Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Accidents........

Hey Folks, this is a short, sharp post on something to watch out for when you are traveling - happy accidents.

I have mentioned before how I hate carrying tripods, light-stands, flashes or anything that slows me down or makes me uncomfortable. Having said that, I also like shooting at sunrise and in particular at dusk. I really love the very last light of the day and this is especially so in places that have gorgeous sunsets and light like Bali & Lombok. So, what else can you do? Well you can do one of two things; shoot at high ISO with fast glass and/or look for alternative light sources. How so? I hear you say. Well consider the above shot, I think it looks reasonably natural, but contrasty with well balanced light. It is in fact taken with the light from a huge floodlight in front of the Pacific Beach hotel on Coco Beach Lombok.

Here is the light in another setup:

You can see quite clearly how the setup works and incidentally, thats Mt. Agung on Bali in the background. Here is a shot from that set-up taken with my Fuji X100.

Personally I think this is a pretty cool shot and it looks as though its been done with a large strobe. The only thing to watch with these shots is that the contrast can be very harsh (something that I like anyway) and you need to watch the white balance although in this case the light was pretty white and there was no significant colour cast.

Here's a slightly tighter shot that I think works great and belies the simplicity of the set-up. Another point to add here is that I used Sekonic light meter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7gGNTQRt2g&feature=related to get an accurate reading from the models face, I think this is essential in this type of situation. You could get there by trial and error but its very quick to switch to manual and go with an incident reading for the exposure.

When I first spotted this opportunity I thought it would be a bit limiting as to how I could exploit it but, as you can see from the above shots, with careful positioning of the model I was able to get a good variety of shots.

This one above is pretty dramatic and, in fairness, by this time it was extremely dark and even with the floodlight I was on pretty high ISO's and the shots were getting a bit noisy.

Finally, here are a few shots from my Batu Bolong shoot on Lombok taken in almost pitch darkness. In honesty, they are not that great and extremely contrasty, however, if I hadn't used the floodlighting and had a fast camera lens set up (D3 and 24 & 50 F1.4), I wouldn't have had any shot at all and there is something atmospheric about the photos that capture the feel of the temple late at night.

Its worth trying a few different angles to see how you can make the harsh light work for you.

In summary then, keep your eyes peeled for artificial light sources that can help you when you don't have strobes, use a light meter if you can and try a few different set-ups (portrait, context etc) and angles.

I did mention at the start of the post the other option of a camera that can handle High ISO and some fast lenses. I have to say that the more I travel and shoot in this kind of light the more critical I think this is. I always seem to be shooting on the limits and both the Nikon kit and the X100 are proving great partners in this respect. Here's a final shot to close that was taken in natural low light with the D3, 24 at F2 and ISO 1600. The key with these shots at this time of evening is to try to get near a reflective surface to help light your subject and if possible expose to the right (almost overexpose) to contain noise. The feel is totally different from the artificially lit shots but its always nice to have that choice to make.

Thanks as usual on this trip to Riyanti for sparing her shooting time to pose so nicely.

Until next time, keep your eyes open and happy shooting.


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