Playing with light

I know very little about artificial lighting. I’m a massive lover of natural light, but really want to learn how to work with the man-made stuff. Over the past few months, I’ve been saving here and there and have invested in a few pieces and and have discovered a few great resources so I thought I would share what I have picked up for any photogs out there who are in a similar position. Nothing big and fancy – just a flash and some other gadgets…

The website
I’ll start with the most obvious one – Strobist it without a doubt the go-to site for DIY lighting on a budget, and there are tons of awesome tutorials as well as a great Lighting 101 series.
The flash
I’ve yet to invest in strong, continuous light sources. All I’m rocking is the Canon 580ex II, which was pricey enough, but it’s quite powerful and versatile (or so I’ve been told. At the moment I’m doing the equivalent of asking a Michelin star chef to make me some toast – ie, defo not using it to it’s full potential!).
The trigger
This is VERY important. The first step to getting the most out of your flash, I learned, it to get that bad boy off camera. You can do it using a simple cable, the fancy pricey Pocket Wizards, or, their (much) cheaper cousins, Cactus Triggers. I picked mine up on Gadget Infinity and they’re working like a charm (although I’ve only used them indoors – I hear they can get a bit sketchy outside, but hey, they’re for cheaps!)
The kit
Last Christmas, Eoghan went to the States and came back with one of the geekier and most awesome pressies he’s ever bought for me – The MPEX Strobist Starving Student Kit. It included a light stand that the flash hooks into, an umbrella to diffuse/spread the light (check out the Strobist tutorials for full explanations of the different light manipulation tools) and lots of other nifty gadgets. I used it to take these shots of Ethan back in January, but have to admit I haven’t used it much since.
The book
I ordered Joe McNally’s Hot Shoe Diaries a while back and fell in love with it. Like I’ve said before, I am mainly a natural light photographer, and he is mainly a flash/light man. And yet it was one of the best photography books I have read. Honest, goofy, and real, he speaks to you in a no nonsense way and explains how he gets some of his beautiful shots. He learned on the job, and reading his book you feel like that’s what you’re doing too – you’re not just reading this stuff, it feels like someone is right there, showing you how to do it. I’m going to start giving myself little assignments based on different chapters.
I’m lusting after Zach Arias’s One Light DVD. Gingerpixel has it and will hopefully let me invade her house soon to watch it!

I haven’t put a huge amount of this into practice, I’ll admit, but now that it’s dark so early in the evening I hope to do a few more at-home mini shoots and set ups.

I took this shot of Ethan a few nights back – it took approximately eight minutes to get the crude lighting set-up up and running (shooting through an umbrella, camera left and slightly above his head) and although it’s painfully basic, I’m delighted with the catch lights, and with the the fact that I can take photos in the dark! The evenings are just opening up now. I also hope to practice mixing natural light with artificial, because I think that it where a lot of the magic happens.

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