This week on The Slanted Lens, I am in Maine heading out to Stonington to photograph fishermen. My goal with today’s lesson is to show how you can get one light dramatic portraits on location by yourself. I have no assistants with me, I am doing this all by myself. Julene is with me but she will only be shooting behind-the-scenes footage to show what I am doing.
My Run and Gun Setup
I am going to use a Photoflex Triton on a stand with an Octodome that has a grid on it. The reason I choose this so often is that it is small and easy to move around. The footprint isn’t very big and it also doesn’t have a large dome on top that is going to get blown around in the wind. I will hang two Triton batteries from the stand to act as a weight but also to give me a backup as soon as I need one. I don’t want to have to take several trips back to the car and we don’t have a lot of time with these fishermen before the sun goes down. To add more weight to the stand, I am using a PhotoFlex RockSteady portable sandbag with a couple water bottles in each side. This is what I will carry around.
I am using a method of mixing one strobe light as the key with ambient light as the fill. I am only one person so I don’t want to move a strobe and a Fill light. I want to carry a strobe in one hand and a camera on a tripod in the other. This will make me mobile so I can move to the next set up without having to go back and get things. A Canon 5D Mark III with a Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 lens is my primary camera. I want to capture portraits and the background so this wider angle lens is perfect. My secondary camera is another Mark III on my hip in the Spider Holster; this one has a Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 lens to get nice close up shots. I will use a Pocket Wizard on the camera to trigger my light. I wish I had two triggers but when I put the secondary camera at my side, I would have knocked the trigger off the hot shoe. Moving the trigger from camera to camera slows me down a little but not too much.
First, I am shooting on Manual. It is very hard to balance strobes and daylight when on any other setting. I set my shutter at 1/60th of a second and then open the aperture up until I get a comfortable ambient exposure. I am using the open daylight to fill his face, then I add my Triton and dial it up or down to until I get a nice highlight on his face. I am using a grid on the Photoflex Octodome so that I can keep the light more focused and not have the strobe reveal itself by spilling all over the dock.
I photographed several fishermen in this open light. This method of shooting for open shadows is easy to do and ideal when you are working alone with one light.
Below are some of the final portraits of the Fishermen of Stonington, Maine. I will post a new video of how I lit these portraits each week here on TheSlantedLens.com so make sure you check back often to see them all. Until then, keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
Don’t forget to enter our November 2014 giveaway to get a chance to win a Tamron 150-600mm lens!
Portraits of the Fishermen of Stonington, Maine
The Lighting Breakdown
How to Shoot One Light Dramatic Portraits On Location By Yourself
Jay P Recommends for this Shoot
Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we headed to Maine. It was cold. Rain, snow I’m from California man but we made it here. Of course, I’ve got my Nursey Bungay hat on my down jacket. I’m ready to go so we came to Maine because I want to do some one-light portraits of Maine fishermen. We’re going to go out to a little town called Stonington. We’re going to do some great portraits of lobster fishermen there. I’m going to do it with one light, a Triton with my trusty OctoDome with a grid. We’ll use a lot of ambient light and mix those together. We’re going to do some one-light portraits of fishermen up in Maine.
It’s not too late to win this and this.
There were two main reasons for us heading to Maine. One and maybe the most important we wanted to see Maine. We’ve never been there before. Just wanted to see what it was like there and two was I really wanted to photograph fishermen. Our goal here today is to show that you can get dramatic results with a single light and working very much on your own. Julene’s only going to be doing BTS and I’ll be moving my own light, setting my own light and photographing each of these fishermen. We’re supposed to be there at 2:00 PM to shoot which only gave us two and a half hours to shoot. We got there a little late because of the issues we had on the road so our time with the fishermen was cut just a little short. We had just around two hours.
First, my run-and-gun lighting set up. I’m going to use a Photoflex Triton on a stand with an OctoDome that has a grid on it. The reason I choose this so often is it’s small and it’s easy for me to move around. That footprint is not very large. I don’t have a huge softbox being blown around the wind. It’s also a little more directional. I like a little heavier, directional light. I’m going to put the Triton on the stand with the OctoDome and I’m going to hang the battery on the stand to give it a little bit of weight. I’m going to hang a second Triton battery on the same stand to give it a little more weight but more importantly I’m also going to have a battery I can quickly just unplug my head and plug it in to and I can keep on shooting. So I’ve got that right there with me the whole time when I’m walking around. Now to keep the stand from blowing away, I’m going to add weight. There’s a RockSteady portable sandbag that Photoflex makes. I throw water bottles in them. I have two water bottles on each side and I hang it on the stand that’s my sandbag and off we go.
I’m using a method of mixing one strobe light as the key with ambient light as the fill. I’m only one person so I don’t want to move two strobes or a strobe light and a reflector on a stand. I just want to carry a strobe in one hand and a camera on a tripod in the other. This is going to make me very mobile so I can move to the next setup without having to go back and get things and make two or three trips. I did however bring a seven-in-one reflector that I knew was going to be too much. Once I take this thing out, I’ve now got to move it around and I don’t have enough hands for it. So remember my goal is I want to expose for the fill light and add a key light. So that’s the way I’m going to set things up today.
Now for my camera setup. I’m going to put a Mark III with a Tamron 24 to 70 2.8 lens on a Vanguard tripod. Using a Spider Holster, I’ll carry a second Mark III with a Tamron 70 to 200 millimeter two point lens on my hip for quick access so I can pull it out, do a few shots and then drop it back on the Holster. I’m ready to go. Two cameras and one light. I use a Pocket Wizard on the camera to trigger my Triton. I wish I had two triggers but the problem with two triggers is when you put that camera at your side you’re going to knock it off from the hot shoot. So I just have one trigger. I’m going to have to move it from camera to camera as I switch back and forth through the cameras. That’ll slow me down a little bit but not impossible thing to work with. I chose to shoot on a 24-70 as the main camera because I wanted portraits that show a lot of environment. My exposure when I’m working with just one light. First, remember our principle. We want to expose for the fill light and then add a key. So I’m going to shoot on manual. It’s pretty hard to balance strobes in daylight when you’re using any other setting. I set my shutter at one sixtieth of a second. That’s going to make sure I don’t clip the strobe and then I open up the aperture until I get a comfortable ambient exposure. I’m going to use that open daylight to fill his face. Take a look at this first image. Now I add my Triton and dial it up or down until I get a nice highlight on his face. I’m using a grid on the Photoflex OctoDome so that I can keep the light more focused and not have strobes reveal themselves by spilling all over the dock. I really like keeping the light very focused. So here’s my first set up before the strobe and now I’m going to add that Triton as a highlight. Here’s a couple of shots from that first set up. I’m not really super in love with this set up so I’m going to move on to something else. I moved my first subject to the corner of the old building and reset my aperture to get an ambient exposure. I like this set up much more. I wanted the background to be a little bit dark and I can control that background with my ambient exposure. I think it’s worth losing a little bit of fill on his face to make that background just a little bit richer, a little darker.
Here’s our first image with the background exposure. You can see that his face is pretty dark but we have a nice, rich-looking background. So I’m going to bring that key light around, my Triton with an OctoDome, and I’m going to give a nice directional exposure on his face to give a little sunlight look like he’s looking out at the ocean with just a little bit of glow of the sun on his face. When you add this second light, it opens him up and it makes him look really nice in this position. Here’s some of the images from this setup. I love this setup. There’s some great shots of him. I brought out that 200 millimeter lens, did some tight shots, gave us a little bit of a look at just his face and I love that look so there’s taking a look at using a one-light with ambient as fill as we photographed our first fisherman out of Stonington, Maine.
Go to theslantedlens.com and see the methods we used to light and to photograph the other fishermen of Stonington, Maine. We’re going to post one a week so go back to theslandtedlens.com often to see each one of them. It was a great shoot we had a great time. Julene and I love doing this kind of work together and I actually enjoyed working just by myself with a single light. It was a great experience. Sometimes it’s nice to just get in the zone and then do your thing. So keep those cameras rolling, keep on clicking.
It’s not over. The giveaway’s still going. Go to theslantedlens.com. A 150 to 600 millimeter Tamron lens.
It’s stinking cold up here. I’m from Los Angeles man. I’m looking at my phone going, “It’s 85 degrees in L. A. It’s 33 degrees here.” It’s pretty cold but you know what? It’s pretty cool. We’re glad to be here. One-light portraits, Maine fishermen. Okay.