Using sun, ambient and flash together

At an experimental orchard near Prosser., Wash., WSU researcher Tom Collins and his team are studying “smoke taint” in wine– an unpleasant taste as a result of a grape vine’s exposure to smoke from wildfires. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

At an experimental orchard near Prosser, Wash., WSU researcher Tom Collins and I enter a smoke-filled tent. He and his research team are studying the effects that wildfire smoke has on grapes used in making wine. The light was pretty good in the tent where about 80 percent of the direct sunlight was being  filtered out by a black covering. I made some unposed photos as Collins explained how “smoke taint” affects the flavor of wine. The photos were ok, and in my pre-strobe days,  I would have said they were fine. But now, with a SUV full of Profoto gear, I had to make one more photo.

Tom Collins no flashjpgIG

I started by placing a Profoto B-1 strobe with a Magnum reflector about 25-feet behind Collins and  pointed at his back. I wanted  try and backlight the smoke in the tent, which was pretty faint. I set the strobe on group B (so I could independently adjust exposure versus the key light.)

For my key light, I  used a Profoto B2 head with a OCF beauty dish on camera left set to group A. I placed it there because the sunlight was reflecting off of  Collins’ shirt on camera right, which gave it some nice separation from the darker background.

I shot a quick photo in TTL of Collins’ face, then switched to manual on my Profoto Air Remote trigger to lock in the settings. I then bumped up the exposure of the rear light by two stops and the key light by a half of a stop to get to look I wanted.

The strobed photo, compared to the non-strobe photo, was much cleaner and pleasing to look at. This is definitely a magazine-style portrait. Maybe not what readers would expect from a newspaper. I like it, and am glad I took the time to shoot it.

My key take away here is to use the ambient and bright sun to your advantage. Try  to balance all your light sources to get the dramatic look you need.

Settings: Nikon D850 17-35mm Nikon lens; 1/250th of a sec. shutter; f/5 at ISO 125; White balance: 5200 Kelvin


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