The latest addition to this, the never ending project, was set to be on a little bit of a fantasy theme, but as with all photoshoots, was ripped apart and rebuilt two hours before. I had a beautiful model with wavy blonde hair and sharp features lined up to shoot a ‘fairy in the forest’ type of feel for this one. I had planned to let the sunlight pour through the image and light her subtly with the gaping maw of a 60″ umbrella to add in a little snap. However, she cancelled at the last minute due to getting an offer with a bigger budget than my pocket full of emptiness. Who can blame her?
After initially cancelling the shoot, I got ready to have a free Sunday. Then my wife, Jeehe, stepped up to the plate and offered to model for this one. The concept quickly got changed around, a darker dress to suit her skin and hair a little better, and the edgier light of the Westcott 28″ softbox. We called the tray-truck driver to move our table, and sat to mull over some ideas.
When we arrived at the location, a children’s playground in an apartment complex, the setting sun was pouring through the cherry blossoms and it looked like we’d have about 10 minutes before it dipped behind the buildings. I decided to keep with the sort of magical feel I had initially imagined. So we used the sun as a back-light and rim-light and I screwed my ND8 filter into the 85mm f/1.4, no hood. I wanted a wide open aperture and no flare reducing metal contraption. Pointing it into the sun, I knew I was in for some epic flare. Perfect. I clicked a test frame to see how things were looking.
Great. Now because of the flare, we’re losing a lot of contrast. To bring a little of that back, I’m going to keep that underexposure, and pop a flash on our lovely subject. This is where the image changed quite a bit for me. I had planned for that flash to be just a tiny, almost unnoticeable wash of umbrella light. In the end, I ended up with the more punchy, shadow filled, softbox light. This calls attention to itself a little more than I had initially anticipated.
I make a quick guesstimate based solely on experience with using the Einstein 640Ws in the Westcott 28″, and set the light to 1/2 power. It’s a little too much power, so I drop it down to 1/4. At this power level, I’m able to shoot about a frame every half a second with this light, and I’m happy with that. It’s not amazingly fast action. Also, I’m shooting RAW on the D800, which means that the 110 frames I’m about to shoot amount to almost 4gb of data.
I have Jeehe stand on the table with a teapot full of tea, hold one branch up high to elongate her a little. Then, I have Zack, my trusty VAL for this shoot, move in next to her with the light. He is actually in the frame, but as I’ll be shooting a panorama, he’ll disappear later anyway. After one quick test shot, I ask Jeehe to pour the tea out behind her roughly in the direction of the cup on the table. She couldn’t have been better with her aim! We fire off about 10 frames, then I have everyone move out of the scene, disconnect my radio trigger and spray off a collection of frames all around the table to use in building my panorama and erasing Zack from the frame.
Fifteen minutes later we are back in the rented tray-truck on our way home. I chose one frame of Jeehe on the table and 36 surrounding images to make the panorama. These 37 frames were plugged into Photomerge in Photoshop CS5, and we left the house to have dinner. After returning two hours later, the merge was still in progress, and it was another hour before Photoshop completed its foray into D800 panorama merging.
The surprisingly good result was then cropped before having a couple of small ‘mistakes’ made by the merging algorithm fixed by hand. I also added a cloud texture over the image to give it a little more of an other-worldly feel. Then it was taken into Lightroom for final editing. A little warmth and a little contrast were added.
Here are the final image, and a crop to show the detail maintained by using this technique.