Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The simple is sometimes hard

This photo isn't really of much merit. It was a test. As I've set up my studio in my dining room, I realized I didn't really understand lighting and exposure very well, so I asked the really dumb question on forum, where the other photographers are great and terrific with their help, I got my answer.

And so I tested it with the penguin and the heart. The purpose? Ah, the simple idea we don't normally think when working with artificial light. I've been a natural light photographer, really hating using flash or artificial light, mostly because it's a deep subject to learn, let alone master. So I didn't try, until recently, when on bad weather days I wanted to do something beside wait for better weather.

And so I built a home studio. I use four Minolta 360PX flashes, two each in two small softboxes, and one Canon 580 EX II flash in one large softbox. These flashes have adjustable intensity setting and operate in full manual mode, controlled to trigger only with the camera through Pocket Wizards. All this works with any of the three camera systems I have, even the old Minolta manual focus system.

[Note.--I also learned that my large format lenses with their PC(X) sync connections with the Pocket Wizards, and even at shutter speeds faster than 35mm cameras, up to 1/500th of a second. It's in the shutter design and operation, the difference between curtain shutters in 35mm cameras and leaf shutters in large format lenses.]

But this setup requires manual flash metering, which I do with a Sekonic L-358 with it's Pocket Wizard transmitter to determine the exposure, which was my initial question and eventual test. I wanted to know the differences with varying the aperture and shutter speed. And the response is two-fold, if the light is 100% artificially controlled or not.

If you the source of the light for the image is 100% artificial, my flashes in this cases, at and slower than the full shutter opening of the shutter, the shutter speed is irrelevant. The aperture controls the exposure. And I tested this from 1/200th to 1 second in the full set of increments. All the images were the same with the same aperture. Adjusting the flash intensity or disance only requires adjusting the aperture.

If you add ambient light, the situation changes where you can control the exposure from the ambient light with the shutter speed, such as lightness to darkness of the background, softness to sharpness of the shadows, etc.. I haven't tested this yet as I'm still playing with the flash setup under full artificial light with a variety of subjects, not just the penguin. He's the volunteer, and he's all heart to be in the spotlight.

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