Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Accidental Cookie

I was messing around with this model last night.

No, not that way--I ain't that lucky--we were shooting and, since I had a bit more time than usual, I started messing around with the lights.

Most of my messing around, to my eye, didn't look so cool. I know, as photographers, we're often encouraged to think and shoot outside the box but, sometimes, when we do, outside the box ain't such a pretty place.

BTW, I did get all the pics my client needed. The messing around part was in addition to the expected images.

My model, Miko, was cool with it. The alternative was sitting around, bored to tears, listening to me trying to make witty conversation with someone younger than half my age, namely her, and I think she sensed that-- Smart chick. (We were waiting for my client who was running late.)

Anyway, I was playing around with my ring flash, shooting a lot of crap, trying to decide what I did and didn't like about it. (I'm quite new to ring flash lighting.) After a while, I decided to get it off my camera, putting it on a stand above and slightly behind me. As it was, I was working with limited gear. My client, who usually has some pretty nice Profoto packs-and-heads in his studio, didn't. What I mean is the Profoto gear was MIA, AWOL, absent, whatever. Turned out it was on loan.

Fortunately, I had my PCB/Zeus pack-and-heads with me, plus the ring flash that goes with that system. Unfortunately, I had nothing to modify with. You'd think there'd be one lousy umbrella or something in that studio, but no, there wasn't. All I could find was some diffusion material. I should mention I shoot for this client regularly, like weekly, so I assumed, before heading over there, everything would be as it normally is, in the studio I mean. It wasn't. My bad for assuming.

Okay, at least there were stands. So, I grabbed a C-Stand and a grip arm, put a head on it, MacGyvered the diffusion material in front of it to make the light less harsh, and boomed it behind Miko. This would be my backlight, making some highlights from one side and behind. Since I didn't have a main light modifier, I decided to go with the ring flash. After all, many shooters go with a ring flash and, often enough, nothing else. It all worked reasonably well. Good enough to get what I needed to get, especially for web-site use.

Back to putting the ring flash on a light stand...

The ring flash on the stand worked well enough, especially for messing around. The light was a bit harsher than I usually prefer, mostly because I was working in fairly close quarters on a small set and without a modifier.

At one point, I raised my ass of the apple-box I was seated on, snapped a few, chimped, then realized I had partially blocked the ring flash with my fat head and husky body. (Husky sounds better than many alternative words meaning the same or similar, no?) I started to sit back down so as not to block the light when I thought, "Ya know. That doesn't look *that* bad." Leastwise, on the LCD. So, I got back up and, like a human cookie, or cucoloris, snapped a few more, moving my head and body around in front of the ring flash to alter the shadow effect.

I still don't know if I like the results or not. I'm leaning towards not. The colors got a little weird for some reason I haven't yet figured out; I probably screwed them up worse adjusting in post. Her face is approaching geisha-white, seriously mis-matched to the rest of her skin tones-- a result of the hard-light of the ring flash hitting her face and my soft body blocking other parts of the light, i.e., flagging, softening, and feathering.

I suppose the whole experiment was a little like thinking and shooting outside the box, leastwise, it was thinking and shooting off the box-- my ass off the apple-box, that is. But like I said, outside the box ain't always a pretty place. My ass off the apple box ain't so pretty either. I'm just saying.

It certainly would make more sense to use an actual cucolorus instead of my body for a cookie but, like I said, Miko and I were just messing around. (Yeah. I wish.)

The pretty girl at the top, as already mentioned, is Miko. I discovered that Miko's Mom is Korean and her Dad is Irish and she was born in Germany but grew up in Seattle. Go figure. Gotta love that Eurasian thing, right?. BTW, even though the skin on her torso looks smoothed, I didn't do a thing to it in post. All I did was crop, adjust various levels, burn a few areas, and that's about it. I'm thinking the pic might look okay in B&W, especially with my shadows dancing around on her lower body, but I have too much to do right now--Xmas and all--to be messing around with it in PS.

8 comments:

John said...

Interesting effect. I like the way the lighting works on the model, but I don't care for the background at all. Doesn't complement the lighting effect - I know it wasn't planned for this lighting, just sayin'. BTW, I suspect that your color issues are related to the shiny reflector-like regions in your background.

Beautiful model.

Anonymous said...

By the way, we call that a Gobo, not a Cookie. Maybe a flag.

jimmyd said...

@Anon,

Technically and traditionally, a gobo is short for GO-Before-Optics. A gobo is often used to prevent light from spilling on a lens. Flags can be used as gobos.

A cookie, or cucoloris, goes in front of a light source to create shadow effects, often patterns, like the shadow pattern of my head and body on the model's body.

jimmyd said...

@John,

I suspect that your color issues are related to the shiny reflector-like regions in your background.

I suspect you're right. Since the ring flash isn't controlled much, there was probly greater reflective color caste than normal.

rovingrooster said...

I like your recent article about using a "scrim" and this article about a "cookie". Since you're always complaining about a lack of topics, I'd personally like to see more articles of your take to photography basics.

After years of doing great photos, I'm sure it may seems some of your knowledge is so basic that it would not be worth repeating. I check your site every day to get into your headspace. Once you show up on set, you have your girl in front of you and you have a blank canvas on which to do your work. As a veteran, you likely go into Auto-mode based on your experience. For someone starting out, I'm thinking "Now what?" What I would like to see more of is what's going off in your head at this point? What was it you saw in your girl or the setting that led you lean towards a certain concept. The problems you encountered. How you solved them. I'd love to know more about variations you may have liked to try if you weren't constrained by your client. The tech info and the setup photos are always a bonus for me. So hopefully knowing my headspace might help you with future articles on the days you're drawing a blank.

What we really need is a Vulcan mind meld. Until then, your blog is the next best thing!

John

Lou said...

lol... funny little story, Jimmy.

As odd as the image and process is, and how "incorrect" people may say it is, it actually works. My eyes keep hunting for just a tad more detail in the lower portion of the shadows where it's really darkened, or I move my head to a different angle of my laptop LCD hoping it's my angle of view, but nope. It just keeps fucking with me.

I like that it accentuates her geisha-like face, as you put it. I'd call this one hot. :)

jimmyd said...

@Lou,

My eyes keep hunting for just a tad more detail in the lower portion of the shadows where it's really darkened, or I move my head to a different angle of my laptop LCD hoping it's my angle of view, but nope. It just keeps fucking with me.

That was EXACTLY my experience when I viewed the pic and when I did some processing on it.

Anonymous said...

RE:Technically and traditionally, a gobo is short for GO-Before-Optics. A gobo is often used to prevent light from spilling on a lens. Flags can be used as gobos.

Interesting, I was taught that gobo= "go between" as in go between the light and subject. IF it was between the light and lens = flag. Dots and Fingers are shaped Gobos and a Cookie cast broken patterns like leaves, not just a big block over a section.

Scrim = black window screen type material used to slight knock down the light depending on how many layers was used. Not translucent material like a Scrim Jim. Those would be called "Silks".

Guess it all depends on who your teacher was at the time. :-)