This is another revisit post. A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Heritage Village in Largo, Florida again. This is a neat community of historic homes that have been moved here from around the state to preserve them. Best of all, it’s free! Most of the volunteers dress up in costume and/or work like they did back in the time of the property. For example, check out this post on the blacksmith that I photographed on one of my earlier trips.
This time I wanted to do something different. I’m always fooling around with something, this time it was flash. I have photographed some of the properties in HDR before, however I was looking for a different kind of challenge this time. There was a small group of us that were armed with cameras, flashes and reflectors. The benefit of using flash in a case like this is that you are reducing the contrast of the scene into a range that the camera can record in one single exposure, not to mention that it only takes about two minutes to polish the image in Photoshop.
I warn you now, this post is kind of photo heavy. Also, as always click on the thumbnail to see the full size. The first home that we came upon had a beautiful wrap around porch and siding. It reminded me of my grandparent’s home back in Pennsylvania. It has the original wood flooring and walls. The home is now being used by a local quilting club for meetings and to show off some of their talents. These quilts that are being made are truly a work of art. My grandmother used to quilt by hand and I can remember that this was her pastime during the cold winter months up north. It would take her months to finish a quilt. Once we met everyone, we proceeded to take a look around. In the next room was an old fashion loom. We had to get a photo of this. This particular shot was going to be a challenge. The room was all wood and the only light that we had to work with was a window and one overhead light. Granted this house was built at the turn of the last century. Using direct flash would have created harsh shadows, as the flash head itself is small. This is where the reflector comes into play. I backed into a corner of the room and got the composition that I wanted. The next issue was to tackle was exposure. This can be a tricky thing. I needed a setting that would complement the light in the room instead of it looking as if I hit it over the head with a flash. Also, since this is an external flash, I’m limited to a few AA batteries for power. In a nutshell this is how I tackled this scene. I came up with an exposure of ISO 800, 1/30 at f/5.6. Those of you who have read some of my other posts know where I’m going with this. Since I’m using flash, I cranked up ISO and lowered the f stop to allow the flash to have a half a chance to fill in the shadows of the room. Working at 1/30 of a second also allowed me to shoot close to the ambient and let some of that light do some of the heavy lifting. For the last part of the set up, I had a friend stand behind me with the 43” reflector. I turned my flash head around so that it was going to fire behind me into the reflector. Since the reflector is much, much bigger than the flash head itself, this gave me much softer light. Here is the resulting photograph.
After we tackled that room, one of the volunteers recommended that we check out the kitchen and dining area that was in the back part of the house. As we made our way back there, I was relieved that the ceilings were much lower than the previous room and the ceiling was painted white. This was going to make our jobs much easier. Here you can see Antonio getting into position to take his photograph. I took this photo just before he swiveled the flash head straight up at the ceiling.
Here is the photo that I got. You will also notice that I was able to keep the details outside the window. This is what flash allows me to do. This was photographed at my sync speed of 1/250 and that was fast enough to keep the details outside intact.
Right next door was an old general store with a barbershop, post office and garage all attached to the same building. As we walked into the store, we went into the barbershop. As you can see from the photo below, we have a window to contend with. Using flash, I can decide how much “window pull” I want, meaning, how dark I want to make the outside look. I don’t like to make the windows really dark, as that is not how our eyes were seeing it at the time. As we went through the doorway, we had a white wall and ceiling to work with. This is wonderful. I positioned the flash so that it would fire behind me and center itself into the wall and ceiling joint. This takes the light coming from the flash and turns it into a huge light source and makes for soft light.
While I was set up in that room, the post office was off to one side. Since this was at a strange angle, I swiveled the flash head to the ceiling. If you haven’t figured it out by now, having an external flash with a head that rotates is quite valuable.
As we made our way into the other side of the building we found the garage. This was a very cool place and was going to be very difficult to photograph. For light all we had to work with was an open garage door and everything was black. One of the first items that I came across was this old cash register. It looked as if it had seen some money over its lifetime. The garage had tall ceiling so I wouldn’t be able to bounce any light off the ceiling. On to Plan B. We used the same trick we used on the loom, a reflector and the flash bouncing off of it. As you can see, there aren’t any harsh shadows or reflections and all of the tones in the photograph have been captured.
Above the register in the rafters was a neon sign. These can be a great subject to photograph, but a pain to light. Here is the trick, you need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the actual neon light, but you need enough flash power to light the other areas without blowing out the neon color. After some experimenting this is what I came up with.
As the day progressed and we walked around the park, we came upon an old sugar cane press. This piece of equipment had been around a really long time. This was going to be easy photograph. I was under shade so I already had nice even light. When I was photographing this, I was envisioning it as a black and white. When I got back home, I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to do the conversion.
One of the last buildings that we had time for was the train depot. This was a complete building with train car, luggage area, ticket booth and waiting area. We came across this old fireplace and I saw a really cool photograph in my minds eye. We had some ambient to work with, so I slowed down the shutter enough to allow the ambient do to some of the lifting. I filled in the shadows with a flash bouncing off the ceiling, but what about the fire? I would love to tell you that it was a cold day in Florida and we built one for the shot, but it’s Florida, and it doesn’t really get cold here. Here is where a little “camera trick” comes into play. I had an extra flash and put a CTO or Color Temperature Orange gel over it. I set it to slave mode and put it inside of the fireplace. When it saw the flash on the camera go off, it went off too, but only putting out orange light, like a fire. So that is how you fake fire.
Lastly, we made a quick stop by the visitor’s center. They have all kinds of different things to look at. As you can see below, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s Antonio getting eaten by a Florida alligator.
If you get a chance to stop by this wonderful place, you won’t be sorry. There are many building to look at and we have just scratched the surface here. I can see another “Revisit” post coming some day.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean