Flash. Love it. All of it. Its technical aspects, its possible complications. The control you gain. The troubles you have. The sound of those little photons when they are pushed through a diffuser on full power. You can almost feel them. Like a breeze of sun. Fire Mission! Model in the open! Fire! Yay. However, every so often nothing can beat ambient. Absolutely nothing. Which is a shame. As you have just dragged your lead-powered equipment a long way uphill.
Decent locations may bring indecent complications with them. Permits. No parking space. Distance. Or stairs, my old enemy. Which sparks the question how to get your equipment to the location. Normally you have to drag it to the place. Somehow. On your back. Like one of Marius' Mules. You will quickly notice that lead power-packs are a wonderful thing, when used as a counter-weight. But they are also quite a burden. Literally.
So when we made our decision to press for an opportunity to shoot on a prehistoric site - a dolmen to be precise - I mentally reduced the amount of gear to what I thought would be the absolute minimum. Weather conditions were unstable, lots of wind, sometimes the sun peeked through the clouds. Then again the clouds just rendered everything flat and grey. Bare minimum meant that I went for one Elinchrom, a small Nano stand and some two lenses. Ah. And a second battery pack. Plus an additional reflector. And a grid. And a small battery powered flashgun, just in case. Plastic bags, in case of rain. Water. Snacks. The team must not die of starvation on location, n'est pas. So, up the hill we went, me disguised as one of the afore mentioned roman soldiers who just realised that for the DHL delivery of his armour he only has to wait 2000 more years or so.
After some healthy jogging uphill, over rocks and - literally again - rolling stones, we arrived unscratched at the location. Which was - hmm hmm - shall I say a bit less dramatic as expected. We could have had something similar with less effort. And more gear at hand. But while I was still looking for angles and solid places to put the light stand the ambient light went mad. Ambient on steroid. And it went steroid just in our place. Some rays of light peeked through the clouds - and like searchlights they were coming for us.
The first shot I took was just the ambient, shooting with the invisible sun in my back. Nothing you would do on a sunny day, but the light was soft, and with some direction in it. A quality that made me immediatly skip the strobe as it would have added nothing. Being an obsessive strobe-guy, for me that meant nothing for a main light. But yet *still* there was the idea of a rim light or something creeping in my head. To add dimension. Or do some Dodge & Burn, but on the set. With light. As said, I am obsessive.
But when I turned around the natural searchlight had found us. For a moment. Click-y-dy-click. Still on 85 mm, aperture priority with some +0.7 compensation dialed in. To achieve a similar result with strobes, we would have needed one bare or beauty-dish, high and behind the model to the camera left. And a big soft source (Octabank, Deep Octa, something creepy and bulky) as a fill, but slightly to the left as well. But nothing of that was needed. Which was sheer luck as I for sure would have not carried all of this to the top of the mountain.
Lessons anyone? Take your shot. See if you really need a flash. Really as in Really-Really. Maybe a reflector or a diffuser will do (Damn! I knew I forgot something downhill in the car). As good or even better than a strobe. You don't have to think about colour temperature. No need to wait for the flash to recycle. All these are good things. But still - I do like the smell of burned photons in the morning. Have a nice day. Wait for the searchlights. they will find you, too. If not, use your strobe to send a beacon to lure the sometimes magic ambient to you. It will come. As long as you do have your gear with you.
Model: Neila Fynn
Make-Up & Hair: Britta Carina Wownenko
Outfit provided by www.tolllkirsche.com.