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Walls, Translucent Surfaces, and Textures

Walls, Translucent Surfaces, and Textures

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Thistechniqueworkswhenthewallyouareusingisinshadebutclosetothesun(15.2).

ThisbeautifulrusticdoorispartofthehistoriccityofOaxacainMexico.Noticehowthe

entirewallisevenlylit;thisisbecausethewallisinshade.Butasyoucanseebythe

circleonthepavement,directsunlightisnomorethanafootawayfromthewall.Thisis

greatbecausethesunlitpavementservesasanaturalreflectorbouncingbeautifulsunlight

evenlyallthewayupthewall.Anyonestandingnearthewallbutwithintheshadewill

benefitfromtheshade’scleanevenlightwithoutthecold,flat,andlifelessqualityoflight

commonlyfoundinshade.It’sthebestofbothworlds!



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15.2.Thesunlitpavementservesasanaturalreflector,bouncingbeautifulsunlight

evenlyallthewayupthewall.

Iaskedmywife,whotookthisphotoofme,toincludethepavementsoyoucaneasilysee

howit’sbouncingallthatevenlightuptheshadywall(15.3).Nowwehaveaphotorich

incolor,texture,andlife.IfIhadtakentwostepsforward,Iwouldhavebeenindirect

sunlight,creatingharshlightandunflatteringshadowsonmyface.Theportionofthe

pavementlitbythesunisaboutonefootawayfromthewall.Ifthesunnytileswere30

feetfromthewall,however,thequalityofthesunlightbouncedontothewallwouldbe

greatlyreduced.Butyoursubjectsdon’thavetostandrightinfrontofthewall;theycould

moveforwardclosertothesunnyarea.



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15.3.Anyonestandingnearthewall,butstillintheshade,benefitsfromtheeven

light—withoutitscold,lifelessquality.

Let’slookatanexamplewhereIappliedthisproximity-to-the-suntechnique(15.4).I



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couldhavechosentotakethisweddingpartyphotoanywhere.Theprivateestatewhere

thisweddingtookplacehadplentyofgardens.Iignoredallofthembecausealthoughthe

gardenswerebeautiful,theywerenomatchforthequalityoflightyougetwhenyouplace

peopleinshadewithproximitytothesun.Noticetheverybottomofthephotowherethe

sunlightishittingtheground.Allthatlightisbeingreflectedupattheweddingparty,

givingthemarichglowingqualityoflight,nottomentionthebeautifulcolor

combinationsandthegeometryofthebackground.



15.4.Thesunlighthittingthegroundisreflectedupattheweddingparty,giving

themarichglowingquality.

Exercise:ProximitytotheSun

Exercise:Trainyourselftorecognizewhenashadedwallislessthanfivefeet

fromthesun.Posesomeoneorsomethingonefootfromthesun.Makesurethe

sundoesnothitanypartofyoursubjects;theyshouldbeincompleteshade.

Taketheirphotosheadon,inprofile,andfromtheback.Changeyourshooting

angleaswell,andtrynottoovershoot.Keepallyourfilessoyoucananalyze

theresultswhenyougethome.

Goal:Thegoalistoexperimentwiththreedifferentshadedwallsnearthesun.

Focusonthequalityoflightilluminatingyoursubjectsatdifferentangles.

Explanation:Lookingforwallslikethisisaboutbeingawareofyour

surroundings.Learntorecognizelocationsorscenarioswheregoodlightlikesto

hide.Thenexttimeyouareshootingonlocation,youwillknowwhattolook

for.



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ReflectingaPatchofSunlight



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Whatareyousupposedtodoifabeautifulshadedwallisnotcloseenoughtothesun?

Findapatchofsunlightonthegroundandhavesomeoneholdareflectorfromthatspot

foryou.Thatpatchofsunlightcouldbe10,20,oreven30feetaway.Thereflectorwill

bouncethesunlighttoyoursubjectsstandingintheshade.Inmyexperience,thereis

alwaysapatchofsunlightsomewhereinthearea.Lighttravelsfar,sothedistancetoyour

subjectsfromthepatchofsunlightshouldnotbeaproblem.

Considerthisillustration(15.5).Thelocationisnotexactlybeautiful,butgreatlightcan

becreatedanywhere.Asphotographers,it’sourjobtofindthebestlightateverylocation.

Asyoucanseeintheillustration,thepatchofsunlightontheleftisnotverylarge,butit

doesn’thavetobe.Whilesomeoneisholdingthereflector,you(thephotographer)can

movearoundandexperimentwithdifferentangles.



15.5.Thepatchofsunlightontheleftisnotverylarge,butitdoesn’thavetobeif

someoneholdsareflector.

Here’sanexampleofaportraitusingthissetup(15.6).Thelightonthemodeliscleanand

soft,butmostimportantly,shepopsfromthewallbecausethelighthittingherisbeing

reflectedfromthesun.Noticethatthebrickwallissooutoffocusthatthebricksareno

longervisible.I’mnotabigfanofbricksforbackgrounds,unlessthebricksareoldand

havecharacter.



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15.6.Thelightonthemodeliscleanandsoft,andshepopsfromthewallbecausethe

lighthittingherisbeingreflectedfromthesun.

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MonochromaticColorPalette

Ifabackgroundwallissimilarincolortoaperson’sskin,clothes,orboth,

theviewersubconsciouslyfocusesonotherfacialfeatures,suchasthe

eyes,lips,hair,ormake-up.Thisoccurssimplybecausewhenmostofthe

colorpaletteismonochromatic,anythingdifferentwillstandout.

ReflectingWindowLightinFrontofWalls

Windowlightisoneofthemostdesirabletypesoflightinphotography.Ifyoursubjectis

closetothewindow,thesideclosesttothewindowwillbebeautifullyilluminated,while

theothersidewillbemuchdarker.Thisisperfectifyouaregoingforahigh-contrast

portrait.Ifyouaren’t,thenyouneedthelighttoalsoilluminatethedarkersideofyour

subject’sface.

Here’sanexamplewithbothsidesofasubject’sfaceilluminatedbywindowlight(15.7).

Toachievethislook,Iplacedmysubjectnearthewindowandhadanassistantholda

reflectorinfrontofthewindowtolighttheothersideofmysubject’sface.Areflectorcan

easilyputthelightwhereyouwantit,enablingyoutomakesurethereflectedlighthits

yoursubject’sfaceandnotthewall.Thiscreatesastrongseparationbetweenthelighton

yoursubjectandthewall.Thisisoneofthe“mustdo”techniquesthatIprefertouse

duringjobassignments.Ilovewindowlight,butwhatIloveevenmoreiswhenthat

windowlightisreflectedbackatmysubjects.Bothsidesofthefaceareilluminatedand

haveenoughshadowdetailtogivethephotodimension.



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15.7.Withthesubjectnearthewindow,anassistantheldareflectorinfrontofthe

windowtolighttheothersideofhisface.

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Exercise:UsingaReflectorIndoors

Exercise:Thisexerciserequiresyoutobeindoors.Lookforaroomwitha

window;thedarkertheroom,thebettertheresultswillbe.Standsoyouare

facingthewindowandpositionyoursubjectbetweenyouandthewindow.Your

subjectshouldnowbebacklitwiththesideclosesttoyoualmostinsilhouette.

Taketwophotographs,oneexposingforthefaceandtheotherexposingforthe

window.Nowhavesomeoneholdareflectorandbouncethewindowlightonto

thedarksideofyoursubject’sface.Takeanotherphotoexposingfortheface

again.Noticehowmuchmoredetailanddimensionyougainwhenyouadda

reflectortothemix.

Goal:Thegoalistounderstandthevariouslooksthatcanbeachievedindoors

usingwindowlightwithandwithoutareflector.

Explanation:Thisexercisehashelpedmetophotographbrideswhentheyare

gettingreadyintheirhotelrooms.Iusedtousethewindowasmyonlylight

source,andIstilldofromtimetotime.ButnowIunderstandwhatadifferencea

reflectorcanmake.Bybouncingthewindowlightbackontoyoursubjects,you

canincreaseyourshutterspeed.Thisactionchangesthelookcompletely,andit

addsdetailthroughout.Iusuallyshootthesekindsofphotoswithaverywide

aperture,f/2tof/2.8,andaprimelenssuchasthe85mmf/1.2orthe50mmf/1.2.

UsinganExternalFlashonWalls

Thereisabigdifferencebetweenusingaflashinalargeopenareaandusingaflash

pointedatawall.Thedifferenceisintheshadows.Whenaflashisusedinanopenarea,

youdon’thavetoworryaboutcastingashadowbehindyoursubjects.Butifthere’sawall

behindyoursubjects,theshadowbehindthemwillbecrystalclear.That’sgreatifthe

shadowispartofyourcomposition;otherwise,it’sanuisance.IfIdon’thaveareflector

handyorthereisnosunlighttobouncelightintoashadywall,IusemytrustyCanon

Speedliteswithwirelesstransmitters.Ineedthesetoolstotakemyflashoffthecamera’s

hotshoe,whichallowsmetocasttheshadowwhereitwillbetheleastdistracting.

Let’slookatanexamplewheretherectangularpatternsandreflectivequalitiesofthewall

caughtmyattention.Unfortunately,thelightqualityonthewallwaspoor.Butitwasa

verycloudyday,sousingareflectorwasnotanoption.Togivethecoupleakickoflight,

Isetmyflashonalightstanddirectlyinfrontofthemabout15feetaway(15.8).Iwanted

theshadowbehindthem,soIraisedthelightstanduntilitwashigherthanthecouple.

Thisadjustmentcreatedthecorrectangletoputtheshadowdirectlybehindthem.The

resultisanimagewhereItookadvantageofthewall’sgeometrywithoutsacrificingthe

light’squality.



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15.8.Ahigh,stand-mountedflashtotheleftoftheframecastthecouple’sshadows

directlyontothewallbehindthem.



UsingWallsasReflectors

Whenphotographingaturbanlocations,chancesareyouaresurroundedbytallbuildings.

Thebuildingwallsareusuallyclusteredclosetoeachother.Thiscreatesopportunitiesfor

youtousethewallsnotonlyasbackgroundsbutalsoasreflectors.Photographstaken

undertheseconditionscanresultinsomeofthemoststunningportraitsyouwillevertake.

Youneedtwowallsfacingeachotherwithoneilluminatedbythesun.Takealookatthis

illustrationtogetabetterideaofthisscenario(15.9).Thewallontheleftiswhite,soit’sa

perfectreflectorbecauseitwillnotcreateanycolorcast.Takeacloselookatthewallon

theright.Noticehowthelightgraduallyimprovestowardthebackendofthewall,where

itisatitsabsolutebest.There,youcouldtakeaphotoofanybodyoranythingwithany

camera,includingacellphone,anditwouldlookmagnificent.Toillustratethispoint,I

askedmywifetotakesomephotographsofmeatdifferentsectionsofthelightbrown

wallontheright.Thisway,youcanseehowthelightonaperson’sfaceimprovesasit

approachesthespotonthewallwiththebestqualityoflight.



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