Dark skies - once quite common in the heavily industrialized Ruhr valley. Like the smog in London back then, but minus the fog and the good manners. But nowadays, the so-called "Ruhrgebiet" is busy becoming a post-industrial society, turning coking plants into museum pieces and steel mills into local recreations areas. Which is good for the environment, but a bit of a problem if you are looking for some dramatic sky as you can't count on the industry anymore for some serious clouds.
Unless you prefer to paint your "dramatic" sky in photoshop, a shooting planned to render some serious dark clouds may require you to be prepared for some really bad weather. Your team, your equipment and you will most likely get wet as you may have to hold out shooting to the very last moment. Precautions for your model and your gear are therefore advised ... and, depending on your personality, you may decide in which order you take those precautions. Ideally you have to ensure that some dry and warm clothes are available, and some kind of cover for your gear. The Elinchrom Ranger unit itself can take some surprising amount of wetness, but as for the flash heads I do have some serious doubts - but Gaffa and plastic bag may ease your mind.
A cloudy overcast day usually provides decent light, however, to convince the clouds to finally and truly join the dark side you will need some flash support. Reflectors don't help as there is not so much to reflect, but any flash will do. A bare flashgun or a porty with a standard reflector, a beauty-dish or - tadah! - the maxi spot reflector as the latter delivers the best bang from your wattseconds. Anything bigger than a beauty-dish will also be in severe danger of becoming airborne just when the weather is about to be right.
To get the sky as dark and "dramatic" as possible, just take the reading for the sky and then deliberately underexpose to your liking, but at least one full stop. You also may want to apply an ND filter in order not to trade sharpness to diffraction, or for shallow depth of field, the latter depending on the background and if there are any issues to solve (or to blur). The Elinchrom maxi spot reflector delivers a concentrated beam of light thanks to its shape and the relective surface inside, therefore putting less of a burden on the generator as it could run with about 60% power at a distance of 3m (6ft). A lovely model in front of the camera, fast recycle and long lasting batteries combined with a virtual f/32 (due to the ND filter) - what more could someone possibly ask for.
The rain did finally arrived just as predicted and chased us from the plateau. We went for a different, less exposed location and opted for a more commercial look in attitude and lighting, with the drama traded for some realism.
The light is softer, less focused due to a beauty dish instead of the spot reflector, the environment being just mildy underexposed (f/3.2, + ND @ 1/250th). As said, a more commercial, more balanced look.
Cori - my lovely model of the day - and I had a somewhat stormy but excellent day in the field. There will be more on this in another episode, called "360". And also more on the Elichrom maxi spot reflector soon, a light shaper that I really start to admire not only for its lightsaber like output, but also for its unique quality of hard light.
Thank you for you attention - like if you like, comment if you don't.
Model: Cori (www.die-cori.de)
Elinchrom Maxi Spot Reflector @ Elinchrom.