Saturday, January 8, 2011

Studio shoot with Miyu - Testing the Speedlight ProKit Beauty Dish

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS 1/160@f4

My second studio shoot in Japan during this trip was with Miyu from Model Mayhem.  We did several setups, and I tried to keep the lighting very simple since we only had a few hours to work with. 

One of the first things Miyu and I worked on was a series of headshots.  For this I went with 2-SB26 flashes triggered with a Pocket Wizard.  Each flash was mounted on a lightstand with a Westcott white shoot thru umbrella in an over-under clamshell style lighting setup. I used the 70-200mm L alens and shot in between the two umbrellas.

I had Miyu standing pretty close to the front of the umbrellas, so I really dialed down the power on the flashes. The top strobe was set to about 1/8th power and the lower one to about 1/16th power.   This allowed me to not have to worry about recycle time.  Also, I only needed to use two Pocket Wizard tranceivers - one on the 5D mkII and one on the upper SB26.  The nice thing about the SB26 flashes is that they have a built in optical slave, so the upper flash triggers the lower one.
This two umbrella clamshell lighting setup is one of my favorites - it's relatively quick to setup and it produces a really clean look on models, which they like.  You can adjust the strength of the shadows by simply dialing down the power of the lower flash or by bumping up the power of the upper flash.

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS 1/160@f4

Also tried adding some motion to the hair by fanning it with a reflector, but it's really hard to do it and fire the camera at the same time without an assistant and without knocking down the umbrellas in the process (forgot the sandbags again).  I did try using the DSLR Remote Pro app on my iPhone to fire the camera which I had tethered to my Macbook Pro, but it was hard to get the timing just right.  An electric fan would have been easier, but unfortunately the studio didn't have one.

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS 1/160@f4

Miyu did a quick restyling of her hair and we did a couple more headshots before moving on to the next setup.  I also had her do a series of different expressions just for fun.

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS 1/160@f4

The next setup was on the bed, and for this I went to a new addition to my traveling lighting kit - a collapsible beauty dish by ProKit.

I really like using a beauty dish in studio when doing model photoshoots.  It has a very nice quality of light that is different from using an umbrella or a softbox.  The main problem with the beauty dish is that because of the size and shape, it is impractical for me to take it on trips to Japan.

I first learned about the ProKit line of flash modifiers via the Strobist website.  The collapsible beauty dish is one of their newer products and although it seemed a bit pricey at $100, it looked like it would travel very well. It packs completely flat, so I could store it in the front pocket of my ThinkTank Airport Security 2.0 rolling camera bag.

Setup was relatively quick, if a bit fiddly.  It reminded me a lot of those "build-your-own-starship" paper model making kit books they used to have, you know the ones where you punch out the cardboard pieces and assemble the model by folding and bending, inserting tab A into slot B etc.

Basically you put a thick rubber band around the head of the flash, mount the dome diffuser and reflector onto that, then insert the assembly into the center of the beauty dish (which itself is basically two large semicircles of white plastic that snap together into a shallow cone).  You then secure the dish to the flash with a strip of velcro and congratulations, you have just built the starship Enterprise - er, I mean the ProKit Beauty Dish.

Canon 5D mkII 24-105mm f4L 1/50@f4 

I was originally going to bring some silk Hawaiian flowers to Japan for this shoot, but totally forgot about getting it until the night before our flight. So I went to WalMart at 1am and found these silk rose petals in the wedding decoration section.  Think it worked out for the better as the color matched her lingerie top.

I also brought a couple other reflectors that ProKit makes.

These reflectors also snap together and are secured to the flash by rubber bands and velcro.  Here I have it mounted to a Justin Clamp on a C-stand.  I used this behind the model as the edge light. The beauty dish is the main light.

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.2L II 1/160@f4 

 For these last few shots, I added a CTO and a 1/8 CTO gel to each light and set the white balance to tungsten to add a bluish tint to the background.  Had some difficulty trying to get the rim light to give a good edge to the dress and also highlight the hair.  Next time will have to remember to use 2 rim lights instead of just one.

 Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.2L II 1/160@f5.6

 Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.2L II 1/160@f2

I really like the shallow depth of field look you can get with the 85mm.  I'm seriously considering getting a second 5DmkII just so I can use different lenses on it.

I almost forgot to mention, on this shoot I used version 2.0 of Shuttersnitch on the iPad to collect the images from the WFT-E4 transmitter on the 5Dmk II and am happy to report it worked much better than version 1.1.9.  Didn't crash at all during our session together.  I think the next thing I want to try is to have the WFT-E4 send images to both the iPad and my MacBook Pro running Lightroom at the same time.

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