Location Band Photography

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Michael A. Sewell
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Montego Bay. The most amiable bunch of folks I've had the pleasure of spending time with in quite a while. A little off the wall, and all very different, and all so very, very talented. I first met them when I photographed the Captive Music live final, held in Preston's 53 Degrees club. I'm not a fan of live music. It's loud! However, I can no longer say I hate all live music. The night turned out to be full of surprises, not least the fact a enjoyed the whole thing, and especially Montego Bay's performance. Apparently, you're never too old to learn new tricks.

Anyway, what's a music contest got to do with the above image? Well, as part of the prize for winning the competition, the band would get a shoot with yours truly. So off I trundle to York to meet the group.

The above image was almost at the end of the shoot, at 1430hrs. I wanted a moody look to the image, and the bright sunshine would certainly create interest. I wanted to drop the ambient as much as possible, and then create enough light to make the group pop against the background. I used five bare speedlights, no modifiers. For one reason, I needed as much light as possible, and secondly, the way the speedlights were to be spread out, they would act as fill lights for each other.

Two speedlights to the left of the group, one central, and another two to the right of the group. All speedlights were on full power. The speedlights were triggered by Lencarta Mach 1N transceivers, now defunct. Any trigger that can manage a tail hack will do. So the Godox Cell II triggers for Canon and Nikon etc. Okay, it's old hat now.

Nowadays, you would use an Olympus dedicated TTL trigger, and use HSS to get the same effect, with a little more finesse, and a lot less fuss.

1/8000th sec ISO200 f5

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Last shot of the day, taken about twenty minutes after the top image. It had become a little more overcast, so dropping the ambient was much easier, which was a boon as the lights actually needed to be further away from the group for this. Similar sort of set up insofar as there were two speedlights at each side, one high and the second about elbow height. You can see the light path on the wall. Again, there was a single central speedlight which was immediate camera right, as can be seen by the shadowing behind the group members. The vignette effect isn't added in post, it's the natural light fall off due to the dropped ambient. Same old school tail hack technique.

1/2000th sec ISO200 f4

For those that love a good chortle at my expense, there's the behind the scenes video here:


This was from quite some time ago, and I felt it was quite useful to see what we used to do before HSS.
 
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Nice images as usual, you sure get to do a range of work.
Clients are strange beasts!

One thing I will say: My clients tend to believe I am a specialist in whatever area they need me to be. This is especially true with new clients. Once you have your first shoot in the bag, and they are happy with the standard of your work, it really doesn’t matter if they discover you can shoot pretty much anything, and to the same high standard. If you start the negotiations with “I can do anything”, they won’t do their homework to find out how good you are, and the old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” will be foremost in their mind.

The title Commercial Photographer is pretty much all encompassing. From products to vehicles, food to property, PR to erm… something else, the title allows me to say “Yes, that’s something we do”. It also means I’m unlikely to get bored shooting the same thing, day in, day out. (Kill me now! :doh:)

If you shoot something often enough, with a drive to create imagery that is to the very best of your ability, then you cannot fail to become a specialist in that subject. Take that same drive and passion to every shoot and every subject, and you will succeed in any of the arenas you wish to.

And the subjects that don’t float your boat? You come to realise you are judged on whatever image you create. Potential clients make the assumption the way you shoot anything, is the way you shoot everything. If you release an image that isn’t quite as good as the rest of your portfolio, which one do you think will make an impact with a new client? It’s sod’s law. Hence the rule, only show your best work. And with clients? Only put in your best performance.

Erm......

Any ideas where this soap box belongs?
 

Phocal

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If you shoot something often enough, with a drive to create imagery that is to the very best of your ability, then you cannot fail to become a specialist in that subject. Take that same drive and passion to every shoot and every subject, and you will succeed in any of the arenas you wish to.
So well said.............
 

exakta

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I love the first photo. I'm always fascinated with shots that play wild tricks with the light. It looks like nighttime under a full moon, actually so the illumination of the band becomes surreal. I also like the double shadows of each person. It's certainly up to the level of many album cover photos.
 
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Noob question here, how were you able to shoot 1/8000th and 1/2000th without HSS?
The mentioned tail hack utilises the TTL signal to use the moving slit of the exposure cursor during the flash duration. This means it basically makes use of the whole length of the light curve. The light colour temperature can warm during the exposure, and some cameras may experience a shift in exposure depending on how well times the flash is.

I experienced no issues with Nikon or Olympus systems, when utilising a tail hack, although the Olympus system actually handles it far better, and tends to make better use of the available light curve.
 

Mike_D

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The mentioned tail hack utilises the TTL signal to use the moving slit of the exposure cursor during the flash duration. This means it basically makes use of the whole length of the light curve. The light colour temperature can warm during the exposure, and some cameras may experience a shift in exposure depending on how well times the flash is.

I experienced no issues with Nikon or Olympus systems, when utilising a tail hack, although the Olympus system actually handles it far better, and tends to make better use of the available light curve.
Thanks. I've not encountered "tail hack" before.
 

ADemuth

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At the risk of sounding stupid - I still don't think I understand this tail hack you speak of, and googling "tail hack strobe" just gets me a bunch of motorcycle brake light mods.

Are you blasting at full power using strobes that have a flash duration longer than the shutter speed you have selected? That's the only way I can see this working, but I have absolutely zero experience with strobes other than with that thing that I can make pop up from my camera when I'm really really desperate.
 
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Are you blasting at full power using strobes that have a flash duration longer than the shutter speed you have selected? That's the only way I can see this working, but I have absolutely zero experience with strobes other than with that thing that I can make pop up from my camera when I'm really really desperate.
That's exactly what it is.
The standard xsynch speed works by having the shutter fully open, and a short burst of light within the time the shutter is fully open.
Hacking the tail is when you are using a shutter speed far shorter than the light duration. Ideally, you want the exposure to start as soon as possible when the light starts to emit, as it is at its brightest at that point.
The reason it's done at full power is because the IGBT circuitry in speedlights and TTL enabled studio type lights (or location lights), physically cuts off the light if the power is reduced even by a tiny amount.
Studio or location lights that are voltage controlled in their power output are ideal for this, because they don't cut off the light when turned down, and actually, the tail gets longer as the power is reduced. Although the colour temperature also warms accordingly.
 
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PakkyT

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Ideally, you want the exposure to start as soon as possible when the light starts to emit, as it is at its brightest at that point.
Ya, but how do you do it? What setting (camera or lights) do you have to tweak from normal to make the camera and strobe sync up correctly so the shutter slit is active during the strobe?
 
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Ya, but how do you do it? What setting (camera or lights) do you have to tweak from normal to make the camera and strobe sync up correctly so the shutter slit is active during the strobe?
You need a trigger that reads the ttl pins and can therefore synch above the synch speed, because it's basically lying to the camera, and telling the camera "Hey!, I'm a TTL enabled speedlight. Let's go!"
So, a camera in FP mode sees the "pretend" speedlight, and as the first curtain starts to open on a faster than xsynch speed setting, tells the trigger to start "pulsing". This is the standard behaviour for a speedlight firing in HSS mode. It pulses its light during the exposure, so the shutter slit gets a regular pulse throughout its journey across the sensor. However, our trigger, cunningly disguised as a speedlight in HSS mode, thinks, "Pah. Sod that for a game of soldiers!" and fires off the signal to the receivers, basically shouting "Blow yer brains out now!"

So that's the signalling side of things. Such triggers can be found in the Godox range and others.

I use the Elinchrom Skyport HS trigger, and Skyport receivers.

Now, depending on the camera, the FP mode is selected on the camera (eg : Nikon) or on the speedlight (or our cunningly disguised trigger), which is the case for most other systems, including Olympus. Your shutter speed is simply turned up to where you want it. If the speedlight (masquerading trigger) isn't set to FP, the camera will not dial past maximum xsynch speed.

If your lights are voltage controlled studio or location lights, you can turn them down from full if needed.
If you are on IGBT type lights or speedlights, you are stuck with full power output, and moving the lights to reduce impact.
Bearing in mind, because you are hacking the tail, you won't get anything like the amount of illumination you would normally expect at full power.

Clear as mud?
 

ADemuth

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Thanks for the nitty-gritty! I love knowing how stuff works; both how you got your shot, but especially the "boring" parts such as the in's and out's of the electro-mechanical workings of strobes or where speedlights and studio strobes differ.
 
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