Painting a portrait with light - Literally

Nikon 16-35 f4, ISO 200, 4sec. 

Nikon 16-35 f4, ISO 200, 4sec. 

 I returned from Germany just a few days ago and although it was a personal trip to visit family I did take my camera and I did shoot a little bit. One of my favourite images was a portrait of a sleeping man, Jasmin. Well he was pretending to sleep anyways. The whole mood for the photo was a bit on the darker side and it was also really important to the subject that I light up the lamp that was in the corner of the room. It was a tight little corner with white walls and I had some problems balancing the light of the lamp, which already had the right mood for the photo, with my flash. 

I wanted just a touch of light on the subjects face and the book that he was holding as well as the the lamp. Everything else was perfect as it was. 

So since the flash didn't work and I had limited gear on hand I tried a technique used to sometimes light big objects or landscapes at night, light painting. The light had to be very localized so I had to be careful not to "paint" too much of the scene with it. I used a Light & Motion 180 Urban. This is a bike light that has saved me from darkness countless times while out cycling. It fits in my palm and puts out and incredible amount of light, 180 lumens. Light & Motion has even brighter lights that are the same size. I brought this light for this exact purpose. Although it's a great cycling light I have used it many times for photography and it has been great. The light on it's own was spilling too much and too much of the frame was getting lit. The light on Jasmin's face was also too harsh. Easy fix, I had a plastic diffuser for my Nikon SB-700 flash with me. Perfect, it softened the light just the right amount but was still strong enough to reach the lamp without me having to run through the frame and risk messing up the exposure. One more problem was that the light was still spilling a bit too much, although it was definitely better then without that diffuser. Another quick fix. A 12x12 inch piece of black seamless paper wrapped tightly around the light and diffuser. This allowed me great control to put the light where I wanted. 

Now luckily Jasmin was comfy and in a position where he could hold still for 4 seconds. That's how long the exposure was. Once everything was set up it took about a hand full of tries to get the light nailed perfectly the way I wanted. The specs for the final image are.  Nikon 16-35 f4 @25mm - ISO200 - F16 4sec. 

The trip to Germany was great and I got to photograph some really neat things. Stay tuned for next weeks blog post and some images from Germany and France. 

Cheers,

Bojan