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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.
Okay, so this room is situated in this way. It's longer than it is wide. But we're kind is working on 45s diagonally, which is not exactly a 45 because the room is not square. But the idea is twofold. Number one, we want to push that background back as far as we can, and we are, because as you can see, the background is running into some air-conditioner sockets, or whatever those things are called, and we're back as far as the can, so we're giving ourself the most diagonal shooting range. That's important because the further back we can get, the bigger this background becomes.
Because we can use a longer lens, it compresses things, makes them more their absolute size, and we get--we have fewer problems with hands and such extending past to backdrop. So think about the difference between shooting someone in front of this paper with a 300 mm lens versus a 24 mm lens. If you were right up next to him and were shooting with the 24 and the backdrop was 10 feet behind him, we're going to run out of backdrop really quickly, as you spread out towards the outside. But if you can back up and shoot with a long lens, you're going to hold that background in a much bigger way, and you're not going to be losing hands and arms and feet and that sort of thing.
So taking the room and putting it on the 45s and working on the diagonal also is going to give her a nice little track to run across and get some momentum before she jumps up for leap, or whatever it is that she is going to be going today. So we've taken this room and twisted it just a little bit and made it a much better room, rather than just shooting straight-on, even on the long dimension of the room. Gaffer's tape, best stuff in the world. So the only thing bad about this is if you leave it on your gear too long, it will make this white residue that is very hard to get off.
But the secret to getting the white residue from dried Gaffer tape off is more Gaffer tape. You just push it down on it and use the Gaffer tape to pull the dried residue out. Don't use duct tape. Duck tape is for chumps. It leaves--it takes away paint, everything. This is really strong, won't take away paint, tears very easily. There we go. So I want middle of this to potentially back in that hall, which is where I might have to shoot from. So now she has got a mark, and she is a professional and she can hit that mark 99 times out of 100.
Oh you know what we didn't do? We didn't bag those stands back there. Let's go ahead and do that. Three on each one. Just put them on the braces, close to the center of the gravity. Not going anywhere. Okay so those are three. We should have a couple of more. I want to talk about this for a minute too. Sandbags! Get them, learn them, love them.
They will keep things from falling over. They are super cheap. You don't buy them full. Don't by the ledge shot bags because then you're paying FedEx to send you ledge shot. I got these on Amazon. These are 10 bucks. They ship without anything in them. You go to home depot or your garden supply store and buy pea gravel instead of sand and you've basically got a bean bag that weighs 15, 20 pounds, 10 bucks each, and the gravel to fill one is just going to run you another--I don't know 50 cents. It's just crazy not to have.
All right, so this flash is going to be up high all of the time. I am syncing it with a pocket PocketWizard. We have PocketWizards and built-in slaves in every flash in the room, so. Well, I think PocketWizard is just on 3 or 4, but everytime we hit the button they are definitely going to go off. One thing that we're not going to able to do is easily adjust the intensity of this light, with it up there, without bringing it down and taking the sandbags off and blah, blah, blah. So what we're going to do is we know what we're going to be shooting at. We're going to be shooting at f8.
So I want to set up this umbrella to give f8 from working distance of, say, eight feet away, at ISO 400. So now, as long as we keep this umbrella eight feet away from what we want to be lighting up there, everything is going to be cool. If the umbrella is a little hot, we'll back it up just a tad. If it's a little dim, we're going to bring it in just a tad, but we don't have to come in and adjust the lighting on the flash. So I am going to have this on a quarter to-- well I can have it upto a quarter and two thirds, because my recycle time is only going to be as good as my most powerful flash.
So if I've got all of my flashes on 1/8 and one of them is on full power, then my recycle time is going to be 4 seconds. So as it is right now, we've got both of these on quarter power plus two thirds. So that's going to give me about a 1.7 second recycle, but realistically, I can do two quick pops because I've been a full charge built into every flash. So if I need to motor a couple--I don't think I will. But essentially, I've got to weight two seconds between pictures. So I don't want to set this one up to where I've got to wait four seconds. Okay, so is it going to pop? Yes.
This flash, if you take a look at it, also has -- it's my key light flash. You can see it's got a warming gel on it. This is a one quarter CTO. So rather than putting the gel on the flash-- we've talked about this before I think. Every time that you're going to do a key light someone, I just have a flash that I use for key lighting people. Ultimately, it probably means this flash will wear out before all of my others, but it saves me a lot of time. Let's walk this over. So what I want to see now is what is my shooting range at one quarter power. Am I quarter power plus two thirds or quarter power? Quarter power plus two thirds.
This may be too much power. I may need to knock it down because I've only got a certain amount of ceiling I can go up in. And this is not our only light. This is just the main light. This is the key. Dave: You're going to get this over it as well? I do, I've got a CTO so, that's going to knock down--a quarter CTO is going to knock down a third of a stop. I don't think it's going anywhere right now I am not going to bag it yet because I know Dave can can run. So at that distance, that is pretty darn exact, maybe a third of a stop down.
So six feet away, we have a really nice light coming from this. So if we can keep this as six feet, then we are good. So we want to set this up in a way to where it's always going to be six feet away from her when she is in her apogee. This is very important. The reason this is up on a boom is we have not yet figured out which way she is going to be looking when she is doing her move, so if she's looking up like this, I don't want the flash coming from there, because it's going to kind of low on her face. I may need it coming from way over the back of her head, because I want to light her in a way that's flattering to her face and then fix anything else that her body needs, as far as the light with additional flashes.
I don't know if I need to alter this boom or not. No, oh no, here we are at top. So this boom and stand combination, it tells you you should have the boom on the very top segment, which is why my boom is here. So what I am going to do is to loosen the screw a little bit and see which way it wants to fall. It still wants to fall to the back. So I want to have it balanced, even before I start clamping it down and weighting it. That means I can give myself some more space out here, which is good.
Okay, so let's loosen it and see what it wants to do now. Again I am just letting gravity kind of do its thing. It's completely loose, and it's barely wanting to walk right now, so we're good. So that means it's as stable as it can be, even before we start adding our weight to it. And I can adjust the angle of the umbrella, and everything is going to be, it's going to balanced; it's going to be counterbalanced really well. So if we put some sandbags on this, it's going to be very, very sturdy, which means I can also go up higher with this and have it sturdier. I am actually going to have that umbrella tucked up into the rafters a little bit because I want to give myself some working room.
Because, remember, she is going to have some height. She is going to be taller then where Dave is right now. Okay, can you get on your mark, Dave? Can you see that full umbrella right there? Dave: Okay, it's just a little white. Okay, so he is going to be a little dark if I shoot with this right now. This isn't going anywhere, but I still want to bag this. Just a couple will be fine on this. Safety first.
One thing I am thinking about here is I want to keep her alley nice and straight through here. So I think I am going to totally defer her judgment. What we can do is we can tighten up the stand a little bit, so keep this flash exactly where it's at and move the stand. Maybe I do the right screw. There we go.
Okay so that gives--where is the mark? I probably need to move the mark up two feet towards the door. And now she has a got a nice alley. It's a little tighter than I want it to be on the landing, because I don't want it to have to concentrate on not hitting my stand. Okay, that's good and so that's her-- whatever she is doing, she has got a play, she has got a way to come across at 90 degrees to the camera.
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