OK, we went and set up. Lots of people interrupting us as they walked back from their walks on the beach. It was 6.30pm when we got there, but as it was summer it was still very bright. Perhaps I’d been too quick? There was in any case lots of light. I took a test shot at correct ambient to see what it looked like and what choices I had. (see Image 2.) I also started trying to finalise where the model was going to stand. I had envisioned her standing at the joint of the s-curve, but it placed her too centrally in the composition, and too small for the field of view I wanted.
The look was also completely wrong. I wanted a dark and gloomy forest, not a brightly lit beach path. This was easy however. One of the joys of using flash in photography is the ability to light the background and the foreground (subject) independently. I adjusted my exposure so that, as far as the camera was concerned, the shot was 3 stops underexposed. This gave me a nice moody background. And when I added flash (at the right power) to my subject, it started to come into line with the ideas I had. (see Image 3.) The positioning of the model still wasn’t right, as the composition was too symmetrical. I realised that she’d have to be much closer, which would also give me the asymmetrical composition I wanted.
Another obvious problem was that to get the right angle of light (I wanted her to be lit in a pool of light, almost from above) was that the light stand would need to be in the shot. Of course, if I had a budget, I could have had an assistant with a boom stand bringing the light in from outside the shot, but this was a one man shoot, and so I had to improvise. This is where a tripod came very much in handy.
I was always going to use a tripod to lock in my background composition. I didn’t want that to fluctuate, and it was also quite a low shooting position, half under a tree. I connected a shutter release and a radio trigger for the flash and I could fire it standing next to the tree. But another advantage of the tripod was that I could take a shot without the light stand in it, and use that to erase the light stand from the other shot (as it would be perfectly aligned).
The lighting involved was just a Canon 580EX speedlight pointing into a reflective umbrella. A small softbox might have been a better choice of modifier, but at the time, I only had a couple of umbrellas, and so I had to make do. With the lightning, it was more about the angle of it being right, and I knew I could limit the spread of the light in post production, using the unlit shot as source material.
So after about 30 minutes of refining the expression I wanted from the model, the placement of her hands, the precise angle of her body into the light, (and the inevitable delays of people walking through the set :)) I finally got the shot. (see Image 4.) Now I just had to take another shot without the flash being in the shot, that I could use to erase the light stand from the image. (see Image 5.)
So, we were all good. 40 minutes after we’d arrived, we packed up and headed home. Now it was just time for the editing.
Now I mentioned previously that I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with the execution of this shot. All the planning in this case had been in my head. If I had done a test shoot I would have realised a few issues that were going to pop up. But life’s like that – a learning opportunity 🙂 The problem was that in the final shot, the exposure was 1.5seconds at f/11 at 200 ISO. Anyone who knows anything about photography will see the issue here. The shutter speed was too slow. I knew that the flash would help greatly, instantly “painting” the subject on top of the ambient (I had rear sync flash enabled). But there was a bit more ambient than I had thought there would be, and with some more thought would have been able to reduce that shutter speed considerably (400 ISO and f/8 for example would have brought it down to .4 of a second. But such is life. I’m still happy with the result, despite it not being quite as sharp as I would want it to be.