Arusha Speedlight Workshop

Sunday 19.2 - After yesterday's highs during creative coating and printing workshop I had noticed that several of the participants were taking an interest in my use of speedlights to balance difficult lighting situations and decided to split the day into separate print and speedlight parts - starting with another attempt to create a custom profile for the Epson Enhanced Matte paper which had failed miserably on Saturday (too old software and a bug with my Mac).

Now armed with updated software we printed out the targets and rebuilt the color table with the spectrophotometer and tested. It was perfect. The shadow tones - not present in the standard Epson profile were now open and detailed and the color balance of the whole test image compared with the previous days attempts proved the need for good color management to the group.

Having made such a mess of the target reading the day before (a result of dividing the job between 4 people with tiles read inaccurately and an older version of the software that seemed to have problems on my Mac) I brought the target image into Photoshop and soft proofed the bad profile and good profile side by side to show them how easy it is to see if you have gone wrong - something I could have done before printing yesterday.

While waiting for the targets to dry we printed on the InkAid coated media and got excellent results!

As lunch time was approaching rapidly and my stomach was seriously rumbling from a 16 hour gap in organic input, I decided to set up the second session while the food was being prepared and leave the participants to it while I took a break.

With great good fortune I had managed to convince Laura (from Finland), and Seppo's wife Juliet to pose for us starting at 2 pm and they turned up on time with Juliet's sister Jackie. They had brought a change of wardrobe and the plan was to work in two different lighting situations - one inside and one outside.

For the inside scene we worked in the Rock Art Gallery with a plane cream white wall. With only 2 speedlights to work with it was going to be a challenge to get balanced lighting - but with a makeshift reflector (a white PVC sheet used as a support for the Japanese papers) I thought we stood a chance of getting something good out of the minimum amount of gear.

The basic setup with the white wall gelled to blue
I wanted to turn the back wall from the rather boring off-white to a dark blue - for a bit of drama and used a deep colored gel and grid spot to throw the colour onto the wall. With the manual settings on the camera set to ISO 200, 125th sec. and F6.3 at I shot a few frames at the wall until the light gave a nice dark background and then with a chair about 2.5m from the wall put a small shoot-through umbrella above and right and very close to the model with the power down low to avoid spilling light onto the beautiful dark blue of the wall behind. It worked!

The deep blue background shot with a 580 EX and a gelled gridspot
So, with my stomach now anticipating the thought of a visitor, I gave a brief talk on the theory of the set-up to the participants and as I had no light stands with me they could take turns as VOL's (voice activated light stands) and one VOR (voice activated reflector).

Laura in silhouette before the key light
Laura with a Lastolight softbox - later to be added a shoot through umbrella
As I sat down outside in the shade to eat the thunder in my stomach evaporated into the skies above Mount Meru and I fully expected another power failure and wee bit of a monsoon - but nothing materialized and with the inside session complete we moved out into the grounds of the cafe for an ambient/speedlight mix.

The sun was jumping in and out of the clouds and and the hard and soft change of light was exactly the situation I wanted to work with. Here the idea was to find enough shade to avoid heavy shadows and then set up the camera to underexpose the background so we could use a key light and a fill to separate the model from the background and make her pop! I gave a few simple instructions with a short demonstration and then left them to it.

With around 40 frames each from the 2 sessions they got really great results. Its one thing to focus on the technique, get everything set up and balanced and then get the model to respond but somehow they did an amazing job.

Emmanuel's mother and son shot (he has only ever used a phone camera before this)
A few BTS views with patient VOL's and little Ronnie keen to join in
Ema Motta getting my take on the shoot (complete with a now full stomach)

Emmanuel Kichere with the shoot through and me behind with the key light
Vernon's shot of the lovely Jackie against a background nicely exposed with the Land Rover and Tanzanian flag

Ema Motta's shot of Laura on the steps of the back kitchen

 Little Roni - 4 1/2 (5 on the 15th of June so he tells me) took a keen interest in the action and picked up his dad's little point and shoot to join in the fun. His concentration was astonishing. I watched him for a few minutes standing there with his arms outstretched framing up the shot - and as each of the participants arranged their model and started to shoot he would press the shutter as soon as he heard the Canon 5D mkII shutter release next to him.

Little Roni's (4 going on 5) shot of Jackie without lights using Seppo's point and shoot!
 We wrapped the shoot up soon after 5pm and went back inside to download and develop. Lightroom is the best. I explained a little about cataloguing and keyboarding so that each could easily find their own shots and they selected one to develop and print. With me at the controls and a seriously efficient workflow we had the images tweaked for print at at 5:55 pm printed out the shots on the Epson 9900.