One of the beauties of going on a long trip is that unforseen opportunities will present themselves. Today we’ll take a look at the first to
fall victim be lucky enough to be immortalized by my camera after we arrived in Indonesia.
We got there just a few days before the celebration av Eid and one of my wife’s sisters was busy making family uniforms for us to wear. She has studied to become a tailor and when I saw her sitting at her old fashioned sewing machine I just knew that I wanted to shoot her like that. I really enjoy doing environmental portraits but don’t often get any chances, so of course I had to go for it.
The only real problem with this shot was that I didn’t like the background, seeing how it was a rather boring yellow colour. You can’t tell as much in the final shot because of the way I edited it; I usually desaturate my shots a bit because I like the pale look and this time I went extra hard on the yellows. In order to minimize the impact of the background I wanted to bring the ambient light down until it was a bit underexposed. There was quite a lot of ambient light bouncing around in the scene so I could have easily shot it without any flash. However, that would have resulted in a rather flat image and the background would have gotten too much attention. By adding my own light I could get a lot more contrast and shape going.
Even though I wanted to shape the light myself, the scene was such that I still wanted it to look natural and not very obviously lit. So, can you find the flashes I used? There are two of them and there are hints in the images that should help you find them. The first flash (LP160, as always) is outside the window, standing on the roof, thanks to my little gorilla pod. You can see the cable I used to sync it disappearing through the window. Most of the light on the curtain is actually from the sun and the only thing the flash does is to provide additional light from the same direction as the sun. Why not use just the sun then? Because of the reasons I just discussed; the sun is coming in from other places as well and is bouncing around all over the place while I can control exactly what the flash is hitting, thus controlling the ambient level and contrast in the scene. The flash was also equipped with a softbox. The reason for placing the flash where I did was to keep the light looking natural; the eye has no trouble at all accepting that the light on the subject’s face is coming from the sun lit window.
The second flash was used to separate the subject from the background in order to get more depth and shape in the scene. It provides the rim light you see on her hair and chin and also provides extra shape for the sewing machine, which is especially evident on the spool of thread at the top. The flash was standing on the table behind the subject but I still think it manages to look natural while adding a nice touch. It’s conceivable that the light might have come from a window on the wall at the back and there actually was a window there, just out of frame to the right. You can see that the wall is getting brighter toward the right hand side of the frame and that’s because of the window there, which also helps making the rim light feel more natural, a lucky coincidence.
By the way, if you’re wondering why I have two almost identical images it’s because I couldn’t decide which one was better. I think I like the first one…but then I think I like the second one…I don’t know, what do you guys think?
Overall I’m definitely happy with these shots, I can’t even find as much to critique myself on as I usually do. I set out to create a natural looking portrait with an edge and I think I accomplished that. With a third flash I could perhaps have experimented with some fill light to bring out more details in the subject but at the same time I like the contrast.
Happy shooting until next time.