I have spent a lot of time talking about small strobes lately. It seems that small strobe mania has swept the land. And that is fine. It is nice to see photographers of all levels start to adopt sound lighting priniciples. But sometimes we forget that it is simply an option, or as I like to refer to it… a tool for the kit. Fatter the kit, more we can do with it.
Understanding natural light, finding it and using it is also a very important part of every photographers arsenal. Because it is free and ubiquitous does not make it less of a challenge, or less of a lighting choice. Many incredible photographers use natural light, and some of the biggest names use it almost exclusively.
We are going to look at an example or two of serendipitous light. Where light was doing something different or unique in a setting. Sometimes we can use that light make a photograph that is different than standing in bright sun or shade.
First up a photograph from Evan Romine taken at one of my workshops.
1. We had started to set up a different shot when Briana walked up the stairs and I saw her face briefly light up. We were in total shade so I knew we were getting something unique. what was happening was the sun was reflecting off of a piece of something on the roof to camera left and bouncing a shaft of light down onto the shaded area. It looked like a little curved railing as the edges were quite soft on the bounced light. You can see a tiny bit of it on the bricks on the left of the image. It moved very fast and the shooters worked Briana like crazy to keep her face in that light. Within a few minutes it was gone.
2. The next example was also at the same workshop. We had found a location that we wanted to shoot and while the models were changing I noticed the dappled, interesting light coming through the trees out of camera left. Something about the old apartment building and the symmetry of the sidewalk and the trees made me grab my camera. I don’t shoot much at the seminars, but I saw something I wanted and grabbed it. I had Mercedes take a very non model pose and simply look toward the light. I was going for a quiet portrait because the light seemed almost serene to me. As with the first shot, things change very quickly and by the time I got her into place I was only able to get a few shots before her face became blocked by the trees and moving her didn’t work.
3. We were on location down in the South Mountain Park and were trying to make a shot where one didn’t exist… LOL. We took a break and when Briana sat down, I noticed how the light was coming through the trees and causing light and shadow on her body. I had been trying to do something with the strobes and it wasn’t working and here was this gorgeous light just existing right in front of me. I had to keep moving her as the sun would move and create different patterns and such, but I got so many good images that it was difficult to edit them down. The light was intense and that created it’s own mood.
4. This shot was added today (Feb 16) and it is a perfect example of serendipity at play and being ready to make a shot. I had jusf finished shooting her on the ground when I asked Briana to step gingerly through the flowers so as not to crush them. She turned to me to ask me a question and I saw this shot. I told her not to move and raised the camera and fired… wrong… I was still on manual and the exposure was different. I told her to hold that look for a moment and changed quickly to AV, 2.8 and overexposed 1 stop… 3 shots and this one worked perfectly. I almost missed it because the camera was on manual from the previous shot. I usually turn it to AV specifically for this type of thing, but had forgotten. Luckily the model knew how to hold a pose and make it fresh after the photographer screws it up… This is pure natural light. The bounce in front is off of a large card being held by Don, a forum friend that came by to spend the day with us. He was luckily on that side of the shot and saw what I was doing. This whole thing took about 15 seconds… and it turned out to be one of my favorites of the day.
Be aware of the light around you. There can be some amazing things happening that would work well with a shot you want to do. Taking time to step away from what you are doing and looking at the light around you can deliver a whole new shot, one you hadn’t seen before.