Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shooting with an HMI

Click to Enlarge
Every once in a while I get to play around with less common lighting instruments, leastwise less common to still photography. Shooting with an HMI is one such example.

For those unfamiliar with HMI instruments, the letters stand for Hydrargyrum Medium-arc Iodide. That explains everything, right?

Just kidding.

An HMI lamp uses mercury vapor mixed with metal halides in a quartz-glass envelope with two tungsten electrodes of medium arc separation. Still not sure what an HMI actually is? Yeah. I wouldn't be either. Especially, if I'd never worked with HMIs. (Which I have, many times, but mostly for video production.)

In a nutshell, an HMI is an arc light, one that requires a ballast to ignite it and keep it lit. (HMIs need  extra voltage to operate, hence the ballast.) HMIs throw bright, intense, powerful light with the color temperature of sunlight. (About 6000K.)  HMIs are often used for daylight film and video production since the light they produce successfully competes with daylight in terms of brightness and color temp.

Most HMI instruments come with a selection of lenses to mount in front of their lamps, you know, like a Fresnel lens as an example. Often, the lenses are used to control the spread of the light. Besides their use in daylight, HMIs are also used for interior lighting along with other, more common, continuous lighting instruments like tungsten lamps. When they are mixed in with tungsten, they often need to be converted to a much lower color temp via a filter placed in front of the lamp. (Unless, of course, daylight color temp is what you want, even in an interior location.) HMIs would likely be used more often by photographers if they weren't so expensive. A good HMI can cost quite a few thousands of dollars.

The photo at the top is one I captured with an HMI. There was also plenty of sunshine coming through the large bank of windows. (Which the HMI had no problem being equal to or brighter than.) I also employed a couple of reflectors to exploit the natural light.  The image below features the HMI as well as the reflectors. While many of you may never work with an HMI, and it's certainly true that, for my photography, I do so only rarely, I still think it's always good to learn about other ways to light even if the gear likely won't end up part of our production work-flows.

FYI: If the reflector to the right of the model is one you're unfamiliar with, in gaffer parlance it's called a "shiny board." It's an efficient reflector (in terms of the amount and intensity of light it reflects) producing fairly hard specular light.

Click to Enlarge
Here's another from the set. It's SOOC (Straight Out of the Camera) except for resizing and just a touch of sharpening. Nothing else done to it in post. The HMI is lighting her face and upper torso. The shiny board is illuminating her lower stomach area and legs. Sunlight is providing highlights on her hair, left side, as well as the left side of her body.


Winston Cooper said...

Jimmy..as always a ton of info on shooting styles and gear. Very Thank you. Kind of like Thom Hogan but with MUCH better images to look at, although the top image on this post does look a little feral. Yep..don't think this kind of lighting will happen around my little hobbyist studio but idea and practice good to know.

More to the point though, would you please comment on the electrical tape crosses over the models nipples. I have seen this on many post on the web and just don't get it. There must be something I am missing in art/glamor, and as you say, tease nude....

Thank you again.

jimmyd said...

@Winston: I thought the electrical tape was a bit weird too. This was on a video production set and the director wanted some stills with the tape on her nipples. I was like, "Ok," and continued shooting. I've seen it done elsewhere as well.