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In this installment of the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and Strobist.com publisher David Hobby demonstrates using strobes to freeze action while capturing the strength and grace of a dancer in motion. After working through the lighting challenges of a dance studio, David sets up a white, seamless background and shoots some test shots, adjusting the flash units to create a white "blow-away" background that will enable the photo to be easily composited. Next, he photographs the dancer, working with her to capture a relaxed expression as she leaps and strikes various poses. After the action shots, David lights and shoots a portrait.
This is the first zone that we're going to light. I want to talk to you guys as if I am-- This is a first zone that we're going to light. There are only two zones in this room that we care about. One is this plane, which we want to have lit to a nice certain even number, and it's probably going to be around between 5, 6, and 8, at ISO 400, because we want have everything nailed down here, and then when we come in here and shoot Stephanie, we create a zone of light that's hitting that same aperture. Actually, we want this to be a little overlit, and I am going to walk through that in minute.
I would--man, I would love to be able to get that a little further back, but it's not going to happen. All right, so let's light it. Okay, so, we're going to take two lights. I am going to grab--where is my red bag? Oh, thanks. I am going grab two. Thank you, thank you and thank you. 1, 2. We should have another one of these in here, yes. So, I want to put two HONL Speed Straps on those flashes and use snoots actually as gobos, because the one thing I want is I want all this light going on background and none of it going on Stephanie.
Strap this. I am just putting Velcro everywhere on the flash. Okay. Are these both set to 70? Male Speaker: 70mm and yeah, 70mm on this one. Quarter power. David: Yup, here is a neat trick on getting even light.
I want to take one light and put it over here. I need to try to keep it out of the track that she's going to use, and I am going to aim the light that's on this side at the far side of the paper, and I am going to do the same with the other side. One thing that's worrying me is this whole mirror that runs along the wall, and is that going to create a brand-new light source that we don't want or need? But we will see. Okay, so that will be this side of light. I am gobo-ing this light so the light can see the background but the camera can't see the light.
In a minute we're going to see just how bright we are, okay. So, you want to aim the light to where gobo is just hitting the far edge of the paper, Dave. Right now my worry is keeping this lights out of Stephanie's track and keeping the lights off of her. Male Speaker: So we should give her room to run along inside? David: We are going to have to figure that out, and figure that how close we can have her. Now we start getting into how close is she to the camera, so how wide of a lens do I have to use and is that going to give me a bad backdrop? So there are going to be some physics to figure out after we get her set up.
So, I will go ahead sync these and find out how far back I can move them and still keep, still keep an exposure that I want on the back drop. So, I am going to walk through getting a nice exposure, a nice even exposure on white paper without a flash meter. If you have flash meter, this is obviously going to be very easy. You basically want this to be 1 stop hotter. There we are, and I don't have--oh that's my max, sorry.
Wrong one, operator error. Set cord is working. Okay, transmit. Is that firing too? Male Speaker 2: Yeah it's fine. David: Yeah there is optical. David: I am using opticals as backup. Go ahead and plug up, other side, oh that's mono-mono, okay, mano a mano, oh yeah, thank you.
So, let's get these kind of up a little bit, and I am starting at a quarter power. We're going see what that gives us on the backdrop. And each flash should be aimed evenly across and hitting maybe, I don't know, a little above halfway up that other side. And that's probably going to give a pretty even exposure right from the beginning. The question is, what's the exposure at? So, remembering the ambient exposure in the room 250th of a second--well, for black ambient exposure--is 250th of a second between 5, 6 and 8.
Now I am going to do a quick test on the-- and the background is nice and clean. I have got a nice spike. Actually, Dave, you can see this. You see that spike? The histogram right there is giving me--it's pushing all towards the edge. So, maybe give it a little more juice. But the next thing I am going to do is I am going to take this down and put that spike right in the middle of my histogram so I can see if there's any weirdness and unevenness going on. So, I am going to go down to F11 and a half and shoot. So I am going to get a grayish backdrop.
Now, when I look at this I can see that we're running a little too high, as far as the-- the background is darker down low. I can see the sunspot hitting there. So, we're going to, we're going to take the flashes up to quarter power plus two thirds, and zoom amount to 50, okay? I got this one. So, quarter power, plus two thirds, zoom them out to 50, and point them down just a tad. So, we are making a wider throw on these flashes so it'll cover the backdrop more, and adding a little power to it to compensate for the fact that we are taking that zoom off of it.
So, it should be more even. Did it fire? Okay, still a tad hot in the middle. Okay, so I am going to make a--let's make a little switch on the orientation of the flashes. These flashes don't project in a circle; they project in a beam shape like a 35 mm. So, we're going to take them and point them across like this, bring them up like that, and turn them to where that beam is shaped more appropriately to what we need.
So, now we are sending out a vertical beam. Okay. So, what I'm hoping is this is going to give us more even vertical coverage. So that's at 70, yeah. When this goes to white it's not going to be that much of an issue. We're talking about half a stop between the middle and bottom. Yes, vertically oriented. What is it? Is it vertical orientation or vertical preference? No, not that there is anything wrong with that.
Let's get these up. We are still probably going to have to adjust these when Stephanie gets here, to give her a track. Hey, that's clean. And I have got a ton of light there too. So, let's go to--so what I am doing is moving that-- moving the exposure down to where I can see big variances in the light. So, now when I go back to F8, there is my spike right up at there at the edge.
So, I am going to walk around and shoot this a little bit, and we are going to use my camera kind of as a flash meter this way. Not a lot of difference anywhere there. Male Speaker 1: Is that corner still causing a problem, or are you able to shoot? So, we've get a hot spot on the corner over there, the bottom-right corner on the background paper, because of a direct sunspot coming through the skylight.
I can't make this any wider than it's going to be, so that's not a problem. The problem is going to be, what is that beam of light doing in the interim where it crosses? You can see it on my hand right there. So, we have got 45 minutes now before we would even conceivably be shooting. I mean look how much brighter my face is here, and watch: I am going to move it into that light. That's a huge spot of light, and that's a problem. So, as that sun moves that way, that spot is going to move this way, and I think that takes out of the zone where we have to worry. Okay, so this is pretty much set, and if I can shoot at F8, I am clean everywhere.
What I really hope to be able to do is to come back here, shoot with a relatively long lens; I might have to shoot with my 7200. Now we're going to get a mark where we want Stephanie to hit. Right now, Dave, Kyle, can I use you right here, and use this little line as a mark. I am going to see how much light I have got going on you versus the ambient. Maybe I don't want to photograph this right now. So, you should be fairly silhouetted.
And you are. I am catching just a little bit tone on your white shirt. And Dave, we will bring these up, actually, when-- So, in this picture you can see how the gobos were working, and they are creating the zone of light that only exists around the paper. So, if Stephanie does something right in here, she's going to be a fine here or anywhere in front. So, I am probably going to be shooting with a longer lens from the back, and it's all going to depend on how horizontal she is in her pose.
Big thing. She's not here yet. I want to get every single bit of technical stuff nailed down before she gets here. So, when she's here it's all about her and getting her in the moment and deferring to how tired she is at any given point, and just working with her interpersonally and not-- We're going to have to tweak the lights some, but I really don't want to have this be the light and chimp show, because that would just completely suck her out of it. Okay, so let's see. At 8 it looks good. How does it look at 5, 6? Better or worse? I've still got a pretty nice tight edge.
What I'm looking for is how bright that background light gets at 5, 6. For instance, if I were shoot this at 2, 8, my background is now like 3 stops hotter than I want it to be, and I am getting all kinds of wraparound flare from Dave. So, I am looking for the exposure that gives me the cleanest white without getting any wraparound. And remember, her hair is going to be moving, so I really want to be sensitive to how bright and flarey that light is coming from back. In fact, I am probably going to shoot at F8 just for that reason. Actually, I am going to focus on you so I can see--do me a favor. This is going to go sound weird, but hold a little of your hair up just like that.
I want to say--exactly. Ready for my close-up, Mr. Dave? Okay Male Speaker: I can't imagine doing that. David: But look at this. This is important. I'm holding every little strand of hair in there. So there is an exposure at which you can hold the hair and have a relatively clean white backdrop. I can always goin and fix the backdrop, but there is a little problem with it. Male Speaker: So that was at F8? David: So, this is--so F8 is our target. Everything that we light for her is going to be at F8. We want her to jump into this zone and it's just magically lit at f8. We now forget about the backdrop, and everything we're doing is lighting this 3-dimensional space that she is going to be in as a 3-dimensional object, as opposed to the background, which is a plain a 2-dimension object.
And we're really taking two pictures at once: one is lit in a plane, one is lit in zone. We are done with the plane; now we're moving to the zone.
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