A family commissioned me to create photos for the holiday, including images of the kids at their favorite activity. The images, which will be used for their annual Christmas cards, were to be created in their backyard and the best time for them, unfortunately, would be during the middle of the day when the sun would be at it’s harshest. Overhead light is the worst because colors tend to look flat and everyone looks as if they have raccoon eyes. In this situation, I employ one of two strategies: 1) find some shade I can use; or 2) use artificial lights to overcome the harsh light and shadows.
The first option went out the window immediately because it is late autumn and there were no leaves on the trees to create any shade I could utilize. I was left with my second option, which is to use artificial lights. I am a big fan of Union, NJ-based Dynalite and I almost always drag along my travel light kit containing a pair of Uni400s with umbrellas, folding light stands and Jackrabbit batteries, but I’ve always wanted to give my Dynalite ringflash a try outdoors so this would be as good a time as any.
I hauled my gear on location including a Dynalite Ringflash and a M2000er pack. When I arrived on location, I attached my Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID medium format camera with a 110mm/2.8 lens onto the ringflash and fired away after metering. The following photos where taken with this set up at ISO 50 f/11, 1/125 of a second. The exception would be the photo of the boy in his karate outfit. That was captured with a Leica M9 rangefinder at ISO 160 f/11 with the dad holding a Canon 580EXII a few feet away on camera left.
The only issue with using the Ringflash outside is finding an electrical outlet. Luckily, I wanted to utilize the pond just at the edge of the family’s yard so a 50 foot electrical extension cord was sufficient to power up my equipment. It was a wonderful experience because the ringflash allowed me to overpower the sun, resulting in the background looking slightly darker than my subjects. In short, I was able to make the kids pop while leaving just enough detail in the background. Without the ringflash, for example, the pond would’ve just reflected the sunlight and would’ve looked washed out. In the photos below, the pond not only had detail but it showed a reflection of the blue sky.
I would love to try this lighting technique at a wedding. If you are interested in commissioning me for a portrait, please give me a call at 908-963-6271 or send me an e-mail at email@example.com to discuss your needs.
I have started capturing images again using various film cameras from 35mm as well as medium and large format. It seems a much simpler workflow to me that requires minimal computer resources and post-production on my part. Also, a lot of my fellow photographers have commented that they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make their images look more like film.
Here are the results from my first time out in years with my rangefinder. All were shot with a Leica M6 and Tri-X film. I hope to get out more with it, because there is something very personal and unobtrusive about using a rangefinder.