Horse Portraits: Creating The Dark & Dramatic
My favourite time to take Horse Portraits is in the Autumn, I just think that the natural hues and tones are at their best, but I also think that creating dark & dramatic horse portraits can also be very rewarding visually.
As I use flash for all of my equine portrait photography, I have decided to write a blog about the equipment I use and share some of the reasons why I choose different equipment in relation to the equine images I enjoy creating.
I will start with a barn or large stable, as these are both locations that often work very well in relation to lighting. The ambient lighting in these environments is usually darker than outside, so the advantage you have is that flashes don’t have to work as hard in terms of competing with ambient light, it’s also far easier to kill the ambient light as it is already low and just light the areas you want to light with flash mainly the horse and owner
An example of a three-light setup in a barn. Two Godox AD200’s via AD-B1 in medium Octabox camera left. One boomed Godox AD200 with round head.
Depending on the time of day and location it is possible to kill the ambient light outside and create dark and dramatic horse portraits, but the two issues that are often challenging are having enough flash power and controlling the cameras sync speed. The image below was taken in the winter on a very grey day and the background behind the girl and horse were a tall hedge row of conifers, so I was able to start with a natural dark background, but I did have to use the equipment I had at full power. When I took this image, I had a Godox 360 and two Godox AD200’s, certainly not enough power for a full-length dark horse portrait, but enough power to create this image.
Although many flashes now have HSS High Speed Sync (shoot with flash above your cameras sync speed) you lose a lot of power and the flash have to work really hard, so although you may be able to shoot at 1/500th instead of 1/200th the amount of light loss may be too great to provide the amount of light you require for the image you are trying to create.
You can use ND (neutral density filter) to reduce the ambient light, so that you can stay within your cameras sync speed, but you will lose flash power in relation the amount of stops of light the ND filter is reducing the ambient light by. HSS & ND use both have their places depending on your needs and conditions.
Hard Or Soft Light For Dark & Dramatic Horse Portraits?
If your amount of flash power is limited and you are struggling to kill the ambient light, you will benefit from using hard light and this is where reflectors and how you use them can really help, you will be surprised at how using different types of reflector can make your light more efficient.
Soft light has become the mainstay of most flash lit images these days, but if you are trying to kill the ambient using soft light, you are going to need a lot of power if the ambient light is challenging to control. Personally, I think both soft light and hard light can create stunning images, it’s really about your intention and the equipment you have or don’t have that can make the decision for you.
Once Coronavirus is no longer with us, I plan on making a video during my next Horse Portrait Shoot, showing the lighting modifier’s I use and the position in which I place the lights, so let’s hope I get the opportunity soon.
Why are Woodlands so Special For Horse Portrait Photography?
The natural ancient woodlands we see today have been shaped by human history for hundreds of years. However, today the only truly wild woodlands that remain are inaccessible pockets in steep ravines, on cliffs or on some wooded islands.
Only 1.2 % of semi-natural ancient woodland is accessible in the UK, which makes our woodlands very special places and a resource that we should take care of. Woodlands provide unique and aesthetic backdrops for horse portrait photography and depending on the seasons, they offer translucent greens, yellows, oranges and browns adding a rich splash of colour and texture to any photograph.
Over the last four years I have visited numerous woodlands looking at
there unique qualities and potential for horse portraits. Of the woodland areas I use, each have their own character and some provide great hacking opportunities. if you are considering a horse portrait and would like guidance on some of the most beautiful and photogenic woodland locations in Yorkshire, drop me an email and I will send you a guide and of maps of the locations I use.
After presenting and promoting off camera flash at a few camera clubs, I was contacted to ask if I did any, one to one training, or off camera flash workshops.
Although I use flash for my horse portraits, running a workshop with a horse as the main subject would be difficult logistically, so I started thinking about what would be a little different subject wise for an off-camera workshop.
I have photographed Red Squirrels with flash numerous times, so I thought they would make an interesting subject, so I started working on a few ideas and some promotional ideas for the website.
I had met Andrea very briefly at Halifax Photographic Society whilst presenting the Lighting The Way Workshop (Off Camera Flash) but unfortunaly I was unable to get Andrea’s Canon 4000D to fire with the Godox Triggers I had, or with any other third part triggers at the club, so when Andrea contacted me about the Red Squirrel Workshop, my first thoughts were, why did the triggers not work on her Canon camera, but other people’s Canons?
I soon learned that the triggering issues with some newer Canon cameras is the discussion on various forums and I found out that Godox had released a new firmware to overcome the centre pin issues, so I was confident that the problem was sorted, but as I did not own a Canon 4000D, I would have to wait to see if Andrea got back to me to make a booking.
Andrea contacted me again about a week later and made a booking for herself and her daughter Em. As a backup plan I took my camera along, so Andrea would at least be able to learn how to use off camera flash in the event of the trigger not working with the Canon 4000D and Andrea was happy with this.
Arriving high up next to the stacked logs and wandering sheep, we left the cars and started walking down to the woods, Andrea and Em started telling me about their interest in photography and nature and that Em had won a few photography competitions. I also learned that they had never been to this location before, so it was there first time.
I helped both of them setup their cameras up into manual mode, showed them how to change the, ISO, WB and then gave them both a trigger and explained how to use them.
My original idea was to provide them each with one light which would be on different channels and ID’s and then introduce a second light as they progressed. However, it soon became apparent that they were both really enjoying photographing the squirrels and so my planned intentions, were becoming undone.
I asked if they would like me to set both lights and triggers to match each other, that way they could still take advantage of the flash, but photograph the squirrels as they moved from one stump to the other, Em was a little more trigger happy than her mum, but they shared the lighting well and as the lights were at 16th power, they were recharging very quickly anyway. From the images I saw on the back of the cameras, I think they took some good images and they learned how to turn the power of the light up and down in relation to the ambient light, so they did learn the basics.
I decided to write this reflective blog to remind myself, that learning anything should be flexible in order to make it enjoyable. On reflection did Andrea and Em learn how to use off camera flash the way I had planned? Did they enjoy the experience and learn something new?
I think the important reflective point, is they were able to photograph Red Squirrels using flash and they enjoyed it. Reflecting on learning is an important part, but sometimes we need to reflect on the all aspects not just the main core that was intended.
Red Squirrel Taken with No Flash during the Workshop
Here Are Some Red Squirrel Images Using Off Camera Flash Of My Own Taken Last Year.
Godox Firmare Updates Downloadshttp://www.godox.com/EN/Download.html
Regardless of your interest or skill level of photography Adobe Photoshop has become the most well known name of software as a graphics editor.
Photoshop was developed and published by Adobe Inc. for Windows and macOS and was originally created in 1988, by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, the software has become the industry standard for graphics editing and digital art as a whole and we often take the creative power of Photoshop for granted these days.
In celebration of Photoshop’s birthday, Adobe has released many new features in Photoshop and made improvements too. So what is worth exploring?
Enhanced Content-Aware Fill
In this release of Photoshop, you can now iteratively fill multiple areas of an image without having to leave the Content-Aware Fill workspace window. After you get the desired fill result for a selection in your image, click the new Apply button in the lower-right corner to commit fill changes and keep the workspace window open. After applying the fill, use Lasso Tool or Polygonal Lasso Tool within the Content-Aware Fill workspace to make another selection to fill.
Improved Lens Blur Quality
The new Lens Blur alogorithm now uses your computer’s graphics card (GPU) to generate blurrier edges on objects that are in front of the focal plane, a more realistic bokeh look, correct color handling for CMYK and LAB color modes, and more colorful specular highlights in your photos.
Enhanced Transform Warp
With more control in the Warp tool, you can add control points anywhere or divide your image with a customizable grid. Then transform by individual nodes or a larger selection.
Object Selection tool
Create fast and precise selections by drawing a simple rectangle or lasso around an object. Then let Adobe Sensei do the rest.
Photoshop’s user interface is now more responsive to your mouse and stylus movements. You’ll notice smoother panning and zooming in your documents. With increased responsiveness to your inputs, you’ll also notice improvements in many other UI interactions, especially where painting or dragging actions are involved.