Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Studio Lighting

Am I over-complicating my studio lighting? This question occurs to me when I see many contemporary portraits and fashion photographs. In the studio I normally use a three light setup with a lighting ratio on the face in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 to 1. So, I try to get my fill light to around 1/4 of the intensity of the keylight that defines the facial shadows.

I use this method to exaggerate the highlight and shadow effect on the subject. Just like a representational painting or drawing, the illusion of three dimensions on a print creates a sense of presence and realism. I feel that the illusion of space is often taken for granted in photography because of it relationship to the actual. It is possible for a print to look flat, after all, it is a flat object.

The example below utilizes a keylight on the side of the face closer to the camera (sometimes called broad lighting), a fill light on the other side of the face, and a subtle backlight that outlines the hair.

When going for more of a fashion or glamorous look, I often place the keylight high in front of the model and a fill low in front to add detail to the shadow areas. The result is often very flattering and is sometimes called clamshell or butterfly lighting. A third light outlines the hair from the back.

For a recent shoot I decided to limit myself to one studio flash and use no backdrop. Perhaps this minimalistic approach would be stylistically similar to some contemporary magazine shots. The model works under the name Cyrin Calypso. For more of her work, follow the link:

Cyrin Calypso Official Model Page 

Here are some of the one light results:

I feel that these were quite successful. For me, a diffused light with careful placement worked well to create some glamorous and dramatic images. Hope you enjoy them, too.

Instant Karma

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chinese New Year

As part of Radford University's celebration of the Chinese New Year, generations of students from the Cantonese Master Chi Chung (Simon) Kwong demonstrated forms from his system Dragon Tiger Eagle Kung Fu. I took the opportunity to photograph some action shots in the auditorium of the Hulbert Student Center on RU's campus.

Raising the camera ISO to 1600 allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second for the shots, which was still not fast enough to freeze some of the explosive movements of the scene. Martial arts practitioners utilize choreographed forms in order to develop technique, balance, and power. They often emote a flowing visual beauty. Unlike dance, each subtle movement can be applied to sophisticated aspects of personal combat. After many years of growth, the techniques can go beyond pure physical movement and demonstrate the channeling and manipulation of a form of energy sometimes called "Chi."

Chip Reeves demonstrated a form with a very large and intimidating weapon. According to Chip:

 "Form utilizing the Kwan Dao, a chinese weapon designed primarily for use from horseback. Many of the techniques in the form are also designed to cut down an approaching enemy on horse back, such as cutting the legs and/or head off of the opponents stuff!"

James Houston is seen here in an empty-hand form that was fast and whirling:

"I was doing the wind demon fist form, I had to cut the form a little short because of the small stage. It is a form showing technique common to northern styles of kung fu, particularly Buk Pai."

Along with James and Chip, we saw Tom Altizer in a form called Ba-Gi:

and Thai Chi stylist Paul Pallante with an elegant Chinese sword form:

As a final demonstration, we see Paul strike Simon Kwong repeatedly in the stomach with a 40lb dumbell. Simon , who is well known for his ability to withstand attacks, seems to find this amusing.

The New River Valley is enriched by this group of martial artists. They are genuine adherents to the traditions and realities that have evolved over the long and complex history of these fighting styles. Their knowledge is shared generously with a true goal of art over any financial gain. Its a great privilege to know them.