On my spare time in between shoots, even after 15 years of being a full time pro, I still have an incredibly strong urge to create what I feel passionate about. A place in time that doesn’t involve time constraints, creative parameters or pressures of any kind. I love creating images of Ballerinas in different scenarios in and around my home town of Kamloops, and I call my project ‘The Ballerina Series’.
In quite a few of my concepts I prefer the images to be influenced and enhanced by artificial light. I’ve been heavily influenced by an American photographer named Joe McNally. If you haven’t seen his work, he’s fantastic and he was one of the first pros I came across that did a wonderful job of isolating the subject to make them pop; thus leaving little doubt as to what his intended subject matter was. How does this process happen you say? Well, it’s quite simple really, underexpose the ambient or natural light either in manual or aperture priority mode (I use manual) to your desired density and then illuminate the subject. Sounds easy right? Well, in theory it is, it’s just that it takes practise, practise and more practise!!
Joe was told early on in his career that if you wanted to make an image interesting, light part of it, and that’s the basis for a large body of my work. Simply put it suits my style. I can’t get into the exact intricacies as to how I light the attached images, however I can tell you what I use. Using on-camera flash for something that you want to appear high end is pointless. Your creation will look amateurish and probably won’t meet your expectations. I use 1, 2 or 3 speed-lights (Nikon in my case) to get the effect desired. These flashes are placed strategically around the subject to get the result needed. For those off camera flashes I use ‘Pocket Wizards’, which are a radio signal device that triggers the flash from the camera’s hot shoe to each flash unit. There are other brand names on the market that work quite well also. I use 1 or 2 soft boxes that help create a soft, enveloping light and each light has to have its own flash power set. Basically I start with the main light, get the power right and then move to the next one. If you’re just starting out, try 1 light only until you’re comfortable with more. It’s important to note that you’ll need to solidify your ambient exposure first before adding any artificial light, or the process can quickly become overwhelming and thus frustrating. Remember if you’re working at dusk, you’ll continually need to be changing your ambient exposure as it darkens or your image will become far too underexposed.
** TIP: Continuously check your histograms to make sure you’re not blowing out highlights, especially in the case of white clothing or pale skin. It can happen quite easily!
Have fun with this, it can expand your creativity a ton and make you a more well rounded photographer. Cheers!
To see more of my work, go to my home page here