Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Simple Lighting Setup

The weather in early May in Kentucky can be quite unpredictable. However, the sun shined bright and clear
for Prom date day this past season. A bright sunny afternoon is not always conducive to great photographic conditions as the harsh light creates harsh shadows and blown out highlights on almost any subject. Capturing prom dates under bright conditions like this can become a challenge, but using a simple lighting setup can often save the day and allow you to blend the natural light with artificial light.

In recent years I have become very fond of using off camera speedlights (flash). The creative opportunities they inspire become almost limitless. I have become so fond of using them that I rarely shoot a portrait using just natural light anymore. Speedlights provide the photographer a greater dimension and range of capabilities. Even with a simple one light setup, your outdoor portraits can be transformed into natural looking, well lit creations. The trick is to make it look like you're not using a light. The best fill light usage is where you can only tell it is there if you remove it. The biggest advantage I see to using speedlights in they open up the eyes bringing life to the windows to the soul of the person. Without that extra bit of illumination, eyes will often look dark and lifeless.

All the prom dates arrived, on time and excited about their special day, at the shoot location. I was there simply to help out another photographer friend. I used a simple light setup to take the photos; a single speedlight with a small softbox attached. This provided mobility and plenty of fill light and it also allowed me to take advantage of the natural sunlight filtering thru the trees.

The basic setup is quite simple: The subjects were placed in a shaded area with the sun behind them and the filtered sunlight was allowed to provide a nice backlight across the hair. This served to help separate them from the background. The softbox was postioned about four feet away from the subject at about a 45 degree angle with the top of the box slightly higher than the subject. The softbox diffused the light spreading it evenly across the subject(s), gently wrapping the light around them. It also provided a nice catch light in their eyes. I used a long lense which helped to blur the background providing an even greater amount of separation.

The type of speedlight I used happened to be Godox brand units. They are rather inexpensive units but very reliable and come with their own remote transmitter / receiver units thus allowing for easy off camera use.

The basic exposure was set to capture the background, and by adding the light, my subjects were properly lit. The light was of course fired remotely with the tripod mounted camera set on manual using ISO 100, 1/80th shutter @ 200mm and f/5.6 aperture. The speedlight power setting was place between 1/4 and 1/2 power which gave me the f/5.6 aperture. The power output of the lights can be remotely changed from the camera making exposure adjustments quick and easy.

What resulted turned out to be rather nice, natural looking images using a quick and simple lighting setup. Without the speedlight, the exposure setup would have been much more difficult to control inside the shaded area especially with the bright sunlight filtering through the trees.

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