We took a trip to visit my dad so he could see his granddaughter, though the whole thing was of course only a cover in order for me to shoot some portraits with new subjects.
This trip was also something of an extended field test for my recently acquired Lastolite triflip; I used the triflip in all the shots I took, one way or the other, and learned more of what can be done with it and what kind of light it produces. I did bring an umbrella as well that got used in one shot but that was only because I couldn’t get the triflip in the right position since I didn’t have a small giant with me to hold it for me (the umbrella was on a small stand that I brought because I pretty much knew that was going to happen). Other than that is was the triflip all the way.
The reason I limited myself to one light modifier was that I’m always looking for ways to be more portable in order to be able to travel with minimum gear that will still get me good results. For that purpose the triflip is a really great fit, it’s probably the best traveling companion I’ve found so far and it will come with me whenever I think there might be an opportunity to round up a model or two. So, let’s see what this modifier can do.
First of all, check out the large version of the shot above so you can see how the light works with the subject’s, in this case my dad’s, face. Ever since we decided to visit my dad I’ve been wanting to try this light on him and, I have to say, it turned out to be the perfect light for his face. What we have here is a trigrip just out of frame and at a pretty flat angle, not entirely horizontal, maybe a 30 degree tilt or so. The flash is a LP160 with some CTO gel on it. Because the trigrip is a fairly big light source the light has a soft quality to it. At the same time the angle means we’ll get a bit of an attitude from our soft light, a toughness to it, if you will (notice the shadows above the eyes). I love the way it brings out all the lines in his face, it feels just right for him.
I had been hoping to shoot this at sunset but, if you look at the sky, that just wasn’t going to happen. Luckily I decided to shoot when I did because a bit later the rain was pouring down. The weather and time when it was shot meant that the background is a bit flatter than I would have wanted but I guess it’s still better than not getting the shot at all. The ambient is underexposed a bit and I’ve taken down the sky even more in post to give it more drama – a washed out grey is not the best background to work with.
Another thing that could have been improved is the composition, in particular I would have liked to include more of the car by having it a bit farther back. However, I didn’t want to move too far back myself since I was trying to avoid the trees to the left (there’s also a house just out of frame there) and some flowers that were cluttering up the foreground to the right. The option to back the car out into the field wasn’t really on the table. Overall this is a shot I’m very happy with though and it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to shoot – real people with a story to tell.
We tried a few other things as well and got this second shot with a more dramatic look. The first one is still my favourite because it focuses on the character of the subject while letting the rest of the scene take a back seat (see what I did there?), but this shot also works. The trigrip is still acting as key light and you can even see the VAL holding it up in the reflection of the car. I also threw in a rim light that adds just a touch more drama. There wasn’t a good place to put the rim light and I didn’t have any more stands so it’s very close to the ground and barely making its way over the car.
I have another couple of shots that I want to show you from this trip but we’ll take one at the time. The conclusion of this first part is that a trigrip (or triflip) is a good investment if you like to travel at all with your gear. It certainly didn’t disappoint and in this instance it gave me the perfect light to match my subject. That’s an important, and very difficult, lesson to learn. Not every face can handle every kind of light. For instance, I wouldn’t light my wife like this, she needs a different kind of light. Different doesn’t always mean a different modifier either – by changing the position of the light you can completely change the character of it as it hits your subject. More on that at another time.