Twilight Photo Session at Potato Creek State Park
One of our photographer friends, Brigitte Dee Fries, invited Dawn and I to join her on a photo shoot to a local state park. Brigitte had found two young ladies who were willing to model for us; one was a friend of her daughters, and the other she "discovered" while shopping at a local supermarket. It is funny how photographers sometimes find their subjects. :-)
The photo session was going to be at 6pm, about three hours before sunset, so it would be a twilight session, and we would be using artificial light to help illuminate the scene. A perfect setting to practice some off camera lighting.
Dawn and I enjoyed the 50 minute drive down to the Potato Creek State Park, just south of South Bend, Indiana. It gave us a chance to take the scenic way and take in some lovely countryside. We arrived at the park about 35 minutes early, so we payed our Five bucks entry fee and decided to drive around and do some location scouting.
Most of the park is taken up with the 327 acre Worster Lake, the rest is grass, woods and wetlands. There are about 10 miles of bike trails, some paved some dirt. With the lake there is several beaches and plenty of fishing, but bring your paddles becauue there are no gas powered motors allowed, as one group of fisherman discovered wile we were dockside. There are plenty of camping and picnic sites available, and there are even log cabins with modern amenities. Dawn and I actually rented one when we first started dating X years ago (FYI: Dawn made me take the number out) and we can attest that they are very nice. There is a lot of horse trails, although we could not drive to that section of the park without bringing in horses, so I can't tell you much about them.
As Dawn and I were driving around the park, my cell phone went: "Message for ya, Sir!" wich is my ringtone for text messages. Yes, it is from Monty Python, although I don't remember which skit as I am not a big fan of their humor. It was Brigitte letting me know she and the model had arrived. She said model--singular--as the one she stalked, I mean discovered at the grocery store, decided not to come. We turned around and drove back to the park entrance and met them and talked bout were to go first.
We decided to start at the boat ramp since it has a dock as well as a big red barn near it. We reached the parking lot and everyone got out and we introduced ourselves to the new model. Her name was Aslinn, and she was a friend of Brigette's daughter. Aslinn was a first year college student and was thin and had long black hair. Dawn immediately had a conversation piece with her as they both shared a size 6 shoe size.
Once the introductions were concluded, Brigitte started doing Aslinn's makeup and Dawn and I went back to the car and started to put together our gear, and this is when things went south. I normally bring all of our gear on a shoot, better safe then sorry. Well, this time I decided to pack light, taking just want I thought we would need. Somehow I missed bringing our CyberCyncs, which are our remote control devices for controlling our flashes and strobes. This was a big issue, as I don't like shooting portraits with the flash attached to the top of my camera; it makes the image look too "flat" and boring. The only time we use on-camera flash if for taking "table portraits" at wedding receptions, and then we use modifiers to soften the flash. Now what was I going to do?!
Well, what I did was get mad at myself for not bringing them (Dawn always says I am too hard on myself), then I panicked as to what I was going to do. Dawn did try her best to calm me down and that along with my walking around in a circle helped. I figured at the very least we could still use the flash on the camera, but bounce it off of our reflector...oh shoot, I did not bring that either! More pacing! Then I it came to me that we could use the inside of one of our bounce umbrellas to reflect the flash. Boy, oh boy, talk about improvising. It is true that Necessity is the mother to all invention.
On with the shoot! Brigitte started the session out by photographing Aslinn down by the waters edge, and she was using a large white reflector board, which was great as that meant that I did not have to use the umbrella. It is good to photograph with other photographers especially when they bring equipment! Thanks Brigitte!
Bouncing on-camera flash is a tricky thing. Normally we bounce off of a wall or ceiling, but this time I was trying to bounce it off of a three foot square white foamboard, not an easy thing to hit at all. Dawn did her best at staying close to Aslinn, and I did my best at aiming the flash head directly at the card. Most of the time I actually hit it.
One things that I did notice was that even though I was photographing with an 85mm lens, I needed to zoom my flash head to 105mm. I think this just helped make a "tighter" pattern of light that better fit the white board and then it did the job of making the light source apear larger. However, there were times when I noticed a slight vignette around Alsinn, in which case I un-zoomed it and that got rid of it.
The most difficult but also crucial thing about photographing with on-camera bounced light is holding the reflector at just the right distance and angle. I give a lot of credit to my wife Dawn for doing both! We could not have pulled off the session without her talent positioning the reflector. Great job Snugums!
When you think you are out of options and won't be able to continue or even start a photo shoot, stop, take a deep breath, walk around and think what options you do have and what alternatives you can make. Don't be afraid to "MacGyver" someting together to save the session, so what you can to get the shot.
I think this setting, by the lake, worked well for our lighting project.
Two variations of a similar photo, just a slight processing difference.
Such a lovely young senior girl.
Dawn photographing our senior girl by the barn
The sun setting over Potato Creek, the end of the photo shoot.