Sun’s up. Do we need to use a flash?

There’s a scene in a movie ‘Yes Man” where a group of artistic hipsters are preparing for a jogging/photography -class. Just before Jim Carrey and hilarity ensues, there’s this bit of dialogue between a student and the teacher of the class:

“Alison? Do we need to use a flash?”

“Not when the sun’s up, Reggie.”

When me and Annamari watched the movie, we both went: “That’s not true!” Sometimes it’s even more important to use flash when the sun is up! While it’s true that flashes often become essential in low light when you’re shooting portraits, flash can actually be as useful (if not more) in the hours of daylight. Bright daylight often creates harsh light with a strong contrast that rarely is extremely flattering: you get strong, burned highlights paired with dark parts and black eye sockets – not the look you’re often going for. Sunlight is especially difficult to deal with when you are shooting against a strong backlight. That is when you need flashes.

Most of us don’t like using flashes. I originally didn’t either. I hated them, and thought that using flash = ruined atmosphere. But as I started experimenting with flashguns and studio flashes and bought a cheap-ass pair of remote triggers (cost me about 40€), I realized that they really weren’t the boogie man that I thought they were. On the contrary these days I love using flashes, as they help me to capture the scene as I want it, instead of letting the ambient light dictate the way my shoot looks.  Here’s an example from last weekend. We were out shooting with Annamari. I really wanted to take a shot of her with that lovely, bokehy backlight. This was the first attempt:

flash1bSo, while the background looks pretty good, Annamari is way underexposed. And I want her to be the main attraction of the shot, not the pretty bokeh. So, why not use photoshop? That shadows-slider is really handy, you know? While I could go the Photoshop way and process the shot until the cows came home, I would still be facing two problems: the loss of image quality and the lack of directional light. Even with a lot of processing the result would not be that great. So, enter a flashgun with a shoot-through umbrella on the right. And the results:

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Much better, don’t you think? Just that catchlight in Annamari’s eyes was worth the effort of spending 2 minutes putting up the flash on a light stand. The background is still nicely exposed and the strong backlight is still drawing that lovely rimlight on Annamari’s hair, but the overall lighting of the foreground is much better.

Here’s another example of using a flash during the day. Flashes aren’t useful only with strong sunlight. On a dull, overcast day, flashes can work in a opposite way: adding contrast and direction to a flat light, making the subjects seem more three-dimensional and colourful. Few months ago I shot a wedding couple on this lovely location in Jyväskylä. The weather was really unstable: first we got rain, then it was cloudy and then we would get short blasts of full sunlight. This was the first shot that I took:

It’s not utterly horrible – you see these sort of shots everyday in newspapers. But it’s lacking punch: the couple is annoyingly blending with the dark background and the bride’s dress looks kind of gray. So after a few tries I asked the maid of honor to help me – I was shooting in manual mode and the settings are pretty much the same, but I handed the maid of honor a flashgun (1/8 power) with a remote trigger and asked her to hold the flash towards the couple from the right:

hää2c Again, much better! The wedding couple pops out from the background, there’s a nice directional light that still looks natural and the colors are much nicer!

Here’s one more example. Few months ago we were out shooting with our model, Laura (see Annamari’s blog entry). As the sun started coming up, we stopped using a tripod and went hand-held. The sky was looking wondeful with soft, warm colors. But the contrast between the sky and everything else was hard to deal with. So we decided to use a flashgun to light Laura. Here was the tricky part: we wanted the light to match the warm tones of the sunrise, but… flashes produce light that has a color temperature close to daylight (about 5500°K); so the light that the flash was producing was way colder than the ambient light. To get that warm tone we had to use a warming flash gel. So, I was shooting, Annamari was holding the flashgun with a warming flash gel and a diffuser. And here we go:flash3

The difference really is quite dramatic. But enough of this blabbering: I totally encourage you to dust off your flashguns, buy a cheap remote trigger (or an expensive one, if you got the cash) and try them out! I guarantee that they will take your portraiture to another level.

-Samuli

The Circle meets it’s point

It was October 2012. I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend and I had decided I would not miss out of life anymore. I would find my own things that I enjoyed. And I would be more courageous, not afraid of the city anymore. That meant going out to events and explore the city.

These lines that ran through my unconsciousness forced me to go to light festival of Linnanmäki. On a very cold and dark night I grabbed my camera and went to the festival. With my frozen fingers I pushed the button when I saw this enchanting carousel. I had no tripod back then, and with the little technical knowledge I had I was able to capture this.

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(picture up taken October 2012)

The picture isn’t very good but it’s meaningful to me, thus the clouds behind are a nice twist. This was one of the first night shots and I think it’s the pole of where things started to go towards this path where I am now. In many ways. Couple of days later I posted this picture on Facebook and Samuli commented it. After that I begun a Facebook chat with him that was our first conversation in 2 years and it was also pretty much our first real conversation ever. We met quite soon after that.

A year after that I went to the light festival again. My first thought was that I have to go and take a photograph of the same carousel. Just to see how much progress I had made compared to the one I took a year ago. This time I was at the carnivale with Samuli and I had just bought a tripod. Ironically it broke first thing we got to the festival area, but I was still able to use it.

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(picture up taken October 2013)

A little artistic freedom never hurt anyone, right? That year the October wasn’t that cold.

This year we went to the light carnivale again, and this time It was friggin cold again. To be honest, I just wanted to go straight to the carousel and photograph it again, to see if my skills had developed from the one I took in 2013. Here’s what I captured:

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(picture up taken October 2014)

So in a way, I guess here’s where the circle ends and begins again.

But before I end this post, I did promise that this year would be for portraiture..

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This was just a try, that’s why we didn’t care about the camera bags that much. The real thing will be produced this weekend!

See you around!

-Annamari

Fields of Cold – the challenging yet rewarding shoot

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What does it take to take a photograph like this? In our case, it took one really brave and beautiful girl (Laura), two photographers and one warmer/focuser (Laura’s boyfriend Petteri who hugged Laura every time she was getting too cold and who also pointed led light at Laura when we were trying to focus on her in the dark), two flashes, lot of tries and quite a bit of luck with the weather!

If you want to try this, you really want to prepare well. The temperature was quite cold and the grass quite wet, so wear boots and warm layers. You can’t actually see it in these pictures but Laura also had boots on her, but that obviously didn’t do the job in keeping her warm. She’s a pro model in that way, she can really stand discomfort if that’s what it takes to get good results.

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We went to the field approximatedly at 3 am. The light changes dramatically when the sunrise starts, so we wanted to prepare the shoot well and arrange our equipment so we wouldn’t miss the grand start of the day.

We had a flashgun behind Laura and a flash with an umbrella on the front of her. At first the pictures were just plain dark, so I changed to longer exposure (the image at the top with Laura blowing foggy air). The challenge with LE + flash combination is that the person turns transparent. Here you can see through Laura, and I have even corrected the picture. In this case it suits the idea as Laura could be a ghost wandering in the fields, but if this was a shoot for some magazine the transparency would be a hazard.

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We tried to correct the effect by asking Laura to stand still, but that turned out to be even more complicated setup. Her face would become blurry or distorted. So after freezing her appearance with flash she had to move away from the picture.

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The original idea was to take shots in the mist. As the night leaned forward we finally did get some mist in the field for a short period. As the mist started to form we faced another problem. The mist went right through Laura as it’s lighter than most of the parts of the image. (see below)

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Yikes! Not so flattering, huh? Sliced by mist and as a top on the iceberg Laura has a tripod inside her. This problem occurred on the previous image with the mist too. Only photoshop could save the image, and to be honest I think the only thing you can do in that kind of surrounding is to not place Laura in front of white/bright subjects.

After this we took the umbrella from the flash and gave it to Laura. That’s when things finally started to roll!

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The umbrella reflected enough light on Laura’s face and the flash behind her also lit up the mosquitos making them look like pixies. Shooting from low perspective (pictures below) gave the images a bit more space and atmosphere. I think Laura looks like she’s about to fly away to the skies with her umbrella.

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When we arrived at this point of the shoot, sun finally started to rise, giving the sky some vibrant new tones. These photos didn’t need any post-processing.

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The official warmer doing his job!

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

-Annamari

Autumn Play

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. Autumn is the time of the year, when every leaf is a flower. There’s symbolism in the way how the nature starts to fall asleep and is turning in bright colours. It’s just like when the sun is pulling back to her sleep the sky explodes in most wonderful colours.

Yeah, I love autumn. Samuli is learning to like it too, but he gets a bit down when the season gets darker. He’s a basic Finn that way.

However we had a blast last saturday. Leaves give such great colour to backgrounds and are great photo props!

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Construction, part I

We’re finally getting a hold on the site and starting to undestand about adding galleries and pictures. One big problem is that this site doesn’t seem to like Safari so much. I’m having hard time constructing this site with my Mac and I have to view most of the changes through my PC laptop.

However, today we added quite a lot of shots to the galleries. I really like the portrait part, I love all my models and always remember how fun it was working with them when we took the photographs. There’s something opposite with the landscapes, though. I hate most of my landscape shots, while Samuli’s landscape pictures are excellent. He really knows how to use contrast and colours and make a simple and interesting composition. I want to blame my old wide angle Sigma that does horrible distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting to the images. But I know the most fault happens behind the camera, not inside it. Somehow yet I think my solitude images are pretty good. Why is it that a person in the picture makes the landscape so much better?

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However, even with a small downer from the fact that I’d love to have better landscape shots, it’s so great to see how this site is building up! Like when you see couple of snowflakes falling and suddenly you see car-shaped piles of disturbing cold white material everywhere. Wait.. that wasn’t too positive, was it?

I’m probably going to design some kind of logo for us this week if I have the energy.

Keep on rockin’!

Annamari

It starts

Alright, so we’re trying to get this thing going on! Wow.. own homepage! What should I talk about first… oh yes, the name. Soluna Images. Weird, huh? We thought that Untouchable photography was a bit too long, and Samuli said that he would like that the name would emphasize how our style is so similiar yet they complete each other. Like yin and yang? I asked. And suddenly it came to me.

Sun is our primary equipment when we shoot, but we enjoy the light of the moon and stars too. I have a cat named Luna (she looked magical and she has a pattern of a full moon in her butt!), that’s why she was named after the moon. We’ve also been thinking about getting a dog at some point and have joked about naming him Sola. So I suggested if we could come up with something like Lunasola.. then Samuli googled a bit and found that there actually is a term Solunar theory, which means that the action of the sun and the moon influences the activity of all living beings in nature. It sounded perfect. Also in a Finnish mouth Soluna means “as a cell”. It’s also some kind of cough medicine, haha! However, I think it fits us perfectly. Soluna Images. Soluna

 

Annamari