Speedlites for warmth on cold November days

I have done lots of presentations and seminars on Canon Speedlite flash and I like my material to be driven from complete understanding of the facts about how it works and some real world practical experience. Just recently I shot some location pictures in a parkland area in Oxford. Travelling light with no assistant I needed to carry everything and have flexibility. I’d cut down to one light stand and planned on using my camera bag as a very expensive sandbag if it got windy. It did when I had a small lastolite reflector on the stand, result one tipped over stand with camera bag attached.

http://www.modelmayhem.com/1941303To save further mishaps I changed location to shoot on the sheltered side of a wooden hut. Only issue was that it had black painted wooden sides so acted as a fine windbreak and also sucked the light out of the air. The sun was also shining on the other end of the building, so shade and windfree. I took one picture and thought that the soft overcast light, read cloudy and cold, needed something more.

Add a little flash

Add a little flash

Thinking a bit of warm rim lighting would work, I put a Speedlite on the stand and attached a full CTO gel. Then zoomed the Speedlite in to 105mm to give a tight spread of light and aimed it at the back of my models head from about 45 degrees behind her to the camera right. Choosing this position also meant that a twist of the body of the Speedlite had it’s light receiving sensor aimed back to the camera position with the master flash on.

Flash moved to light the building wall

Flash moved to light the building wall

Still more was needed so I moved the light stand to be infront of the model and about 45 degrees to her, still camera right. Now I had a blast of flash and shadows on the wall, but things were improving. First the model looks less frozen, and I could almost pass it off as a patch of sunshine. Then I moved the light to be aimed directly at the building wall, creating the bright patch of light on the wall as shown.

Flash power reduced, and beam widened

Flash power reduced, and beam widened

With the flash aimed right at the wall the pictures showed better things on the back of the LCD. The combination of the feathered edge of the Speedlite with CTO gel and the bounce off the wall was working. Then I had the idea to aim the flash straight at the side of the building so that it created a patch of light on the side of the black wooden wall. In fact I dropped the power of the flash down a little and widened the beam of the flash to give me less of an obvious highlight on the wall of the building. The light is still there but it is much more beleiveable than with the earlier setups. Also as my model moved and turned, even facing toward the Speedlite it just kept on delivering great results. For absolute consistency in situations like this where the flash to wall distance won’t change from shot to shot then I put the slave in manual mode and set the power level from the master flash on my camera.

Thanks to my model for the day Bethany F.

I’m still looking to shoot at least one more model before all the autumn colours have disappeard, and this time I’m planning on taking the Lastolite Quad and the big softbox on location to make interesting light with.