Between January 2000 and June 2008 I posted a large number of technique examples taken from my daily work to show how I used light in an era where digital cameras were pretty poor at ISOs over 800 or even 400 in the case of the venerable Kodak DCS520. These days flash is a creative choice rather than a technical necessity but the techniques still stand up.
One of the technique pages was entitled simply “Why we use lights” and it is an extreme example of just how much difference some judiciously used flash can make. Early Autumn on a Friday evening in the UK isn’t often a time when the best opportunities to shoot great pictures present themselves. This one, was a real exception.
The subject of the portrait runs an educational organisation that serves a coastal area near where I was born. I should know the area like the back of my hand but I don’t and when my subject suggested that we went up on top of the Isle of Portland (not an island at all, just a peninsula!) I thought that it would make a decent enough backdrop but that the view might be obscured by mist. The two pictures below were taken with different lenses but they were taken within a few seconds of each other and show just how much of a difference a bit of flash can make.
Back in 2008 when I “retired” these pages I wrote the following as a background to my philosophy regarding portable location lighting:
A lot of news photographers don’t think that they are allowed enough time to light pictures, so they rely on their hot shoe mounted flash or on moving their subject into the daylight. If your kit is lightweight and well planned, if it’s reliable and quick to assemble then you can light as much of your work as you want to. I tend to specialize in editorial portraiture, so that is the area of work that I’m going to talk about.
When I was writing these pages my basic kit was one Lumedyne 200 joule pack, one Signature head, two regular batteries, one stand, an umbrella, a Chimera softbox and a Pocket Wizard kit – all in one sling bag. Since May 2009 that all changed and the Lumedyne kit was replaced by an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra system. I still like the Lumedynes but the Elinchrom is a few percentage points better! In October 2003 I added an Umbrella Box to my kit in the hope of replacing two light modifiers with one, which has worked in some ways but I have to confess that I go through phases of using each of the light modifiers for a while and then switching.
In the years when I was a staff photographer and posting regular monthly galleries as well as technique and opinion pages my website was getting up to 20,000 unique visitors a month. Numbers have clearly dropped off now that new content hasn’t been added for three and a half years but I’m still amazed by the the fact that in one day last month the technique home page still got 996 unique visitors.
Some day, I am going to write a book – yeah, I know – we all say that… The backbone of that book will be an up-to-date explanation of the theory behind some the 60+ technique samples posted on the original dg28.com. In the meantime, be my guest – follow the link below to the old technique pages and have look around. Be warned: one very well known blogger claims to have lost an entire night’s sleep doing just that.