Saturday, April 07, 2012

overpowering the sun

It's a bright sunny day here in the Detroit area and I thought it would be the perfect situation to try to overpower the sun.  So I challenged the sun to an arm-wrestling match.  Of sorts.

A bright sunny day should be perfect for photography, right? Well, not so much.  Harsh shadows, blown out skies, and poor separation between your subject and background.  But not if you overpower the sun!  That's what we call it, but it's really more about creating a proper exposure (or slight underexposure) for the ambient light situation and then compensating for the dimness that will befall your subject.

(Please Note:  The example pictures that will come later should be glanced at fleetingly.  Furtively, even.  My lovely wife an I took some simply hideous pictures of each other, but the exposures, hail be to the power of the exposure!)

Here was the setup:  My ol' Canon 40D with my CowboyStudio trigger on top.  ISO 200, f/13, 1/200 sec.  (with these cheapo triggers, which I love btw, you're going to have to keep your shutter speed below 1/250, probably even 1/200 or slower).  On the lightstand, one brollybox (umbrella lightbox), inside of which resided my tricky tri-bracket hack that transformed an Impact umbrella bracket into a three light machine, three CowboyStudio receivers, 2 Canon 430 EX speedlites, and one Canon 580 EX.  All three lights were on manual set to full power (I probably could have gotten away with lower power settings, but I really didn't want to play around with this experiment for too long).  Moved the brolly up to about six feet, angled it toward my subject, set the whole thing about three feet out and took some shots.

There is a reason the angle on these shots is so awkward.  I wanted to make sure to get some blue sky in the mix.  The sky is kind of what it was all about.  Balancing the ambient with the subject light.  Under natural light circumstances, exposing for the subject, the sky would be a washed-out mess.  But with this setup, the sky stays blue, and, because it is slightly underexposed, it contributes to a terrific separation between background and subject.

So, if you have to shoot under full sun and you don't have a team of helpers with giant diffusers, fans, mist, a bunch of pack lights, all sorts of gobos, etc. etc. , you might try overpowering the sun with what you have, if you have some speedlites and a wireless set (similar results could be achieved a very long TTL cord such as those sold by Syl Arena -- then you could change things up a bit with high speed synch techniques -- fodder for another time!).  Thanks, hope this gives you something to think about!

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