In my previous post â€œPhotographing a belly dancer,â€ I mentioned how you have to make do when you don’t have control over the lighting and access to the performing/dance area.
I started wondering how much better my images could look, if I had more control, the control freak that I am.
So I got together withÂ Hadia Habibi.
I had her undivided attention this time.
So, in the spirit of experimentation, sharing and fun, here’s our collaborative effort.
Warming up—We worked on some poses using strong side-lighting to accentuate Hadia’s svelte physique and her musculature.
With the shutter open, in a completely darkened room, I want to capture multiple images of the beautiful Hadia dancing as she moves through the field of view of my tripod mounted camera.
Multiple exposures on the same frame—After a few minor glitches with one of my flash units, some trial and error on when to fire the flash, I got the hang of Hadia’s rhythm as she danced to her music. See a diagram of the setup.
I used the same equipment like the last time.
This time though, I added a 3rd flash.
All 3 flash units were on light stands.
I wanted to be sure my background was a solid black so I attached aÂ grey backdrop to the wall.
The camera was on a tripod.
- A flashlight to help me focus
- 1 Canon Speedlite 580EX II
- 1 Canon 550 EX Speedlite
- 1 Canon 430 EX Speedlite
- 3 Cybersync receivers & 1 transmitter
- 3 lightstands
- Grey backdrop
- 2 HonlPhoto 1/8″ Honeycomb Speed Grid for Shoe Mount Portable Flashes
- 17-35 mm zoom lens
To cut down of recycling time so that I can fire the flashes in quick succession, I had to decide on a favorable aperture opening which allows quick flash recycling and decent depth-of-field.
I settled on f5.6, then consulted the owners’ manual for my flash.
On some flash units, there is the ability to zoom the flash head to give you a narrower beam and more focused light.
Since I didn’t want to indiscriminately throw light all over the scene and the background, I attached aÂ grid to 2 of my flash units to focus the light even more.
The 3rd light in the back didn’t always keep up with the fast recycling of the 2 flashes in front.
All 3 of my flashes were Â set to a focal length of 105mm.
If you look at the chart above, you’ll see the Guide Number (always given at ISO 100)Â is 1/8th power with a zoom of 105 mm is 20.5.
To figure out the distance to place my main flash from Hadia, I divided the flash unit’s Guide Number 20.5 by my intended aperture setting of 5.6.
This gives me a distance of approximately Â 20.5 Ã· 5.6 =Â 3.6 feet, say 3 1/2 feet for my main light.
In case I didn’t mention this, the flashlight is to light Hadia so I can â€œmanually focusâ€ on her.
I gave Hadia some idea of her â€œbounding box.â€
This gave her an idea of how many steps she could take left or right and still be in the frame
Except for the glow of her venerable boom box and iPod which provided the ambience and tunes, the lights were all out.
Then on my cue, Hadia started her dance movement
- I tripped the shutter
- I manually fired all 3 flashes simultaneously by pressing the open flash button on my Cybersync transmitter
- I counted about 2 seconds before I fired the flashes again to allow for Hadia to move to a different spot
- After 8 seconds, the shutter closed
If she had not physically moved, then she would be â€œpainted twiceâ€ at the same location and that would result in an over-exposure of her image at that position.
I could have set the shutter to remain open for longer than 8 seconds since we were in complete darkness and it wasn’t a factor in figuring out the exposure.
The warm-up was useful because it allowed me to fine-tune my light placement to get my exposures down.
If I attempt this again, I’ll have to make sure I use a flash that doesn’t go to sleep to save power.
My older 550EX had this very annoying habit of going to sleep after a certain period of inactivity.
Every time that happened, I had to physically walk over to the light stand, turn it off and on again.
The 3rd light a 430 EX does not support an external power pack so it had trouble keeping up with the needed fast recycling time.
One solution is to move it closer to Hadia, my subject, and cut it’s power ratio further from 1/4th to possibly 1/16th.
And if cutting the power and moving the 430 EX closer didn’t work, I would have to increase the ISO from 100 to 400.
There will be an increase in noise naturally but life is full of compromises, isn’t it?
Also, it would help with my â€œtimingâ€ if I watched Hadia perform the same song a few times.
Next: Photographing a belly dancer Part 3: Turning Up the Heat.