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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brighten Up A Gloomy Day

Example 1 Photo 1.  A little blast of flash will turn dull daylight into a warm and wonderful picture.  Unmodified flash lighting positioned at a distance to the model and at minimal power rendered it barely noticeable in this shot yet revealed considerable details and warm color saturation.  I used a wide throw to illuminate the model' from head to toe.  Whatever light spills onto the rocks is not much of a concern since I'm shooting from a low angle.  See related photo below without flash and compare.

"Learn to light at any light."  That's the motto I learned from being a regular visitor at David Hobby's  Since then, no lighting (or weather) condition is too dull or too harsh for me to take pictures.  All I need is 1 (sometimes 2) speedlite.  These little babies help transform what is otherwise a gloomy scene into a dramatic one - high in contrast and rich in colors.  I have taken pictures this way countless times - under the rain, a cloudy day, a foggy day, a dusty day . . . you name it.

The same scene as the 1st photo exposed 1 stop under for ambient.  This is just about the right exposure I'm looking for although the colors are still dull and, without flash, the main subject is rather dark.  Compare this photo with the 1st photo.

Last Friday (April 9, 2010) Doha Pinoy Shooters Club (DPSC) organized an outdoor photoshoot in Fuwairit in the northern part of Qatar.  The place is known for it' beautiful beach and rock formations that 4-wheel-drives can drive over.  The place itself is simply beautiful.  The rocks' textures offer photographic ideas quite different from the usual sand and desert we used to shoot.  That was when we scouted the area a week earlier.  But during the photoshoot itself, the sky was gloomy and the whole scenery was like lit by a giant softbox.  Every bit of daylight was diffused by featureless clouds revealing hardly any of the beautiful textures we saw 1 week before. 

Example 2 Photo 1.  Colors were brought to life with a couple of flashes - one at front left above her head and the other behind her to the right - at a considerable distance.  Refer to the next 2 photos taken prior to addition of flashes to the shot.

Example 2 Photo 2.  Using spot meter to get exposure from your subject will result in light and undersaturated background.  The result, exposure wise, is acceptable but not quite the result I was looking for.

Example 2 Photo 3.  Exposing for ambient will reveal colors and some details in the scenery but will leave your main subject dull and dark.  This is just about the exposure I was looking for.  All I need now is to light the model.

Example 2 Photo 4.  1 flash above front left with 1/4" grid snoot and another flash behind her to the right at low power - just enough to "gently kiss" her hair and shoulders.

I think such light condition is preferred by ambient light shooters of close-up and portraits.  The diffused and soft light quality is what we have all been trying to achieve with our artificial lights.  But it doesn't work in this situation.  The sky was like a big light source that if you set exposure to your subject, it will simply turn out white - not even gray . . . white!  If you expose for the sky, that will leave your subject in shadows.  Flash photography shines in such situations.  You can set exposure for ambient to get details and color out of your scene and let flash light up your main subject.  It's amazing how such tiny strobes can help brighten up a dull scenery.
Example 3 Photo 1. This was taken at sundown, during the blue hour. It was getting dark so using purely ambient lighting would be even worse with a model as your main subject. For this shot, I wanted a soft warm light to illuminate her. Refer to photo below.

Example 3 Photo 2. To subtly and softly light the model, I simply bounced light from a single flash onto a 43" silver reflector. Because the camera was still set to dayligh white balance, the flash light gave out a warm glow.

Oftentimes, we've been advised the daylight is the best light.  Oftentimes, we make plans for outdoor photoshoots expecting daylight to provide dramatic exposures and all we have to worry about is composition.  But too often, daylight is not what we expect.  Sometimes sunlight is too harsh or clouds turns it too dull.  But . . . never fear . . . flash is here.


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