LIFE’S A BEACH

 BXRi head

ELINCHROM 500 BXRI HEAD AND INNOVATRONIX EXPLORER XT BATTERY PACK

CRAIG FLEMING proves that even in the north of England you can create exotic scenes with some lighting magic

Given the onset of global warming Ilearned over the years that if Igoing to be shooting outside, in order to give | myself a chance I need to do two things: take loads of gear and ignore the weathermen.

I wasnmeant to be born this far north, in fact Isure that written in the stars under my name it read ’. Unfortunately there was some form of admin mix up and I ended up in Sheffield. Nothing wrong with Sheffield, lovely place, but from the point of view of a photographer who longs to shoot the Pirelli calendar, it is, as they say in these parts... a bit of a bugger. In the eagerness of early spring I had toyed with the idea of a beach shoot way back in March, knowing if we shot in May or June westand a good chance of getting some decent weather. Two postponements later itmid-June and webeach bound. Luckily the weather when we arrive couldnhave been more perfect.

For the shoot Ibrought one Elinchrom 500 BXRi head coupled with an Innovatronix Explorer XT battery pack, as well as a California Sunbounce mini reflector. Ileft the softboxes at home given that a strong westerly is forecast. Instead Ikeeping with a simple 21cm reflector paired up with the semi opaque diffuser that comes as part of a set of four deflectors designed for use across the Elinchrom range of flash heads, reflectors and softboxes. That doesnsound like a lot of gear but ita lot to carry across half a mile of soft sand. The results will however be worth it Isure.

Main image, previous page: Itimportant on my test shoots that I give the models images that are relevant to their books and hopefully will put them in a good position to pick up the paid work. As we start the shoot Ipositioned Charley, the model, so that the bulk of the light is coming from behind her, and in this instance a high cloud gives that light a gentle diffusion. Itthe perfect set up for a few catalogue —style shots, and by taking a meter reading from the modelface, with the meter facing towards camera, Igiven an exposure of 1/500sec at f/4. That combination of subtle positioning and wide aperture means I can achieve a beautiful high-key summer look, but also any distracting detail in the background is blown out of focus.

Image 1 and 2: With the light a little flatter than before itstill bright, but I want to balance out the difference to give us a more ’feel to the image. I canchange the amount of light thatcoming from behind but what I can do is use my California Sunbounce mini reflector to push a bit more light back onto the model. The reflector Iusing is the 3x4in Zebra version and has beautiful warmth without overdoing it, which can often be the case with gold reflectors. The beauty of these is their light weight and rigidity, pulling the reflector panel tight means it is a very precise piece of kit.

 California Sunbounce

Ihanded the role of chief reflector holder over to Faye, my make-up artist for the day, and once Idemonstrated the effectiveness of the mini reflector she knows exactly what shedoing with it within minutes.

Image 3 and 4: My self-imposed brief for this shoot was ’and I now want to take that to the extreme. Ikept the Elinchrom high and to my right, ensuring a little shadow to the left of the model, and Ipositioned her so that Ishooting against that patch of beautiful blue sky. Another technique Iemployed in making this image is to overpower the sun. This is where studio flash wins over Speedlites.

The power of a 500 head has given me an aperture of f/14 coupled with a shutter speed of 1/160sec, this means Iactually underexposing the ambient light by about two stops. When combined with that burst of flash on my model it means I get a glorious Technicolor an almost Kodachrome look. Itexactly the type of feel I wanted; this combination of lighting lends itself perfectly to the styling of the shoot.

Image 5: Changing her outfit, and also moving the model just a few feet from her initial position, has transformed the dynamic totally. Ishooting with the same Elinchrom 500 BXRi head as before and pretty much the same exposure, although I have opened it up half a stop this time to ensure I still retain a bit of detail in the background. Younotice in this photograph that by keeping all the tones in the image fairly similar Iachieved a beautifully warm, almost monochromatic feel. By now the Explorer XT battery pack is beginning to die on me. To be fair I have put it through its paces today shooting with the BXRi at, or near, full power for quite a while, but itdone its job admirably and allowed me to bring a different feel to my beach shoot. I have thought about using Speedlites more and being more mobile, but Inot convinced they have the power necessary to override the power of the sunrays in the same way that my Elinchroms do.

Having a full lighting kit on location like this has given me the ability to change the entire look of the shoot. Had I just relied on available light I would still have been confident of getting good images, but certainly not the diversity of styles we achieved on the day. The location for this shoot was a few miles north of Liverpool and it just goes to show that you can achieve just this by thinking about the lighting in your images.

Elinchrom 500 BXRi flash head: The BXRis are Elinchroms midrange lighting option giving 500 joules of power across a five f-stop range and are packed with features, including built-in Skyport receivers so thereno messing about with sync leads —although the option is there should your Skyport transmitter fail or be misplaced. Therealso a built-in slave cell as youexpect so you could in essence sync it from your Speedlite. Power output of the flash and the modelling light is by a set of two separate key type buttons and is simple in operation, even straight out of the box.

Explorer XT: The beauty of this piece of equipment is itnot just a battery pack for Elinchrom or indeed just for photographic lighting.

It has two standard three pin plug sockets just like the ones on all household appliances, so you could use it to power a whole host of things on your shoots, from laptops to a kettle. Itmain purpose is for flash, though, and I have to be mindful that I turn off the modelling lamp in my flash head just to get the most of the available power. It comes with various worldwide adaptors so you can charge it up anywhere abroad, as well as a car charger should the need arise.

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