Last weekend we took a little family trip to some strawberry fields, something my wife had been looking forward to for a long time. So of course I brought the camera along.
This is one of my favourite shots of the day and it’s actually more of a test shot, I just wanted to check the exposure a bit and see what I had to work with. Those of you who read this blog knows that I like to experiment with flash but this is just natural light and I love my wife’s happy expression while she’s trying to keep her hat from blowing away – sometimes the moment is the most important part. The only things that could be better is the background and it would be nice if the hat wasn’t so bright. It may be a nice shot but I wasn’t about to leave without trying to create some photographs instead of just capturing them, so out came the flash and softbox.
The weather was a bit problematic, overcast but still bright, so the light was kind of undefined, you know the kind of light that makes you squint no matter what direction you’re looking. The shot above was taken wide open at f1.8 and that gave me a shutter speed of 1/2500 at iso 100. Given that and take into account the style I’ve been shooting lately and you’ll immediately see the problem. In order to use my flash to create my style I have to get the shutter down to 1/200, which meant that the aperture had to be closed quite a bit.
The shot to the left is taken at f8 but I would have loved to take it wide open to get some really nice bokeh. However, you have to work with what you’ve got and I still think it’s a nice shot, even though I couldn’t underexpose the ambient as much as I would have liked to get a more moody picture (I could have closed the aperture even more of course, but I still want to get some separation going). Despite a bit too much dof, the separation we get from the softbox to camera left (I was just holding the flash, no stand) still manages to give this shot a studio look that I really like – think old TV show with an obvious studio set. The main point of the flash was to provide this separation and to remove the shadows from the face. If taken without flash the hat would have left the face in shadow. Combine everything with the post processing to give the photo a slightly aged feel and I think it works rather well.
Seeing how the wind was trying to steal my wife’s hat and making her hair blow, I knew I wanted to take a classic shot as well. The clouds in the upper right corner provided just the right mood, too bad that the whole sky wasn’t like that. Again we have a LP160 in softbox to camera left, as far out as my arm would go. At times like these an assistant would be invaluable, since I would love to be able to vary the angle of the light more – my arms just aren’t as long as I would sometimes wish. With more time I would have varied the ratio and angle of the flash more but my wife was a bit self conscious about posing in the middle of the field so I had to work fast. One thing I would have liked to do would have been to feather the light more so it just hits her face, leaving the arm a bit darker.
Apart from netting me some nice shots of my wife, this trip was another good field test for my softbox. I’m definitely liking it, it’s very easy to work with. One thing I noticed though was when I took some shots from farther away, like the one to the left. There’s actually flash in this image as well but it’s not adding much. You may be able to see a hint of it at the lower edge in the centre. I still had the softbox on but next time if I’m taking a shot like this I’m going to use just a bare flash instead and zoom it as much as possible to throw the light where I want it. I still had power to burn, I think the flash was at 1/2 power and not zoomed completely but, again, my model didn’t give me all the time I needed to test more.
All in all it was a good day; my wife enjoyed herself and the little one slept after a while so I got to play a bit as well. As a final note and just to make everyone jealous: after we got home my wife made delicious strawberry tarts and chocolate covered strawberries. I’ll probably upload some pictures of them later so you can be even more jealous.
Update: I added pictures of the chocolate strawberries and strawberry tarts below, prepare to be jealous.