Boot Camp III Assignment #3: Results

Results from Assignment #3, in which you were asked to choose a relatively large object or scene to photograph, and enhance the ambient with one or two small flashes.

Inside, four finals -- two from the U.S., one from Scotland and another from Malaysia.

Leading off is Jason Lykins' photo of Union Terminal in Cincinatti, Ohio in the U.S. In addition to ambient he used two speedlights to tweak the scene. One was illuminating the fountain, the other the hedges in the foreground.

Interestingly, Jason also did an HDR version of the scene, which to me really highlighted the fact that you get so much more local control by selectively adding light than by shooting HDR.

One thing, tho. On a continuous tone like the sky, that gradient burn really shows up. If you want to seal it better, you can do it in-camera. You cannot merely adjust the ambient exposure, since much of the rest of your scene is also built on ambient.

But you can always wait out the sky. It is getting darker as you shoot when shooting at evening. Nail down the other variables and keep them constant as your sky fades.

From Chicago, Illinois in the U.S. comes a field of nine-foot-tall elephant … parts, courtesy DigitalQi (no real name given).

The ambient here is sodium vapor, which is very orange. So DQ decided to use the flashes inside of the scene to create separation. He warmed them up with Rosco 85 gels to get the color of light into at least the same color neighborhood.

One thing: if you are gonna shoot at night, better to bring a tripod and leave the screaming high ISO at home. He shot at ISO 25.6k (uh huh…) at 1/30th of a sec at 3.5. And he noted his SB-28's were both at 1/4 power, - 1/3 of a stop.

That tells me that he could have squeezed 2 1/3 more stops of light out of the SB's. Which means he could have shot at ISO 5000, 1/6 sec at f/3.5 for the same flash:ambient ratio with much less noise/grain.

You'll need sticks to do that. But again, those elephant asses aren't going anywhere in a sixth of a sec…

Crossing the pond, we get to Malcolm Russell and his shot of Castlecraig in the Scottish highlands. Malcolm lit the two visible planes on the 16th century fortified tower with a pair of speedlights, one on each side.

I would have liked to have seen more light down that camera right facade. But Malcolm notes he was hindered by positions and angles, and wanted to keep the light off of the foreground foliage.

Solution: height. When shooting large objects in low light, your important lighting position variables are height and distance. You usually need distance for even lighting, but height can also allow you to solve problems like Malcolm's.

From least to best preference:

1. Your tallest light stand.
2. You (or a friend) hold your tallest light stand up as high as you can.
3. A nice, long, cheap painter's pole with a Metalhead attachment.

Last but certainly not least we head to Malaysia, for this assignment's winner. Eric Sari used a single speedlight to illuminate a mangrove tree in a deep twilight photo. I love this image, and it is the one that stuck with me all weekend when I was deciding which shot to choose as a winner.

Eric waited out the sunset until it was very dark. -- this was a 20-second exposure at f/2.8 (ISO not noted). But that got him into deep twilight where light can sometimes get magical, as it did here.

As a bonus, the 20-second exposure smoothed out the water, and blended the sky with some movement. A 1/2 power pop from a handheld Canon 580 EXII was needed to put detail in the mangrove tree. It doesn't hurt that the tree is almost the exact compliment of the color in the deep twilight sky, either.

Sari fired the flash manually with the test button (who needs PW, right?) during the 20-second exposure which fortunately is beneath Canon's maximum sync speed (zing!)

And we'll be hand-firing either a hard copy set of Lighting in Layers or a LumoPro LP160 speedlight to Eric as this assignment's winner.

Congrats to Eric and also to everyone who completed the third BC3 assignment, the full results of which are here. And this marks the last of the easy assignments in BC:3.


As with last time, them's my picks. Feel different? Hash it out in the comments. But be respectful, please.


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Save Money: Browse MPEX Weekly Strobist Deals