Some quick thoughts on Aperture 3 goodness, window light, my X100S, etc. I am in such a good mood now that Aperture 3.5.1 is running smooth as glass I figured I would push another post out today. I have yammered on and on about how depressing the monsoon conditions were along with the awkward and unmanagable the color in the only space I had to shoot in was etc. etc. that I actually forgot to demonstrate what might be illustrative to more of you than my petty quirks and hangups about color, etc.
As I mentioned I actually cancelled two sessions due to the horrible weather and light my last road trip. I ended up shooting here and there with whoever was hanging around at Carly's place. I am a nightmare when I have a camera in my hand - I shoot, and shoot, and shoot. Not run and gun style - I just always have it and grab things that catch my eye constantly. It's a bit less awkward with the Fuji X100S at least in terms of sociability when I am actually eating dinner, or chit chatting, etc. One of the reasons I like it so very much. An example of which is shown above.
This one happens to illustrate a couple of things that might be interesting to some of you - especially in contrast to some of the contact sheet stuff I've posted here and there. Typical window light kind of informal grab shot portrait. You can see that Anastasia in all her curler laden glory is about 3 feet from the window at the left of the frame. Maybe about six feet in front of the bed and somewhere between 10 and 15 feet from that dressing table with the mirror I was using to shoot the getting ready semi-candids.
Consider the exposure stats right here on the top shot. Let's see… f/2 @ 1/90s ISO 1600. Not so bad? Well this is as bright as it got that day - about 11am or so right up against the window. Check out the darkness where I was shooting that dressing table… cave like? Worse than a cave? You take a guess at how challenging shooting conditions are back there.
Honestly, if Carly wasn't in the process of moving out that day with piles of crap everywhere but right in front of that dresser I would have moved it to a spot that was more conducive with prettier light. There's nothing quite so horrible as dark and flat which that is. I would never just show up and shoot this for a client like that. Location prep is essential and part of that is assessing what is actually going on with the light and how you might use that and how you might modify what's there to optimize or correct issues.
Okay so window light used like the above shot is pretty damned contrasty in a large room with no bounce back that's up close. In contrast let's take a look at another shot using that same window just in a different way. Same room, same day, same light levels. The image at the right is exactly that - also shot with the X100S. You can tell it's the same place right. Does it surprise you to know it's maybe 3 feet away from the shot at the top? Yep facing the same window actually the orientation of Anastasia's face relative to that window is within a breath of identical. Just 3 feet farther in and obviously my shooting position relative to the window. It's behind me coming right over my left shoulder.
See how everything changes in terms of lighting ratio. The background, etc. I cheated a bit - not really cheating but see that room divider on the right of the frame. That's serving a bunch of purposes. First it's hiding a bunch of shit directly behind it. Second it's providing a bit of fill from behind and from that side as I am still a bit close to get any sort of exposure that I can actually shoot without a tripod and Anastasia holding still - which I am just not into at the moment. The third thing it's doing is moving the background in that area closer to the light source making it a lot brighter than the junk and the wall behind it. As for the far background it's average brightness is about the same as my subject as it's average distance is about the same distance from that far window out of frame.
Given my state of mind, entering pre-winter depression I am kind of proud I had the energy to actually move that room divider. Actually I am kind of proud I had the energy to crawl around on the floor and shoot any of this stuff. Here's the illustrative thing in all this. When walking into any given space there's a tendency only to see it in one way. There are a million ways to see it and to use it. Creativity is not just all about pissing on side walks and such non-sense just because it's shockingly different or controversial in most cases it's just shockingly bad. Creativity comes into play in all areas of photography including using any give space.
No matter if it's windows as a light source, natural reflectors, purpose built gear, strobes, softboxes, whatever. Light all works the same - it really does. One of the reasons I did the Window Light Field Guide was to introduce a thought process with no gear except a camera and whatever space I happened to be in. Not a bunch of different spaces. Just one house. The ultimate gear free lighting though process guide that can be done with a camera - no matter what the weather is outside.
I have taken a gear free approach in a lot of my little personal projects as well as just "for the hell of it" shooting over the last couple of years. Mostly because that was an antidote for me in terms of clearing my head out from years and years of over-produced over-complicated stuff. You may need to go the opposite direction. I am not advocating "gear-free" if it's not appropriate for any given situation, or job, or desired result. You can bet I haven't gone gear free on any job I've done here and there within the last few years. Probably a lot less than I would have 10 years ago. It also doesn't mean I used all of it on every shot and setup. If it was appropriate then I used none or if I could make it better - more specifically - more like I wanted sure I used what I brought to do that. My point on this for experienced shooters is that getting out of your go-to recipes and going gear free can be refreshing and actually cause you to look at scenes differently now than you would have a long time ago. For people just getting started with shooting with intent for some intended set of results the message is that getting results you want is not all about having or not having some lighting gear - all light works the same no matter if you bring it yourself or it happens to be there. The biggest difference is you have to move your subject and yourself instead of moving the lighting gear.
Just some food for thought. Next time maybe a few thoughts on the various "types" of photographers - and there are a bunch that's for sure.
Ps. All images processed in Aperture 3 - pretty much just a lift/stamp of my baseline. I do have a set of RAW fine-tuning adjustment I use for the X100S when I am shooting high ISO. Those amount to a de-noise of about 30 and a detail of 20 for ISO 1600+