Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

This year’s winter hasn’t been anywhere near as cold and white as the previous two, though that isn’t really saying much, seeing how insane they were. Anyways, we finally got our first blizzard so time to do some shooting.

This was definitely the worst weather I’ve exposed my poor camera to but apart from some minor mishaps, all the gear performed admirably. Let me set the tone for you; the sky was an even grey as far as they eye could see. In the howling wind the snow fell thick and in a rapid pace covered the ground with its white shroud. It was the worst possible conditions but the girls were adamant, they wanted to play in the snow. I debated with myself; should I take the camera out or not? There would be no use bringing just the camera – snapshots was of no interest to me – no, I would have to bring some light out there in the storm as well. Finally I gave in and decided to brave the elements.

I would have to keep things simple, using the bare minimum of equipment. I stuck a light on my sturdiest stand and got everything ready, aiming for the quickest possible setup time once we got out there. A second flash went on my camera, it would be used to trigger my main light by means of the optical slave, this was no time to fiddle around with cables, I needed to keep my movements free. Everything ready, camera around my neck, light stand in one hand and a folded softbox in the other, deep breath – here we go.

PortraitThe moment the door flung open a fierce wind slapped me in the face, sank its teeth into my flesh and obscured my vision with a swirling, white vortex. It was worse than I had thought but luckily the trek to the shooting location was short and, even luckier, somewhat sheltered by some trees. Working quickly, I set up the stand and mounted the softbox, which immediately started turning white. I had already taken some test shots through the window so my camera was set and ready to go, the only remaining question mark was that of flash power and position. A test shot should confirm that I was in the right ball park, just remember the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. This was no time for fancy setups; a single light to pull out my subject should be enough – it turned out I hardly even needed that.

Suddenly she stood before me, seemingly unperturbed by nature’s rage around here, tall and proud, head held high in the wind – my subject, the arctic queen. I began pressing the shutter, my vision was blurry from the snow, I heard the click and looked at the back of the camera, I could barely see the screen. The light looked good though, ratios about right, no real time to make any changes, I had to keep shooting. Then I saw the beauty in my viewfinder stretch out her hand and I wondered what she was doing. I looked up just in time to see the light stand come crashing down, pushed by the persistent wind. Rushing over, I did a quick check and everything seemed to be in working order, the snow broke the fall. Put it up again, don’t want to keep my subject waiting, try to stabilize it a bit better. It’s a good thing I got that softbox, an umbrella wouldn’t have lasted long out there. Keep shooting.

A short while later the light stand fell again but I pressed on and through perseverance I eventually had the last frame safely stored in the camera. I still didn’t quite know what results I had, the snow had all but blinded me completely, but one thing was sure: I would never forget this meeting with the arctic queen.

PortraitOk, story time is over, hope you enjoyed it. Quick recap: LP160 with 1/4 CTO gel in a lastolite ezybox (54 cm) to camera right. I’m pretty happy with these shots and they’re more in line with the kind of stuff I want to shoot, minus the blizzard. Studio type shoots can of course be fun as well but being on location like this is far more interesting. As always there is room for improvements. First of all I think this could have benefited from being shot in raw format. The reason I don’t shoot raw is mainly that the D3000 I’m using is rather slow and I don’t like the delay I get from shooting a bigger format like that. However, here it would have given me a lot more flexibility in changing the white balance after the actual shot. Snow is a tricky subject and can easily trick the camera. I shot these with a white balance that rendered the snow rather blue. In my defence it was more or less intentional, I thought it would look cool, but I didn’t really like the results all that much. Something good still came from it though. The fact that the snow was a bit blue let me desaturate it more or less independently of the rest of the scene (by just playing around with the blue channel), which gave me a nice effect – I know all photoshop wizards out there can do that anyway but editing isn’t exactly my strong suit, so any help i appreciated. My initial plan was to go for a natural look but the botched white balance wasn’t helping. Still, I’m happy with the edit I came up with in the end, I like the tones and it almost has a painterly feel to it.

Other things than white balance that could be improved? As always, more time to actually experiment with different light ratios, though the prospect of staying out for very long in that weather wasn’t really appealing to me. I would also have liked a more epic background, I’m thinking a wide stretched valley with mountains on the horizon, that would have been awesome. Some bigger snow flakes would also have been nice. I also find the tree to the right to be a bit distracting, so maybe if I had brought an axe…hard to do anything about those aspects but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

A bit long and different post today. As always, be sure to check out the full size versions of the pictures, they definitely look better that way. Happy shooting until next time.


Portrait Portrait Portrait


3 Responses to “My meeting with an arctic queen”

  1. disperser

    Very nice. I like the look of the final result.

    I don’t know if the 3100 allows it, but you might be able to set a custom white balance for the snow. I find that tends to give me shots more along the lines of what my eyes see.

    Snow is the one custom white balance I always have. I do shoot raw, and I still prefer to shoot a proper WB when shooting snow. I get better results.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. My camera (D3000) does allow me to set a custom white balance and, as you say, doing so would porbably have been a good idea. And I agree, you should still try to get everything right in camera, to the extent that it’s possible. I’ll take the plunge to start shooting raw sooner or later, I just really want a faster and more powerful camera before doing so. You don’t happen to have an urge to donate your D7000? :p


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