“Creating” Sun

February 7th, 2013 | Photography Tips

In Genesis, it was recorded that God said, “Let there be light and there was light.” As a photographer how I wish I had such power. Poor weather & lousy lighting conditions have deprived us of many photo opportunities. Some of my colleagues moan about working in the tropics where we only have a “golden half hour” where as photographers in the northern or southern hemisphere enjoy great light for 3-4 hours a day.

We have two options. Either we play victims, or we find solutions. I am a big fan of solving problems.

The bad news is we have to spend some time learning how flash works, and ditch that “I’m an available light shooter” badge we wear so proudly. The good news is the solution is inexpensive and simple to understand. There are many ways to shoot, but this is my way:

Step 1: expose with manual exposure, with 3D matrix (Nikon) / Evaluative (Canon)
Step 2: expose for the ambient light. I prefer to expose the ambient light 1-2 stop under to add drama and contrast to the picture.
Step 3: bring in the flash in manual mode. Adjust the power until you get the exposure that pleases you.

I was photographing Louisa and Khavines. By 6:30pm the sun had gone beyond the horizon, and together with it, the golden hour. As you can see the ambient light was dull, disinteresting and flat. I asked myself what would this scene look like during the golden hour. The bottle brush grass would be gold in the late afternoon sun and the couple would bask in that amazing light. I could see the entire scene in my head. Now, I need to recreate that with technology.

So I brought out a SB800 with CTO gel and the Phottix Odin wireless system on paint pole. The whole setup cost less than U$500 probably less since the SB800 is 5 years old. The light was positioned 8-10 feet from the couple to the left of the frame and 10 feet off the ground. The whole idea is to replicate a late afternoon sun. The warmth of the CTO gel gives us the warm glow.

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Then we move on to a pier. By then it was 7:05pm. We had even less light to work with. I could have opted for this exposure by bumping up my ISO, shoot wide open with an exotic lens.

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Instead, I decided for this look which gives more saturation of background, a peaceful and gentle blue hue of the water and skyline with a sprinkle of warm “late afternoon” light from a beat up SB800 with CTO.

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

Portraits created with Phottix Odin by Louis Pang

And this is how we achieved it. The flash was 25-30 feet from the couple, and about 15 feet from me.

I see flash as a tool, just like any other tools in my camera bag. Tools are to help us solve problems and achieve our vision. So it is my responsibility to learn how to use my tools as well as I could. Knowledge widens our photographic horizon and possibilities. While we are no God, yet we can certainly say, “Let there be light.”

The pictures above were created with the Phottix Odin wireless flash triggering system. I’ve been using them for 6 months now. This wireless system sets a new bar for the combination of ease of use, quality and pricing. The Odins are outstanding wireless flash triggers/transmitters. I was skeptical of the Odins at first because Phottix was all new to me. I was given several units as a gift from Phottix. Took me a while to bring them along with me for shoots because I was more familiar with a different system. Now they are with me in every shoot. They can be used for TTL flash or manual triggers for studio lights, including my trusty Elinchrom Quadra. It’s also the most inexpensive wireless system I’ve used.

(Phottix is one of my main sponsors for my Platform Class at WPPI.)

7 Responses to “Creating” Sun

  1. asme

    so far.. but awesome lighting….

  2. Shashi (Sim)

    Hi Louis, This is great work as usual & executed very technically right. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. pony

    great! happy Chinese new year!

  4. Kandid Weddings Photography

    Gotta love Phottix. They consistently deliver quality products and Odin is no exception especially after the firmware update for Canon version.

  5. shah effendy

    hello louis…wut a great sharing and its very informative.i have a question thou..how do you set ur WB when using gel to casting colour into the shot? thank you in advance for ur answer…i’m waiting :D

  6. Todd Dixon

    Hi Louis. Great tip! What level cto gel did you use for this shot? For example, 3/4, 1/2, full cto, etc.? Also, is there a particular strength you use most often? Thanks in advance.

  7. Louis

    Todd, I have the 1/4, 1/2 and full cut CTO. You can mix and match to get the desired strength. 1/4+1/2 = 3/4. 1/2 + full cut = 1.5 strength.

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