Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Worldwide Photo Walk Brighton 1st October 2011

Once again Worldwide Photo Walk is nearly upon us and dare I say (fingers and limbs crossed) that the weather is looking pretty good for October! So please don't forget something to drink, sun screen and a hat. Those of you with experience of English weather may also want to bring waterproofs;-)

We meet at the bus stop by the Royal Albion Hotel as it's less crowded than in front of Brighton Pier.

Google Maps

Hotel Website

The bus stop is to your right of the front of the hotel, as if your were walking in.

Some of you may choose to drive to Brighton. The car park we recommend is London Road/Providence Place as it's reasonably secure and rarely gets busy. It is also close to the finish of the walk.

I have prepared a PDF file for you to download and print with information about the walk.

Do come prepared to create a whole load of images as there are a lot of photo-opportunites in store for you, starting with the Brighton Breeze VW Spilt Screen Camper Run on Madeira Drive.

Info here and here

We then move on to what for some is a compulsory stop on the Brighton tourist trail, the Royal Pavilion.

Info here

We intend to do a "quick" group shot with the Royal Pavilion as a backdrop. Is there such a thing as a quick group shot of 50 people, especially photographers?

Then onto the Fun Fair - this will present a different set of photographic opportunities and challenges. We will be around to help out, offer advice and tips or in some cases hinder.

At 5:00 PM there will be a Chimping Competition - for those of you not familiar with Chimping, more info here. The judging process for the Chimping Competition is very straightforward - you choose what you consider to be your best image from the day and display it on your LCD screen. Sorry film photographers, you'll fog your film beyond use if you take part:) We, Ben, myself and possibly Chris then look and the images and decide on a favourite. Our decision is final and correspondence will not be entered into. Judging may be swayed by means of bribes including booze, brown envelopes stuffed with crisp clean notes, preferably sterling and non-sequential numbers or other suitable means.

You will need to keep your eyes open on Saturday and look for images - I call this thinking with your eyes. To add another dimension to the event we are going to include 2 or 3 optional Fotothon style clues for you to interpret and get the grey matter functioning. In view of this, you may want to download and print a few of these - just in case!

There will be mystery prizes during the day.

Do feel free to hang around after the official close of the walk as there will be many more photo-opportunities. We may even venture back to the beach and Brighton Pier to create some slow shutter speed in camera SFX - click here for images from workshop Ben & led a couple of weeks back to give you an idea of what you could achieve.

Suggested Kit List
Remember, you are the one who is going to carry it, no Sherpas here! Ben and I will have our own kit to carry.

Note book and pen/pencil etc - useful for recording thing your camera metadata does not.
Camera & lenses* - any camera, including film.
Memory - loads - data backed up and formatted in the camera being used
Batteries - freshly charged
Tripod for low-light shots at the Fun Fair
Hot shoe flash or Speedlite and bits - may be useful for one of the Fotothon style clues we will give you. Can't say more.

* As many or few as you want. Zoom glass will always be more versatile than primes, but primes are lighter and generally better quality than kit zooms. Don't do what some have done in the past and have so many lenses that you miss shots because you can't decide the best lens - the best lens for any shot is the one on the camera at the time.

And remember, this walk is about creating some stunning and memorable images, having some fun along the way and meeting like-minded photographers - as far as we know any romances started on the WWPW have been kept under wraps.

Please do not forget to upload your images to the Brighton Worldwide Photo Walk page for us to select the one image which is put forward into the BIG prize competition.

That's it for now. No images, in this blog. Let's see what you can come with on Saturday and I may even feature a few in this blog sometime soon.

We're getting all excited about Saturday because it's about having fun - and this of you who know Ben & I will know what I mean:-)



Friday, 16 September 2011

Flirting With Flash - Gemma

On Wednesday 14th September 2011, Ben & I presented a short low-light workshop of the Brighton Photographers Meet Up Group on Brighton beach. They are a great group with loads of enthusiasm, fun and a desire to learn.

There is talent in this group as the gallery images show. I'm always pleased to see great images produced during a workshop and the satisfaction gained.

At the end of the evening Ben & I shot a wee demo showing the group how to combine off-camera flash with the ambient low-light. Carina, one of the group organisers very kindly 'persuaded' a friend or a friend, Gemma to help us out.

Flirting with Flash - Gemma
A step-by-step guide to lighting with off-camera flash

 Click on images to view larger
Simple - a glamorous lady, in a stunning dress using the bright lights of Brighton as our backdrop.

Kit used
Canon 5D Mk II, 100 - 400 mm f4.5/5.6 L IS
1 x Canon 580 EX II Speedlite
1 x Frio Cold Shoe
Yong Nuo RF602 Radio Triggers
Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe 54 x 54 cm


1. Too dark.  1/60th, f5.6, 320 ISO, WB daylight. Manual exposure.

2. That's better. More detail coming through. Open the shutter 2 stops more, 1/15th, f5.6, 320 ISO, WB daylight.

 3. Add in the flash, which is a bit over exposed or hot. Flash at 1/8th power. Manual. Sorry Gemma;-)

4. The Big Close Up (BCU). Now, that's better. Flash power reduced by 2/3rd stop to 1/16 + 1/3rd. Working outside with no reflective surfacesclose by shows you the true light from your flash or modifier. Close to your model a very flattering light.

Remember that as you move the light further away the smaller it becomes in relation to your model. As you move the flash further away, the output is effectively reduced and the shadows have a harder edge. Working close means you can use lower power settings and a wider aperture for greater control over how the background looks.

When working with flash and ambient light you are lightinging planes with the shutter controling the ambient light plane and the aperture the flash or foreground plane in this case. I could have closed down the aperture to control the flash but wanted to maintain the look of the background so instead adjusted the flash power output.

5. The Long Shot (LS). Notice how the light is brighter at the top of the image. Remember that this softbox is only 20 inches square. For more even illumination for a full length shot we'd need bigger light or even a second smaller light. The bigger light was not practical as there were a few knots of wind blowing!

6. The Wide Shot (WS) or General View (GV). Here you can see the whole set-up. I try and work with at least an assistant where practical. In this case Ben Potter who is a very able photographer acting as my VAL or Voice Activated Lightstand. VALs have many advantages over conventional light stands:
  • They can carry your bags.
  • They keep an eye on your gear whre not otherwise distracted.
  • They will tell you when you have your lens cap on.
  • They communicate with the talent and abuse them as you're too far away 'cos you've decided that a 100- 400 is the best glass for this shot and you've left the walkie-talkie at the studio - true!
  • They hold the light in a (vaguely) constant position and move when the model moves. Remember we are working manual exposure here so no eTTL or iTTL to compensate for any changes in flash-to-subject distance.
  • With any luck they'll notice things you don't as you're to concerned about keeping the image sharp and in focus.
Key to the GV above:
  1. Voice Activated Lightstand.
  2.  Paint Roller from DIY store, much cheaper than a boom pole made for photographers and just as good. I have a special adaptor that I designed to adapt the pole to the industry standard 5/8th inch/16mm spigot.
  3. Canon 580 EX II Speedlite in Manual mode, with the zoom set to 24mm, held onto Lastolite bracket by a Frio Cold Shoe. The most valuable piece of blue plastic you will ever buy. They prevent your (expensive) Speedlite from falling out of the manufacturers crappy badly designed excuse for a fitting.
  4. Lastolite Ezybox 54 x 54 cm collapsible softbox. More directional and therefore controlable than a translucent shoot-through brolly which would spread the light too much for this shot.
  5. Giottos carbon fibre tripod. Even though I was using the lens Image Stabiliser, the guarantee and sharp image and take the load from my arm I rested my elbow on the tripod head. This is a great tip where you need stability and mobility.
  6. Idiot Photo Bomber - we didn't see this until I started processing the images. Not a lot you can do but tolerate the idiotic sense of fun:-)
 7. The Medium Long Shot (MLS). Notice how the position of the light give soft modelling/shadows to the shot and falls away making the lower part of the frame darker leading your eye to, and placing emphasis on Gemma's face.

 8. The Head Shot (HS). The light here is just off to camera right (stage left), top in front of Gemma giving wonderful soft light with just the right amount of flattering modelling.

 9. A shot from earlier in the session. Light to camera left (stage right). As I moved closer to Gemma the out of focus background became more pronounced. Even though I chose to use zoom glass for these shots, I will leave the zoom (generally) at one focal length and move away or closer as if I'm using a prime lens. Here the focal length was close to 400 mm on full frame and about 6.5 metres away, or 21 feet if you prefer;-)

I will be leading a variety of independent lighting workshops over the next few months. What this space or follow me on Twitter or facebook for updates.

All the products mentioned here are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot by email to place your order.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Diffusing Flash and Speedlites

I think that many stills photographers limit their creativity by only using translucent white umbrellas or soft boxes as a means of diffusing their studio flash or Speedlites. Cinematographers and video professionals have been modifying and diffusing their hard often hot incandescent or tungsten light sources for decades with the aid of no more than simple diffusion materials.

The advantage of working with Rosco Cinegel diffusion materials is the ability to control the apparent size of your light source in relation to your subject modify how the shadows look.

Shown here are just five of the many and varied diffusion materials from the Rosco Cinegel range.

CONTROL - Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head without diffusion

When looking at the following images look carefully at the density of the shadow behind Fred and also the hardness or softness of the shadow edge. The quality of the light on the face and shadows will also change. Click on the images to view larger.

 # 3007 Light Tough Spun

Spun diffusion materials give a feathering effect to the light beam with minimal beam spread.

# 3008  Tough Frost

Frost difusion materials give a more diffused effect with moderate beam spread.

 #3011 Tough Silk

Silk diffusion materials give directional diffusion and may be used with Rosco Photofoil or Cinefoil to create slashes or streaks of light. Notice the unidirectional lines in the material.

#3032 Light Grid Cloth

Grid cloth diffusion materials give dense diffusion with a wid ebeam spread and equate to the material used in soft boxes and translucent umbrellas for stills flash photography.

 #3030 Grid Cloth

Just about all Rosco diffusion materials are available in differing densities allowing you to fine adjust the look and feel of your images. For those of you wanting to experiment with the materials Rosco supply a pack of 10" x 12" mixed sheets. The materials are also available as 20" x 24" cut sheets and 48" wide rolls.

I use #3030 and #3032 Grid Cloths as a means of creating a broad soft light source where others would use a cheap shower curtain. The materials are very colour stable so do not discolour or fade over time. By placing one or two flash heads or Speedlites about 3 feet behind a large sheet of Grid Cloth I can emulate the look of broad diffused light as if coming in through a window on a cloudy day.

Lighting Notes:
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head with standard reflector.
Gel frame approximately 8 inches from light source.
Light 4 feet from Fred, at 30 inches above eye level to camera lef, roughly 45 degrees.

Watch this space and I will publish some worked examples with BTS images and lighting design diagrams sometime soon.

All the products mentioned here are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot by email to place your order

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Flirting with 02, 302 & 3420 - Creating Mood with Rosco Gels & Canon Speedlites

Back in June I was honoured to be asked to present a live Speedliting off-camera flash demo at the inaugural Central London SMUG.

What follows is a step-by-step walk-through of the creation of "Flirting with 02, 302 & 3420" - the lighting geeks among us will recognise the numbers as Rosco Cinegel references - flirting, well I do wonder what was going on between Alexandra my actress friend and the guy in the foreground!

Flirting with 02, 302 & 3420

The idea behind this image was to create the mood of a restaurant candle-lit meal without the benefit of a candle in the shot.

Kit used
Canon 50D, 50 mm f1.4
2 x Canon 550 EX Speedlites
Manfrotto Nano stand 5001B
Manfrotto 175 Justin Clamp
2 x Manfrotto 026 Umbrella Adaptor
2 x Frio Cold Shoe
Yong Nuo RF602 Radio Triggers
2 x Gel Clip
6 mm Honeycomb Grid
Rosco Photofoil
Rosco #02 Bastard Amber Cinegel
Rosco #302 Pale Bastard Amber Cinegel
Rosco #3420 Double CTO Cinegel

 1. Camera AV mode, aperture priority f2, 1/25th, ISO 320, WB daylight, RAW & JPEG.

2. Camera to M mode, manual f2.8, 1/60th, ISO 320 - ambient exposure dialled down to create background mood.
3. First flash added using settings above. Power approximately 1/64th, flash tube zoomed to 105 mm. Light was aimed to shoot through the wine bottle and glass to create the break-up effect on Alexandra's left arm.

4. Camera & flash settings unchanged. Gel Cip with Rosco #02 Bastard Amber & #302 Pale Bastard Amber Cinegel to give warmth simulating candle light. Honeycomb grid to create beam to flash. Remember that anything the is not perfectly clear that is placed in front of your flash will reduce the output. In this case the reduction in light output has contributed to the mood in the image.

5. The romantic mood of the image was spoiled by the background voyeurs! Separation from the background has added depth to the image and lifted the foreground ever so slightly. The accent/separation light was attached to the bar just out of shot with the Manfrotto 175 Justin Clamp. This was another Canon 550EX at 128th power roughly 2 - 3 meters from Alexandra. Didn't need oodles of power as it being used direct without bounce, just gel. Colour was added with a single layer of Rosco #3420 Double CTO (Color Temperature Orange) Cinegel and snooted with a double layer of  Rosco Photofoil formed into a vertical slot snoot approximately 1 inch wide by 4 inches high - this controlled the spill of light giving the accent on Alexandra's hair and on the left of the guy in the foreground.

The image above is as the RAW file came out of the camera without any Tweeks in ACR or post-production.

6. The final image with ACR adjustments and the distracting window in the background retouched by Ben Potter.

7. Lighting design.

A relatively simple shot to create using simple gear. I have variations on this shot which I'll post in future.



All the products mentioned here are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot by email to place your order