This page continues on with another example of using flash in the context of a modern Zone System. In this case, our model is “A”; and we are going for a somewhat more dramatic image.

Here is the background that I am going to use:

The background

The background

This is basically the view from my front yard to the south. We are talking August 1st at around 6:30pm MDT in Colorado, so the sun is fairly high in the sky to camera right. I’m shooting with a manual focus Rokinon 85mm lens set at f/1.4 on my D700. I used matrix metering in manual mode and picked a shutter speed to get the highlights fairly “dark”; that is, the maximum L-Values in the clouds in the RAW NEF are at around 80 or so. The exposure values were ISO 200, f/1.4, 1/5000s. The image above is a screen shot from Capture NX2 with the NEF opened in the LStar-RGBv4 color space. I have applied no exposure or other corrections to the image at this point.

I should point out that the version of NX2 that I’m using here has rather odd behavior associated with Active D-Lighting settings. If it is turned off, then the maximum level runs into a brick wall at around 85% of full scale (about 215 out of 255). Active D-Lighting must be enabled in order to avoid this problem and with it on, it is virtually impossible to blow out highlights with the exposure settings. In other words, the NX2 RAW converter can demonstrate some very non-linear behavior. I mention this for those who may be familiar with this behavior; and to you folks, this image was captured with Active D-Lighting in Auto mode in the camera and “Unchanged” in RAW conversion.

With precisely the same exposure settings and background, we now introduce our model, A, with a single SB800 speedlight in manual mode at 1/2 power high to camera right. With manual exposure settings in the camera and manual power in the flash, lighting control is strictly in terms of the distance from the speedlight to the subject. With the wide open aperture (f/1.4) and short shutter speed (1/5000s), the remote speedlight is running in Auto FP mode, and power fall-off is an issue. The combination of the pine trees, clouds, and sky in the background become, at f/1.4, just an abstract texture with natural color-tones. The brightest, sharpest, highest contrast parts of the image are in the model herself.

"A" in the picture

“A” in the picture

With the original, manual exposure settings, the clouds in the image are placed at around Zone VII; hence, the background has been made reasonably low key. The photographic intent is a high contrast nearly Rembrandt-lighting effect, in spite of the strong ambient sunlight outdoors. The span of L-Values across A’s face runs from about 83 on her bright, left cheek bone to about 3 on her dark, right cheek bone. The shadow cast by her nose below her right eye is at around 12.

Bringing this image into Photoshop and doing a little skin retouching, clearing up a bit of redness in her left eye (bad allergies), and so on, yields this image:

"A" retouched

“A” retouched

which I rather like. Sending this one off to TrueGrain, emulating Ilford FP4 (no filter) and 35mm film grain gives this result:

"A", Ilford FP4 emulation

“A”, Ilford FP4 emulation

which I also like. I hope that you do too.

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