Part 2: From Three Flashes Outdoor to One Flash Outdoor
Having the combination of two bounce and one direct worked really well, but it was soon that I found out most of the cosplaying takes place outside the gym...orz
At first, I thought 'soo much work for nothing', but I soon found out that three flash actually gives me a good advantage.
It was summer noon in Taiwan, the sun is shining at its strongest strength. It was impossible to take pictures of cosplayers out in the field: the light was soo strong that cosplayers almost always face away from the sun, resulting in shadows that greatly constrasted the well-lit evnironment.
Using no flash, you either get underexposed cosplayer or overexposed background. (depending on how you meter)
It was all crazy except I figured that by using three flash, I can expose the background and the cosplayer equally by filling the shadows with light.
This is doable with one flash, but using three at different output means I can eliminate harsh shadows caused by single direct flash, and also I can have extra overall output and faster cycle time. The three flashes were set to be triggered wirelessly with the Nikon iTTL system. Their outputs each differs by 1/3 of a stop. (something like +1.0, +0.7, +0.3)
The results were, again, amazing.
bright sunlight shot. both cosplayer and background are well exposed.
late afternoon shot when sun was not as strong.
other pics taken during the same con with three flashes:
The results were indeed nice, but there was one problem:
all of the pictures look the same; there was no variety!!!
That really troubled me.
Two days, total of around seven straight hours of shooting each day (yes, I take almost no breaks) with a five kilogram camera, almost a thousand pictures (only about five hundred after sorting), and they all had similar lighting!
So on the second day, before people started leaving, I decided to try something new. I broke my formula, and used no flash. (It was also because I was taking a close-up shot, and did not want to distress the cosplayer)
Can you see the difference?
Better light gradient, better skintone, no weird flash reflections!
This got me thinking.... and I decided that during the next con, I would try to use as little flash as possible.
The question comes again. In certain situations, such as under the bright sunlight, how can you use minimal flash, to recover shadow details while making it as natural as possible?
The answer was off camera flash.
Here I have to thank two friends who helped me carry the off camera flash unit to make this possible.
Me at Comic World Taiwan 13. August 13, 2006. National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Nikon D2Xs + Tamron XR Di 28-75mm F/2.8D + Nikon SB-800 Connected by SB-28 Sync Cord
Photo taken by a friend who captioned this photo in his blog as "I want a personal lighting assistant as MOE as this one! XD"
Using an off-camera flash is quite troublesome but fun at the same time.
If used correctly, it produces amazing effects. But if used incorrectly, weird shadows would pop out from unwanted places.
bad angle for off-camera flash. huge shadow generated in the background and the body of the cosplayer.
Now, this was a fun one. It was taken under the entrance of a building. The cosplayer herself was in complete shadow, direct flash would create shadow in the background, and bouncing off the cieling would lit up the chaotic background of a bunch of random cosplayers resting. So what we did was use a reflector to reflect sun light onto her, and use two flashes to shine her up directly from the bottom. So even if the direct flash generates any shadow, it would be above the cosplayer onto the cieling, which is out of the frame
With this combination, we have a well-lit cosplayer, and an almost completely dark background.
More to come. Next chapter will talk about me starting to use natural lighting, and achieve more pleasing pictures than the flashed ones.
A preview of natural lighting picture: