Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Vancouver Strobist Beginner's Meetup

Saturday I was out with a bunch of other fine folks from the Vancouver Strobist group for the "Beginner meetup". This was organized by Rod, who got us use of the Life Sciences building out at UBC (and the building itself is gorgeous BTW).

The format of the meet was fairly loose. There were a couple of "pros" (not pro photogs, just people who know stuff about off camera lighting) who helped out the 12 or 13 newbies. Rod (who put the whole thing together, many thanks to him for this) gave a quick and dirty demo and then we newbies went to it.

Vancouver Strobist Group 2

The previous meet up I went to was more about the picture taking than the lighting itself, this one was way more focused on the lighting aspect and the equipment hands on. The hardest part for me was figuring out what I wanted to do. There were more than enough flash units, pocket wizards, radio poppers, umbrellas and stands for everyone there, but if you don't know what to do with them... I've seen great portraits, and I've seen pictures that have moved me, but under the gun I couldn't think of a single thing to do! Luckily there were a bunch of other people around who did have ideas, and eventually everyone fed off of everyone else.

Folks split off into a few groups of 3 or 4 people, rotating between acting as models (as the plan was for this not to be about the models, but about the lighting) and tweaking lighting, and taking shots. The group I was in was working on doing a "single umbrella giving a round halo behind the model" shot, some cross lighting, and some other setup. Everything from umbrellas to gels were played with, and I learned that if you set white balance for tungsten, and use a CTO (Color Temperature Orange I believe) gel on a flash, you get a super-blue environment and a properly colored skintone (as the CTO gel counteracts the blue tinge you get from the white balance). Another group working down in the hallway created some very cool images such as this one.

The lighting setups we used were pretty simple I'm sure, and the results no doubt laughable for an experienced Strobist or Joe McNally type, but for me it was pretty exciting to actually get my hands on the gear. Sure you can read about how you move an umbrella closer to get a softer light, or how to use fill flash or a reflector, but I find that when I actually do it is when I really get it (at least a little).

You can check out the Vancouver Strobist group on Flickr, and here's the thread of impressions and sample images from others. Thanks again to Rod and Victor for setting it up and helping us out.

Looking forward to the next meetup! Check out some of my shots below (clickable to Flickr where there's more setup info).

Dan 2
Dan who was a model for me a bunch, done in black and white to keep with the contrasty lighting.

Music 1
Music man (never got his name :( ) playing with cross lighting, using one flash and the sun setting behind him.

Dan 3
Dan again, more "normal" portrait, soft lighting.