As I teach photography classes, it never amazes me what I also learn from student’s questions. For example, we all took a field trip to Spanish Pointe in Nokomis, Florida recently. We were practicing some off camera flash techniques as well as discussing some HDR situations. We had walked around most of the property and by the end of the day we were all tired and ready to sit down for a bit. We were at the top of the minion that the Indians had built thousands of years ago. Now it is where Mrs. Palmer once lived, as the area is looking over Sarasota Bay. This is truly prime real estate. There is a beautiful garden in the center of this area complete with a pergola. Some of the students went off to photograph flowers and the beautiful landscape. I look at this scene and i get another idea. You should know me by now that I’m a little “different”.
One of the pieces of equipment that we were talking about was my photo vest. Since it’s black, it’s great in the winter and terrible in the summer. However, we were talking about how to take just what you need when you go on a excursion. I was pawing though my pockets and came up with a white trash bag. Some of the students thought that this was kind of a strange piece of equipment to have in your camera vest. As I explained, this was probably the most important piece of equipment and the cheapest. Living in Florida especially in the summer time, thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere. I was once trapped in one of those little cabana shops at Bush Gardens clinching on to my camera hoping that it wouldn’t get wet. After that, I made sure that I had a plastic bag with me at all times.
This is where I had a “realization” or a dumb idea as some might say. Sitting in the garden, one of the students was sitting on a bench so naturally with her camera gear. I thought why not use this as a teaching exercise. The garden was in full sun but the student was in full shade. This is a classic problem when you are doing location photography. This would be a fix that no one would ever let me live down.
How I photographed this…
Most everything was in place. I took a test photo and I got the exposure set for the ambient light, in this case, Sun light. The subject was very dark. I confiscated a couple of students to be my VAL’s or voice activated light stands. Yes, this is a real term. Even I couldn’t make this one up.
I pulled out the white trash bag. If you are going to try this, here’s the key, it has to be a white trash bag. The thinner ones are better for this. I had each student hold a top and a bottom corner stretching it out into a rectangle shape. I had them place the trash bag about a foot away from the subject. I placed a flash behind the trash bag. I zoomed the flash head to a wide angle setting and started at 1/4 power. Took a test shot, not enough light. I raised the power to 1/2 power and that was the ticket. Total time setting up this shot…about two minutes. In the photo above you can see how the light is wrapping around her face. This is because the trash bag was so close to the subject. I realize that there is some glare in her glasses. If I was to do this again, I would move the camera’s position to eliminate that. Click on the diagram to see a larger version.
So there you have it. Make a ten cent trash bag into a hundred dollar light modifier. Not only will it keep your camera dry in a rain storm, it will also create some soft light for your subjects.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean