5.19.2009

Playing With Hot Lights. Next Year's Hip Trend.

Love flashes.  They're really cool.  But the hot light for me right now is the hot light.  I love to shoot portraits.  That's what I do.  But I hate being dependent on flash for my lighting.  You don't really see what you get when you are looking through the camera and you have to wait around for the damn things to recycle. Then there is the whole depth of field thing you have to deal with.  Always looks good when you look through lens.  And who ever uses that "depth of field" button?  The heck with all that.  I've started shooting my portraits with several tungsten halogen lights and I'm really happy.  For a number of reasons.

1.  In a studio or other controlled environment I see exactly what I get.  Really.

2.  With a D700 I can shoot at 800 ISO and get exposures like 1/400th at f4.  That means I can shoot at 8 frames a second if I want to/ need to. Wow.  8 frames a second for as many shots as I want without ever worrying about recycle time.

3.  With a 1,000 watt light shining though one layer of scrim material you have all the light your camera ever wanted for lightning fast focus.  On the money focus with no hesitation.

4.  Imagine being able to shift shutter speeds until you find just the aperture you always dreamed of for your shoot.  With perfect focus every time.

5.  Keep your pizza next to the 1K and it will stay warm.  

So, I'm doing the season brochure for my favorite theater (Zachary Scott Theater) and we're doing portraits of actors.  Here's the lighting set up:

One Profoto ProTungsten fixture with a 1,000 watt FEL lamp.  (The discontinued Profoto tungsten light takes all the regular modifiers and is fan cooled.)  One Magnum reflector set to full flood.  All this is aimed through a six foot by six foot white two stop silk.  The silk is set about three feet from the actor.  Yummy directional softlight.  Add a little bit of fill from a Chimera 4x4 foot reflector panel and you've got the main light locked.

The gray canvas background is thirty feet back from the subject and is lit by a Desisti 300 watt spotlight with the barndoors clamped down a bit.  That's the whole ball of wax.  One person set up in 30 minutes or less.

Radical thought:  I used my D700 in the high quality Jpeg setting because I was so certain that what I saw on the meter, in the finder and on the screen was just right.  I preset the color balance at 3150K and looking on my calibrated monitor back at the studio I was right on the money.  Why jpeg?  Because the new Nikon bodies automatically fine tune every lens you put on the front, eliminating CA, vignetting and sharpness issues.  With the new color settings everything is just about perfect right out of camera.  Why correct raw files if you've already landed not only in the ballpark but right across the plate?

I shot fifteen hundred files tonight and we've got more to shoot tomorrow.  I threw away five that didn't work out.  I'll let the client make the more subtle edits....

If you haven't shot portraits with a set of tungsten lights you are certainly missing out on a cheap thrill.  I'm not sure I ever want to go back to strobe.  You might not either.

Marketing note:  If everyone else is chasing the same look doesn't it make sense to find your own niche?

To sleep.  Perchance to dream.  Of tungsten lights.....