MVI: Q 'n A

UPDATE: Not meaning to confuse, and judging from the comments, I certainly did: Not really talking about the absolute number of comments, but rather the relative number on different types of posts.

Without any true metric to understand how posts on Strobist are received, I sometimes revert to judging by the number of comments received on a particular entry.

Going by the (relative) numbers on different types of posts, this can be a little disconcerting.


Full, On-Assignment-style Monteverde Institute post: 24 comments.
Flippant, snarky Annie / Sean Connery video repost: 107 comments.

If I went straight by the numbers, it would be no better than those city mags that track rack sales to the point where every issue eventually morphs into some variation of, "50 Top Doctors!"

But against those raw comment numbers you have to consider relative quality of the comments, and those from the MVI post included some pretty good questions. So that helps to balance things out.

Hit the jump for some selected Q's (and, to the best of my ability, the A's) from the MVI post comments...

Q and A

Leading off, from Anonymous:

How do you make the flash fill so balanced? This picture is so natural that I have hard time to reverse engineer the light.


That's mostly because I am going so tight on the flash/ambient ratios. If you think about it, I am not so much lighting as compressing the contrast range of the photo.

If I had brought the ambient light way down, the lit area would be more obvious. But if you expose the photo in such a way that the exposure is built on making the ambient look just a little more saturated, you can build the subject back up with strobe without making the photo look obviously lit.

In an ambient-light-only photo, I would have to choose between a properly exposed Dan and properly exposed surroundings. If I exposed for Dan, the backlit surroundings would be too bright. So all the light is really doing is allowing me to compress both Dan and environment together into one lush exposure.

It looks natural because it takes a scene with a little too much tonal range in it and compresses it down to the way your eye normally sees it. In that way, it probably looks more "available light" than it would have if I only shot it with available light.

Joe asks...

I'm starting Lighting 102 but am up to speed with all your new posts. I haven't bought any light modifiers yet, but my question is--should I skip the umbrella and just get the Lumiquest Softbox III? It seems to be a better choice in terms of portability and ease of use.


Apples and oranges. They give off very different kinds of light. I would recommend a shoot-through umbrella as your first light modifier. It is very versatile.

Honestly, I used an SB-III here because of the wind as much as anything else.

JeK68 asks...

I was also tempted to get the Justin clamps for similar situations, but ended up with the Manfrotto (Bogen) 171 and a mini-ball head attached on a short stud. The 171 is more secure and can be more packable imho.


True, but the 175F Justin clamp will secure a flash to far more mounting surfaces, including larger and/or irregular things.

Rob asks...

You like those Justin clamps more then the Bogen Super Clamps?


Increasingly, yes. But they are very different animals. Super Clamps are bigger, stronger and work better for things like camera remotes, to be sure. You can also turn a pair of light stands into a background support with a pair of Super Clamps.

But the 175F "Justin" clamp is nice and light and mates a flash -- and any angle -- to a variety of surfaces better than anything I have seen. It is not as compact as a Super Clamp, but it is lighter.

Dave Kee asks...

Did you consider using on-axis fill?


Yeah, but (a) I thought it would look a little unnatural in that environment and (b) I was fresh out of lights (except for the pop up, I guess, but I would have wanted a ring there). So I would have had to kill the camera right rim for any O-A fill.

I had Dan crosslit pretty well, so there were really no deep, dark areas that I would need on-axis fill to fix. And again, I wasn't too far above the ambient. So nothing was gonna be really dark on Dan even if the flash did not hit it.

Alfred asks...

This is the second time you have confused me by saying, "By cranking my shutter speed down I can drop the environment and make Dan the star."

I do know what you want to say, but is it not true that if you crank your shutter speed down you are effectively slowing the time and the exposure for the environment would be raised?
 To me turnng speed down means slowing down.


If you are thinking of shutter as a whole number on a dial, sure. But I think of shutter and aperture not as absolute numbers but rather as control valves for light.

Which valve I use depends on which kind of light (ambient or flash) I am trying to kill. So to me, "cranking down" (or closing down) shutter or aperture means closing off the light that is getting through.

Conversely, opening up allows more of a particular kind of light to get in. Unless I am in some kind of trouble (subject motion because of too slow a shutter, for instance) I really do not pay attention to the actual numbers very much.

So, when someone asks me what shutter and aperture I used for some photo, I usually have no idea exactly where I was. It is just that I don't really pay that much attention to the absolute numbers.

Kevin asks...

I see you are getting away from the umbrellas for the softboxs. Could you expand that a little and I don't see any pocket wizards, are you using CLS?


I still use umbrellas, it is just that I do not normally default to them.

As for synch, I PW'd the camera right rim light because it was firing right at my key light, which was slaved on SU-4 mode. And the key light easily set off my "tree" back light, which was also slaved on SU-4 mode. All strobes were on manual, as was the camera.

That's why I only took a pair of PWs. I shoot like that a lot.

KatieMac asks...

My favorite is how you clamped and hung your gear all over the "No Trespassing" sign. I hope that meant for others, not from the Institute! Beautiful lighting, wonderful that Dan doesn't look to be "artificially" lit.

Question: did you gel the flashes to even the color temperature with the ambient light, or correct them in post? and BTW, what color is the daylight in the tropics under the trees?


We were on MVI property -- that sign was at the edge of the property and meant to deter others.

As for your color temperature question, there is a lot of green bouncing around in there -- filtered by the leaves, bouncing off of the ground -- it all greens up.

But when I underexpose the ambient just a little, it minimizes the green bounce/fill. So when I build light back up on Dan with strobes, it all looks fine.

I was on Daylight balance for all of this, with a 1/4 CTO on the key. So flash was just fine, and ambient-lit areas were coolish green and lush. That sets the tone of the photo without turning Dan into a martian.

Mario asks...

Any chance we could get one of those setup drawings for this shot? It piques my interest that I don´t see any wizards on the strobes. It'd be interesting to see where they were and if you found any serious obstacles for the strobe controls, as you often do in these forest settings.


See above on the PWs. And here you go for the diagram, in special edition Costa Rica green:


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