NPS Photo User Group December 2011 Meeting

On 1st December 2011 we held our second NPS Photo User Group meeting, affectionately known as the PUG! Our first meeting in November was a great success with Jim Marks keeping the audience enthralled for well over two hours talking about his work, experiences and where he sees the future of photography.

The second meeting presented those who attended with a photography challenge, to reinterpret an image of Al Murray, aka The Pub Landlord.

Myself, Ben Potter and Chris Cook were on hand to explain the brief, offer guidance, ideas and assistance through the evening. The Flash Centre kindly provided Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX portable battery flash and Rosco Labs lighting correction and modification materials.

Once the group had warmed-up and began interacting and most important, asking questions and for help the yeas really started to flow.

We did help the group by showing them the extent of the retouching done to create the final image, by pointing out telltale signs, which I have highlighted in the overlay below.

The retouching has been highlighted in yellow. Even as a small image on screen the signs are there; look at the top of Al's head for the pale area between him and the background - more obvious signs and the fake catchlights in the jewelry and tie pin. Even the bar on which he appears to be leaning has been dropped in during post-production.

I'm pleased to say that a couple of the participants have submitted their reinterpreted images for a all to see.

Thanks to Nick & Bogusia Lightbody for this image. They lit the shot from camera left with one Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, modified with a Rotalux 70 cm Deep Octa soft box and balanced the shutter speed to give the shot background atmosphere from the ambient light. The glass in John's hand has been shot separately and dropped in during post-production. A good effort from what at first seemed a simple brief. Well done both.

The next image is from Nick Maddox, a regular visitor to both the PUG and other events and workshops we run. This is a straight shot, lit very much the same as Nick & Bogusia, but with John's head turned more to camera right. It looks as if Nick M has used a higher shutter speed as the ambient balance is not as bright.

Here Nick has dropped in both a glass and background in line with the reinterpretation brief. This is a cracking effort with excellent Photoshop skills - I suspect CS5 may have been used to extract John from the background! Nick has also replaced the glass and added some sparkle of his own. Again, another fine effort. Well done, Nick.

To end the evening, Ben & I did a quick and unscheduled lighting demo with the aid of 2 heads plugged into the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX pack. We wanted a more considered image of John to highlight his luxuriant beard and wonderful features. If some of you are wondering where you have seen John before, he's the guy that the Coca Cola Company use as a model to guide the artists for all the CGI images they use of Santa.

Santa wondering what those pesky elves are doing now?

We decided that we didn't want any local ambient light in the shot so I dialed my shutter up to 1/160 th second on a Canon 5D MkII. The lighting is pretty simple - one Quadra head to camera left with the Rotalux 70 cm Deep Octa soft box and to camera right a standard Quadra head and 21 cm /8 inch reflector with a couple of layers of Rosco Cinegel #3006 Tough Spun to take the edge off the bare 21 cm /8 inch reflector.

Rough sketch of our lighting for the shot of John after the event.
  1. John at the bar.
  2. Wall behind, roughly 4 or 5 feet away.
  3. Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX A head with 8 inch reflector and Rosco Spun.
  4. Ben with light on adapted paint roller pole.
  5. Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX A head with Rotalux 70 cm Deep Octa soft box
  6. Me with Canon 5D Mk II, 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series glass

Our thanks to Nick Lightbody for this "still life" of Ben & I at work!

Ben came in useful as a VAL - Voice Activated Light Stand to position the second light behind John to bring detail to his hair and separation from the background. I must point out that we were working in an open pub, where it would have been impractical to place a tripod lighting stand behind he busy bar on Health & Safety grounds.

Our thanks go to Lance and his staff at The Woolpack in Burgess Hill for a warm welcome every time. The Woolpack has now been adopted as our home base for the National Photographic Society PUG (Photo User Group) in West Sussex.

Another advantage of working with Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX flash is that they are battery powered and totally portable; so have the advantage of not trailing mains leads, or having to find a power outlet when you're in a hurry. And if you're in the UK, as they are not mains powered, you will not (as far as I know) need a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) Certificate for them.

This is our favorite frame from our quick 5 minute portrait of John. There is little post-production here, just the usual tweaks in ACR to process the RAW files.

What this space for news of a new series of lighting workshops for 2012 - not just flash, but lighting for photographers; we intend to show you how to light in all circumstances and give you the knowledge and confidence with daylight, flash and continuous lights. These workshops will start with the basics (including some theory) and build your experience, understanding and confidence in a wide variety of lighting challenges and scenarios.

Our thanks to The Flash Centre and Rosco Labs for their support.

If you wish to hire or buy any of the products mentioned here, contact Simon Burfoot at The Flash Centre and don't forget to mention the NPS PUG in Burgess Hill.

We all hope that you all had an enjoyable Christmas and wish you well and a successful 2012.


  1. Thanks for featuring my photos Ian. The evening was great fun and I’d highly recommend the PUG to anyone wanting to improve their photography, meet up with like minded people and have fun along the way. For the editing I used PS Elements – layers and a long time with the erase tool! See you at the next one. Nick M

  2. First, PUG groups are great. I've enjoyed speaking at a number of them.

    I appreciate the step by step of the creating the Christmas beer image. These demonstrations really help other photographers.



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