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Monday, December 27, 2010

USE THE SUN.....or it will use you.....duh duh duh

Hello, and welcome to the first official Grayscale Photographic blog post!  I'm going to kick off my first post with one of my favorite photo techniques, but first, just for legal purposes, I would advise you to wrap something semi-tightly around your head to prevent inevitable cranial explosion due to the awesome content to come and follow the jump.  No Seriously........................................................................


Christmas has just come and passed, and fortunately, things have slowed down enough for me to enjoy the holidays with my family.  Add in the typical holiday fixins, and I would say it's been a flat out terrific end of the year.  I "officially" began operating my photography business in August of this year.  I felt that I had stocked up on enough equipment and had attained enough knowledge to be fairly dangerous with a camera, so, the next logical step was to start up a website, set up a facebook page, and start taking pictures.  Now, when it comes to websites, I know as much about optimizing a website for search engines as I do about women (it ain't much folks).  So basically, all of my business to date has been word of mouth.  And considering the fact that I have been busier than I want to be most of the time, I would venture to say that I must be doing something right.  I'm not sure what exactly it is, but hey, I'll take it.  Now, on with the post....

Up until the past year or so, I hated taking pictures with a bright sun in the sky.  Mostly because I didn't know how to use it to my advantage.  And not only that, I didn't realize how dramatically our only free light source could enhance my photos.  Add in the fact that this stuff ain't rocket science, and you've got the potential for pretty darned good portraits any time of the day.  Now for this blog post, I'm talking about actually placing the sun in the frame.  That's right.  Your subject will be in there too.  And no, I'm not talking about using the sun strictly a back light, that's another post.  No, you will see the actual sun and all it's glorious photon emitting rays along with your properly exposed subject.  So, how does this work?  It's really pretty easy.

Above you see a picture of my friend, Soo.  I had the priviledge of shooting maternity pics for Soo and her husband Brad.  We began our shoot at local Riverside Park and began shooting a lot of the "normal" (i.e. not a big honking sun in the frame) poses with him/her.  Now, since this shoot was scheduled for early afternoon, we had a full sun to deal with.  But instead of just dealing with it like I used to (running to the nearest shaded area weeping, tearing my robe, gnashing my teeth and overall just freaking out), I chose to use it, literally, to create what I feel is a very interesting and unique image.  The only thing you need (and if you fancy yourself handy with a camera, it should be pretty obvious) for a setup like this, other than a camera, is at least one additional light source to light the front of your subject.  I will go over lighting and off-camera flash options in one of my next few posts, so for the sake of time, I will just go over the basics of how this particular shot was set up.

So, here we have a pretty awesome high tech diagram (feel your head swelling from the pressure?).  I appologize if the font is too small to make out (click the image to see it bigger), but the only thing that may not be obvious is that stick thingy to camera left of Soo and Baby Soo.  That is our additional light (Nikon SB28 and Lumiquest softbox III)source lighting the front of Soo. If this light source was not present, we would mostly just see a silouhette of Soo with maybe a tiny bit of detail sprinkled about.  This is due to the fact that I had to close my aperature down to approx. f16 or so in order to have the sky exposed the way I wanted it.  Now, in theory I could also increase my shutter speed to 1/1000th or whatever it took to achieve the same effect, but then I would have far surpassed my max flash sync speed of 1/180th of a second (come on Pentax, 1/180?, it's 2010 for goodness sake!) For those who have no clue what I just said, it will be covered later, I promise.  This is really pretty basic stuff.  We are only using one artificial light source here along with our natural light source.  Now, what if you wanted to achieve a similar effect, but there is no sun? ............... Strobists? ................  anybody?.................. Bueller?............. You would simply just stick a speedlight, monobloc, whatever, behind the subject, and produce (in principle) something along the lines with what we see above.  It all comes down to knowing what you want to happen, and then being able to find that balance between your different light sources to achieve it. 

Thanks for reading my first of hopefully many blog post's to come.  Feel free to leave me comments or questions.  Have a great day!


  1. Great start!...I have bookmarked and will be checking every hour for new posts. What kind of camera where you using?...I know it is a Pentax, but what model? Are you using film to any degree?

  2. Thanks. I use a Pentax K7 (hence the "Pentax K7 Proud Owner" graphic at the bottom of the page:) It's a great camera. I have no complaints about it other than the sync speed limitations. No I don't use film anymore. Digital is just too darned convenient.