7. november 2014

Beach shoots, recap and technical

My last two entries, have been about my two model-shoots at Hvaler, which is located at the south-eastern tip of Norway. This area is known for a multitude of beaches, and a rock-sloped archipelago landscape.

Hvaler archipelago, satelite view

My equipment decisions for the beach-shoots:


Paul C Buff, Alien Bees 1600
I decided to bring with me my strongest flash, the Alien Bees 1600, because it can overpower the sun. There are more powerful options available though, but I have this one, the AB1600, which is 640 watt-seconds.

The vagabond mini battery pack
With the increasingly added confidence and comfort of the super-strong, light-weight Paul C buff Vagabond mini battery pack, based on other shoots on location mentioned in this blog, I had good confidence that one battery would be sufficient for a single shoot, but I charged the extra battery as well.
The whole pack weigh maybe 2 - 3 pounds and clamps onto the flash-tripod.

Paul C Buff beautydish with and without the sock

The modifier I planned to use, was a beauty-dish, mounted on a weighted boom. This rig with the weighted boom is seriously heavy, but I thought it would be a good choice to battle the ever present and never-ending wind at the coast.

The choice of using the beauty-dish, was twofold:
1) It's a 'directional hard/soft light source' (contrasty, soft light source? ^^), which I felt would fit the bill and light the models perfectly in relation to the scene.
2) The construction is much more sturdy and not affected by deformations due to wind.
- and that proved to be a sound choice.

My particular dish is a large Paul C Buff white beauty-dish, and I also brought with me the 'sock' for the dish, should it be necessary to cover the dish itself, if the wind was so strong that it grabbed the dish and pushed the heavy boom out of position.

- also proved to be a sound choice on Kristin's shoot, as the wind was tougher and more gusty.

General observations 

I had to try and plan the shoots, so that the two separate results would be different, but still retain some of the same style. So, some of the setups were very similar and overlapping, while others were unique to the particular session. (it's important that the models don't feel that they ended up with the exact same result).

The reason for the similar setups, was that I needed more location-experience with this rig, and by running similar settings under slightly different lighting-conditions, I could learn a whole heap of things to put in my experience-bag.

- Also, by gaining good shots while shooting a certain way, I made sure that both models would end up with good shots, not just experimental, weird ones. ^^

Conclusion and lessons learned 


Some of Kristin's shots
Things to be aware of:

I find that the 1/200s sync-speed of the Canon 5D mk III to be annoying/constricting. (Nikon is much better in this regard, providing 1/500s).  1/200s is the max-speed this camera will sync properly with a studio-fhash. The 1ds and 1dx series isn't much better, with their 1/250s sync speed. 

The problem arise when you try to freeze movement, or shoot with longer lenses, both which can cause blurry photo's. I was already aware of this, off course, but it was more of a struggle on these shoots, due to the models having hair and cloth, moving in a fresh breeze. I also had to shoot with the stabilizer ON on my 70-200, which drains the batteries in the camera faster.

Flash-recharge time with the battery was impressive. Still, one need to reduce the number of shots and the number of shots per second(!) to one shot per 2-3 seconds (which is more the burst-norm for me on model shoots anyway), or one will end up with shots having a variance in exposure.
In other words let the flash charge.
Also, be aware that the charging-time will be more and more affected as the battery reach between 1/2 to 1/4'th of it's capacity, then you need to wait 3-4-5 seconds to have a fully charged AB1600 flash.

Some of Nicky's shots

Positive suprises and experience-points

The Vagabond battery really proved to be a impressive and powerful pack. I changed the battery on the very end of Nicky's shoot, just as we reached the final setting of the day, by then it was at 1/4 (or lower).
The shoots, respectively, produced
Kristin: 302 shots, 1 battery
Nicky: 366 shots, battery 1 was changed at 298 shots.
 - most of the shots were done using close to full power on my AB1600 flash-unit!

Pretty sick for a 3 pound pack I must say! Paul C Buff, I bow do thee! o_O

Recycle-time, as mentioned, did not suffer much, until the battery was down to 1/4 of full capacity, also very impressive. On Kristin's shoot, I simply turned down the power, as the light was already fading, so I could wrap up the whole shoot on one battery. The recycle-time was normal when I used my flash on 1/2 power and below, so I basically didn't notice much difference and just kept on shooting.On Nicky's shoot, I started to notice longer recycle times more and decided to swap the battery for the final scene, just to avoid any pauses as the light was changing quickly.

The beauty-dish proved to have just the right qualities, to create natural-looking flash for a model on the beach. A softbox would have been too soft (I think) and an umbrella too spread out and soft as well, a smaller lightsource would be too hard and contrasty (from my experience with 580EX-flashes anyway). The dish was cumbersome to carry, but is sturdy and really gives nice light.

Got even more experience in placing the sun, in conjunction to the flash, balancing the exposure and shooting with a sea-background.

A few other secrets as well, that I noticed and put on my experience-list for future shoots.  :)

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