Tuesday's Tips: Creating Backgrounds With Cinefoil, Gels And Scissors!

This week's Tuesday Tips is a series of photographs from my studio.  As a photojournalist and corporate photographer, I do the majority of my work on location, although I do shoot some assignments in my studio.  Quite often, I use my studio as my test kitchen, exploring new lighting techniques and testing new equipment.   We were working with the idea of creating unique patterns with color on a plain white backdrop using Rosco gels, and Cinefoil, which is black tinfoil.  What we were able to create, using similar lighting setups, and minor changes in the lighting, resulted in a totally different look in the background. 

Three lights were used with all three photographs below.  A main light on the model, a hairline light, and a backlight on the backdrop.  To create the pattern on the background, we cut holes in piece of Cinefoil and shot a strobe with a blue gel through it. The effect of lighting these images with Speedlights verses Dynalites are vastly different. 

The large light source will give you a softer light, while the speedlght, a smaller light source, will give you a harsher light effect.

Lighting setup and gear used:  
Nikon D800 camera
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens
3 strobes (Speedlights & Dynalite)
Rosco Cinefoil
Rosco CTO (orange gel)
Rosco blue gel
Rosco Tough Spun
Reflector
 Pocket Wizard Plus III, TT5 
Light Meter (I use Sekonic 478 DR)
Chimera Softbox
Manfrotto light stands
Boom (to hang a piece of Cinefoil)
Clamps

This diagram shows the basic setup.  I used different lights to achieve different visual effects on my images.  I used Sekonic 478 DR Lightmeter.  All strobes were fired using PocketWizard.  When adding colors to your photographs with gels, it is important that your white light does not hit the colored areas, as the white light will blow away your colors.

Dynalite setup:
My main light was a Dynalite with a Chimera Softbox.  My hairline light was another Dynalite head with a grid and a Rosco full CTO gel.  The background light was shot through custom cut Cinefoil with a Rosco blue gel.

set up

set up

Speedlights and softbox setup:
All lights for this setup were Speedlights.  The main light I used was a Nikon SB900 with Chimera Softbox as a light modifier.  The background light on the white backdrop was Nikon SB900 with Rosco blue gel with a custom cut Rosco Cinefoil.  For the hairline light, I used another Speedlight.  I put Cinefoil around the Speedlight to make a snoot, so that I can direct the light to only illuminate her hair.

Notice the drastic difference on the background pattern between the Speedlight setup and the Dynalite setup. This is because of the size of light source in relation to size of Cinefoil.  The smaller the light source, harder the edge of the shadow.  
I prefer to use a Chimera Softbox for the high quality of a light, for easy set up, and for its compact size for easy travel.

Speedlight and Cinefoil
You can create a very nice hard light with Rosco Tough Spun and Rosco Cinefoil.  This is an all Speedlight setup.  The main light on the model's face is a Speedlight with Cinefoil to control its direction, and Rosco Tough Spun to soften the light.  If you compare this light with the light through a Softbox, the edge of shadow is much harder.  I also rotated the sheet of Cinefoil to change the background pattern.

 

My assistant, Keiko, created this heart shaped pattern cut out of Cinefoil.  This is a Dynalite setup.  My main light on the model's face is a Dynalite with grid.

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Thank you to Hyunah Jang, who is also a wonderful photographer, for being a model for this shoot!

The Gels, Tough Spun, and Cinefoil I use, are all included in the Rosco Rick Friedman's Location Lighting Kit available for purchase at my Location Lighting Store here.

To learn this lighting technique and many others, come join me for a three day Location Lighting Workshop at Telluride Photo Festival in beautiful Telluride, CO on September 29th - October 1st, 2014. It will be fall foliage time!  

A Day at the Asylum in London!  This will be a very fun workshop to be sure! I am teaching during the Societies Photographic Convention in London, UK on January 16th trough 18th, 2014. ( The Asylum workshop in on January 17th)

The workshops will cover use of Speedlights and Studio strobes with various light modifiers and gels.  We hope you can join us for one of the hands on workshops.  

Please visit my website for a complete list of upcoming workshops.

Tuesday's Tips: Lighting the Parade

For this week's "Tuesday Tips",  I photographed the Betances 2014 Puerto Rican Festival Parade in Boston's South End, in close proximity to where my studio is located.  I have photographed the parade numerous times over the years and this year I wanted to do something different, so I lit the images.  In the photo below I asked Keiko Hiromi, whom I work with, to  stand on the opposite side of the car and hold a Nikon Speedlight with a PocketWizard TT5 to light the beauty queens.  I underexposed the ambient light by a stop.  There was still plenty of available light, while the strobe gave the light direction and pulled the viewer into the image.

Gear Used to cover the event:
Nikon D800 camera
Lens:  Nikkor 24-120 
Nikon Speedlight SB 800 
2 PocketWizard TT5

My camera was set on manual and the Speedlight was  set on TTL.  The photograph was shot at  ISO 200, at F 5.6 & Shutterspeed 1/250.  The Speedlight was fired using a Pocket Wizard TT5 on the camera and a second TT5 on the flash.  
The flash compensation was dialed up 1/3 of a stop, to give it a bit more light on the subjects.

Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Glasses!

 

This week's "Tuesday's Tips" is from an assignment I shot at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA.  The MIT Media Lab is a hub for innovative creations and one of my favorite places to photograph.  I was at the Media Lab looking for interesting projects to photograph when I met   Thad Starner who was working on wearable computing. Starner is now a professor at Georgia Tech.  The idea for this shoot came about when Starner showed me a pair of glasses that had a computer monitor in the center of one lens, which he connected to a small computer in his pocket.  With no preplanning, this is what I came up with.

Little did I know this was the beginning of "Google Glass".

The lighting on this photograph is 2 strobes and 2 computer monitors.  I had to match the brightness of the two computer screens to detemine my exposure, matching the brightness of the large monitor in the background and the small computer screen embedded in his glasses. To obtain the exposure I used the meter in my camera.  I needed a lot of depth of field for this shot, so that glasses and my subject were in focus.  My focal point was Starner, seen through the glasses.  The glasses were clamped to a light stand with a Manfrotto Superclamp.  The main light was Dynalite 800 power pack and a Dynalite head with an extension tube, a grid holder on the end of the extension tube, a 10 degree grid and a sheet of Rosco Tough Spun over the grid to soften the light.  I really needed to control my light on the subject, so there was no light spilled on the glasses or the screen behind the subject.   Just off set, on the right side, I set up a speedlight with Rosco yellow gel and a snoot made of Cinefoil to outline the frame of glasses with color.  The Cinefoil snoot was brought down so it was about a 1 degree opening.  When making snoots out of Cinefoil, which is black tin foil, you have flexibility to make it any shape you want with any size opening, giving you great control over your light.  To determine the exposure of both the speedlight and the Dynalite, I used a Sekonic lightmeter.  If you are mixing speedlights and studio strobes, your speedlight needs to be on the manual setting (NOT TTL).   

Cinefoil, gels, and Tough Spun are included in the Rosco Rick Friedman Location Lighting Kit.

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming Location Lighting Workshops at the Telluride Photo Festival in Telluride, CO. or at the Societies Photographic Convention in London.

Happy Shooting, everyone!  


 

Tuesday's Tips: Making Gray Skies Blue

How do you create a dramatic photograph on rainy cloudy day?  Easy, Have a beautiful model with a red dress, a castle and a Rosco CTO gel on your strobe. This photograph was shot in Caerphilly, Wales,  during one of the 10 stops on my Location Lighting Workshop Tour of the UK sponsored by SWPP.   

In this week's "Tuesday Tips" I'm going to talk about cross filtering technique with strobes.  When this photo was taken, it was raining and the sky was muddy ( See the workshop group photo below). 

Have you ever set your camera on tungsten and gone outside to shoot?  What happens?    Your photograph turns out blue!  So use this to your advantage on a cloudy day.  Set your camera white balance to tungsten, and place a Rosco CTO orange filter over the flash.   A CTO filter is a color correction filter, converting your speed light, which is balanced for daylight, to tungsten.  You color correct the skin tones of your subject while your background turns blue.

The model is lit by a single speedlight with a Rosco CTO gel in front of it, shot through a 24x30 soft box on the right side, with a reflector on the left.   Now the output of my speedlight is tungsten, which matches my camera setting. Because of this, the model has proper skin tones and the background is now blue.   This filter is available as part of the Rick Friedman Location Lighting Kit .  Fun fact, my favorite soft box brand is Chimera Lighting, it makes beautiful light!

To determine your exposure, use your camera meter to read the "Element you cannot control":  In this case it is the ambient light on background.  My strobe is set on TTL and fired with a PocketWizard and if you want your background darker blue, under expose the sky.

 
 

7/1/14 Tuesday's Tips: Happy 4th of July!!

Normally I don't repeat "Tuesday's Tips" but since it's only 3 days until July 4th, I thought I would stick with photographing fireworks.  I shot  this week's lead  photograph as a cover of Newsweek.  This was shot on film (remember that?)  However, the principles of shooting fireworks are the same, whether you are shooting digital or film. This photograph was shot at ISO 50 with a long exposure, in order to get the burst of light off Lady Liberty.  

Happy Independence Day!!!

© Rick Friedman

© Rick Friedman


Exposure: Set your camera on Manual.  Use a low ISO for the best quality image.  Try to use an  f-stop of f8 or f11. Your shutter speed will determine how long the trail is that you capture from the fireworks. Colored fireworks will give you vibrant trails while white fireworks tend to overexpose your image. My preference is an approximate shutter speed ranging from 4 to 15 seconds.  Another trick is to set your camera on bulb, lock your shutter open using your cable release and when there is no blast of light hold a dark piece of cardboard in front of your lens.  When the next blast occurs, remove the black cardboard.  This will enable you to record multiple blasts on a single frame.


Fireworks over Statue of Liberty shot for the cover of Newsweek.   

Eliminate camera shake (movement): As a result of the slow shutter speeds, you need to use a tripod, or something to stabilize your camera.  I also recommend using a cable release which allows you not to touch the camera when releasing the shutter to eliminate camera movement. You could also weigh down your camera for greater stability if its a windy day using a heavy object, like your camera bag, attached to the hook under your tripod.

 

July 4th Firework over Charles River shot from Massachusetts Avenue bridge between Cambridge and Boston.  This is shot at ISO 100, at f-stop 8 for 6 seconds

Framing: Frame your fireworks with its surrounding. Having a foreground or a background places your photograph and adds more dimension.

 

July 4th Fireworks in Boston .  This is shot with ISO 100,  an F stop  of 10 and  a shutter speed  of 4 seconds.

 

The photo below is the end of summer Fireworks at Oak Bluff,  on Martha's Vineyard.  I was part of the White House Press Pool to cover President Obama's summer vacation.  As we were on hold as the president was in seclusion, I noticed a display of pyrotechnics.  I did not have a tripod with me, nor I did not have a cable release. I propped my camera on a fence to photograph the fireworks! Rules are only guidelines, you can still photograph fireworks without a tripod, and you just need to be flexible and creative with your method... just like any photography...!

Happy Summer Shooting!

Tuesday Tips: Mixing Strobe and Ambient Light

I had this wonderful assignment to photograph a French Musician, Lulu Gainsboro, in Boston.  The assignment was to photograph "his day in Boston".  At the end of the day of reportage,  I did a portrait of him in front of Boston skyline at dusk.

The lighting in this image is a mixture of ambient light and a single Nikon SB900 Speedlight with Chimera small soft box, fired with a PocketWizard TT5.  My camera was set on manual. To determine my exposure, I read the light on "the element I cannot control".  In this image I used the camera meter to expose for the sky.  I underexposed the sky to get it to be deeper blue. I used a Speedlight to light my subject.  The placement of the strobe and Chimera softbox gave me different effects with my light.  It was early summer in Boston, around 8 o'clock.   My exposure was ISO 640, f4.5 and Shutterspeed 1/8 second.

In photograph 1 (above), I placed my light on the far side of his face so the light drops off on the near side of the camera. In photograph 2, my light was placed closer to my camera position so the near side of his face is lit.

Which lighting style you like, is subjective.  I prefer the lighting style in the first photograph.  Having the light drop off on the near side of the face is more dramatic.  There are many stylistic choices to light your subject. Play around, place your light source at different angles, in relation to your subject to see the different effect.  

Happy Lighting!

Tuesday's Tips: Shooting at F Nothing!

I love shooting twilight on a warm evening.  A few weeks ago on my Blog "Controlling the Sun",  I talked about ways to deal with harsh sunlight during a summer mid-day shoot.  This week's "Tuesday's Tips"  is about shooting at dusk, when you are at about f-nothing!  One of my favorites times to shoot!  All these photographs were taken at the same spot.  How do you use light, composition, and a bit of camera movement to achieve very different effect in each photograph?  These images were shot with the last few seconds of light on the horizon during a workshop I taught with my friend Rolando Gomez in Costa Rica.  

This photograph was lit with a portable 1200WS strobe made by Hensel,  through a Chimera Beauty Dish, on the right side of the frame.  This beauty dish folds up small enough to fit in your camera bag. The strobe was fired with a PocketWizard Plus lll on the camera and a second PocketWizard connected to the strobe.  Start your exposure with "element you can not control," (I say this a lot) in this case, it is the ambient light on the horizon.  Use your camera meter to determine this exposure and then underexpose the image by 1 stop, to give you deeper colors in the background.  I use a Sekonic 478 flash meter to match my strobe output to the ambient light.  If you are creating this type of image using studio strobes or speed lights, make sure your camera is on manual.  My color balance is daylight.  

When composing the photograph, pay attention to all elements you can incorporate into to your photograph.  I like reflections, use it to your advantage!  This photograph was shot with a Nikon D800 with a with Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens at ISO 400, F4.5 & shutter speed 1/5, hand held.

This is one of my favorite tricks in low light photography: Swirling images.  This is all done in camera, not in photoshop!   This is a single light photograph with the Hensel strobe & Chimera beauty dish.  This image was shot ISO 200 F4.5 and Shutterspeed 1/2.  To add a swirling effect to the image,  I rotated the camera clockwise at the end of exposure.

I do this sometimes for portrait assignments, wedding receptions and events where I'm looking for a different feel to the image. (I will do another blog post on this: How to swirl images!) 

Last, I want to finish with this image.  In this case I didn't use a strobe, because I wanted the silhouette of the model.  I love the feel of the gold light bouncing off the water in the foreground, to pull you into the image.  This photograph is shot with ISO 200, F3.5 & shutter speed 1/100.  You can create a such a different feel in the same location by changing how you use the light.

Thank you to our great models Heather Carden and Candice Marie.

Tuesday's Tips: Musical Genius

Randy Newman playing Piano during the PEN New England Awards with Elvis Costello, Lyle Lovett and Allen Toussain at JFK Library in Boston, MA.  

Randy Newman playing Piano during the PEN New England Awards with Elvis Costello, Lyle Lovett and Allen Toussain at JFK Library in Boston, MA.  

Yesterday, I had the honor of photographing the PEN New England Song Lyrics Awards ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, MA.   The awards celebrate the work of singer/songwriters Kris Kristofferson and Randy Newman.  Elvis Costello was the master of ceremonies. Other music greats present were Lyle Lovett, T Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, Allen Toussain and Peter Wolf.

The challenge in covering an event like this is that you are faced with variety of locations and a mixture of lighting with no time to set up lights and no time to do custom white balances.  In one room, I was dealing with daylight and florescent light, in another room daylight and tungsten light.  I had to constantly analyze the available light and change my color balance and exposure.  The stage was lit with tungsten, so the camera white balance was tungsten, while the audience was mixture of tungsten and daylight . I went to the auto white balance as my setting.  Backstage was a mixture of florescent and daylight.  Here I was able to shoot using bounce flash on camera.  In all these situations, my camera is set on manual, and I am shooting in raw.

Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman Elvis Costello, and Kris Kristofferson at JFK Library in Boston, MA.

Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman Elvis Costello, and Kris Kristofferson at JFK Library in Boston, MA.

An event like this moves quickly and one has very little control over what is happening.  Backstage you need to get your photographs without interfering with the performers.  That said, this was one of the nicest group of people I have worked with.  It was absolutely wonderful to be able to talk with Randy Newman and Kris Kristofferson.

Another day of "I love my job!"

T Bone Burnett and Kris Kristofferson at JFK Library in Boston, MA

T Bone Burnett and Kris Kristofferson at JFK Library in Boston, MA

Rosanne Cash and Elvis Castello

Rosanne Cash and Elvis Castello

Whether it's legends of Rock and Roll,  covering the President ,a wedding reception, or a business meeting, the principals of covering events are similar.  It is important to capture the moments, read the light, be able to carry your gear and move around quickly.  

I work alone on this type assignment.   I carry a small Think Tank bag and work with this equipment:

2 Nikon D-800 camera bodies
Nikon 17-35 f2.8 lens
Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens
Nikon 16mm fisheye
2 Pocket Wizard TT5s
2 Nissin MG8000 Speedlights with sto-fen domes
Rogue small size flash bender
CTOrange Rosco filter
Green Rosco Fluorescent correcting Rosco filter
Rosco CTBlue Filter
Cinifoil
Extra Camera Battery
Extra AA Batteries
 

Kris Kristofferson and Randy Newman 

Kris Kristofferson and Randy Newman 

Rosanne Cash hugs Kris Kristofferson after Elvis Costello finishes performing. T. Bone Burnett on right.

Rosanne Cash hugs Kris Kristofferson after Elvis Costello finishes performing. T. Bone Burnett on right.

Kris  Kristofferson reacts as he is introduced.

Kris  Kristofferson reacts as he is introduced.

 






 

 

 

 

Tuesday's Tips: Controlling the Sun

I love summer.  It is one of my favorite seasons to photograph ouside, long days and warm weather.  However, it can also bring up interesting challenges, when you have a portrait assignment, the subject is only available during the mid day hours and the light is very harsh.  Shooting these portraits either early in the day or late in afternoon and early evening would be a better way to do this.  If this is not possible, here are a few ways to make beautiful light.

In all these situations you need to determine your basic exposure, using the in-camera meter for the background, or as I refer to it, "the element you can not control".  Use your strobe or a reflector to fill in the light on your subject's face.  If you are using manual strobes, a flash meter is the best way to determine your strobe exposure.  I use a Sekonic 478DR meter.  If you do not own a flash meter, you can use the screen on your camera to determine your exposure.  It will get you close.  Make sure you really see your screen.  For this I use a $90 item, called a "Hoodman Loupe"  It's money well spent.

The shots:
1. Set up your shot with the sun directly behind your subject.  This will give you a nice hairline light, and separation from the background.   The fill on this image was a speedlght on camera,
on TTL, dialed down 1 stop.

Writer and adventurer Guy Grieve at Walden Pond in Concord, MA, for the Guardian UK.

Writer and adventurer Guy Grieve at Walden Pond in Concord, MA, for the Guardian UK.

2, Bring your subject into the shade, under a tree, or a large column.  The light on the subject's face was created by a Nikon Speedlight held by my assistant and bounced off a California Sunbouce Micromini reflector fired using a PocketWizard TT5.

Rudy Dieudonne on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA, for Ebony Magazine.

Rudy Dieudonne on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA, for Ebony Magazine.

3  If you can't back light the subject, or there is no shaded area, due to your need for a specific background,  then, bring your own shade.   Place the subject under a translucent diffuser.  This will help knock out those ugly shadows and soften the light.  Then you can use your strobe to give your light direction.  The light in this photograph is a Dynalite Uni-400 strobe powered by a Jackrabbit battery and fired through a Chimera beauty dish.

 Nancy Taylor, Sr. Minister at South Church ( seen in back), photographed at Copley Sq in Boston, MA for Sports Illustrated. 

 Nancy Taylor, Sr. Minister at South Church ( seen in back), photographed at Copley Sq in Boston, MA for Sports Illustrated. 

4. Overpower the shadow.  (compare Mitt Romney & baby's faces and faces of others in background.)   Your light source must be fairly close to the subject.  If you are using speedlight, be prepare to adjust power output (+/-), to get the correct effect, even it is set to TTL.  ( in my case, I often find myself adjusting my speed light -1).  This is a speed light on camera, not my ideal way of shooting with a speedlight.   But as a photojournalist,  I have to go with what each situation allows me to do!

Mitt Romney in NH for Corbis

Mitt Romney in NH for Corbis

These are some of my ways to deal the bright summer light.

May you control the bright summer light and enjoy outdoor shooting!

 

Tuesday's Tips: Finally Light Bulb

I had an assignment recently to photograph The Finally Light Bulb Company for the New York Times. The Finally Light Bulb Company came up with a completely new design for a light bulb.  I thought this would be a great topic to discuss in my lighting blog.

This photograph was created using two Nikon Speedlights; one Speedlight on camera and one Speedlight off camera inside the green sphere.  The strobe on camera, bounced off the ceiling, was used to illuminate the outside of the sphere. The other strobe was placed to illuminate the inside the sphere, turned up one stop, and pull the viewers eye toward the lightbulb.

Using the meter in the camera, I set the exposure for the ambient light from the light bulb, which is the focal point of the photograph.  I used my Nikon 16mm fisheye lens and positioned myself for and upshot from a low angle. Had I just shot this perspective with ambient light, the lightbulb and scientist would not have stood out. Sculpting with light within your composition means that you control your viewers perspective and create specific emotions that make your photograph memorable. This is why it is so important to recognize your existing light source, and learn to manipulate with additional light.

I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System (master-remote) to fire the Speedlight on camera, set as the master. The other Speedlight, inside the sphere was set on slave mode, and mounted with a Manfrotto Superclamp inside the sphere as illustrated below:

 

 




 

 

Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Kephenny!

I had a great time teaching my "Location Lighting Workshop™" at my studio in Boston this past weekend.  We had two wonderful models to work with, Kephenny and Rosangelina.   It was a weekend full of  of shooting, creativity, laughing and a lot of idea sharing.  

This week's "Tuesday's Tips" is from one of the lighting set ups from the workshop.  How do you make an interesting background out of a plain white backdrop?

I lit Kephenney with a Dynalite Uni strobe with a medium size Chimera Lightbank (48"x36") on the left side with Sunbounce MicroMini reflector on the right side.  Back ground was lit with a single Speedlight with Rosco Blue gel and Chimera Window pattern, placed in front of the gelled Speedlight.    All strobes were fired using  PocketWizard Plus IIIs. One on the camera and one on each strobe. When mixing studio strobes and Speedlites, make sure the Speedlight is set on manual.  I metered each light with Sekonic 478DR light meter.  

The key to this photograph is to control light from each strobe.  I used a large sheet of foam core as a gobo, on the left side of my soft box, to prevent the white light from the soft box from hitting the backdrop.  When adding colors to your photographs using color gels, it is important that no white light hit your color.   I used a speed light as my backlight with a gel,  because a small light source would give me more defined pattern on my back drop.

 

You can see more photographs from my workshops on my FB Location Lighting Workshop Page.

My next 2 day "Location Lighting Workshop™" is at the Hunts Photo in Melrose, MA, May 17 & 18.

Happy Shooting! & May all your colors be bright.  (if they are not, GEL THEM!!!)
 


Boston Location Lighting Workshop on May 3 & 4, 2014

Group photograph from our Boston studio & Location Lighting Workshops with Rick Friedman ! 
The back of the studio never looked so good!  Thank you everyone for making this workshop a great fun success!  To see more photos from the workshop, please visit my FB workshop Page "Location Lighting Workshop with Rick Friedman"!

Next stop for Location Lighting Workshops with Rick Friedman is Hunt's Photo and Video on May 17 & 18.
(Registration Link)

Tuesday's Tip: Light it up Coach!

I had an assignment to photograph a high school baseball coach, Mike Schell at his college baseball field. 

A few things to consider, approaching this assignment. It was off season and we had an empty baseball field. 

I needed to convey the feeling of the man in charge of the team, even though the team was not there, and he was out of uniform.  I used the graphics of the base line and the feel of spot light to pull you into the image. It was a beautiful sunset, the sky and clouds were amazing but it was almost completely dark out  (f nothing!).   Mike was in the shadows, so we needed to match the light on Mike's face and the exposure of the sky.  Shooting him from a low angle and the direction of the light, portrait him a hero-like figure.  

This photograph was shot with a single Dynalite Uni plugged into a Jack Rabbit battery, with a 20 degree grid, to direct the light and have the drop off in the fore ground. The Dynalite was fired using a PocketWizard Plus III.  (one on the camera, one on the strobe).  The key to this photograph is: wait till the dusk, until there is almost no ambient light left.  Set your camera manual and  "Expose for the element you cannot control".  (Sky, in this case!)

The photograph was shot with Nikon D800 with a Nikon 17-35 zoom at  ISO 160, F 10 & Shutter Speed 1/200.

As a photographer, I constantly think about how to translate an idea to the image. Placement of the subject, choosing background and creating & capturing  the light are all important elements of the image.

Throughout this blog series,  I am sharing photographs from my real assignments.  Sometimes I am so wrapped up in the shoot, that I forget to make an overall set up photo for "Tuesday's Tips".  This photograph is the lighting setup I used.  This is a Dynalite Uni with a reflector with a 20degree grid powered by the Jack Rabbit battery with the PocketWizard Plus III.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Anonymous

I had an assignment from The Guardian to photograph Gregg Housh, a soft spoken family man, 30-something Boston native, who is the public face of the group Anonymous...  (Shhh... Don't tell anyone!)

The idea was to photograph Gregg in the inner city, to give the feeling of gritty.  This photograph was shot one building away from my studio at dusk.  This is a place I have walked by thousands of times, but never saw the picture frame until that evening.  The photograph was shot by bouncing one Nikon SB-900 speed light into a California Sunbounce Micro Mini.  To fire the strobe off camera, I used a PocketWizard TT-1 on camera and a PocketWizard TT-5 on the Speedlight.  To control the output of the strobe I used a PW AC-3 on top of my PW TT-5.    

The challenge with this assignment, as with most of my assignments was the lack of time.
Gregg only had a few minutes for us to create the images. The great thing about working with
the Speedlight is that when I bounce it off the Sunbounce MicroMini, it gives me great light, with the ability to move to several locations with almost no setup time.

The image was shot at 1/80 at f5 at ISO 640.  The ambient light was really at f... nothing (meaning it was really dark.)

 

Here is the set. Welcome to my neighborhood!




Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Politics

This past Thursday, I had an assignment to cover former Senator Scott Brown's announcement that he is a candidate for Senate from New Hampshire.  Normally at a major political announcement, the campaign would set up lights for TV and stills.  Not in this case.  The announcement took place at a large conference room with a low ceiling in Portsmouth, NH.   If you have ever photographed at any conference rooms in hotels, you would know the ambient light in the room has yellow-green tint.  The announcement was set late evening, so no day light was coming in from the window.   I had a few options on covering the event:  1) bring the ISO way up and shoot available light,  2) shot strobe on camera (which I did, when he worked the crowd) or 3) add a good portable strobe, run it off a battery and shoot at very low ISO, which will give me very good quality.  I went with #3 during his speech.

I set up a Dynalite Uni portable strobe, powered by a Jackrabbit battery on the right side of the stage, triggered by a PocketWizard Plus III.  The strobe is 320 WS running off the battery on 1/2 power giving a recycle time of about 1 second.

Here are the results.

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 200  F6.3 and 1/80 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 70-200.  (shot at 100)

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 200  F6.3 and 1/80 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 70-200.  (shot at 100)

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 320  F5 and 1/100 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 17-35.  (shot at 17)

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 320  F5 and 1/100 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 17-35.  (shot at 17)

Here is another one, after the announcement.  This photograph was shot with a speed light on camera.
 

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 400  F5.6 and 1/25 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 17-35.  (shot at 24)

Shot with Nikon D800.  ISO 400  F5.6 and 1/25 shutter speed. Nikon Lens 17-35.  (shot at 24)

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Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Science at MIT

As a photojournalist based in Boston,  I spend a lot of my time at great colleges and universities photographing professors, scientists and doctors.  I find this genre of photography absolutely fascinating.  It feels like I have received my college education one hour at a time from the greatest minds in the world.  One of the challenges on each assignment is, how to make a unique photograph each time.  

When I was given this assignment to photograph Professor Alan Guth of the MIT Physics Department, as is the case with most assignments, I was given the subjects name and a very brief bit of information about the professor,  that was the only instruction I received from my editor. 

The rest is up to me to learn about my subject; what he/she does and to come up with the idea for the portrait.  Professor Guth was one of the physicists to hypothesize the theory of "Inflation," explaining how the universe was formed a spit second after the Big Bang.  How's that for a major discovery!  Much of the research done on his theory was conducted using a telescope at the South Pole, (which is just a bit too far from of the assignment location!) so we used a telescope on the MIT Campus as a symbol of his research. 

This photograph was on the cover of the International New York Times, in Der Spiegel Magazine and many others.  I also photographed his fellow scientist on the team, Professor John Kovac for Nature Magazine. (You can see how the photo of John Kovac was created on my previous blog post).

This photograph is a mixture of ambient light, strobe, long exposure and camera rotation.  The lighting was one Dynalite Uni strobe run off a battery held by my assistant on the left side of the image.  That was the only light I added to this photograph. The strobe was triggered with a Pocket Wizard Plus lll.  The image was shot with a Nikon D800, a 16mm Fisheye lens shot at f8 with a shutter speed of 1/13 of a second.  The camera is hand held, not on a tripod. I made the exposure slowly as I turned the camera to get the slight feeling of movement.

To determine my exposure, I started by using the camera meter to expose for the sky, slightly underexposing, so the blue sky will be a bit darker.  Once I have determined the f stop for the sky, I used a Sekonic L478 handheld light meter to get the corresponding f stop from my strobe.

On a photograph like this where you are mixing ambient light and strobe light, always start your exposure with the element of the exposure you can not control.  In this case it is the sky.  Other things to consider were how much depth of field do I want and what shutter speed do I need to get the movement effect.  

I love shooting in those last few seconds of daylight, just before we get to f nothing.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday's Tips: The Big Bang Theory, Lighting Science with Professor John Kovac

This image of Professor John Kovac of Harvard University is in the current issue of Nature Magazine.  Professor Kovac is one of the scientists who proved what happened a split second after the Big Bang occurred.

My assignment from Nature was to create a portrait of Professor Kovac.  As is normally the case, that was all the direction I was given.  My idea was to photograph the Professor with a telescope.  There were two telescopes on the roof of the Harvard Science Center, so I contacted the Science Center to make arrangements to have the photo shoot there.

The challenge was that the space was very small with very limited areas to place the strobes without them being in the image.  I opened the dome above the telescope and  laid on the ground at the entrance of the dome, shooting up to include as much dome and sky as possible.  

I used two Nikon SB 900 speedlights to light this image.  I placed one Speedlight directly behind the telescope.  The main light on him was tightly gridded using a Rogue Grid.  It was placed above me, slightly to the right of the entrance.  To get the dome and sky blue,  I set the camera on tungsten.  I put a Rosco CTO filter over the main speed light aimed at the Professor. The sky and my background light were day light balanced.  The main light was compensated to match my camera tungsten setting.  The speedslights were triggered by Pocket Wizards.  I shot this image at 1/200 f/7.1 & ISO 50 with a Nikon 16mm fisheye on a Nikon D800 camera.

Telescope dome without my light

Telescope dome without my light

Exterior of telescope dome

Exterior of telescope dome

Smart Phone Picture of me, figuring out the right angle to shoot this photograph at the entrance of the dome. It was taken during set up time.   It's a glamorous life at times!

Smart Phone Picture of me, figuring out the right angle to shoot this photograph at the entrance of the dome. It was taken during set up time.   It's a glamorous life at times!

Tuesday's Tips: Lighting Science

On a recent assignment  I had the honor to photograph Professor Stephen Lippard, an  American bioinorganic chemist and the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 2014  winner of the Priestley Medal.   I had about 2 hours, including any set ups, to create a magazine cover, large lead photograph and photographs of him in his environment. 

On my way to meet the professor at his office on MIT campus, I came across a large glass block periodic table on the wall at the elevator hall in his building.   After meeting the professor  and photographing him in his office , I asked him to come down to the lobby to be photographed with the periodic table for the cover shot.  

To light the professor, I used a Dynalite Uni, a 400WS monolight with small Chimera soft box  as the main light, with black formcore as gobo to prevent the white light from spilling on to the background.  In the back, I set up a Dynalite Roadmax 800 power supply with 2 heads with Rosco blue gel on one side and and Rosco  yellow gels on the other side.   I  placed a Nikon SB-900 strobe with Rosco red gel on the floor shooting up at the periodic table.   All the strobes were fired with Pocket Wizard Plus III’s.  I placed the reflector on the same  light stand as the boom holding the model of a molecule, because there was so little space.  The model of the molecule was hung from the boom with fishing line. The other challenge was that the set up and shoot had to be completed in 45 minutes. This photographs was shot with Nikon D800 and 24-70, F2.8 Nikon lens.  This is a photograph of the set up and how it look like without the light on.

 

 For this assignment, as is the case with most of my assignments, I was not given any art direction and there was no location scouting time before the shoot.  My job was to come in, quickly asses my environment, create a photographs that magazine would love.