Friday, July 17, 2009

3 Little Speedlights In The Woods

Welcome back. I'm currently in the middle of a DIY marketing campaign and wanted to share with you all one of the photos I'm using in this series of mailers. I also will discuss how it was done and why it was done the way it was.

The Photo:

Who and What:

This is a friend of mine, he's a local designer that I work with pretty regularly at my job as a pre-press coordinator. He and his wife own and run Strawberri Graphix, and specialize in custom wedding invitations. You can check them out here.

I asked him if he had a mountain bike and the shoot went from there. I wanted to get some shots of someone either perched on a large rock with a mountain bike, as if just coming to an abrupt stop at the edge of a cliff after a hard ride, or an actual action shot of someone racing down a hill. The ideal light would be sunset, but most parks start kicking people out when the sun is on it's way down and I knew I wouldn't have enough time to set up, shoot, and tear down and get out of Dodge before the police would be coming around ordering us out.

When, Where, and How:

We met up on a bright Sunday morning at a local mountain park. I got there early and set up my lights with my assistant filling in the spots where I'd have him be, once I got the lighting generally where I wanted it, I waited until my friend showed up.

Once he was there I went over the general idea one last time, he got up on his bike and we got a bunch of shots. Actual shooting took no more than 20 minutes.

The equiptment used was as follows:
  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • 430 EX Speedlight w/ diffuser
  • 430 EXII Speedlight with shoot-through umbrella
  • 580 EXII Speedlight with shoot-through umbrella and a Rosco Orange filter
  • ST-E2 Transmitter
  • Obvious stuff like tripods and gaffer tape

So, like I said, I wanted it to look like dusk, but it was actually something like noon, so how to you turn overhead noon sunlight into dusk in a pinch? An Orange gel pointed at your subject from the same general direction that the sunlight is coming in from. I cranked up the 580 to about EV+2 and placed it, along with the 430 (with diffuser), behind a tree off to camera right. I placed the 430 EXII to camera left on top of the big rock that he's riding down next to and bounced it out of the umbrella for some fill on the left side. The purpose of putting both the gelled light and the diffused white light in the same spot was because since we're clearly in a wooded area, even when the sun is low in the sky at sundown, it's not coming in full-force when there are trees in the way, and since the leaves tend to soften the light a bit and soak up some of the color and filter it out, so I placed the gelled 580 lower to the ground and put the white diffused light up much higher to create a clean kind of rim lighting to bring out the higlights in the bike and on the edges of his body. Real scientific, I know...

Now, anyone who has ever used slave flashes with an IR transmitter knows you need direct line of sight, which I didn't have. So my little workaround was to use an OC-E3 off-camera-shoe cable and mount the ST-E2 with the cable on a tripod and extend the coiled wire just past it's typical reach. I had to sandbag the tripod so it wouldn't fall over and conk me in the noggin. With that setup I was able to reach around my line of sight to the speedlights and fire it all as he was coming down the hill. After about 9 shots I got the one I wanted and we were pretty much done. The hardest part was timing the focus and the position of the rider along the path of light from the small flashes, as well as keeping good composition in-camera, and making sure I was using the right settings for the job.

There are other shots from this set up on my website, and you can either click the picture above or follow this link to see them.

And again, that's Strawberri Graphix, for your custom wedding invite needs.

That's all for right now but there will be other posts today if I can get to them. More soon!

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