Photo Shoot & Technique: Tom Colley

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 13, 2010

Category: General

I’ve been concentrating efforts lately into the new InSight Workshops and in particular around putting together a Workbook that will be given to each attendee. Tom Colley is to be one of our regular models for the Workshop so I caught up with him the other day to go out ‘shooting’ for a few hours and to work on some pictures that will be used in the workbook.

Now what was unusual about this shoot, for me atleast, was that generally I like to go out beforehand around the area where we’ll be working to select certain areas that have potential, but this time I didn’t; neither did I have an assistant come along with me to help with equipment. However, despite this ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ it was actually quite a refreshing experience searching ‘on the fly’ for locations and shots, so I’d definitely recommend it. Incidentally we were over in a beautiful little Village in Buckinghamshire called Haddenham which is where Tom lives, and in fact all of the photos below were taken no more than 5 minutes from Tom’s front door.

All of the photos in this series were taken using just one light. For the majority of the time I used a small Nikon Speedlight but on occasion had to use my Alien Bees rig. The only reason for this was the time of the day were were shooting; around 12.30pm so the sun was still quite bright. Had we been working a little later in the day when the sun wasn’t so powerful then the Nikon Speedlight would have been more than adequate, and would have saved carrying alot more kit around.

Having lost count of how many 60″ shoot-thru umbrella’s I’ve broken because of the wind snapping them I decided not to use one this time. That’s not to say I don’t use them now, far from it…I absolutely love them, it’s just that there was slight breeze in the air and as we were going to be working out in the open with little cover a softbox was more appropriate. Umbrella’s especially when used as a shoot-thru become ‘sails’ if there’s the slightest hint of a breeze around, so a softbox which is an enclosed light modifier is more appropriate as it won’t catch the breeze anywhere near as much. That said we did have a few challenges because every now and then the wind would kick pick up just that little bit more and the light stand would start to topple. In an ideal world this is where sandbags come in handy or an assistant to just hold the light stand steady, but we didn’t have those luxuries so it was a case of waiting for the right moment then quickly taking a few shots.

Our next location was under a small railway bridge between two fields. Not being in the open meant we didn’t have the challenge of midday sun to contend with so the first of these two shots were taken using a Nikon Speedlight.

The final shots below were taken after a much needed coffee to warm up, and were next to an old piece of wire fencing by the side of the road. Again, a really simple lighting set up using a single Nikon Speedlight.

Technique 1:
The shots taken by the old building with Tom stood next to the door were taken using a single Nikon Speedlight fitted with no modifiers at all. Because of the time of day to get any detail in the sky meant working at the maximum sync speed of 1/250th second and then dialing in the appropriate f stop which in this case was f/7.1 This gave a decent looking sky so all that was left then was to add some light onto Tom who without it, working at these camera settings was barely visible. The Speedlight had to be used at full power and was zoomed to 105mm to give it a bit more direction and to make the use of as much light coming from it as possible as opposed to spreading it all around.

Technique 2:
Due to being out in the open with no shade and a bright sun, the series of shots in the field meant I had to use my Alien Bees lighting. Like I mentioned before, the only reason for this was because of the time of day we were shooting ie 12.30pm. Had we been shooting later in the day, say around 3pm then a Nikon Speedlight would have been just as good. Working at the maximum sync speed of 1/250th second an aperture of f/9.0 was what was needed to give a decent amount of detail in the sky, and the Alien Bees needed only to be on 1/2 power so recycle time was kept to a minimum between shots.

To prevent the Octabox and light stand from toppling over quite so easily, I hung the Vagabond Battery pack from one of the handles by it’s strap. This did the job ok..ish but sandbags would have been alot better as the support could have been spread evenly as opposed to on the one side.


Technique 3:
Really simple this one. Tom is stood directly infront of me in profile and on the other side of him is my lighting rig which in this case just happened to be the Octabox and the Alien Bees. The lights can be set to quite a low power as all it’s doing is creating a ‘white backdrop’ and the silhouette comes from adding no light to the front of Tom. This was a real ‘run and gun’ shot so I wasn’t really paying much attention to the camera settings. Once in Photoshop, the image is finished off increasing the ‘blacks’ a little and then adding a little more white background using the ‘Extending Canvas’ technique. This shot could have been taken just as easily using a Nikon Speedlight and the shoot-thru umbrella. The only reason it wasn’t used in this case was that the Alien Bees was already set up.

Technique 4:
Initially with the photos next to the wire fencing I was using a Speedlight and a Shoot-Thru umbrella but what I found with this was that the light was too soft and as a consequence I wasn’t seeing any of the shadows from the fencing hit Tom. So, I changed it up and went for the speedlight on it’s own which gave a much punchier, harder light resulting in the shadows from the fencing showing through.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Please feel free to make use of the comments section below; I’d love to read what you think.

Bye for now.

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24 Comments

  1. Tim Wallace

    Ad always Glyn, nice post and great photography. I notoced that you shoot at 250th on the D3, di you find that you get a dark bottom edge dreeping in, almost like old fashioned ‘shutter bounce’, I know that I do and after speaking to Nikon about it once on a seminar they owned up to sync really being 200th…
    Great work, keep it up my friend
    Tim

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Tim,
      Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment; it’s always appreciated.
      Re the D3’s max sync speed, I’ve always used 1/250 sec and have never experienced the dark bottom edge creeping in as you can see from the shot of Tom playing the guitar whilst sat on the floor.

      When I spent some time out in Atlanta with Zack, he mentioned too about the max sync speed with the Alien Bees being at around the 1/160th mark but again 1/250sec works just fine for me; long may it continue…lol

      Thanks again for the kind words mate.

      Reply
  2. Scot Baston

    Lots of useful information here Glyn and very well written.. The lighting diagrams help to explain the ideas well and I just love the smiley faces esp the side profile of Tom

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Scott,
      Glad to hear the explanation of each of the shots is useful; if not comical with my attempt at drawing…lol

      Thanks for commenting mate.

      Reply
  3. Neal

    Glyn very nice shots mate, I do like the chain lin fence and blue hat, also the Michael Jackson profile pic is superb 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Cheers Neal; glad you like them.

      The ‘blue’ tint to the hat photos by the chain link fence comes from shifting the White Balance in camera to give it more of an evening, moon lit kind of feel. No orange gel (CTO) was added to the flash as it was light from the moon that I was trying to mimic as opposed to evening sun.

      Cheers

      Reply
  4. shannon

    Amazing photos Glyn and once again you explain the techniques so that they are easily understood, even by us amateurs ;). I love the diagrams, the stick figures are great, clean & simple ~:D

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Thank you Shannon. It’s great to ‘hear’ that this kind of information is useful even though the diagrams could do with a little more work, but then I guess it just wouldn’t be me…lol

      Thanks again for the kind words and for taking the time to post a comment.
      All the best to you.

      Reply
  5. Noel

    Great shot glyn and a very informative walk-through. Like the fence shots and the octabox one, fantastic!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Cheers Noel; glad to ‘hear’ you like the shots, and thanks for commenting ;o)

      Reply
  6. Tom Colley

    They look fantastic mate, it was a really fun shoot bar the weather. I do have one question… why do i look so evil in one of your drawings ? As i said they look grate and was a pleasure to work with you again,I forward to our next project!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hey Tom,
      Great to see you dropping by. Glad you like the photos mate, and yeah ditto…really enjoyed it, except for the cold…lol

      Re the drawings and you looking evil…mate, drawing was never a strong subject of mine; look upon it as character as opposed to evil…lol

      Cheers and I too look forward to working with you again and the Workshops themselves.
      All the best,
      Glyn

      Reply
  7. shannon

    Tom, you don’t look evil in the drawing, you look contemplative ;)… Glyn, the diagrams are perfect, really… Detailed graphics are great in the right context… but for this purpose the simplicity is part of what makes your tutorials so great, and like you said, it just wouldn’t be you then…. don’t change a thing ~:D.xo.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      That’s decided then, lighting diagrams to remain the same. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Shannon; makes perfect sense ;o)

      Reply
  8. Rick Wenner

    Great work Glyn. I’m really liking the first two shots against the door and the first shot against the fence. It is always great to see how the images were created as well. Excellent post my man.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Great to hear you like the images and the ‘behind the scenes’ info.

      Cheers

      Reply
  9. Frank DelValle

    Superb Glyn! Well documented and thought out. I will be trying some of these techniques now that the weather is warming up here in North Texas. May go to England just for a workshop with you mate. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Frank

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hey Frank…Great to hear from you.
      Thanks for commenting on the post and for the kind words. You’re more than welcome to come to a Workshop if you ever find yourself over here in the UK but I gotta warn you, I do seem to have a bit of a reputation for holding them on days when the weather is far from perfect..lol

      Thanks again and all the very best to you,
      Glyn

      Reply
  10. GLEN SCOLAN

    very nice shot and web site.
    i’ll follow you.

    congrat.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Thanks for dropping by and for following Glen. Glad you like the shoot ;o)

      Reply
  11. Abby Brown

    I love the texture and color. Although in my opinion a little bit more story to the photo and not just posing. Nice photos.

    Reply
  12. Greg V

    Glyn – i really liked the shot of the silhouette. I’ve “borrowed” this technique recently using an umbrella and added a little post-proc to remove the dark lines of the umbrella ribs so thanks for the idea! This is my first visit to your site and I REALLY enjoy the use of your diagrams and writeups. Thanks for sharing so openly. Greg.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Glad to ‘hear’ that one of the techniques on the blog came in handy; do you have a link to your results at all? Thanks too for the comments about the write-ups and for not mocking my attempts at drawing…lol
      All the best to you,
      Glyn

      Reply
  13. Ray Phoy

    Love this shoot Glyn the lighting and mood, very good . I was looking for more of your work with, Tom Colley? You said that he was to be a model in your workshops ? Maybe thats not the case anymore. You should work with him again .

    Reply

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