Friday, June 6, 2014

4.3 - Assignment: Cross, Balance, & Sculpt

The L102 course has two assignments back-to-back.  The first assignment was Film Noir that I discussed in my last post.  The second assignment is about restricting light and also incorporating the cross-balance technique.  The cross-balance technique was used in my previous post on Balancing the Sun where my flash was setup opposite the sun.  More information on cross-balancing can be found here.

A topic I’ve been reading a lot about recently is pre-visualization and this assignment is a good place for me to discuss it a bit.  Pre-visualization, to me at least, means visualizing the photo you wish to take and reverse engineering it to determine how you can light it.  In other words, picture the photo you want and figure out how to make it happen.  As a demonstration I'll take you through my thought process for tackling this assignment.

This past winter in Michigan seemed like it would never end.  It’s mid-May and I still worry about jinxing spring by declaring that it is, in fact, over.  With the long winter potentially over I knew that I wanted to be outside for this shoot.  To many, spring in Michigan means being able to grill outside (comfortably), spring flowers, the budding out of the trees, the return of the seasonal birds, or even the scent of freshly cut grass, but for me it means campfires!  Whether I’m camping up North or just hanging out in my back yard, there are few things I enjoy more than enjoying a good campfire, so I decided this assignment was going to done around a fire.

With that decided I needed to start thinking about light and a subject.  I took a turn at being the subject in the last assignment so it was my wife’s turn again for this one.  As a side note, volunteer subjects are welcome!  I visualized the campfire giving off an orange-ish glow and I thought that I could use moonlight as a cross-balance.  In my mind I'm picturing the warm glow of the fire contrasted with the cool light of the moon and I know that I can mimic moonlight with a speedlite if necessary.

At this point the photo in my head is really start to come together but I still have to satisfy the “sculpting” part of the assignment.  I was pleased with the results of my homemade grid spot in the Film Noir assignment so I decided I would use it again to do the "sculpting" in this assignment.  The problem is figuring out what I wanted to sculpt.  If I added any light to the subject I would be eliminating, or at least reducing, the effect of the warm-cool balance of the moon and fire.  I thought about restricting the moonlight but felt that it would look unnatural.  I also thought for a hot second about restricting the light emitting from the fire but didn't think I could restrict it enough to sculpt.  At this point I was a bit stuck.

An idea finally came to me while thinking about what we typically do around a campfire.  We, like a lot of folks do, roast a fair amount of marshmallows during the summer because smores are one of our favorites.  The idea was that I could light up a roasting marshmallow to to make it stand out a bit more, and by using the grid spot I could keep the light from spilling on anything else.  It wouldn't make a huge difference in the photo but it would accentuate a tiny little "secondary" subject.  With the final element planned out in my head all I had to do was wait for a nice night to have the campfire.

I could pretend that this final photo was my first photo of the night but that wouldn’t be remotely close to reality.  I set out about a half hour before sunset to get the fire going and get setup.  I tried taking some early test shots to test out my moonlight acting flash but I was still dealing with too much sunlight.  As the sun set and the sky began to darken I could really begin to work. 

It was a clear night with nearly a full moon out so I used it as a guide for the location of the moonlight flash.  Even though the moon was emitting quite a bit of light I needed to boost the light up a bit to balance it out with the fire.  The grid spotted flash was located on the ground just in front of the fire pit pointed up and away from the fire.  The grid spot restricted the light from spilling either onto the fire or onto my wife and added us a punch of light to get the marshmallow to stand out.

Please tell me what you think in the comment section below.  I also happy to answer any questions you may have.

The next post I will move on from restricting light and into the next method of controlling light.  If you are keeping track, there are only 3 more methods of controlling light left.

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