Friday, May 23, 2008

001 - A "Little" Play Time

I'd had a very difficult week... way more than the norm. Challenges are running amok this month and I really needed to take a few seconds away from the very high pressures and stresses of my job. My mother asked me to take her to the new Super Walmart that had recently opened, so I went along for the drive more than anything else. I was eager for the change, even if it was to visit a Walmart (lol)!

We walked through the place and as I passed by the materials section (on the way to the gardening center), I saw this blue jean-like material and the question just popped into my head... I wondered how it would serve as a backdrop? When I asked what the price was, she told me that because it was an end of roll that it was heavily discounted. I did not even look how much material there was, I took the whole small roll. It later turned out to be 5.5 feet wide by 22 feet all for $14.75!

Here is the material and what it looks like:

I had this 1" thick long wooden dowel and I wrapped the jean material all up neatly on it. My mom on her end, picked up this little Garden Lilliput that has a solar light built in, and it volunteered to become my model for the evening (well I won't swear that I heard it volunteer, but I like the suggestion, so I used it!).

The setup was very basic. I setup 2 chairs far apart enough to support the official jean material backdrop holder and pulled out a couple feet to serve as a mini studio backdrop. Placing the "model in place, here is what it looked like in 100% ambient light:

Not very impressive as a picture... lol. I set up the camera as I wanted it and placed the SB-800 at about a 35-40 degree angle to the left and took a shot with the intention of seeing if I could get a black background. It came out very dark, just like I wanted:

This last picture above almost looked like the light was on (reflection from the flash), and that set off a question for me... could I make it look like it was turned on and that lit things up a little, but do it completely in post process?

Well, the attempt came out like this:

A great way to kill an hour, relax, learn a little something, and I found the answer to if the jean material made a good backdrop or not.

I think it makes an excellent one, and even better if used against a full sized subject where the lighting can control the colour of the material and put it anywhere from medium blue to black depending on my needs. Oh, I almost forgot, I also picked up some semi translucent black material in about the same dimensions and thats for playing with on another day.

So, what did I learn from this little test? Firstly, that even F/4 on my 30mm F/1.4 causes too shallow a DOF for these circumstances. The pics could be improved if I used F/5.6 or so. Second... people say that on camera flashes cause flat images. Well... even off camera flash can look flat (as all my pics clearly demonstrate, because I think they look pretty flat).

What would it take to improve the picture? I think 1-2 more light sources would make a huge difference. 2 flashes placed at opposing 45 degree angles to the subject would add much to adding more depth to the pic. A 3rd small "hair light" above/behind the subject would also add some additional texture to the pics. One day soon I may just have to recreate this scenario (or another similar one), and find out.

Oh the fun... More later!