Thursday, April 24, 2014

4.2 - Ultra-Hard Light / Film Noir

In my previous post, I covered my progress through the first segment of restricting light.  With a few household items I made a gobo, a snoot, and a grid spot and began experimenting with them.

The second segment of restricting light is ultra-hard light.  I discussed the difference between soft and hard light in a previous post titled Apparent Light Size, here.  Hard light refers to light coming from a relatively small source, such as a bare speedlite.  Ultra-Hard light is simply making the light source even smaller.  Using ultra-hard light can be useful when shooting through a gobo or cookie as it will affect the light pattern.

To produce ultra-hard light all you have to do is cover up a portion of the speedlite.  This will rob the flash of power proportionally to how much is covered up, but the trade-off is worth it if it produces the desired results. 

Photo from the 1949 film Stray Dog (wikipedia)
The next assignment in the L102 course is Film Noir.  Now you may be familiar with what those two words used in conjunction mean, but I didn’t have a clue.  Shame on my engineering professors for not covering this in college.  With a quick read on Wikipedia, I learned that Film Noir refers to a filming technique used in classical crime dramas of the 1940s and 50s.  In photography, a classic Film Noir shot would be a person in a fedora holding a pistol peering through Venetian blinds, shot in black and white with the light source being shot through the blinds to create a horizontal pattern across the subject’s face.  Hopefully you're starting to get an idea of what kind of mood this type of shot tries to convey.

Films in this category include classics like The Maltese Falcon and Sunset Boulevard.  More recent films that are an echo of the film noir period include: Se7en, Basic Instinct, The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Momento, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Sin City to name a few.  Some of my all-time favorite movies are listed there, so now not only do I know what Film Noir is but I also know that I like it.  Some of these movies have some great lines too.

"...I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze."
"Are you gonna bark all day little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?"
"What's in the box?"

For this assignment I proverbially wanted to kill two birds with one stone.  If you have ever read any lists on the web of, shots that all photographers should take, you have undoubtedly came across the "self-portrait".  So for this assignment I decided to do a Film Noir shoot of myself.

The shot was taken with a one-light setup.  I used my grid spot and set up the flash high and a skosh camera right.  The ambient was more than 3-stops below ambient exposure so it barely had any effect on the photo (without the flash the photo would have just been black). What I love about this shot is the flipped poker chip in the air.

A while ago, I noticed a function on my speedlite for firing multiple times at different frequencies.  The function can be used to capture an object at multiple locations as it moves through the frame.  I had never attempted to take a shot like this but while I was working on my Film Noir selfie I decided to try it.  Warning, do not try this by yourself!  I tried and tried to get the timing right as I waited for the self-timer on my camera to fire and failed over and over and over again.  Finally my wife came home from her fitness course and was willing to help me and it was still tough to get the timing down.

I had the speedlite set to fire 4 times at 40Hz and was able to capture the poker chip as it flipped through the air after many failed attempts.  I'm gonna count this assignment as three birds with one stone!

As always, thank you for following, and please post any comments or questions below.

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