Friar Photos in a Flash

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Photo © Bob Krist

You’ve heard me whine talk about it before; how travel photographers, unlike the portrait artists, often have to photograph people on the run with little or no control over subject, placement, or even posing. It’s a chronic situation, and it requires you to think on your feet.

This happened to be several times on my latest trip, a fantastic assignment in Slovenia.  This little country is full of great photo ops, and they’re all packed into a place a little bigger than New Jersey.  You want authentic old Europe, great scenery, and interesting people, you come here.

Among the better stops was the old Olimje Monastery in the northeast part of the country. Friar Ernest Benko was giving a tour of the facility, including the monastery’s old pharmacy, built in 1663. It’s said to be the third oldest pharmacy in all of Europe, and a good shot of the Friar here would be the “money” shot for this stop.

But while the Friar would agree to be photographed, he wouldn’t pose and he wouldn’t stop the tour. To see how I worked around those restrictions to get the above shot, plus some other tries, hit the jump.Really speaking in these situations, you have only one option (if the available light won’t do it) and that’s on camera flash. Yes, Peggy was with me, but we were part of a group and my setting her up as an Automatic Human Lightstand, or VAL (Voice Actuated Lightstands), as Joe calls them, was just not an option.

Fortunately the little pharmacy had fairly neutral colors. My first option was bouncing off the ceiling, in slow synch mode. You see below that it’s not a bad option, it’s just a little clinical, and there’s no “wrap” of light on the Friar’s face:

Photo © Bob Krist

Photo © Bob Krist

I had a “safe” shot, but I didn’t like the overly lit feel, so I pointed the flash head off the left wall, and that’s when I got the shot at the head of the post. The difference in the “wrap” is subtle, especially since the Friar is turned slightly away from the camera, but it’s there. You can see it more in the vertical:

Photo © Bob Krist

Photo © Bob Krist

Now you’ve got a nice, soft, wrap light that emulates windowlight,  my all-time favorite people-shooting light.

Later the Friar took us to the chapel and continued the tour.  There was some killer window light, but it was mighty contrasty. Again, the little SB800, aimed against the same wall that contained the window the main light was coming from, cleaned up the shadows nicely, but retained the complete available light feel of the picture.

Of course, in these situations, it helps if you have a subject that is comfortable in front of the camera. The Friar is a delightful and funny guy (his marital counselling to the husbands on the tour would get him a headliner job at any comedy club in New York–and he works clean!), and he was totally at ease in front of the camera, even though he didn’t want to pose.

Quite frankly, after realizing what a natural he was, I was happy not to pose him at all. Obviously, the Friar takes his direction from a higher authority, and as I always say, the “Father Knows Best.”

Tech data; D90, 12-24mm, ISO 800, SB 800 bounced off walls in slow synch mode.

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Photo © Bob Krist

This entry was posted in Destinations, Lighting, Photo Gear, Photo Techniques, Travel.

14 Comments

  1. Larry September 21, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    I’m reminded of the story of a group of friars who started their own floral shop to raise money. This didn’t sit well with the town’s mayor, named Hugh, who forced the floral shop to be closed, claiming zoning regulations. The moral of the story: Hugh, and only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

    Great pictures Bob, and some helpful tips about bouncing the light to mimic window light!

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 12:25 am #

      Larry: How long have you been waiting to unleash that one?:-). You can’t get that many openings for Friar jokes, except maybe at the Friar’s Club! BK

  2. Pete September 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi Bob – great post & pics. Getting it all right in the heat of the moment is certainly a challenge! Can I ask, did you leave the camera in ‘P’ mode? What was the final appeture/shutter speed – you have obviously avoided camera wobble and/or the friars movement. Thanks

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 12:24 am #

      Pete: No, I was in Aperture. I think the shutter speed was something like 1/30th with the aperture at f/4. Bob

  3. Jim September 21, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    Oh How I love the Churches in Europe, and I’ll be heading to Germany in October for 3 weeks, and I,m taking all your good advice with me. Thanks.

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 12:23 am #

      Have a great trip, Jim.

  4. Tim September 22, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    Once again Your shots just WOW me Bob. I was wondering where you can order one of those portable Peggy Stands? About how far do you “Reckon” (Paris Texas Vocabulary) you were from the wall and window when using the bounce effect. FYI snowed outside Denver today, so have fun in Denver

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

      Tim: In the pharmacy, it was 4-5 feet. In the chapel, maybe 10-12 feet. I’ll bring my long johns to Denver…Bob

  5. Jim Frazier September 22, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    Aiming the flash at the same wall that the window light is coming from. Hmmm. Never thought of that before. Brilliant!

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

      Jim: It can open up things a bit. Doesn’t always work, but sometimes…Bob

  6. Jerry Lombardo September 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Poor Peggy!

    • Bob September 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

      Jerry: Yes, she has the patience of a saint, if not a friar! Bob

  7. Mike Morse September 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    Bob: I just watched the Hands On Nikon video you and Joe McNally did. Really interesting. Your advice was, as usual, basic, practical and something to use every day. I usually shoot in aperture priority but haven’t really used the exposure compensation control since I can adjust that in ACR. I can see his point in using it when the background is much brighter than the foreground subject. Are their other times to use it or a good reference to read about it? What brand of grid and snoot do your recommend? I usually use the Gary Fong lightsphere but I see if you really want to direct the light, it isn’t what you want. What are the chances Nikon would sponsor you to hold seminars around the country to help us with the CLS? The video was great but raised a lot of questions. Joe’s stuff was great but perhaps too advanced for me. I just bought the D300s after your recommendation. Can you give me your cell number so my wife can call and you can explain how you really wanted me to buy it so the photos of our grandchildren would be even better this year? Maybe tell her I need a SB900 to go with all of my SB800’s. Mike

    • Bob September 25, 2009 at 11:50 am #

      Mike: All the gear and brands used in that kit are listed in the right hand column of the blog; under Pages, look for Bob’s Compact Lighting Kit and all the links are there for snoots and whatnot. Other resources on flash? Dunno, maybe one of Joe’s workshops. I’d say trial and error practice is the best teacher. And I can’t help you convince your wife—I’m still working on Peggy re: the D300s. Bob

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