Ulorin Vex

video clip: behind-the-scenes during photo session w/ Ulorin Vex

I’ve posted some of the images from the recent photo session in my studio, with Ulorin Vex – and here is the behind-the-scenes video clip. The instructional stuff will be in the related articles – this is more of a glimpse of the rhythm of the shoot in the studio.

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working with harder light sources in the studio – flash & continuous light  (model: Ulorin Vex)

With the recent photo session with Ulorin Vex in the studio, I played with variations of using harder light and using shadow as part of the image’s composition. The first setup was similar to a previous photo session in the studio with Anelisa:  smaller light = dramatic light. Ulorin Vex easily fell into poses well suited to this idea of using the shadow as part of the image’s design.

For this final image, I used a textured overlay to enhance the sun-drenched look. I also wanted to hide the texture of the wall a bit by cloaking it with the Photoshop texture. I used a warm colored texture, to echo the color of her hair, and which then also was a complement to the blue dress. The color also took away some of the starkness of the image.

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photographic style – inspiration, adjusting & adapting  (model: Ulorin Vex)

Photography has a never-ending learning curve. I think this is even more true as the technology expands and accelerates. Sometimes I feel that we’re running at full speed just to remain at a stand-still. That’s just the technology that we have to acquire what we need to know about to do our work and art the best. But even with the techniques and methods we have as photographers – we should always be investigating and analyzing the work of others, learn, and then rework and adapt it in our own style. Even if we acquire new skills in minute ways – it all adds up to where we are always on an upward curve, learning and becoming better.

When I first dived into photography, I spent countless hours reading books and photography magazines. I eventually discovered heaven – the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, in Johannesburg. Shelves and shelves of books on photography! That was then – now we have complete overload with the work of other photographers and artists just a click away.  With that, I am constantly looking at the work of others, soaking in what others are doing.

A photographer that has really stood in the past year or so, is Craig Lamere. His style is clean and striking looking. There’s a dramatic simplicity to it, with beautiful lighting and impeccable post-processing. Check out his work.

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creating foreground bokeh effects in-camera

The closer you move to a foreground object, the more it’s shape and color and opacity will affect the image … in unpredictable ways. It’s a well-established technique then to create unusual color splashes and shapes in the image by creating flare highlights. It is often called “foreground bokeh effect”.

Ulorin Vex is an unusually photogenic model that I have photographed on a few occasions. When Ulorin visited the East Coast again recently, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her again and play in the studio. Her striking looks and colorful latex dresses would work perfectly with this technique – the random kaleidoscope patterns and colors wouldn’t be incongruous.

With a standard lighting setup in the studio, using a beauty dish, I also added an extra light to throw light directly towards the camera. I then held up various colored objects right in front of the lens – a colorful translucent plastic flower with colorful petals and leaves worked best. Shooting through an opening between the petals and leaves of the decorative plastic flower, all kinds of interesting random patterns appeared. It was unpredictable, and that is what made the effect interesting in part – you wouldn’t quite know what you’re going to get.

If this effect appeals to you, it would make sense to collect all kinds of objects to try out – glass elements and prisms work well too. Anything that will create a pleasant visual surprise.

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camera & flash settings: what do you want to achieve?  (model: Ulorin Vex)

In one of the multitude of photography groups on Facebook, I saw a newcomer to off-camera flash say that she bought an Alien-Bee set, but she has no idea what to set it to. My reply was that she needed a light-meter. My thinking is that then she’d know what the specific output of the flash or strobe would be, and then be able to set her camera to it. But then, thinking about it some more, I realized if there is hesitation there or confusion, it is about what specific camera settings (mostly aperture) should be in the first place.

I think this is the baffling part of using off-camera lighting or studio gear on location for the first time – where do you start? What should your camera and flash settings be?

Well, if you shoot on location, your settings are usually decided for you by your available light …

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using a neutral density (ND) filter to control depth of field when using flash

When working in bright sunlight with flash units that can’t go into high-speed flash sync, we have a ceiling in terms of our shutter speed / aperture combination. The shutter speed limitation then would be our maximum flash sync speed. The bright daylight would then imply a small aperture – most likely around f/11

Why f/11 ?
The Sunny 16 Rule dictates that in bright sunlight,
we’re most likely working at 1/100 @ f/16 @ 100 ISO.

This translates into a handy short-cut of: 1/200 @ f/11 @ 100 ISO,
where 1/200 is the maximum flash sync speed of many cameras.
I use Nikons so my max flash sync speed is 1/250 hence that is where I normally operate when using flash in bright light.

To get to wider apertures for a shallower depth-of-field, we then need to cut the amount of light. We can do this with a Neutral Density filter.

The first concern is usually that the ND filter cuts the flash, but this isn’t a particular problem, since the ND filter cuts flash and ambient light by equal amounts.

So if we have 1/200 @ f/11 and then add a 3-stop ND filter, we end up with f/4 which is much wider than f/11 and gives us better control over our DoF. A 3-stop ND filter is usually denoted as an .9 ND filter, where 0.3 is a stop, and hence 0.1 is a third of a stop. A Neutral Density filter that is marked as 3.0 will therefore be a 10-stop ND filter.

As a side comment, please note that shallow depth-of-field is not the same as ‘bokeh‘.

With the recent photo shoot with Ulorin Vex , I decided that it might be as good an opportunity as any to see how a Neutral Density filter affects the results.

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video clip: photo session with Litepanels Sola 4 fresnel lights – w/ Ulorin Vex

A behind-the-scenes video clip of the photo session with Ulorin Vex.

We did three different setups with Ulorin Vex – three different outfits by Ulorin, and three different ways of using these lights. Even though I used very specific lights here –  the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights (B&H) - I hope that the commentary, and the way the photo shoot was directed, will be instructional and perhaps even entertaining. Enjoy!

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review: Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Light - (model: Ulorin Vex)

The dramatic look that video lights lend to photographs, is a regularly explored topic on Tangents. I also cover the use of video light in my book Direction and Quality of Light.

The video lights that I have been favoring, are the Lowel ID-Light (B&H), but like other halogen video lights, it tends to run hot. Of the LED lights, I have used the Litepanels MicroPro LED video light (review) and now the Litepanels Croma – variable color temperature LED video light (review). The LED lights tend to be under-powered for some uses. Also, video lights tend to be  small light sources, and hence quite contrasty. So there are some limitations.

So when Litepanels contacted me to ask me if I’d like to try out the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights (B&H), I was quite keen. Especially because the arrival of these lights coincided with one of my favorite models, Ulorin Vex, visiting the East Coast for a few weeks. Ulorin Vex’s dramatic style and clothing would be very well suited to this kind of lighting.

Also check out the behind the scenes (but hopefully quite instructional) video clip about this 3-part photo session.

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Ulorin Vex bounce flash portrait

bounce flash portrait & Photoshop retouching technique

When we were done with the studio shoot with Ulorin Vex, we still had a few minutes left, so I thought I could do a bounce flash portrait as well. Just for a comparison of sorts to show that on-camera bounce flash can give interesting results too. Here is the low-key portraits we did with the Profoto set-up.

The only semi-interesting background I could find in the studio (that wasn’t a white wall), was this grungy green door to one of the store-rooms. I thought it might work as a gritty urban setting. I shot about eight frames in the tight corner, but didn’t like what I saw on the back of my camera, so called it a day. We were done.

Looking through the images again today, cleaning up my hard drives, I hovered over the first image I took and thought it might hold some promise still if I worked it a little bit in Photoshop. Here is where I started …

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photo session with Ulorin Vex – behind the scenes video

The video clip is a behind-the-scenes view (with some techie info) of the photo session with Ulorin Vex. This photo session was also the first time I tried out the Nikon D800, and I also got to play with my Profoto D1 Air 500 W/s Studio Kit (B&H), for the first time. An exciting day.

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