you are a strobist pro, you'll still have difficulty trying to light a bride-to-be in 12 o'clock sun.

For me, it was a game of "what do I do with the sun". When we started shooting at 11AM, the sun was cooperative enough to come in from certain workable angles such that we could put the model back towards the sun. As the morning dragged on to noon however, we had more and more difficulty turning our back to the sun and alternatively had to look for shade.

Needing to stay mobile I had 2 light/light modifiers on hand. I had a 4-in-1 set of Westscott reflectors and a SB-800 with a Ray Flash ringflash. With the reflector I would attempt to bounce the sunlight for fill lighting with the model in the shade. With the SB-800 on the hotshoe and the Ray Flash adapter connected, I would light on-axis for fill.

I can honestly say that neither were great solutions. The problem with the Ray Flash adapter is that it kills several stops of light so I had to be very close to the model. Secondly, because of the lower levels of light, I could only shoot at f/8.0-9.0 apertures at max sync speed (1/250th). Due to the intense levels of ambient light, this means that I was not able to turn down the ambient light much in relation to my flash output. However, the biggest problem with shooting with flash on a sunny day is that I can't open up my aperture to f/2.8 for shallow DOF to produce nice background bokeh and I hated that. I hate shooting outdoors at f/8 or f/9 because everything in the background is also in perfect focus so the frame does not direct the viewers eyeballs solely onto the model.

The good thing about the Ray Flash is that it can be used in almost any lighting scenario for fill. You'll want to make sure you gel the SB-800 before you attach the Ray Flash because otherwise the difference in color temperatures between the sunlight and your flash becomes annoying. But for quick and easy on-axis fill, I am growing to really like the Ray Flash ringflash adapter.

The problem with the gold reflector is that it's GOLD as in, blinding sunlight reflected into the model's face. At least that was how I was using it at first. The correct way to use it, that I've learned, is to feather the light so that the edge of the light is lighting the model's face. This is so the light won't blind the model and so your model won't squint through the light. Secondly with feathering, you no longer have those annoying blown highlight hotspots on the model where there is no longer any detail. Lastly, with feathering you will diffuse some of the heat that is created by the reflected sunlight. Even better however, is to purchase a soft gold reflector (instead of gold reflector) so that the light comes back a little softer and not so blinding!

Of course no matter what you do, you'll always have to deal with the fact that the reflector is very susceptible to wind whether on a stand or even handheld. It's the nature of having a sail-like object as a light modifier outdoors. My reflector arm and stand toppled over multiple times during the day and even when it was still standing, would still sway with the wind thus causing my light to change in exposure over the course of seconds!

The benefit of the reflector of course is that you have no sync speed limitation and can therefore shoot at thousandths of a second in intense sunlight. This means you can open your aperture up to compensate and achieve those creamy bokeh conditions that you couldn't get with strobe lighting. I used the gold reflector in many ways. Primarily I used it to reflect sunlight onto the model's face for main (not fill) lighting. In some circumstances where the model was next to a wall, I would bounce the reflected sunlight from the reflector off a white wall to light the model's face. In retrospect another way to use my 4-in-1 reflector would have been to simply place the white screen above the model between the direct sunlight and the model to create a modified softbox effect. Then we wouldn't even have had to bother with the gold reflector and could have shot without looking for shade!

Anyway, it was an interesting day... one which I walked away with many lessons learned. Stay tuned for more lessons and pictures!

Strobist info: The power of a single gold reflector feathered to light Annuta from way behind the camera. The gold reflector was probably a good 15 yards away to soften the blinding effects of the sunlight.

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 1/500th, f/2.8, ISO200, 62mm shot about 8 feet away.

Model: Annuta

Makeup: Alyssa Fong/E. Chao Makeup

Wardrobe: E. Chao Makeup

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