Shoot the Bloggers: Sian Meades

While I was planning for last month's UK trip, I crowdsourced ideas for subjects for my Shoot the Bloggers* (Hey, it's a Start) project. Reader Nick Jones suggested Sian Meades, pictured above.

Who was I to object?

So that necessitated a little side trip to Greenwich, for a quickie Prime Meridian shoot…

Sian (or "Siany," as she is known to her friends) founded and edits the blog Domestic Sluttery. Which, I might add, is probably not about what you think despite the wonderful name. Okay maybe it is, depending on what you are thinking.

On our shoot day it was hazy sun, and we were mid afternoon. Oh, joy. Given that, my first thought is to control my plentiful-but-crappy ambient. So we shot several setups in a portico leading into the Greenwich Market. Shade is your friend.

My favorite of the bunch was the B&W seen up top. And even though we were in the shade, I wanted something with a sunny edge (i.e., hard light) as if taken in the nicer light of late afternoon.

And by controlling the contrast range, I could create a file that would allow me to crank up tonal range a little more when converting the color photo to a B&W with a blown-out look. But I would still keep detail everywhere.

More and more, I am liking hard light with a controlled tonal range. I think it gives me the best of both worlds -- lighting that highlights the individuality of peoples' faces, but with controlled shadow depths that keeps it legible and flattering.

I used what is quickly becoming my go-to combo for people -- a LumiQuest SB-III as a key with an Orbis ring fill.

The duo gives me both edge and control. At ~6 feet away (in this case, from hard camera left and up a little bit) the SB-III is downright hard. Used in close it can be both soft and sculpty, if "sculpty" is a word, which my text editor is telling me it is not.

Here, we are probably 3-4 stops over the ambient (made easier by the deep shade) so this one is pretty much all flash. The key is exposed correctly, with the ring fill coming in at ~1.5 stops below. Edgy, but detail everywhere.

Here, you can see the relative angles and distances. Siany, who shot this pic during her frequent tweeting sessions with her iPhone between shoots, would have been at camera right in this shot. The ring axis points to her location, right about on the right edge of the frame. (She was against that wall.)

I, on the other hand, am apparently trying to figure out how to adjust the height of a compact light stand -- totally exuding that "room temperature IQ" vibe. Confidence inspiring, ain't it?

But it does give you a look at our environment, and how we are totally recasting the ugly light to get the look we want. Little bit of gear, lot of control -- and we were, after all, lighting and shooting in the greater London area without any kind permit whatsoever. I have no idea what you Brits are complaining about. Piece o' cake.

Siany being a blogger, she of course wrote about the experience of being shot and included some extra photos. They must've gone well, as she got propositioned in the comments.

That's good, right? Still hasn't happened to me yet.

Serendipity FTW

As it turns out, our shoot was mere yards from a place where my friend Drew Gardner had insisted I visit when in London -- the Old Royal Naval College.

In particular, he said to visit the Painted Hall and it certainly did not disappoint. Remarkably, I was pulling a ThinkTank roller (with my camera and lighting gear inside) and plopped it down right in the hall and proceeded to make photos with my Canon G11.

I would have thought the unattended bags would have brought out at least a bomb disposal robot and a water canon. Guess I do not look lean and hungry enough to be a terrorist -- not even in London, the photography paranoia capital of the world.


* Shoot the Bloggers is an ongoing project featuring portraits of my fellow bloggers.

Why? Because a) they are interesting people, b) no one else is doing it, and c) some of them will actually sit for me. You can see more STB portraits here and here.


Next: Guitarist Mark Edwards


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Blogger seri_art said...

Love the result of that setup. I have an SB-III I've used hand-held in my left hand (high) with the camera (Canon XSi) in my right hand using the pop-up flash for fill. Sometimes I've gotten results near yours and sometimes the result has been harsh. Maybe I need to somehow diffuse/widen the pop-up flash?

June 18, 2010 10:45 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Dying to know what "domestic sluttery" is, but your link appears to be broken. And of course, as always, treasure your wonderful blog!

June 18, 2010 11:16 AM  
Blogger said...

Just wanted to inform you that the link to Sian Meades' blog is not working. I guess you just missed the ".com". So here is the correct address:

June 18, 2010 11:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Sorry for the bad link! Thanks for the heads-up, tho.


June 18, 2010 12:11 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

How triggered? CLS or PW? Signed up for and looking forward to the Portland gig!

June 18, 2010 2:16 PM  
Blogger info said...

So close to Italy, yet you still didn't come =_=
you will be in Italy some day, Mr. Hobby. Don't make me come to the USA and drag you here...

June 18, 2010 3:13 PM  
Blogger David said...


I PW'd one flash and slaved the other (SU-4 mode).


I am definitely coming to Italy. It is a little complicated, tho, as I have to sked for the whole family. There is no way I can sneak away to Italy without them. They'd kill me.

June 18, 2010 5:59 PM  
Blogger Graham & Graham Photography said...

David, my favorite shot of her was on her blog, with the smiling face!
Quick question, one of those either or's that you probably hate--the LumiQuest softbox vs. the Honl softbox? Why is the LumiQuest your go-to softbox--because it's bigger?


June 18, 2010 8:25 PM  
Blogger Graham & Graham Photography said...

I retract my question--I see it's been answered!

June 18, 2010 8:41 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I think I've missed something... is this right:

PW on camera
Ringflash on a stand (presumably shooting through)with PW
Slaved flash on 2nd stand


(I'd always presumed you had the ringflash directly on the camera and just slaved the 2nd one, ie only 1 stand but the setup photo doesn't look like this)

Thanks for info,

June 19, 2010 5:15 AM  
Blogger An Angry American said...

Another great post. I really appreciate the photo included from the blogger. Not all great photos are taken in great locations.
Thanks again and Happy Fathers Day.

June 20, 2010 3:01 PM  
Blogger kd3 said...

Looks like you have the orbis on a stand. Are you hand holding the camera? Or is it also on a stand (tripod)?

Wondering Why you don't hand hold the Camera/flash/bracket combo.


June 20, 2010 7:50 PM  
OpenID Backdrops said...

people take about shooting in exotic location with impressive back grounds but shooting in busy street is fun. i really appreciate your work, the photo looks very natural without harsh light mix

June 21, 2010 7:39 AM  
Blogger David said...


When I am not going to me moving around a lot (i.e., not in a fluid environment) I just stick the Orbis on a flash on a stand and handhold my camera.


June 21, 2010 9:35 AM  
Blogger Max said...

I usually pick up the TLA, but FTW?

June 21, 2010 7:12 PM  

Hi David,

Sorry that I have to say something not related to the post (I don't know how else to mention about this). I'm just wondering, do you plan to do a Strobist seminar in SF? I can help to set up a place. I've been learning so much from you. Thank you very very much.


June 22, 2010 1:31 AM  
Blogger Siany said...

I had so much fun! So very pleased with how the photos came out and was very shocked that no one minded us taking up the little street. Although I'm guessing if we'd tried to get permission it would have been a different story ;-)

Thanks, David! Shout next time you're in London!

June 22, 2010 5:45 PM  
Blogger Alonzo Riley said...

Is the orbis link dead?

June 24, 2010 2:48 AM  
Blogger David said...


Fixed -- thanks for the heads-up!

June 24, 2010 2:10 PM  
Blogger c_w_photography said...

Just to suggest another blogger...

August 17, 2010 10:08 PM  
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