Monthly Archives January 2004

Hey guys. Nick Fancher here. I wrote a couple of guest posts in 2015 after publishing Studio Anywhere and Studio Anywhere 2. I am wrapping up a new book of color techniques called Chroma, which will be released on Rocky Nook in July. I thought it would be appropriate to update some of the processes that I explained in my previous posts.

As I discussed in my last post, the science behind the multi-colored shadow technique is that when cyan, magenta, and yellow (or red, green, and blue) light overlaps, white light is created. Because of this, if we were to take three lights and gel them, where they overlap, colorless light is formed. Colored shadows occur when something blocks one of the colored lights, resulting in only one or two of the other colors lighting an area, Figure 1.

Figure 1 When cyan, magenta, and yellow light overlaps, colorless light is created. Multi-colored shadows are a result of one or more of the colored lights being blocked by an object or person.

I first discussed this technique in my previous book, Studio Anywhere 2: A Photographer’s Guide to Shaping Hard Light (which bore that image on its cover). Two years have passed since I wrote it and I’ve had a lot of time to explore the many variations of using this technique. I’ve learned that you can still achieve neutral light without using magenta, as is illustrated by Kevin Hart’s yellow and cyan shadows (Figure 2). I’ve also experimented with different methods of creating shadows, including by hair movement (Figure 3). I’ve also minimized my gear rig needed to execute this technique.

Figure 2 I’ve learned that neutral light can still be achieved using just cyan and yellow gels, as is illustrated here with actor Kevin Hart.

Figure 3 Since this technique relies on the creation of shadows, creating many shadows with wet or wind-blown hair, for example, makes for a colorful image.

The technique requires the use of two or three flashes. I use Cactus RF60 flashes with a V6II transmitter. When I first began using this technique, I lugged three light stands with me to shoot. This is a frustrating task, especially when working alone, as I often do. I’ve since come up with a lightweight (and cheap) solution: cold shoe extension rails. In Figure 4 you can see that I have two, 16-inch rails, connected to a Nikon AS-19 speedlight stand (it’s way better than the one that comes with the Cactus flashes). I also used a small metal corner brace that I flattened out and used to join the two rails. The joint not only bears the weight in the middle (rather than the flash stand), but it levels out the two rails, which otherwise sag under the weight of the flashes.

Figure 4 I use two, 16-inch cold shoe extension rails with a metal corner brace in the middle to bear the weight. This allows a broad spacing of the lights on a single light stand.

The greater the distance between the lights, the longer the colored shadows will be. In Figure 5, the three lights are positioned next to each other, resulting in short colored shadows, but also a large, colorless shadow, where the lights all overlap. When I added one foot of space between each light, the colored shadows grew in space, while the colorless shadow decreased, Figure 6. Also, by having all three lights on one stand, it’s easy to quickly reposition them, if I wanted to position them to the side, for example, to get longer shadows, Figure 7.

Figure 5 The three colored flashes are positioned next to each other to make this shot, resulting shorter colored shadows and a large, colorless shadow.
Figure 6 The three colored flashes are placed a foot 14 inches apart to make this shot, resulting in longer colored shadows and a minimal colorless shadow.
Figure 7 With all three flashes on one stand I can easily reposition them, to the side for example, to change the length of the shadows.

I recently did a beauty shoot with a model in which she was covered in jewels. As in they were literally glued all over her face and chest. I was already planning to use this tri-colored technique, but I also decided to add a Hoya star filter to my lens, to transform the specular highlights that were coming from the jewels into starbursts.

I positioned my lights at such an angle in relation to my model that I could see the lights reflecting in the jewels, in order to maximize the starbursts, Figure 8. Since my flashes don’t have modeling lights, I always hit the “test” button on the transmitter as I watch to see where the light is falling (making sure to first tell the model to look away from the flashes).

Figure 8 The setup. My light(s) are positioned to my left at an elevated position in relation to the model in order to maximize the lens flare reflections in the jewels.

The first thing you need to do when using this technique is balance the output between the three lights. Your light outputs will vary depending on the density of the shades of the colors you’re working with, Figure 9. I’ve found that my green light (1/2) tends to be twice as bright as my red light (1/4), which is twice as bright as my blue light (1/8), making the green light four times brighter than the blue in order to achieve balance, Figure 10. With the Cactus V6II transmitter, I can quickly adjust each output to a perfect balance, lighting in layers, one at a time. I can adjust each light in 1/3-stop increments and once the perfect color ratio is achieved, I can dial the global power up or down, maintaining the integrity of the ratio (pretty cool, huh?), Figure 11.

Figure 9 The lighting diagram. To achieve balance between the three colored gels, my green light is at ½, my red light is four times lower at 1/8, and my blue light is even lower at 1/16.

Figure 10 I put each color on their own channel, dialing them in one at a time. Then I turn on all the channels and make sure I get a neutral color.
Figure 11 The invaluable feature of the Cactus V6II transmitter is that once I get a balanced ration between the lights, I can power them all up or down while maintaining the integrity of the ratio.

Once I had my settings figured out, I asked the model to make slight movements between each shot as I shot from a number of angles to ensure I get the best possible starburst, Figure 12. The best part of using this technique is the beautiful chaos that occurs whenever she moves, causing more colorful shadows, Figure 13. As you can see in my setup shot, I use a stool on castors, which allows me to move to my gear rack, to my light stand, or back/forth for my composition, without a lot of standing up/sitting down/walking on my knees. Basically it saves me a lot of time and energy.

Figure 12 The raw file. Maddie is now not only colorful, she’s also sparkly.
Figure 13 My favorite part of this technique are the unplanned, colorful shadows that result from the subjects movements.

In Lightroom, Figure 14, I decided to add a warm tone to the image, by lowering the highlight points in the green and blue tones curves (which added magenta and yellow to it). Though I could’ve simply adjusted the color temperature if I wanted a warmer image, by instead lowering the highlight points of the cooler tone curves, I added warmth to the highlight portions of the image, while at the same time reducing the shininess in her skin, Figure 15.

Figure 14 The Lightroom settings. In order to minimize the glossy highlights on the models skin, I lowered the right side of the blue tone curve, adding a warmth to the highlights.
Figure 15 The final shot. Maddie shines bright like a diamond.

Now let’s take it step further an add an extra layer of colorful chaos. Many cameras have a multiple exposure feature. In the Canon 5DIII, there a few options to choose from before you get going. You need to select how many exposures are in one shot; if each exposure is saved or just the resulting image is saved; and how the images are blended together, Figure 16.

Figure 16 When making an in-camera multiple exposure with a Canon 5DIII, you have several options, such as how many exposures are in one shot, have they are blended, and if every shot is saved or just the final image.

In Figure 17, you can see the colorful shadows on Curtis’ shirt, which were created by cyan/magenta/yellow light falling on his hair. As usual, I have each of the three lights on their own channel. When I make a multiple exposure, I set my camera to take three exposures with the blending mode set to “average”. For each 3-shot portrait, I start by toggling off Channels B and C, leaving on just A, and take a shot. Then I toggle off A, and turn on B and take a shot. Then the same with C, Figure 18. In the second between each exposure, as I am toggling channels on and off, my composition shifts slightly, as does my subject. This means that each colored exposure is different, Figure 19, resulting in an even more vibrant, chaotic image, Figure 20.

Figure 17 Here I used cyan, magenta, and yellow lights to get colorful shadows on Curtis.
Figure 18 Next I made a multiple exposure, making three exposures. One exposure was made using only the cyan channel, one with only the magenta, and one with only the yellow.

Figure 19 Since I was hand-holding the camera, each of the exposures moves slightly when I toggle the different channels on and off.
Figure 20 The result is a much more colorful image than the original, multi-colored portrait.

There are endless possibilities once you start experimenting with multiple exposures. When I am making a multiple exposure, I make sure to explain to my subject how many exposures there are in each sequence, giving them a better idea of what I’m doing and when we’ve moved on to a new shot. Sometimes I direct them to be still, while other times I invite large movements, such as having them look side to side or moving the camera dramatically between each exposure, Figure 21.

Figure 21 When I am using this technique, I often direct my subject to make movements or I move the camera dramatically between each exposure, resulting in a colorful, often abstract image.

You can also experiment with using different numbers of exposures or different blending modes. You can see how dramatically different each image looks with each blending mode, Figure 22. In Figure 23 I used the same technique as I did with Curtis in Figure 20, except this time I used red, green, and blue gels, with the blending mode set to “bright”. That shot is straight out of camera. Zero editing. The resulting images makes me think of what it may look like if each colored layer of a screen print came to life and started moving on its own.

Figure 22 The image changes dramatically just by switching the blending modes. The first was done with an additive balance, then average, bright, and dark.
Figure 23 To make this un-edited image I used the same technique as I did with Curtis in Figure 20 except the blending mode was set to “bright.”

Based on the variety of techniques in this article alone, it should be clear that colored shadows can be created in a myriad of ways. Explore layering different color combinations or mixing in other techniques such as shutter drag with multiple exposures. The exploration is the best part.

You can see more of Nick’s work at NickFancher.com, follow him on Instagram, and Twitter, and check out his Chroma Workshop Tour!

Gary and his wife Vivian often work together on assignment. Photo by @jerseystyle_photography

I’d like to introduce you to a few ordinary people doing some extraordinary things. These are people that have zero followers on social media and will probably cringe in embarrassment when they find out we are “exalting” them. But their sacrifice, courage and selflessness can be a huge inspiration for us and the way we direct our lives.

As a photographer focusing mostly on humanitarian issues globally, I’ve been fortunate to witness and share visual stories of people who have been a huge catalyst for change in my own life. After every assignment, I choose to live more simply and intentionally.

So, here you will meet Olivia and Wisdom from Ghana, and Vishnu from India. In their own communities they are enriching and empowering the lives of many in their circles of influence. I hope these glimpses into the lives of a midwife, a tilapia farmer, and a blind teacher impact you as well.

Olivia lifts a little baby boy with only one hand, like she was lifting a bunch of bananas.

Olivia – The Midwife
It is 105 degrees outside and only a little cooler inside the delivery room of the rural clinic in remote Ghana. Lit by window light only, Olivia lifts the little baby boy with only one hand, like she was lifting a bunch of bananas, onto a white metal scale. The child, only a few minutes out of the womb, lets go a healthy cry as his skin contacts the cold metal. A moment later, Olivia gently wraps the baby, burrito style, in a clean blanket and his crying immediately stops, the newborn once again feeling warm, cocooned and safe.

Olivia teaches a new male nurse about caring for pregnant women.

Olivia has delivered over 1,600 babies in the last ten years in the sparsely equipped clinic that has no electricity or water, but this clinic is still considered an oasis for the women seeking her help for their deliveries. Without it, the closest medical assistance would be 30 miles away, along a potholed, dusty, dirt road.

A newborn baby at Olivia’s clinic.

“Since I came here I have never lost a baby. I know God has helped me a lot,” says Olivia. “I enjoy working with the poor in the villages because I want to save lives. The challenges are so many. We have bad roads. We don’t have lights.” But she adds, “My passion is delivering babies and taking care of pregnant women. I become happy when I deliver a baby safely, without losing the child.”

Olivia at her clinic in rural Ghana.

Wisdom – The Tilapia Farmer
There’s a good reason Wisdom Yao Nyador, who doesn’t know how to swim yet, spends most of his days on the waters of Lake Volta in Ghana.

Wisdom heads out to his tilapia farm in Lake Volta, Ghana.

Tending to their tilapia several times a day, he and others workers climb into small wooden canoes and paddle out to 4 cages anchored in the deeper parts of the lake. They hop on bobbing narrow wooden frames supporting nets and throw out feed to the always hungry tilapia.

Wisdom, center, on one of his tilapia farms.

Wisdom, 27, graduated from college to be a pastor, but he saw a great need for employment among the people in rural communities. Motivated to learn about tilapia farming to help his people in a practical way, he is now the farm manager and is learning to swim.

Tilapia from Lake Volta, Ghana

“Ghana imports 54% of its fish,” he explains. His hope for the farm is “to become one of the largest tilapia producing farms in Ghana. I believe in this project. One of our visions is to become self-sufficient and be able to help out many mission projects we have…and in order to give employment to people in the community.”

Wisdom and his dugout canoes.

Vishnu – The Blind Teacher
Sometimes the blind leading the blind is a good thing. Vishnu is a blind teacher teaching braille to blind students in rural India.

Vishnu teaches blind students. He too is blind.

His passion and compassion is evident as he patiently uses his hands to guide the fingers of young students over pins on metal braille tablets. I think by teaching these blind students I am serving God,” he says.

Vishnu teaches braille to a blind student.

Before coming to this home and school for the blind and deaf, most of these blind students were begging on the streets. “My first goal is that children who are blind should not have to go and beg,” says Vishnu. He tells everyone he meets to support blind people for their entire education and not just by giving one time to a blind beggar. “As many as 44,000 children fall into the clutches of the beggar mafia in India each year, and of these, hundreds are deliberately mutilated,” according to the national newspaper Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. Once disfigured or permanently maimed in some way, the children are then put out on the streets to beg.

A class of deaf children takes a break from book studies with stretching exercises.

Vishnu says he is thrilled to be teaching at the orphanage and school. “Nobody supported me when I was growing up blind. These children are so fortunate that the mission is doing so much on their behalf.” He adds, with obvious joy and pride, “I am confident that these children will one day get good jobs, not only in India, but abroad too. And hopefully, they will support children like themselves that have struggled.”

By touching the walls and feeling the sunlight at doorways, Yogendra navigates the rooms at the school for the blind and deaf.

A big thank you to Scott and Brad for generously affording me this platform to share some of my favorite people and their stories with you.

You can see more of Gary’s work at GarySChapman.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How I Went From Taking Photos Of Nothing To Award-Winning Architecture & Interior Photos
Unlike a lot of photographers with a clear vision of their style and a desire to specifically shoot a certain kind of subject, I’ve been very happy to just get paid to take photos. Seriously, it’s the best job in the world and the happiest I’ve ever been. That said, I also don’t just take anything that’s thrown at me. I’ve worked at my craft and developed my business over the years to work specifically in a commercial and corporate photography field. I mostly deal with other businesses and, I think, I’m good at it.

I didn’t go to school for photography. I bought my first SLR just to take random photos of flowers, the ground, and my friends. I was soon asked to start taking photos FOR people, and that was how I started, way back, photography as a vocation. For the first several years it was events, headshots, a bit of editorial and almost anything anyone threw at me. A builder saw some of my landscape work and thought I might be good at interiors. I enjoyed shooting and was happy to take the work that was presented to me. I trimmed my portfolio down to the kind of work I was getting the most of: Commercial and corporate.

Interiors
Focusing my work had the benefit of getting me more of it. Photographers always tell you to show what you want to shoot, but I found it difficult to let go of the “everything” mentality since I needed the cash. Interior work was also an interesting departure from portraits. A more controlled environment let me set my own pace to take images as I wanted them. I learned to move things around a scene, shift furniture and accessories to get the image near-perfect.

That level of perfection has, of course, changed over the years. I added lighting to help fill in shadow areas, or create contrast where there was none. I learned to wait, patiently, for the light to change and be in the right spot to get the best image. To show up before sunrise for east-facing exposures, and stay into dusk for the west.

I see myself as a technical photographer. I like the precision of straight verticals and good colours. I do extensive cloning to remove imperfections in post. I taught myself the pen-tool (thanks to my medium Wacom Intuos 4 for making this possible) to make precise masks for colour and tonal correction. Anything I can correct on location, however, I will. So with that in mind, I’ve invested heavily in my kit.

Gear
Starting out with a used 1DMKII (1.3 crop) and the Canon 17-40 f/4.0 L with an aluminum Manfrotto 190 tripod, I quickly started acquiring specialty gear to improve on technical issues had on location: Lighting gear, more stable tripods with better ballheads, and tilt-shift lenses. If nothing else, I won’t compromise on quality if I can avoid it, and I have no regrets on any of the more expensive items that I’ve purchased to help me achieve it (and yes, this is a dream kit that I’m extremely fortunate to have).

Here’s an essentials list for me now:

  • Canon 5DMKIV, backup 5DMKIII with Really Right Stuff L-brackets
  • Canon 17mm f/4.0 L TS-E
  • Canon 24mm f/3.5 L TS-E
  • Canon 50mm f/2.8 L TS-E Macro
  • Canon Extender EF 1.4x III
  • B+W Circular polarizers
  • Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Carbon Fibre tripod
  • Arca Swiss D4 geared tripod head
  • 2x Elinchrom Quadra ELB400
  • Elinchrom Ranger ELB1200
  • Microsoft Surface Pro for tethered shooting (I’ve recently made the switch from Adobe Lightroom to Capture One 10)
  • Tethertools AeroTab Universal Tablet System L4
  • TetherTools USB 3.0 USB Right-Angle cable & Tetherboost Pro USB 3.0 Core Controller
  • Another tripod that shall-not-be-named because it was cheaper, it’s broken twice, and I hate it

All of this lives in a ThinkTankPhoto Airport Takeoff, a Logistics Manager 30, and a Tenba 38” Rolling tripod Grip case (with stands and umbrellas).

Today over half my business is architectural and interior photography, a far cry from the events and portraits that I started out with. I’ve refined my business into specific niches. I still photograph people, places, and people in places (I will always have a passion for environmental portraiture).

I provide photos that have value to my clients. They help them to sell: sell themselves, or their projects, and their businesses. I’ve grown with a few and we both get better work to show. Many of these projects have gone on to win awards for my clients.

I admire photographers who have a singular vision and passion, and sometimes wish I had the same. But I’m also very fortunate and happy to be where I am and can support me and my family through photography, to be able to explore and grow and learn about myself too. At 36 I’m not the youngest person in my field, but I’m just as excited as anyone to see what will come next.

You can see more of Justin’s work at JVLPhoto.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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