Strobist Boot Camp: Lighting 102

Next assignment here.

By chance this weekend, I stumbled upon a post announcing that  a bunch of folks on Flickr were going to be going through the Strobist Lighting 102 “courses”. I have read through many of them, but never actually done the exercises. So when I saw that some folks were intending to do it as a group, I thought “what the heck”. I’ve already read the Intro and the Seven Ways to Control light overview, so I was ready to jump into the assignments.

Week 1

The first week we covered the position of the light and varying the angle that it hits the subject. Most people choose variations on moving the flash in an arc around the subject with the subject at the center of a circle, maybe even varying the height. Given the focus I’ve attempted to develop on band performance photography, I decided to try a different approach: simulate holding the flash in my left had while I shot with my right. I say “simulate” because, well, these were self portraits and I couldn’t both hold the flash and be the subject (very easily). So I set the camera up on the tripod, then approximated where I could hold the flash with my light stand and creative use of clamps like this (from the subject’s perspective):

flash diagram

On the flash, I also had the flash diffuser that I made a while back. The result kinda sucks from a self portrait perspective (can you say “Dork in the headlights?”), but I really like how instructive it is from a lighting perspective.

Note, the time designations are from the photographers perspective.

The 12 O’clock simulates a portrait light style called a butterfly light. I also like the 10:30 and 9 positions. If the performer is playing an instrument like a trumpet or sax, it should be pointing to camera right so as to not produce a huge shadow across the face. 7:30 and 6 produce an ominous look which can be fun, but isn’t going to be a typical shot.

Week 2

This assignment was a little bit more challenging for me technically. Here we learn how to control the “depth of field” of the light. Essentially, when a light is relatively close to a subject, relatively far backgrounds tend to be dark. Conversely, light relatively far from a subject produces a relatively light back ground. The strobist article goes into all the requisite detail.

Notice that although the exposure on the dragon remains essentially the same, the background goes from white to dark gray as I move the light in. Of course, I had to adjust power on the flash as I moved close (1/2 at 12 feet, 1/32 at 1 foot), and tweak aperture just a bit. But the dragon remains consistently exposed, while the background gets darker. This has me rethinking some of the techniques I use for performance photography–typically my Voice Activated Light Stand is 10-15 feet from the performer while the camera location moves and changes. With this technique, I could place the VAL closer, with lower power flash, and get background objects to diminish, maybe even to black with the right fall-off or snooting.

And I know this is skipping ahead to the next assignment a bit, but notice how much softer the shadows are in the bottom frame compared with the top frame? This is because the effective size of the light source was huge in the bottom frame–the umbrella was just out of the frame, and cast light all over the dragon. But it was the same size umbrella it was 12 feet away, hence the “effective size” concept. That will be the next assignment.