Behind the scenes foreground bokeh visual effect lens modification or a recent healthcare shoot.
Behind the scenes foreground bokeh visual effect lens modification or a recent healthcare shoot.
I recently shot a quick self promotion photograph of a model holding a champagne glass and watching a Sunset on Reigate Heath, Surrey. The image was pulled together at the last minute, due to my schedule and wanting the ideal weather conditions, despite the amazing weather we have had in the last few weeks. There has not been many clouds or there has been to much cloud cover at the time I wanted to shoot. I finally got my window of opportunity after the first wave of thunderstorms toward the end of July. This is an explanation of how the shot was created.
I found the location after many evenings walking from home to the Windmill at Reigate Heath Golf club. I was struck by the calm and tranquility of the surroundings with the quiet occasionally interrupted by the metallic tang of golfers teeing off from the nearby golf course. As the Sun set the view and hills seemed to take on a grand ambiance. I returned with a camera and captured a basic wide/panoramic landscape image. I had not really intended to shoot into the Sun before sunset but while waiting for the Sun to vanish I took a few shots to review.
1) Here is the first image before the Sun set
2) and image after the Sun had set.
It was clear after reviewing the results that the winner was the shot before Sun set. The image shot into the Sun had a greater tonal range than I was expecting this was increased with enhancement in Lightroom using the graduation tool. The contrast was also excellent and this is mostly in part due to the amazing optics of the 21mm Zeiss (Distagon T* 2,8/21) lens used. A fantastic lens for landscape photography by reducing flare exceptionally well. The first image taken directly into the setting Sun struck me as a great image to use for an email announcing my recent relocation to Surrey. It is positive, bright and has the obvious connotations with bright horizons and new beginnings etc. It only lacked one thing a person.
I decided then that I needed a model to complete the composition and because the location is very close to the Reigate Heath Golf Club house restaurant/bar it must have one of the best views for dining and drinking in Surrey and so it seemed appropriate to have a model posed with a drink enjoying the setting Sun and views toward the north downs. I just needed my schedule, a model and the sky conditions to align. When they did one evening after a long hot day I grabbed my camera equipment two lights and raced to the location before the Sun started to kiss the horizon.
I had planned the lighting placement and new where I would need my two flash lights. As the model was placed very close to the camera position would certainly be in shadow I wanted to place my lights so that they complimented the existing and only other light source of the setting Sun. The position I chose to shot from had the added complication being on a slope downwards from the camera position and in my haste to leave and get to the location I had forgotten to bring anything to put under the light stands to make the ground level, in the end this was overcome with my camera bag and by using the club patio area.
I placed the first light (1.) in front and to the right of the model aimed slightly on her right side and front. The second light (2.) was placed on camera left much further away from the model and in the polar opposite direction of light (1.) I took a couple of test frames and decided that the position of light (1.) was to directional and created obvious harsh shadows behind the models right arm as seen here.
Light (1.) was positioned closer and more to the side of the model with the expectation that the shadows would shorten and soften. The second light (2.) also needed tweaking this was placed again to be more in the opposite direction further forward and aimed back toward the model. In order to stop the slight stand from toppling over on the ueven ground I put the handle of camera bag under one leg of the light stand. Ordinarily I would have an assistant hold the light or tie the stand down with weights and bungee cord. Both lights were unmodified SB800’s. It made sense to leave the lights bare so as to align with the suns very directional light fall. Exposure ended up being f/10 1/50th sec iso 100 with the lights set at 1/4 – 1/2 power I think, as I was working very fast I don’t recall the exact power level. I used an exposure which would give a good balance between the brightest area of sky and the foreground trees/foliage. I recall wanting as much depth of field as possible without exceeding the output from the lights. As the sun was brightest light source I worked quickly at finding the right aperture to expose the flashlights and then reduced the shutter speed to provide the exposure for the model sky and foreground trees. The unprocessed raw file would need work to further help balance the foreground and background this was achieved by using grad filters in Lightroom and curve layers in photoshop. Then adding colour correction, contrast layers and a solid colour layer of mid grey set to 27% opacity in a lighten blend mode to soften the dark shadow areas. Finally adding a subtle vignette mask to the edges to further bring draw your eye into the image.
Final Lighting position digram below:
Final result works very well and conveys the relaxed atmosphere and beauty of the location. It also demonstrates the importance of lighting on location. The result would not have been possible without supplemental lighting to add shape and detail. Post production was also an important element to balance the foreground with background and enhance contrast.
Here are two great ical subscription calendars useful for location photographers.
sunrise sunset calendar this site also has a weather calendar.
weather calendar from Wunderground.com. Finding the ical link is not obvious. You will need to first search for your weather location and then find the drop down sharing button at top right.
Control click ‘Download ical’ to copy link, then paste this into ical under the New Calendar Subscription: ical> File> New Calendar Subscription.
You can show or hide these calendars as and when you need them.
Simple corporate headshot diagram. The is a typical lighting set up I use when space is limited and I need to travel with minimal equipment. The back light usually a lastolite umbrella softbox allows for the choice of either a rim highlight with lighting on the background as well or just a rim light if the umbrella is swivelled 180 degrees and feathered away from the subject and background.
Creating natural lighting on location with speed lights.
During the recent snowy spell in Cambridge I went out with a warm flask of tea and some small Nikon speed lights to try and capture a natural looking environmental portrait.
The sun was low and behind my subject and was casting sun beams through the pine foliage, I wanted to shoot my subject as though some of this sun light penetrating through the forest was providing the illumination on my subject. I also wanted to keep the background low key so that the dark depth of the forest was retained while keeping detail in the areas light by the ambient light.
Two Nikon SB800’s were used off camera and synced with pocket wizards. I used a white umbrella and soft box umbrella both placed camera right about 45 degrees in front and behind the subject. My working aperture of f/11 determined the final camera settings: iso 400 1/80s @ f/11 I wanted to have a reasonable depth of field to retain depth and clarity of the sun beams in the background. In hindsight a third light placed high up and without a modifier to create the effect of sunlight falling on the surrounding forest floor would have have added more realism perhaps or possibly placing my subject nearer to where light was hitting the forest floor could have added something. However at the time I wanted a muted, low contrast image with a broody tone and the focus to be on the subject and background. The whole effect is aided by the snowy conditions acting like a giant fill reflector. In the end this was achieved. Lighting diagram below.
I have been searching for a light weight but portable tethered set up for shooting schedules were a lot of ground needs to be covered. I have a laptop which I can tether and now with the new breed of light weight laptops from Apple this is becoming easier. However as a recent ipad owner I wondered if shooting connected to the ipad would a good solution. Using an ipad3, the apple dock camera connector and USB cable connected to a D3s and shooting Raw Nefs. I have found the system to be adequate but not as streamlined as shooting to a laptop. I don’t know about other manufactures tablet devices and how these differ when it comes to connecting a camera but this is my findings with the ipad3.
If you do not own an ipad or have not yet used the dock camera connector or Camera Connection Kit, I should explain how these work together and you will get an understanding of why this is not quite as good as shooting tethered to a laptop. First of all when you connect a camera the ipad will automatically open up the import dialog. As you shoot, images will appear in the import folder. You then have to select the images you wish to import. I believe you can select all as well as individually. Once files are imported you can view the in the normal way using the ipad photos app.
The disappointment with this workflow is as follows.
– Having to import image files manually rather than have them auto import is inconveiniant and adds more time to reviewing images. I would hope that in the future images will be auto imported or saved in the same way that happens when shooting tethered to a computer or laptop. Images appear on screen and are saved to memory immediately without any input from the user.
– After images are imported they are stored in 2 folders. The recent import folder and the Photos folder. It would make more sense to select the folder to which files are imported especially as its not possible to quickly batch select images to place in a new folder. This opens another downside to using the ipad as its not possible to flag or organise images into folders especially when viewing the larger single image view. It is possible to select images from the thumbnail view but this screen is not practical for assessing image quality etc.
– After each import from the camera the ipad asks if you want to delete or keep the images on the camera. I would prefer if this could be a choice set in preference rather than after each import as it is time consuming and more importantly could result unnecessary deletion of image files.
– One last point is the choice of file format to import. Shuttersnitch the app which provides wireless import of images to the ipad has the option to import jpg only rather than raw or tiff. This makes a lot of sense as it would speed up transfer time and image review etc.
On the plus side its very easy to mount an ipad to a tripod using a superclamp and compatible tablet holder. This makes the system very portable and quick to set up. I tend to use the system in the same way that polaroids are used for assessing composition/ lighting ect with medium and large format film cameras. This is a huge benefit over the small screen screen when shooting subjects which require accurate composition and positioning of props.
I had hoped that a third party developer may have come up with an app which addresses the above. Unfortunately Apple has not made public the API’s for the Camera Connection Kit. So it looks like that won’t happen until the API is made public or Apple provides an update to streamline image import from the Camera Connection Kit. I’d be grateful if anyone reading this knows of any new developments or apps which could facilitate this.
This post is for anyone who is searching for the hash # key on an apple keyboard.
Hold down the “alt/option” key then press “3”
If you don’t get a hash appear when you press alt > 3; open the Keyboard Viewer (you will find this on the top right of your screen next to the date and time.) If when you have opened the keyboard viewer you don’t see any other character changing when you press the alt/option key. Try this:
Open system preferences > Keyboard > Select the ‘Modifier Keys’ button at bottom right > you will see a list with the Option key and a drop down list next to it. It should say ‘Option’.If it says ‘No action’ change this to ‘Option’
For anyone who is an avid Twitter user the # hash key is important character.
Surrey Photographer Alex Orrow
The brief was simple, capture a striking portrait of a staff member with their award for leadership, for an internal company publication. The person in question worked across a department involved in creating maps from geological data. I settled on creating two different images. The first a simple headshot of the subject with award and the second a portrait involving other staff members and some action. For the purposes of this post I am using the example of the basic headshot portrait with award to show how using lighting and background can create an effective and engaging image, of what is usually a fairly standard shot of someone holding an award.
With this type of assignment it is preferable to be able set up without causing to much disruption and to be able to do this quickly, especially if planning multiple shots. As such I travelled light for this assignment I had with me x3 SB800 flash guns, x 2 stands, 1 softbox brolly, 1 translucent brolly
For the first shot, the headshot I new I needed a background which I could either blur using a long focus lens wide open to isolate the subject or I could create a backdrop which was tied in a little more to the story of where the subject worked and could also serve as a background to the second shot involving some action. After a quick scout of the open plan office I settled on the option to create a colourful and striking backdrop using the many maps found in the office. The map we selected was pinned up over other maps already covering the wall to create a large area of map and colour which would provide a large enough background to fill the frame.
I made sure that the space I was going to use would provide enough depth to allow me to light for both the background and the subject as well as allowing me to throw the background out of focus slightly. I set up 2 lights on stands one with the Softbox and the other with a shoot through brolly. The softbox was placed high and close to the subject on camera left so that light would fall on background, as well as creating quite hard shadows on the subjects face. I took the first test shot to see how this looked.
This has created quite a punchy image, but I felt that the shadow created on the subject’s left side was little dark and needed fill. I also noticed the background seemed a little dull. To overcome these issues, I placed a light with shoot through brolly on camera right, close to my position and high. For the background I placed a 3rd light on a box low down behind the subject on camera right. I left this third flash bare without a gel or any light modifier. The other 2 had green and orange gels, the purpose of which was to match the flash light with the white balance setting on camera and the ambient overhead flourcesnt of the office and also contrast with the bare background light. Shooting with my chosen white balance setting with the bare SB800 meant the background took on a subtle bluish colour. After some tweaking by aiming the light away from the background slightly the light fall off was enough not to be distracting and gave the maps more life.