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In this installment of the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and Strobist publisher David Hobby visits a conservation center to photograph subjects small and large, demonstrating flash lighting techniques along the way. The course begins with a close-up shoot of a small frog—and with details on how to light close-ups and macros using a small softbox and a reflector made of crumpled aluminum foil. Next, David uses multiple strobes and umbrellas to transform a dark blacksmith shop into a warm backdrop for a portrait of a craftsman at work. In a bonus chapter, David discusses an approach for organizing photo meet-ups that have a purpose: leveraging the talents of multiple photographers to quickly create a set of photos for a worthy organization.
Alright we wanted to give a second look at Alvin who had done so well for us as a subject for environmental picture in the blacksmith shop. And to do that we we decided to do a nice portrait of him using this this doorway. So we placed him in front of the doorway and we're going to build we're going to build our light from the back. So, in the ambient exposure here, our room is very, very dark. And we want it dark. Because we want that, the light from that glowing piece of metal he's going to be holding, to have the ability to build up as we leave our shutter open.
Without the rest of the room just going all crazy exposure wise. So, we going to start with a dark room. And we're going to stick a, a flash with a, a little stoffen type dome. It's, it's the Nikon dome that comes with the flash, actually. And we're going to put a piece of tape on the front of that to keep that hotspot from really getting too bright in that doorway. So it's going to be, put a nice glow on the doorway behind Alvin and it's going to look just like this. as far as the power level of the flash or the or all, you know, the, all the little, the technicals always, that people want to know, what I say is, you ask me what this flash is set at.
And I'll answer with the, the definition of ignorance and apathy, and that is I don't know and I don't care. What's important to me is that this flash is giving me the amount of light that we want, and we typically do that just by eye. I can't really use a flash meter here, unless I know exactly how many stops I want to underexpose that door. I just know that I, that I want to bring up detail, but I don't want it to to really be singing in the back of the picture. So this is my first step. After, after overpowering the ambient in the room and knowing that I can open my shutter up to a quarter of a second.
Or a fifth of a second. Whatever and pick up that glowing stick later. So now we need to build the fill light that's going to, that's going to fall on album and light every place that key light doesn't hit in a few minutes. So this is going to be another one of those situations where we want to underexpose him. And there is no, there is no magic bullet as far as the power setting that this flash is on. It's a Nikon SB 800. It's in a 43 inch shoot-through Westcott umbrella. And it's job is going to be to light the safety net part of Alvin.
It's going to light everything that the camera can see. And we want to light that. And let's go ahead and pull that just that fill picture up of Alvin. You can see what the look is here. It, it's a picture. That is completely lit, but it's not completely exposed. You can see everything, but everything's a little underexposed. And that's the safety net where the shadows from our, our key light will fall in just a moment. And that gives us the confidence to use a nice sharp key light on Alvin. And know that we're going to have a legibility, even in the areas where that key light doesn't hit. So speaking of the key light we, we have a Nikon SP 800 and a Lumaquest soft box 30.
A little 8 by 9 inch soft box that is a very, very much a favorite key light of mine. folds down nice and flat, so I always have it with me, and I tend to use it a lot. So, again that light's going to come from camera right, and it's going to rake across Alvin. And we're going to keep that light from hitting all of Alvin by putting in a cutter or a go row /g, or a flag, or whatever you want to call it. It's going to be a piece of opaque black plastic and that's going to stop that light from being able to reach everywhere around on the camera right side of Alvin. And the angle of the light obviously going to stop it from reaching around on the camera left side.
So remember we've got our fill light that's going to catch everything that that key light doesn't catch. So when you rack that light across him you going to have a little nice almost like he's that the light discovering him in a cool way but were the lights not hitting we still have legibility. So, it gives a nice combination of crispness and legibility in the frame that I've grown to be very fond of in my lighting. the the glowing stick is courtesy of the long shutter speed, and the fact we're in a dark room. So, after that flash pops, we can leave that shutter open for a half a second or a quarter second.
And we know that we're going to pick up the glow on that shutter or excuse me, on the on the steel beam that, that that Alvin is holding, as long as he's not moving it around. If he moves that around, that lights going to track. So we want him to hold that fairly still, and we leave our shutter open until it it glows the way we want it to glow, and shoot very quickly. because that glow's going to go away in, in just a matter of 5, 6, 7 seconds. We didn't have a lot of time to make these pictures before they the rod cooled off from being the 1700 degrees, 1700 degrees it needed to glow like that. So that, that's pretty neat.
And then the final look is just more of a straight on portrait. Again, the exact same kind of light. we're not capturing the glow, the stick has already cooled down a little bit. But I wanted something where he was camera conscious. Now he is he's got a fairly big pair of glasses here. And that would be a problem if we weren't account for them. he is looking with his face, his face is directed into an area where there are no light sources. There's a light source directly behind me, and it's nice and big. But he shouldn't see his face is turned a little bit to camera left, and that means the reflection of that light source in his glasses will follow over to my left side.
The key light is coming from camera right, so the reflection is going to be visible only to people standing on the far camera left side of Alvin. And obviously, obviously, the light behind him is not going to give us any kind of a reflection issue. So, if you have people wearing glasses, just understand that, you can't light them from the side into which they're looking. You gotta do that, the oblique kind of a light and, and, and skip it across their face a little bit. Or you know, do what some people do and just take the lenses out of the glasses. But I couldn't really do that in Alvin's case because he's pretty near sighted and his eyes look significantly smaller because of the correctional lenses in his glasses.
So if i took those lenses out, he wouldn't look like Alvin. So I'd solve my problem but i wouldn't be really be taking a picture of the person I'm taking a picture of. Little things, easy to solve. And again, this is a mixture of uh,3 flashes, a very dark room and a glowing light source. But as long as you hit those things one at a time, each individual problem is a very easy problem to solve. So the time that you get to the end of this light that you're building. You can build a pretty complex little lighting set up, just with a minimal amount of gear, and a minimal amount of worrying and thinking.
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