Working on location often means bending the light in your favor. Sometimes that can be simple–soften the light with a diffuser. Other times, take it out of the game and make a portable version of open shade. That speaks to a choice–silk or solid?
The above was shot in the worst of light. High noon in the Peruvian desert called Paracas. I simply blocked it and replaced the violence of that harsh sun with a big Profoto Octa, fitted with a B-1. That solid black overhead, a temporary roof, if you will, gives you lots of control, albeit in a small area. The background area is still bathed in the hard sun, and the cliff makes a nice, edgy pattern. The beautiful Fefa completes the look.
Fefa is also a mural painter, and when we arrived at one of her creations, it was also slammed with noonday light. (The days of lounging by the pool with an exotic, umbrella festooned cocktail, waiting for the arrival of “golden hour” are over, if they in fact ever existed. Budgets and time demands being what they are, you just work, no matter the condition of the light.)
In this case, a silk went up. Hard, unworkable light became directional and lovely. All it needed was a small pop through an umbrella to open the eyes a bit. The silk leaves you with a quantity of light to deal with, as opposed to the solid, which gives you much more control.
Big silks are tough, right? Unwieldy sails that you have to sandbag the hell out of, lest you all of sudden stage your own personal version of America’s Cup. But they are effective. I often will use them, even if the light is hazy, with broken clouds. Such was the case below, and it produced a lovely, beautifully rich, fashion-y light. Almost all natural light, with just a bit of flash assist. There’s a fun video about our Peruvian fashion adventure right here.
Below is the production snap, showing the light pattern.
Camera and lens sees the subject, just under the lower rail of the silk, which is maneuvered to be as close to Francesca as possible. Again as always, that age old adage of light–bigger and closer–are in play here.
Was fun to see results of our Peru adventures up on the wall of the Nikon CES booth this past week in Vegas! The digital tech we have now is amazing, as the prints that are the bookends of the wall display are about 8’x12′. All of the Peru fashion was shot on the highly rezzed D810. Yikes….
” you just work, no matter the condition of the light ” …I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of a professional photographer !!!
Luis Paez says
Beautiful as always!!!!
Oh boy, awesome, awesome. This beautiful soft light and rich colors. Is this a SB-5000 going down on the foam for fill?
Joe McNally says
Yep, on occasion we do use a little flick of light off the floor for fill!
Wow, that is gorgeous work!
Newborn Photography says
Great, these are so stunning photos.
Joe’s a great photographer, no doubt. And I love his techniques and generous way of explaining how he shoots. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of photographing stunning models. Imagine what these pictures would look like if the models were just average looking? The lighting would be perfect, of course. But, I think we are all falling into the trap of judging a photograph by giving so much weight to the beauty of the models. I’d like to see everyone’s comments if the models were 10-20 kilos heavier with average looks — and without perfect makeup. That’s the real world.
Mark Holloway says
I’d like to comment about the stunning model thing. The gorgeous models are pretty easy to light up and shoot I presume. But I’ve used lighting techniques I learned from Joe to photograph my 84 year old mom sitting on her riding lawn mower in her back yard, mid day summer sun. It’s one of my families most cherished portraits. And pretty nicely lit. If it hadn’t been for Joe McNally I never would have shot it. I’ve photographed old men on tractors, business men with chicken necks, pot bellies, sweaty brides in Texas summer, and crusty old tired and retired cops using the knowledge gained here. I just take the information and apply it to my work the best I can. I’d love to be photographing beautiful women all the time, but the real kick for me is finding the beauty in every person that gets in front of my camera and hopefully realizing it for themselves.
Joe McNally says
Amen Mark…it’s our job as photographers to find the beauty in all our subjects, and use the tools we have to illuminate it.
London Family Photographer says
It would be great to see the result of that last shot with the huge overhead diffuser. Was it a bright day?
Wow, great work!