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Lighting Tip: Faking a Rainstorm In the Photo Studio

Published on August 31, 2015 by in News

Stephen Carroll

If you’d like to try a shot like this, have plenty of towels on hand and get accustomed to talking loudly. Once the water was turned on, Carroll had to shout to be heard by his models. He exposed this shot for 1/125 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 100. For more of his work look for his Fotofiction stream on flickr.com. Carroll’s inspiration for this photo was the 2005 neo-noir film Sin City. He jokes that “it had fake backlit rain in almost every scene.”

Stephen Carroll, a freelance photographer from Reston, Virginia, specializes in artwork for book covers, with more than 400 (mostly novels) to his credit. They’re not just any book covers, though. His genius lies in creating film noir-like scenes, complete with desperate lovers, soaked T-shirts, smoking guns, and, of course, stormy weather. “I do cinematic stock photography,” he says, “and there’s nothing like the dark of night and pouring rain to remind you of early Hitchcock.”

But it took Carroll a while to nail the cinematic look. Rain’s transparent quality is hard to light. “You can’t frontlight it,” he says. “You can only see falling water when it’s backlit.”

Be careful that your backlights don’t shine directly into the lens, because if they do, you’ll get flare and lose the noir look. Put them off to the side or directly behind and blocked by your subject.

A single backlight will work, as this shot proves. That’s how Hollywood usually does it, because it adds more contrast and drama. For full figures, though, you need two backlights. “And that’s a problem, because a backlight on each side produces two reflections on each drop. You get so many white streaks that you almost can’t see the subjects,” says Carroll.

The light source makes a difference with rain. Off-camera hotshoe flashes produce snow-like points of light because of their quick flash durations. A continuous light source yields straight streaks of light; the longer your shutter is open, the longer the streaks will be. Carroll’s preference? The “tadpole swimming upstream” effect that is produced by a studio strobe. “Its initial pop is very bright, producing the ‘tadpole’s’ head. As the light slowly dies, it produces a progressively thinner ‘tail.’”

But there’s one important fact to keep in mind: Water and electricity don’t mix. If you’re shooting with studio strobes outside, your outlet should be a ground fault circuit interupter (GFI). This will kill the electricity instantly if water causes a short circuit. If you have the choice of shoe-mount or studio strobes, or if you’re just starting out with such techniques, go with the shoe-mount to eliminate the risk of electrocution.

By the way, Carroll did not shoot this photo in actual rain. Instead, he created the scene outside using a garden hose and sprayer. The sidebar and illustration will tell you how.

Chris Holland/Mafic Studios

To create the effect of rain, photographer Stephen Carroll started by duct taping a garden hose and adjustable sprayer attachment (A) to a rod driven into the ground (B) in his backyard. With the sprayer aimed upward, he adjusted its output so the falling droplets would simulate rain. He used a stand-mounted Adorama Flashpoint strobe head and reflector (C) to backlight the drops, and a second Flashpoint in a softbox (D) to frontlight the models, both fired by a Flashpoint wireless trigger. His camera and lens were the Canon EOS Rebel T1i and Canon EF 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS II lens (E).“Before I turn the water on, the models and I go through many [dry] practice runs to get the poses down,” says Carroll. He schedules “rain” shoots only during the hottest nights of summer, because if it’s too cool he’s in for hours of cloning out goose bumps later.

 
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Lighting: Use High Speed Flash Sync to Fake a Lake Portrait

Published on July 27, 2015 by in News

Clark Vandergrift

In photographing his two sons for a personal project called Water’s Edge, Clark Vandergrift wanted “to create dreamlike views of summertime escapes to swimming holes, beaches, and other romantic oases,” he recalls.

But the photographer faced two problems. There was no major body of water near his location in Reisterstown, Maryland. And he wanted the detail in the day’s beautiful cloudscape to appear in his flash-lit portrait, which would have required a much faster shutter speed than the 1/250 sec top flash-sync speed he could get using his Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.

His solutions? Vandergrift composited in glints of light reflecting off water shot elsewhere, and, to balance the flash exposure with the bright clouds, he tapped PocketWizard’s HyperSync technology.
Like the high-speed flash syncing built into sophisticated shoe-mount flashes, HyperSync lets you sync flash and shutter at speeds up to 1/8000 sec. Its main advantage, though? It allows for a very bright flash output, unlike high-speed syncing which uses relatively weak pulses of light that prohibit deep flash-to-subject distances.

This let Vandergrift make his flash exposure at 1/2000 sec without fear of the shutter curtains throwing shadows across his camera’s sensor. “The basic principal is to dial up the strobe as bright as possible for the longest flash duration possible,” he explains. “Then by using one of the PocketWizard ControlTL remote flash triggers—I used the Flex TT5—the strobe is fired just prior to the shutter opening and remains on the entire time that the shutter is fully open. Essentially, the strobe becomes a continuous light source.”

An added benefit of this is that “HyperSync lets shutter speeds, in addition to apertures, influence flash exposure,” says Vandergrift. “Without it, flash exposure is usually controlled exclusively by the aperture setting.” He could shoot at the relatively bright aperture of f/5.6 while still slightly underexposing the clouds and retaining their detail. “HyperSync made this shot because I really didn’t want to work completely stopped down. A totally stopped-down image with hard lighting looks unnatural, and I wanted a natural, organic feel—f/5.6 was where I needed to be,” he says.

kris holland/mafic studios

Vandergrift lit the scene with the now-discontinued Dynalite 4040 strobe head (A) and M2000e power pack (B). (Comparable current models shown below.) The strobe was powered by a Honda EU 2000i generator (C). He positioned his Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (D) and PocketWizard Flex TT5 wireless flash trigger below his subjects so that he could aim upward, thereby concealing the location of the shoot: a field near his small Maryland farm/studio. He shot tethered to a laptop (E) that he used to evaluate and compare shots. He constructed his set (F) from 2×4 and 4×4 posts to which he secured old barn wood that resembled a weathered pier. Finally, the rippled light under the pier was a composited shot of reflections at the bottom of a pool. Actually reflecting light off water on set wouldn’t have given Vandergrift enough control over the reflections’ pattern or placement.

 
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Tips from a Pro: The Enchanting Wave Photography of Ray Collins

Published on May 5, 2015 by in News

I bought my first camera in 2007 due to having a lot of downtime with a knee injury, and I just read and re-read the manual and started playing around with light. I have…

 
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Tips from a Pro: The Enchanting Wave Photography of Ray Collins

Published on May 5, 2015 by in News

With a waterproof camera camera housing, Ray Collins captures amazing pictures of ocean waves…

 
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Samantha in Black

Published on January 10, 2014 by in Fashion
 
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Justice in White Pants.

Published on August 24, 2013 by in Casual
 
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Anyssa in Striped Dress.

Published on August 18, 2013 by in Fashion
 
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Mandi in Black Corset.

Published on August 7, 2013 by in Fashion
 
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Ivanti

Published on June 9, 2013 by in Fashion
 
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Mandi in Pink Corset.

Published on June 2, 2013 by in Fashion
 
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