Snow goddess and an often forgotten photo technique

We completed another awesome day of shooting for our Lighting Notebook project (due out in June/July) and I wanted to share a couple images that used a technique that doesn't get thought of as often by portrait photographers. The first image of Christina was shot in the late afternoon and the sun was still pretty bright. I wanted to use f2.8 or f3.5 on my 70-200mm Nikon lens to really soften the foreground and background. I also wanted to drop the ambient exposure by about a stop to get the dramatic colors and minimize blowing out the highlights. I planned to use two big 42x72" Photoflex lightframes side by side as the main light - with 2 Alien Bees shooting through them. The problem is, how to get a syncable shutter speed (1/250 at most) AND open up to F2.8 in bright daylight? The solution was neutral density filters over the lens. I stacked 3 of them together so that I could keep the shutter speed slow to capture some movement in the fabric. I got it down to 1/60th and f3.2. Then, I just needed to match the output of the flash units to the f-stop. I barely had enough power as I had to have both Alien Bees at full power to give me the proper exposure. I used my Pocket Wizards to sync wirelessly.

The result was a soft, beautiful mainlight on the right and the sun as a perfectly balanced rim light on the left. The wind and my assistant repeatedly throwing the fabric in the air created the wonderful shapes and movement. I finished the image off with my Photoshop Artistic Tools Vol. 4 and our new Borders & Texures give it that vintage feel. Christina was, of course, key to making this image work as she is beautiful and a real trooper for standing out in the snow half-naked for nearly an hour!


For this image I also used the neutral density filters with my Nikon 50mm f1.4. I wanted to shoot wide open to really soften the background, but it was in the middle of the day and I needed to synchronize with the off-camera flash - which was a Nikon SB900 shooting through a 42x72" Photoflex diffusion panel. The filters enabled me to open up to f2.0 and still sync at 1/250. I finished the image with my Twilight preset for Lightroom, part of the Vintage Delish collection.