Leading a Photographer’s Lighting Workshop – Part Two      











Last week I wrote about leading the first of a two-day lighting workshop. We began that session by studying portraiture lighting in the studio, and learning how to shape flash by using a variety of light modifiers.

The second session was about applying what we learned in the subdued light of the studio by taking the flash outdoors into bright daylight.

The October day was cool and everyone had to dress warmer, but that didn’t slow the group down the least bit.

The rural location we were at was perfect. We began in a large, well-lit, open barn and at first used a 30-inch, shoot-through umbrella and reflector, and then a large six-foot shoot-through umbrella with double speedlights for an even broader light. After that we moved to an open field and had our model pose on the hood of and old Cadillac. At that location we began by using a bare flash, and then switched to a shoot-through umbrella.

We later wandered down to a tree-lined stream with our model to take advantage of the colourful autumn leaves, and again used a flash and added a gold reflector.

In the afternoon the light began to drop. So we carried our lights and reflectors up and across the meadow and had our model on a wood rail fence in the cool open shade.

Creative outdoor portraiture is so much more than just pointing a camera at a willing subject standing in the sunlight. And using off-camera flash is usually much more interesting (and flattering) than perching an automatic flash on a camera when it’s too dark to take pictures.

Since I began last week’s article with a quote by photographer and lighting guru David Hobby, I thought I quote him again and end with what he wrote about using flash in the bright sun, that to my mind fits perfectly with last Sunday’s outdoor flash workshop.

Hobby wrote, “Controlling harsh, natural light – one of the most important things to know as a shooter is how to use bad light well. Taking hard, nasty daylight and turning it into beautiful light is actually pretty easy.”







Leading a Photography Lighting Workshop   







American photographer David Hobby, author of the lighting blog Strobist that promotes lighting techniques, wrote about learning to use flash, “You may not realize it yet, but you have just stepped through a door that may change your photography forever…Photography is literally writing with light.” And he continues, “…you’ll learn how to take control of your electronic flash. If you can imagine it, you’ll be able to create it.”

I like using flash, and in my many years as a working photographer I rarely photographed people indoors or out without using a flash; and last Sunday with Hobby’s words in mind I led yet another interactive lighting workshop.

Actually I wonder if “study group” might be a better description of what happens when several photographers get together to experiment with flash. Nevertheless, these sessions are always an enjoyable whirlwind session for me as I try to present as much information as I can without reaching information-overload for the participants.

As photographers in the workshop begin to realize how much better, and more creative, their portraits are when they begin taking control of electronic flash they get excited. That excitement is contagious. So much so that I have to remind myself to slow down and explain what I am doing and why I am doing it when I add lights to a portrait setup.

Sunday’s group of photographers were quick learners and were demanding as they pushed limits and exhausted the model, then without skipping a beat, when our ever-so-patient model needed a break, one of the photographers took her place and the group kept on going.

I remember reading a book entitled, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, about student-centered learning over teacher-centered teaching. Sometimes one has to step back from being the center of attention and let people learn by themselves.

When I realized those photographers had reached the point where they were beginning to understand where I was leading them, I just got out of their way and let them be, besides that gave me some time to wander a bit and take some pictures of what was happening.

This first of two sessions, Modeling with Lighting in the Studio is now over.

Next Sunday we’ll be braving British Columbia’s cool October weather as we take our model outdoors to pose in several different locations with different lighting conditions in each. I entitled that, Balancing Lighting Out-Of-Doors.

In the studio we used large and powerful studio lights that recycled instantly. Next Sunday we will use much less powerful, small wireless speedlights that require waiting for batteries to recycle. The quick recycling studio lights are grand, but I like the slower speedlights because they force photographers to think about and plan their next shot.

Last weekend was a lot a fun. It is great being with other photographers and watching them get excited about learning something new. Saying that, I will add a quote by French photographerJacques-Henri Lartigue that I have used several times before, “It’s marvellous, marvellous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I’m going to photograph everything, everything!”



The Final Photographic Performance   


This week I wrote to photographer and blogger David Lockwood (https://davidalockwoodphotography.com) about why he seemed to be returning to film. His replied, “The whole process of using film, gives me a feeling of accomplishment; probably like the painter putting on the last brush stroke. Film gives me a feeling of control over the final image.” And regarding film vs. digital he wrote, “The question of film or digital shouldn’t really be asked, it’s a bit like asking why does one paint with oils, and the other watercolours. Both can produce an image, but both give a totally different sensation to the mind eye.”

During the time I taught photography in the 1980s and 1990s for the University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson River University) my students used film. In my initial lectures I would tell them that as well as learning to acquire skills using a camera, they would need to learn how to become proficient in negative development and printing. I would emphasize that those serious enough to strive for a perfect final photograph would come to realize that what they did with the camera was only the beginning, and that their final print would set them apart as photographers. I would quote famous photographer Ansel Adams who said, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance…”

Film has now been set aside by many of those serious about photography, although I expect artists will use film creatively for years, nevertheless, even with advancing photographic digital technology Adams’ words from the past are still significant.

I intend to spend time discussing Mr. Lockwood’s insightful thoughts about film photography later, but first I want to say a few words about digital image making.

The digital camera doesn’t make a picture in the sense of light permanently imprinting itself with different intensities on a chemically sensitized surface like film. Instead there are sensors and in-camera computers processing light from thousands of photosites that we transfer to our computers as data files for conversion into countless pictorial possibilities.

I once attended a photography workshop during which one of the speakers said in the past he would get up early and drive to some scenic location hoping to capture an exotic sunrise, after which he would package up his film and send it to the lab and leave all decisions to some technician’s personal vision. However, now he transfers his image files to his computer and he alone controls how his photograph will be processed for viewing and finally printing.

As in the days when I processed negatives in special chemicals and manipulated prints by adding and subtracting light, I now use computer programs to process my RAW images in my quest to perfect my vision.

I say the same thing to modern photographers as I did to my students, that what they do with the camera is only the beginning,

The image on exposed on film, although now a RAW image file, is only the “score” to the “final performance” – the photographic print.

A young photographer came into my shop announcing, with some kind of misplaced pride, that he would never use PhotoShop on any of his pictures because he was only into true reality. Although I didn’t comment, I thought about the manufacturer presets that were applied in-camera to his image files and the limited colour spaces his inadequate JPG files gave him, and his confused notion of photographic reality.

If he really wanted to step away from the unreality of computerized image making he should talk to David Lockwood who wrote, “The camera, light meter, film, paper and chemicals all go towards producing a single and unique image. That does not happen with digital; from the moment the shutter is pressed, the whole thing becomes a cloning process from which endless exact copies can be produced.” However, as Lockwood also says, “The question of film or digital shouldn’t really be asked… Both can produce an image…that give a totally different sensation to the mind eye.”



Shooting Infrared on a Colourful October Day      








Fisheye is so much fun




Fall snuck up on me this year. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe that sharp and very quick transition from season to season will become the norm.

I had an appointment that meant a drive down and along the river valley to the village of Chase.  As I walked out the door not thinking about anything but the 20 minute drive that would probably turn into 30+ minutes if I got caught in the extensive road construction going on between my home in Pritchard and my appointment in Chase, Linda called “take your camera”.

Oh, right. Taking my camera is always a good idea.

As I drove along looking at the changing colours I thought about the constant submissions of fall pictures I have been seeing on the local photographer’s facebook group, however, I had decided I would have more fun being different and instead chose my infrared converted camera and added a 10.5mm fisheye lens I had just got into my shop.

I pulled onto the Trans Canada and turned into Chase 20 minutes later. The traffic was fast and I had driven through the construction without a stop. I made my appointment in plenty of time, but the receptionist informed me they had decided to close early and I would have to come back another time.

In frustration I walked back to my car, but fortunately I had my camera. So instead of returning home I decided to wander around Chase.

The fisheye was fun. I could take pictures of people on the sidewalk without pointing the camera at them. Admittedly the pictures were pretty weird with everything on the edges bending inward and I got bored with the town’s limitations. Fortunately Chase has a neat waterfall on one side and a big lake on the other. I left downtown and began with Chase Falls.

I photograph Chase Falls quite often, but this was the first time I was shooting in infrared and the first time I used a fisheye.   One can set up a tripod and capture the wonderful October colours that surround that inviting waterfall anytime, but capturing Chase Falls in infrared and with a fisheye is great fun, and a long ways off from what most photographers would every think of doing.

After an interesting time manipulating that environment I headed over to the lake for a complete change of scenery. Instead of large rocks, overhanging trees and falling water, there is a long pier jutting out into Shuswap Lake, large trees on the edges of a small park, and a wide sandy beach.

Infrared turned the trees to white, the sky a strange shade of blue and everything else a slight magenta. And what about the fisheye lens? Well, the fisheye lens just added to the already unreal quality of the image.