I have always stressed the importance of paying attention to the simple stuff in photography. Last week at my "Crafting Light" workshop in Santa Fe, NM for the SFPW, I was fortunate to take my class north to El Rito, NM to see an old friend, David Michael Kennedy, an exceedingly talented photographic artist and the creator of hundreds of album covers and photos of the southwest, native American tribes and more. While at his new gallery and studio I did a quick demo to illustrate how you can work anyplace if you just pay attention the simple.
In a very small physical area with almost no background area to work and with my class looking on, we photographed the beautiful daughter of Mandy Lynn Lundy. Using only an 85mm Sigma lens on my Canon 5D Mark III and the right choice in light shaping, a translucent diffuser, we were able to pull off an image with great highlight to shadow ratio, with no additional tools or equipment needed.
In the first image, the direct sunlight offers plenty of exposure as the brightness of the sun is undeniable. However, the extreme contrast from highlight to hard-edged shadow and the small, highly contrast look to the light makes it almost unusable. But by introducing a simple diffuser, the lighting is softened, the background becomes brighter and more out of focus and the image appears from an unlikely place. Anytime you use a translucent light shaping tool in an ambient lighting environment, the subject will lose light quantity based on the density of the fabric. For example, if the fabric is one stop, then the subject gets one stop darker. Then, when you open the exposure one-stop to properly expose for the subject, the background shifts brighter and the medium-dark background then becomes a full-stop brighter shifting the "KEY" of the photograph brighter. Oh, and one of the most important elements of working with the sun is the great recycle time (...he said tongue placed firmly in cheek).