Thursday, December 09, 2010

On Location Portraits: Franz Josef Glacier

On Location Portraits: Franz Josef Glacier

Elise Soniat on Franz Josef Glacier

I had an idea I wanted to try out... I wanted to combine a whole bunch of extremes and see what sort of a portrait I could pull out of a day on the West Coast of New Zealand.

After driving a couple hundred kilometers in our camper vans in November, 2010, we arrived at the trail head for Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. I pulled out the gear I needed, Canon EOS-1D MkIV, Canon TS-E 45mm lens, and 2 Canon 580EX2 speedlights, and tossed these in my sling pack with a couple of granola bars and a water bottle. We headed up a trail along a huge riverbed that in days gone by had been carved out by the massive glacier. A mile into our hike we arrived at the end of the trail, a view point just a couple hundred yards from the face of the glacier.

I pulled out my gear, setting the on camera flash to master mode and to not fire, just trigger the second, off-camera flash that was positioned about 45 degrees off to my right. Exposure was set manually for both the camera and the flash as the tilt-shift lens messes up all auto exposure modes. The flash was set to be about a stop more powerful than ambient light to create the darker effect on the background scenery and to show off the dimension in the face created by the shadows from the flash. The lens itself was set to allow my subject and the glacier in the background to be sharp, while blurring the background immediately behind my subject.

I had never tried a combination like this... off camera lighting, tilt-shift focusing, hard core glacier, and rather variable weather.

Once I was set, I waited for the sun to duck behind clouds before I took each shot. I eyeballed the ambient light and adjusted the aperture on the fly as each cloud blocked a different amount of sunlight. Some were a bit darker than others. As I changed the aperture, I had to keep moving my second flash closer or farther away because it was in manual mode as well. It helped to have a human light stand! I didn't modify the flash with a reflector or soft-box because I wanted to keep the harsher shadows to match the harsh conditions in the background.

I liked the results quite a bit, and so did my models. Hopefully you will too!

View the rest of the collection on Flickr:


Sarah Danaher on Franz Josef Glacier

Jonathan Sloat on Franz Josef Glacier

Toni Maisano on Franz Josef Glacier


Sarah Bradshaw said...

Hahaha... LOVE them!!

DerksWorks said...

really beautiful! love the consistency in harshness.

WriteTheVision said...

Rowan, those are awesome! You are an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G photographer!