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Outdoor Lighting in a Woodland Setting.
Old 04-13-2004, 10:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How do you properly light a model in an outdoor woodland setting? I have a good spot that has a lot of nice looks to it but the light filtering down threw the trees creates a lot of difficult shadows. I've been using a Nikon SB-28 flash on both a Fuji FinePix S2 Pro and a Nikon N90s but it doesn't help much. I still am getting the tree pattern on my subject. I've seen beautiful woodland shots where somehow the shadow has been killed but I am at a loss to figure out how. Can anyone advise?

This shot was taken this past Saturday and I very much like the models attitude in it but the bad lighting makes her stomach look bad and, well, You can see for yourself.

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Re: Outdoor Lighting in a Woodland Setting.
Old 04-14-2004, 12:14 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Either get real creative with your reflectors to counteract the natural gobos or find a spot that allows you more control.

But heck, what do I know. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]
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Re: You have two problems
Old 04-14-2004, 02:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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First, you're dealing with "shaft" lighting, meaning the light is coming straight down through the trees on to your model. That is the least flattering light there is, and is why most photographers prefer, when possible, to shoot in early morning or late in the day (my choice) so that the sun is lower in the sky and comes at a more level angle, either front lit, side lit, or back lit. Even during the day, if the sun as at SOME angle other than straight up, you can have the sun used as a back light/hair light, with some bounce fill from the front. The other problem you have is all the greenery bouncing greenish light onto the model. \

The best way to fix both problems, (and add nice element to the photos) would be to use some sort of overhead scrim - a white "silk", in reality, something like parachute material. You can buy these from pro photo suppliers. I have a Matthews 6'x6' frame with a reflector surface, and also a white nylon fabric. Just put it over the top of the model (on "C" stands) and the light will be diffused and soft. Then, get some bounce cards (preferabley white for this use) and bounce some sunlight directly onto the model. Don't place them on the ground, get them up about 3' off the ground otherwise you'll get shadows under the model's eyes.

All of this will do three things: Give you a soft top light, some fill on the model to give you some punch and eliminate the green color cast from the trees, and (as you will find when you open up the f-stop to compensate for the additional exposure you'll need) you will make the foliage a little more out of focus, and lighter in color, which will be more dream-like and attractive.

Notice I never mentioned your strobe. Personally, I wouldn't use it for all the reasons mentioned, but you could replace the bounce cards with the flash (on an umbrella preferably) as long as you don't overpower the scene. Keep it just under the exposure of the top light. Also, if you don't have a Matthews silk, you can use any white nylon fabric held above her head, or go to Costco and buy one of those white 10'x10' canopies for $200.

There's one other way I just thought of. Take your model to the edge of the woods, so you can back up, wait for the sun to go down behind her a little bit, and use the open space around you to place a large reflector (or your flash). The point is NOT to have the shaft of light coming down if you can avoid it. BTW, as you get closer to winter, the sun spends more of the day NOT being overhead, depending on where you live. For example, here in LA, in the winter, I can shoot outside all day because the sun never gets direcfly overhead. In summer I avoid shooting mid-day at all costs. Here's an example of both those things. We shot this on a mountain side, but there was a 25' clearing behind me, and we shot in February last year, about 3 hours before sunset. The only light modifier I used was that 6'x6' reflector off to my left (model right) and the sun over her shoulder.



Good luck,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: One more thing to check
Old 04-14-2004, 02:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I addition to my previous post, check out this article on Peter Gowland in Tuesday's LA Times. (I posted something about this elsewhere, but there's a special reason I'm bringing it up here). Article

If you look at the photos in the story (and you can click to make them larger) you will notice Peter working in a wooded area, and using a white silk to soften the light on the model, exactly as I described above.

Regards,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: Outdoor Lighting in a Woodland Setting.
Old 04-14-2004, 11:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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My new goal in photography is to take the flash off the camera and use my white and silver Photoflex light disks. You have to plan better and then there is that wind problem...
Jim

(Reflector to the left)
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Re: Outdoor Lighting in a Woodland Setting.
Old 04-14-2004, 12:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Scott

One of the differences between photographers is fill-flash vs reflectors. I think Andy is a reflector kinda' guy. And considering his results, I wouldn't argue.

However, using a fill flash is another way to change the lighting. A couple of options. You can bring a strobe and stand with you. Many of the nicer portable units on the market (like the Dynalite Uni 400) can be back-packed decently. Remember that you're carrying a battery -- and that's always heavy. And remember to always CHARGE that battery....

Another option is a flash unit off the camera. I use Vivitar 285's -- cheap, reasonably powerful, and you can mount it on a lightweight stand or tripod. Which you also have to haul out on site.... Getting it off the camera allows you to move it closer to the model so you get better fill. Remember that you're trying to fill sunlight -- and that's much more watt-seconds then a strobe!

Here's an image with the typical fill-flash.

Note what Andy said earlier about the time of day and the angle -- it's much easier to work with when the sun is lower on the horizon and a bit diffused by the atmosphere.

Best of luck!

Bob
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Re: When the world gives you lemons...
Old 04-14-2004, 04:47 PM   #7 (permalink)
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make lemonade . Here's AmberG in a Virginia woods, we used the dappled sunlight for effect...



or, as Andy suggests, at the edge of a woods, lighted from the sky...



Lynn
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Re: You have two problems
Old 04-14-2004, 09:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Hi Andy:

Thank you for the wonderful advise. You have me thinking in all kinds of new directions now. One question for you, I noticed you specifically mentioned using a white reflector, yet I've seen lots of photographers going more for the gold or silver ones. My opinion thus far is the gold ones make the poor model look a goofy shade of yellow and the silver ones just make her go blind. And squinting is just not that attractive. Is this perhaps why you mentioned white and how would you properly use or under what conditions would you use a colored reflector?

Again, thank you for your advice. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
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Re: Outdoor Lighting in a Woodland Setting.
Old 04-14-2004, 10:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Hi Bob:

Thank you for your advice. I have had success with my SB-28 under most situations including any even shadowing. But it seems unable to handle blotchy shadowing. All it does is lighten up the blotchiness. But very much leave it there. I'm guessing that this is where the combination of early morning or late afternoon shooting and the Scrim will be the best option.

Thanks again.



Scott
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Re: When the world gives you lemons...
Old 04-14-2004, 10:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Yea, that's very much the blotchiness I was talking about. In the top image I was wondering how you killed the green cast. The models skin looks so nice and warm. Was this done in Photoshop or maybe a filter?

Scott
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