Photographers have a wealth of creative tools at their disposal today that enable the creation of some truly amazing images in relation to lighting. Despite Adobe Photoshop making almost anything possible image manipulation wise, have you ever wondered how similar images of today were crafted and lit 30 years ago?
There are past photographers whose body of work stands the test of time and whose names are very well known and there are others whose names fade. This year I have decided to improve my lighting skills and knowledge so I have been searching for good learning material and recently I learned about a photographer I had never heard of, Dean Collins.
Dean Collins? If like myself you have not heard of him, once you discover what he did and created, if you are interested in lighting, you will see that he was a lighting pioneer.
Mr. Collins was a photographer that specialty was light – understanding it, controlling it and making it do anything he wanted. Although the videos on YouTube look dated with the eighty’s hairstyles and clothing and the technology looking like pieces from a museum, at the core, there are still little learning gems that shine as brightly now as they did over 30 years ago.
Why is Dean Collins still relevant today? His workshops taught about the properties of light and instead of focusing on current trends, he stuck to the fundamentals that are still as relevant today as they were 30 years ago and if you have never heard of him, personally I think he deserves discovering either via YouTube or an internet search.
I have just purchased a second-hand book called “Photographic Global Notes” Although the book has contributions from numerous photographers from around the globe, they were all lighting pioneers in what they did and there are plenty of insights and learning opportunities and it only cost me £4.50 with delivery.
If you are looking for a simple manual flash trigger set, the Flashpoint R2 SPT is a great option in terms of price and functions. The R2 SPT is a single firing pin transceiver and is the first simple universal flash trigger set that is compatible with the Godox X 2.4 GHz Radio Flash System.
Inexpensive Receiver – Universal To Fire non Godox Lights
Single Firing Pin Transmitter – Universal To Work On Any Camera With Standard Hotshoe
Increased Range – Up To 150m, or 300m Using R2 SPT as both TX & RX
The Flashpoint R2 SPT are Transceivers, with the Transmitter and Receiver units in this case being exactly the same device. A manual switch on the side simply assigns the unit as Transmitter (TX) or Receiver (RX) as required.
Being Single Firing Pin only, the R2 SPT do not provide TTL or HSS, though this allows them to work universally, as well as providing longer range.
Acting as a Transmitter to R2 enabled flashes, the R2 SPT will provide Remote Manual Power Control. (Not when acting as a receiver though).
Flashpoint R2 / Godox X – 2.4GHz RF Radio System
Range – To 300m (R2 SPT as TX & RX)
Range – To 150m (Between R2 SPT and R2 / Godox X System)
Wireless Shutter Release (In Sync With Flash – TRX Mode)
Type-C USB Port for Firmware Updates
3.5mm Sync Port
2.5mm Shutter Release Port
Powered by 2 AA Batteries
Functioning as a Receiver unit, the R2 SPT provide an economical way to simply fire you existing non- Godox lights in sync with the camera.
The R2 SPT provide a 300V safe trigger voltage on both the Sync Port and hotshoe, so even most older flash units should be safe to use connect to the receiver.
NOTE – In RX Mode all buttons on the R2 SPT (except the SET / TEST Fire Button) require a long press to have any effect. This is so that settings can not be bumped and changed accidentally.
Functioning as a Transmitter unit, the R2 -SPT (being single firing pin) are universal to work on any camera having a standard hotshoe.
The R2 SPT feature 5 individual quick access Group buttons – A / B / C / D / E .
in TX Mode the R2 SPT provide Remote Manual Power Control of the Godox X System flash units. As well as turning the Modelling Light and Beep On and Off remotely.
Only Remote Group Control (ON / OFF) is available with R2 SPT as receiver.
NOTE – Double pressing a Group button turns that Group ON and OFF, and Holding a Group button turns that Group on only.
Integration with other brands of flash
Prior to my lighting kit being predominantly Godox, I hade various types and brands of lights, if I wanted to combine them with my Godox kit, I needed numerous leads and other triggers which made quick setups not so quick.
One piece of lighting kit that I still use and love are my Einstein’s, by Paul C Buff and by using R2 -SPT trigger, I can combine the Einstein’s with my Godox lighting kit. I don’t have remote power control of the Einstein, but if I use the Einstein as my main light and meter for that, controlling all of the other Godox lights is simple and for Horse portraits this just works and very well.
I would love a Godox AD600 pro, it would really speed the process of lighting up, but the justification in terms of cash outlay would be a stupid move and as I only use the Einstein’s for specific scenarios where I need to pack a lot of lighting power, I can usually get by with the Godox kit I have anyway. The R2 SPT trigger is a cost-effective simple solution to my needs and I also then have a back for any situations where my Xpro 2 trigger might fail.
I really hope Godox release these in the UK, I had a friend order mine and then ship them to the UK, but even with the postage, the R2 SPT’s are still a bargain.
Although I take commissions for Horse Portraits throughout the year, the autumn is always a special time of year for me personally. I try to utilise the autumn season to try out new ideas and locations and this year my focus was at Skipwith Common.
Although Skipwith Common provides a great location for equine portraits, the two locations that I found that were most suitable are at opposite ends of the common, so lugging lighting kit from one location to another eats into time and requires effort.
Unfortunately, when we arrived for the first shoot on October the 5th, many of the leaves on the trees were still green, so we had to make the best of what little autumn colour we could find. Fortunately, as the sun was dipping in and out of the light grey clouds and there was little autumn colour around, I decided to try some hard lighting ideas, the only problem was de-rigging the kit and carrying it to another location.
Making the best of a location we could manage to carry the kit too, we set up a C Stand with two Godox AD200’s that were gridded in a reflector and then used an Einstein (Paul C Buff) with a long throw reflector.
Anyway, here are a few examples of what we achieved, pleased with the results, especially as the intended shoot was to make use of the autumn leaves that turned out to be a little lacking in colour. We have another shoot at Skipwith, so I hope the leaves will have turned, but will also do so a few more hard light shots too.
If you read my blogs it won’t come as a surprise that I’m particularly interested in off-camera flash, especially for lifestyle portraits.
I have been experimenting with Speedlight’s over the last few years, which has dramatically improved my photography and my understanding of light and lighting, but I am far from being an expert and continue to hit hurdles in relation to lighting. Understanding light, natural or artificial is integral to photography and can make a huge impact on an image.
Many aspects of photography take time to learn and improve and in my opinion, lighting is perhaps the most challenging to master. However, by practicing, one gains experience and you are the able to start to learn what you did not know.
The importance of understanding light falloff can have immense practical implications for photographers, but when you start out on your flash lighting journey, Inverse Square Law examples (Distance = 2. Inverse = 1/2. Squared = 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4) for me was more of hindrance than a learning point and I just did not understand what I was reading.
In this article I will be sharing the important principle of light – Light fall-off, in a visual way that I hope will make the basic principles of Inverse Square Law easier to grasp.
One of the best ways to begin to understand Inverse Square Law and how it works is to take some images with your flash against a wall. The two images below were taken with a Godox TT350 flash, zoom head set at 24mm and the same TT350 flash, with the zoom head set at 105mm. You can see clearly the difference in both light falloff and spread (angle of the light)
Whenever we use a light source to illuminate an object, that object is being hit with multiple “rays” of light. Some of those rays are hitting the object in the place which is nearest to the light source, and some of the rays are hitting the subject where is furthest from the light source.
The light that falls on the closer side to the light source will be brighter then the light hitting the furthest side. This is because the light will scatter more when it makes its long journey to the far side. (This is not true for focused beams and laser, but this thumb rule can be applied to most studio lights and strobes).
In portraiture, when you are taking a portrait using only a key light (i.e. a single light). Your subject will be more lit where the light is close and darker where the light is far.
Example Of Godox AD200 Bare Bulb with Normal & Wide Reflector
What Effects Light Falloff?
The distance of light from the subject the closest the light source is to the subject, the stronger light falloff you’ll get.
The Size Of Light: The larger the light source the more diffused the light it produces and the less light falloff you will experience. For example, a large softbox will produce less light falloff then a small softbox; a bare flash will produce more light falloff then a flash shot through an umbrella.
The further one takes the light source from the object being lit, the less light fall of one can expect.
How far should you place the light source? That depends on your lighting vision, but here are some considerations:
The furthest the light the less light falloff and less drama.
If you increase the distance of the light source from your subject the light is getting “smaller” and harsher. The effect will be more noticeable if you are using a smaller softbox.
Experiment with the light falloff, you’ll be surprised how effective and useful it can be in photography.
I decided to write a blog about the film Road To Perdition due to its beautiful cinematography which made me curious about how it was crafted which I will cover later.
Although set in the 1930’s era of Chicago, unlike most mob films, Road To Perdition has a distinctly different feel to the majority of films that have been produced over the years that tell the stories of prohibition, bootlegging.
The film visually conveys some of the best lighting and composition I have seen and the work and skill that has gone into the framing and lighting is a work of art. Much of the work in relation to the lighting may go unnoticed by many viewers, but to me it’s like a moving Hopper painting and the resemblance is both obvious and uncanny with the camera focusing upon people in pools of light and shadow which provide a visual key to the emotional meaning to a scene or character.
Despite a list of very well known actors, Mendes (the director) wanted to keep the audience at a distance from Tom Hanks’ character for the first part of the film, this was achieved through clever lighting and composition, the director of photography Conrad Hall, ASC, and Director Sam Mendes
The film has very carefully crafted compositions, it’s meticulously cut, and it’s paced very gently and slowly, all of which is good for the way the story unfolds. OriginallyRoad to Perdition was to be shot entirely on location in Chicago and the nearby town of Pullman to create an authentic Midwestern look. The Illinois State Film Commission provided the filmmakers with the Armoury, the largest location mainstay in Chicago and large enough to hold a football field, so the facility offered the filmmakers considerable flexibility. The interiors of the Sullivan house and the Rooney mansion were among the sets also built at the Armoury. What I learned about the Lighting Of Road To Perdition
“We had four or five trailer loads of lighting and equipment,” says gaffer Stern, “and although production would probably say it was really big, I’d say we had just enough.
It took six miles of 4/0 cable, which fed four 24 x 12K racks, to light the Armoury. The cable also fed two 48 x 4K racks — enough to illuminate an average suburban neighborhood. Some 20Ks were also used to create sidelight. Every light fixture was run through the ETC. Wall outlets on the set were practical and were also patched into the dimmer controls. The stage was kept rigged at all times because whenever exterior filming during the Chicago winter proved too harsh, the production headed indoors for coverage.
The backings — black for night scenes and white for day were lit with a mix of 10K Fresnel’s and 5K Skypans; there were about 60 Skypans and 30 Fresnel’s in use at all times. All of the lights were patched into a dimmer board using an ETC rack system. The small Fresnel instruments were usually aimed directly at white parts of the ceiling to create a soft bounce fill.
If you have not watched this film, here is a brief outline: Road to Perdition is American crime film directed by Sam Mendes. The screenplay was adapted by David Selfformthe graphic novel of the same name, by Max Allan Collins. The film stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The plot takes place in 1931, during the Great Depression, following a mob enforcer and his son as they seek vengeance against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family.
The scenery and settings for this movie help to create quite a unique atmosphere and the wide shots, long angles that are used help to make this film stand out as being above average. Beyond just the cinematography, the acting by the cast also stands out.
Road To Perdition is an extremely beautiful film and I now find myself watching it time and again, looking at the lighting and composition and it’s teaching me a great deal.
If you go down to the woods for an outdoor portrait with your flash, you may notice a disparity between colour temperatures in terms of unflattering skin tones and washed out greens that can often have a negative impact on outdoor portrait images and trying to fix this in post processing will take time, effort and skill.
So what is affecting the images? The cause is the colour disparity between the different light temperatures. Flash is a daylight-balanced light source, with a temperature of 5500K. However, shade has a higher temperature than 5500k and can range from 6500k-9000k depending on the type of shade you place your subject in.
One advantage of using flash is that we can gel it to help adjust and balance colour temperatures. The two most useful types of gels for flash are CTO’s & CTB’s, but for this blog, I will focus on the CTB.
CTB (Colour Temperature Blue) CTB gels come in varying strengths, full, half, quarter. (often called cuts) By using a half CTB gel on the flash we can convert the colour temperature from 5500 to 7900k and by setting the cameras (WB) White Balance between 7100k and 7900k we can balance the ambient light temperature and the flash temperature, thus achieving a balanced look and feel to images.
By using gels to adjust colour temperatures, it will equip you to remove or reduce the unflattering colour disparity often encountered when taking outdoor portraits in the shade.
Personally, I am still learning about colour science in relation to flash & gels, but like most things in relation to photography, you just have to experiment and practice.