On our recent Flash Light Expeditions workshop in Busan, South Korea, I had the chance to demonstrate a simple two flash set up in a workshop of the traditional variety. We were working on balancing daylight and flashes in the streets of the Seomyeon area when a gentleman asked me to make his picture. I made a quick snap, showed him, and then asked him if he’d like to pose for a real photograph a little later. He was all over the idea, and so I used the chance to educate about making light look as though it belongs.
I decided on a simple two flash solution as I knew that I wouldn’t have the time to really work with the gentleman in question (in fact, from ambient test to final image, including all light setup, we spent a total of 5 minutes at the workshop); he was clearly busy and was giving up his time for us to make his portrait. I knew I wanted the frame to be wide enough to show his workshop around him, and give me enough depth of field to really bring in all the details. My answer here is the 17-35mm f/2.8 Nikkor, although in retrospect I would like to have stepped back and zoomed in to remove some of the distortion in his close arm.
My first test was at 1/60, f/5.6, ISO100. It was right where I wanted it; the ambient was illuminating the foreground reasonably, yet the back of the workshop was falling dark. So we set up the first flash, an SB800 at full power with a green gel attached. The green gel was just to keep in line with the fluorescent lights and dirty feel of the workshop. We held it up at roof level and let it bounce as much as we could off the grime covered ceiling. In the end, it probably only added about 1/3-2/3 of a stop to the ambient, but this was what I was aiming for. We were augmenting the ambient light, giving ourselves a little more control.
After a few struggles with PC sync cords not working (ah…), I decided I wanted to go with both a little more ambient and a little more flash, so I adjusted my settings to 1/80 @ f/4. This gave me 2/3 of a stop more ambient and 1 stop more flash.
Then, we added the second flash and our subject into the scene. The second flash was another SB800 with a half cut of CTO attached. Again, the gel is not absolutely necessary, but I wanted to keep the light from being too sterile, this was his environment. This flash was fired at 1/2 power through a little octagonal softbox lent to us by the kind folks at SMDV for the day (may just have to pick one of these up soon), and just kissed over the existing light on him again. Thankfully, this light fired every time; no pesky PC sync cord on this one.
We made three frames, thanked the man for his time, got his address to send him a print and went to have lunch. Above and below are two of the frames. Although I prefer his expression in the one where his arm was extended, it does get a little disproportionate with the 17mm focal length.