Last week I did a portrait session with Cari Draft, owner of EcoTrek Fitness. Interesting shoot, both easy because Cari is a good model, and challenging because once again I found myself out in the blazing sun on a cloudless day at exactly the wrong time. One of those days where I wished again that I had Joe McNally's 27 speedlight setup. But, having recently read The Hot Shoe Diaries, I was better prepared for this situation and the results were much more successful than they would have been had I not read the book.
Cari runs EcoTrek sessions by taking her groups for hikes on the beach or in the woods, pretty much anywhere, and stopping for impromptu workouts along the way. They all take resistance bands along with them, so they really stop anywhere there's a tree, light pole, gate, anything, wrap the resistance bands around said object and do resistance workouts on the spot.
So I figured we should shoot Cari in the woods, using the bands like she would normally. Photographically, the canopy of trees would knock back the light so it didn't matter that we were there in the bright mid-morning sun. Yes and no. While the trees did cut back the sun, the leaves also made for, IMO, a distracting background.
Enter the Hot Shoe Diaries.
I had always shot on full manual. And, not being one to read the owner's manual for equipment I own, my flashes were always on manual also. Which means if the flashes needed adjustment, I had to walk over to them and change it. Which also means lowering the stand they're on, making the adjustment, raising the stand, going back to shooting position...annoyingly cumbersome to both photographer and model.
After reading Joe's book, I tried his method. Camera on Aperture Priority, meter on Matrix mode, and SB800s in Remote mode. I only have 2 SBs so far, so I used the pop-up flash on my D300 as the commander. I dialed in -3 EV for the exposure, and set the flashes to +2 or +3 to compensate. This worked so well, I will almost never do it any other way again. The main light was Group A (+3) and the second one was Group B (+2) for rim light.
When I got home, I still felt like there should have been more separation between Subject and Background, so I spent some time in Photoshop knocking the background down another additional stop or so.
Added bonus: I can now cross "overpowering the mid-day sun" off my List of Intimidating Setups.
On the last pic in this series I tried another McNally trick: threw both SBs (diffuser domes on) through one umbrella. Still improving, but I'm happy with the results.
*Next post: upcoming shoot with the 2 dozen mannequin heads I picked up last weekend*