Behind the scenes Part 1
I thought it would be fun to show some of the secrets of the dark art of creative photography by posting behind the scenes shots, and giving some details as to how the shots were achieved so you can have a go yourself. What most creative photographers are looking for is to create the extraordinary out of the ordinary, this can be achieved either by an unusual point of view such as very low or high, using reflections, or by combining artificial light with daylight in a way that the balance between the two delivers an out of normal visual experience.
I love seeing the reaction of the subjects when they first see these images as it is always nothing like what they expected.
The shot above of Alex on the disused rail platform was shot at Swanbourne station near Winslow. Of course if there really was a train coming then perhaps you would not be dangling your legs over the track, but to get Alex's head height down so that I could include both the platform, the flowers and the track, it was the pose that worked best for me.
As you can see from the test shot on the left under normal daylight the track merges into the gravel without very much definition and the sky and fields take your attention away from the part of the image I wanted the viewer to see, which for me was the platform, track and Alex.
The lighting solution I went for was to isolate Alex and the area within 10ft of her with a soft feather of artificial lighting 1 stop brighter than the surrounding ambient (daylight) level. To achieve this with the camera set to manual I under exposed the daylight by 1 f-stop, this has the effect of darkening the whole shot but in particular the sky and the open fields in the distance. The amount of under exposure varies depending on the look you want, so don't be afraid to experiment, but I wanted most of the daylight to still be evident and 1 stop was enough on this overcast day. Wireless flash synch is limited on most DSLR's to around 1/160th sec, so your ISO and aperture are restricted slightly by this. Camera manufacturers flash systems such as the Canon 430EX, 580EX and 600EX ranges can shoot in high speed synch mode giving unrestricted shutter speed, however because the light has to stay on for much longer HS synch absolutely kills the batteries, but for occasional shots it is a way round the issue of max synch speeds of big flash systems with DSLR blind type shutters
The next stage is the tricky bit, as I wanted to add the artificial light to make Alex and the track 'pop' from the rest of the scene. As a pro photographer I have £2000 worth of Elinchrom 1100 WS battery power pack with a large strobe flash light wirelessly triggered by Elinchrom's Skyport system, which if required has enough power to light a football pitch, but on this occasion was set to its lowest setting as I did not want to blast too much light at Alex, and make the final image unbelievable.
Don't worry you can achieve the same look with a cheap batty powered flash gun which can be purchased from a company like Yongnuo for around £40, and its wireless triggers for about another £30 and finally a shoot through brolly kit for around £50 from ebay, demonstrating you don't need a pro budget to achieve this, just a basic DSLR camera and a cheap flash gun and brolly.
The strobes normally hard light was modified with the white shoot through 90cm brolly mounted to a heavy stand held down with a sandbag on the rail track to stage left of the image, and slightly upstage of Alex and pointed back at her. It was raised to around 8ft above ground level and pointed slightly downwards to feather light onto the track and Alex's face. My shoot through brolly has an enclosed back to reflect all of the light forwards, but a standard open brolly would still work you just need a bit more power as some of the light goes away from the subject. It has a soft featherered characteristic to its light. Don't worry if you have not got a stand just take along a friend to hold the light high above their head, and ignore there moaning about all the blood rushing from their hands.
And thats it for the shooting. Post production from a RAW image file created with a Canon 5D MK2 was processed using Adobe Lightroom and some pop and sharpness added, thats all as the rest of the effect was created in camera.
Keywords: Elinchrom Ranger
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