Shades of Difference and Direction « Joe McNally’s Blog
Hard sun, big silk, beautiful light. Pretty simple. Take a nuclear blast of sunlight and tame it by interfering with its blazing, destructive path with a simple swatch of white material, and it arrives at your subject’s doorstep (face) as cuddly and friendly as a golden retriever puppy. Get fancy and add a simple white fill card to bounce a small amount back and up into the face and you got dead bang gorgeous, wraparound light. Friendly and glow-y. Below, shot at 1/3200 @ f/1.4, Nikon Z7, 105mm lens.
Now, I dealt myself a pretty easy hand of cards, here, having Rae Stoetzel in front of my lens. Easy-going guy, great face, fun to work with, patient beyond. (Just like all of our photo subjects, right?) But easy-going was the watchword of our workshop up on Prince Edward Island, at Dave Brosha’s beautiful, patina laden barn. Pictures everywhere up there. So thankful for the invite to come and teach. Would do it again in a heartbeat.
This is a Lastolite 6×6 Skylite panel on two c-stands overhead of him, interrupting the flow of hard sunlight, baffling it, and smoothing it out. The silk, mind you, is hovering just out of camera frame, very close to him. That’s the key. Get it as close as you can. There’s a fill board under him, kicking up some fill, and I’m shooting at 1.4 with that great looking barn for a backdrop. Boom, we’re done. Shoot like this all day, except for the fact of the sun moving, making it necessary for you to move the silk. Which I have done on jobs. Literally, all day. Move the silk. Luckily, that is usually a 12×12 silk, on a frame, supported by high rollers, which have wheels.
Okay, great light, easy-peasy, as has been said. But, shooting all day like this would have a sense of sameness to it. How do you take this gentle, overlarge swatch of light and shift it, play with it, directional-ize it?
Enter the Profoto B1-X, fitted with a 4′ RFI Octa softbox. First, the B1-X remains, for me, the quintessential big flash for location work. Yes, you can go bigger, and sometimes you need to, but the B1-X, at 500 watt seconds, pretty much covers the waterfront and then some on maybe, like, 90% of potential jobs? Easy to use, versatile as hell, and a dead bang dependable wireless transmission system makes this light indispensable.
And then, put the 4′ Octa on there and it’s magic. The 4′ size makes it big enough to be big, and small enough to maneuver, for instance, under a low slung silk. Hand held! All BTS pix shot by Annie Cahill.
The result is you have more exposure leverage over your background, and you can punch and swing the the direction of the light just about any which way, without robbing the essential soft quality of light the silk presents. The Octa fits right into the light pattern. Big and soft, but with a bit of punch. Below shot at 1/2000 @ f/2.8 with the Nikon Z7 and 105mm lens.
Simple, subtle, effective.