So I was doing my typical surfing the web today and I saw a link to watch a few of the Joe McNally videos up on NikonUSA website. So I watched them and was amazed at this video in particular. It’s a really neat video if you would like to watch it I would highly recommend spending a few minutes on it and the other two he posted which are HERE and HERE. Anyway… so I got to thinking. What if you’re not Joe and don’t have access to like 20 SB900 flashes? What if you only have one… like me? Well… I think doing something similar to THIS is still possible. How? Well…. it means a little more work…
Basically…. my idea is this – start with the same basic settings and environment Joe uses in his video. A nice dark environment and a slow shutter speed (I kept my shutter open for 3 seconds). You also want to keep in mind that you do not want a shallow depth of field… so that means a higher aperture – f8 is what I used today while playing around. Now here’s where things get a little more complicated. I was playing around during the day in the house and so the only environment that I could shoot in that I could get pretty dark was our bathroom – which has no windows. So I set up my tripod in the bathtub and my flash (a SB800) with a diy snoot straw grid on it in front of the closed bathroom door. I set the flash to 1/32 power with a pocket wizard on it and held my other pocket wizard in my hand so I could pop the flash repeatedly, remotely. [NOTE** I need another hand! Operating the camera, the pocket wizard to trigger the flash and throwing a scarf into the air proved quite difficult with only the two hands. lol!] The power was set so that it would refresh pretty quickly. Set it any higher than that and it just can’t keep up. If you listen to Joe’s video, he tells you his are set for 1/64 power… but because of the bit of light coming in despite the fact that I was in the darkest place in the house, I had to go with a little more umph to help drown out the ambient coming in through the cracks around the door. I also shot the flash from above where I was hoping to catch the scarf, so as not to illuminate the gigantic mirror (and probably the whole bathroom) with each pop of the flash. I’m sure in a larger environment I wouldn’t have needed to do so much directing of the light, but I had to make sure that I didn’t accidently illuminate the bathroom. =)
I also didn’t have a beautiful dancer to work with and it’s been my experience in the past that trying to get my 3 year old to move in a particular way is too difficult for her. Not to mention that the bathroom was DARK and small…. so not exactly a conducive environment for someone to dance around in anyway. But I digress. So I grabbed a frilly little scarf that I had in my studio props bin and began to throw it around in the beam of light my flash created. It was a little on the crazy side to do alone, but it turned out kinda neat and proved that I could do this with the one flash. So now I have a proof of concept I guess. =)
Well, that’s all well and good… but how does that all work with a dancer who would be moving around probably in some type of line through your designated shooting space? Okay. So here’s my thoughts on it and something I plan on trying out soon. If you have someone to help you out… they can essentially be a moving human lightstand for you. They can point the light at the dancer and move WITH them. But now you ask… wouldn’t the human lightstand be in the shot? No. Not as long as the light is directed in such a way as to not illuminate them….. ONLY the dancer. That might mean using something like a snoot or a grid to help direct light in a particular direction – away from the human lightstand. This is something I’ve done before, kinda… when I did a shoot a while back with Mandala and we made her Patronus photo. There’s no real trickery there. It’s just light painting which isn’t a new concept.
The main difference in this technique vs. Joe’s is that his subject would be illuminated quite a bit more than mine. Why? Because he had a ton of lights that were popping all together and so the light was illuminating the subject from all directions with each pop of the flashes. With the one flash and directing it with a grid or snoot, you cut down on the area of the dancer that will be hit with the flash and there would be no fill to get rid of the shadows on your subject. You could try adding in another flash if you have the gear to make it work… but it probably means using another PW too – neither of which I have. Sometimes you have to find a way to make the gear you have work for you. =)
Anywho… here’s the shots I got today. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them! And if any of you out there are a dancer and would like to experiment with this with me, please let me know! Just leave a comment below. =) Enjoy!