Thursday, June 25, 2009

Have a Leibovitz Day: Lighting with a Softlighter II

I have become a big fan of the Softlighter II. It's an umbrella with a diffuser sheet at the front that takes both strobes and shoe mount flashes. It can even be used as a shoot through umbrella. I have the SL-5000. (it's the medium sized) It takes a few minutes to assemble and gives about 11 sq feet of light surface. With a Canon 580ex II and the silver reflector inside I get a guide number of about 40 ( f4 at 10 feet at 100 ISO).

I mostly use it outdoor, mounted on a boom or a light stand, both as a fill or as a main light. It seems quite durable, and a bargain for the price (less than $100). I am not the only one to like it, as apparently Annie Leibovitz is a fan. (or at least she uses something VERY similar here and here). The smaller softlighter is perfect for indoor shots. I like the different looks I can achieve with it.

Lower image: This punchy shot was taken on a sunny afternoon on a silver painted roof. Sun is coming from top left and the Softlighter is one foot to the left of the model (Hey Hiroko!), on a boom being held by an assistant (hey Dave). Shot at ISO 100 1/125th, 32mm f11. The Canon flash was firing at 3/4 power.

Top Image: This set up, which drew inspiration from some of Annie Liebovitz work, was taken at sunset, the Softlighter is at camera left held high above the two models at about 10 feet. (Robin, ModelMayhem #380658 and Gene). ISO 100, 1/160th 24mm f4.0. The image palette and contrast have been modified a bit with PS. Flash at half power.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cleaning Up.

The web is choke full of suggestions on how to clean up photo equipment (easier than fix the problems mentioned in the previous post alas), so last week end I finally got myself a small bottle of Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 70% ... And voila' I cleaned my camera body, my Pocket Wizards, my computer screen and pretty much anything I had within reach works! Not bad for $1.89 (which will last me forever). I was assisting on a shoot yesterday and noticed that they were using some fancy cleaning clothes that used the same main ingredient.
Make sure to use a soft cloth and try on a small, forgotten corner of your equipment first, you know... just in case.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thinking about Modeling? Read This First.

This a link to a new documentary on the fashion industry.

And this is the corresponding article on the Guardian.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Revenge of the Cheap Ring Flash Adapter.

I have been using a ring flash for the past few months. It makes for really dynamical images with saturated colors. I even use it to shoot flowers. The image on the left was taken with Profoto equipment: Ring Flash, two gridded strobe heads (one on each side), one behind the subject (Hey Luna!) and one large softbox close to camera left. However, a ring Flash, four strobes and a large softbox is quite an expensive set of equipment to own and will set you back a few grands.

So what if I only have $80 and buy one of the cheap Ring Flash Adapters that one can find on the web? They are pretty cool, you mount them on top of your Speedlite (I have the Canon 580X II), you hotshoe it on camera and you can even shoot TTL with it if you like. I have found mine on ebay (It's called "COCO"), but you can find one very similar here. Or you can buy the well known "Ray Flash" for about $200. The right image was shot with it and an optically slaved Alien Bee softbox at camera left.

The obvious, large difference is the power output. At the lowest power output of the power pack the Profoto Ring Flash still shoots at f20!; the Coco+Speedlite has a guide number of about 35 (i.e: at ISO100 you can shoot at f3.5 at 10 feet with the Speedlite at full power). The adapter only uses 1.5 stops of light compared to the naked Speedlite, not bad! So if you need depth of field
or need to shoot outdoors AND have the cash definitely go for the Profoto, but be prepared to temporarily blind your subject if you are not careful and go after that notorious "Ring Flash" look. (Note: the Ray Flash has an official GN of 45 with the same Speedlite, so it is a bit more efficient than the COCO).

The adapter allows for a slightly different look: I shot the image on the right at ISO 100, f2.8, wide angle and at 1/16 power for the Speedlite. I was at about 2 feet from the subject (Hey Lucianne!). This combination allows for two effects: a sharp light falloff and shallow dept of field. I think I dig it.