I fought the sun…and I won!

© Michael Mowbray.  Flash Fu: Mastering the Power of SpeedlitesHad a great on-location model shoot on Friday as we shot some footage for the Flash Fu DVD and book project. I purposely went out and tried to tame the sun and bend it to my will while mixing it up with some Flash Fu. So the challenge was to work with full sun most of the day — bringing it from behind, from the side, or even from the front and knocking it out so much that it became fill. 🙂 My model, Ruthy, was a trooper as temps were in the high 40s when we started, with just enough breeze to be a little chilly.

My tools for the day:  Off-camera speedlites (Canon 580 EXII) fired and controlled by a Canon ST-E2 infrared transmitter coupled with a RadioPopper PX system.  The technical challenge was to mix the flashes with ambient light using eTTL technology only.  I wasn’t asking too much, was I? © Michael Mowbray. Flash Fu: Mastering the Power of Speedlites Additionally, I wanted to be able to control the degree that the ambient sunlight affected each shot, maintaining creative light control, by using primarily Av mode combined with Flash Exposure Compensation and Exposure Compensation — all set in camera. The biggest question was:  Could it be done??

The answer is Yes!  It was tricky and at times a little bit of a struggle, but in the end, I am really happy with the ability to use the RadioPoppers to maintain the eTTL connection and allow me to tweak the flash/ambient mix at camera.  The biggest secret is the ability to shoot the flashes in high speed sync (HSS) which allowed me to shoot shutter speeds as high as 1/6400th of a second.  That is how I was able to dictate the effect of the sun.  The most fun was taking a scene that was fully front lit by middle of the day sun, then knocking down the sun so much that it became light fill and my snooted flash became a dramatic key light (see the shots taken on the vined wall — these were taken at 1 pm in full sun).© Michael Mowbray.  Flash Fu: Mastering the Power of Speedlites

So why is this little project important?  Think about photographing high school seniors outdoors on July afternoons.  Think about outdoor wedding photos.  Think about summer family portraits taken by the lake early in the afternoon.  Think about midday outdoor fashion shoots.  Ahhhhh.  Now do you see the potential impact on your work if you could bend the sun to your will?© Michael Mowbray.  Flash Fu: Mastering the Power of Speedlites

This “Battling the Sun” was filmed and photographed as part of my upcoming Flash Fu:  Mastering the Power of Speedlites book, DVD and seminar project due out in 2011.  Stay tuned here for additional snippets, updates and announcements.

Thanks to my entourage for this shoot: Allison HalkeyKrystal SutterKerry Shaverand Rachel Waldmer.

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