On a test shoot back in December, I found a room in an abandoned building that I really liked. The room had a lot of windows but because it was overcast, I knew I could really bring down the ambient light with my shutter speed.
My goal for this shot was to give it almost a dreamy kind of dark effect while maintaining some of the wall details behind the subject. Below is the diagram of the setup I used to achieve my final look.
The main light on the subject coming from the bounce umbrella is dialed in to properly expose the subject. Since the wall is a couple of feet behind the subject, the main light hitting the wall is about 1-1.5 stops under exposed.
To bring out some of the details of the wall behind the subject, I used a grid spot on the second flash. The reason I used a grid spot is to keep a small area lit behind the subject’s head and shoulders. This helps to create separation from your subject and the background while still maintaining focus on your subject.
And the outcome-
On a recent shoot with Camille (a friend of ours who was in town visiting), I was able to take advantage of the surroundings to bounce my light.
When we arrived at the location, and it was very dark. I wanted to shoot here because of the brick walkway and the subtle windows in the background. Originally I was going to use a shoot through umbrella, but this changed as soon as I started setting up. To the left of where I was going to have Camille stand was a massive white brick wall. It made sense to use it to bounce the light to give more coverage. I also wanted to try to hit her back shoulder and hair with some rim light by using a snoot. Because of how the walkway was, I could not place the snoot camera right which would have been better but I still managed to get it to work at camera left.
Below is a diagram of what I set up-
Here are some shots I made from this-
One thing to note, it was so dark that I could not see her through my camera. I did not have a flash light on me to help get my focus set. This made this much harder and quickly brought to my attention the need to always have one in my bag!
And on a funny note, as soon as we finished and I was loading up my bags into my car the police arrived. We were in an industrial area after dark, and I’m loading several big bags into my trunk…can we say I probably looked rather suspicious. Naturally the Officer looked perplexed when I told him I had just finished taking pictures and I was packing up. He looked around at the darkness and said “Of what!?!?” Time to explain strobist photography to him… 🙂
Since I prefer to be a location photographer, I’m constantly scouting out areas that I think would make great backdrops. Having a lot of choices can help be more flexible when the weather does not agree. This session is a great example.
Originally this shoot was going to take place downtown in some of the historic areas of Paducah Ky. on the river. We were going to start at 9:00 a.m. while the sun was still low and traffic minimal. However, the night before I woke to hearing strong winds blowing. I went back to sleep with the anticipation of not being able to shoot at my original location.
As expected, when I got up I went downtown to check on the weather and it was nothing like what it was supposed to be. The Weatherman called for calm winds, sunny and a high in the 40’s. The sunny part was the only thing correct. At 8:00a.m., the wind was gusting to 30 mph and the temp was in the low 20’s. There was no way I was going to be able to shoot in these conditions. It was time for plan B.
Plan B – Start the session at a location where the wind would not be a factor and hope for it to die down for a later session outside. Our first location was inside a corporate building.
In this shot, I utilized the chrome of the elevator doors to create some dramatic back lighting. I placed a flash behind the subject and a flash through an umbrella at camera right and up angled down 45.
In this shot, I wanted to utilize the windows to frame the subject. She is on the second floor and I’m on the first floor about 20 yards away looking up to her. I placed one flash camera left about 4 feet away thru an umbrella to provide the main light. I placed another flash camera left and behind about 6 feet away with a snoot to provide some subtle back lighting.
After this session, the subject changed and we had lunch. It was warming up and the wind was dying down some. But I didn’t think it would be enough to chance going downtown. I decided to go over to Fort Massac in Illinois and utilize the old cabins for my next location. Also if the wind calmed a little bit more, we could easily go to a spot on the river bank.
When we arrived, the wind had calmed down more and I suggested we shoot on the river bank while we could. For this shot, I wanted to darken the ambient light so I under exposed the background and used my aperture to dial in the flash on my subject. I placed both flashes camera right since the sun was high camera left.
After several shots in this location, the wind started to pick back up so we moved into a cabin. In this shot, one flash is angled down 45 degree through an umbrella while another flash is off to the right through a snoot to add some rim light.
Overall I think the day turned out a success despite not making one shot from what was going to be a day downtown. 🙂