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Dramatic Sky and Strobe Sync

Although my experiences were relatively few, I did create what I thought were some dramatic images using a technique I developed by way of experimentation* (I’m sure it was created long before I was even born, but I did actually develop it on my own… mind you this was long before the days of internet searches).

One of the many challenges in shooting fashion outside in daylight was the balance of artificial light and natural daylight.  If shooting with a strobe setup, in my case a Speedotron 2400 pack and 102-series heads, often it was only possible to sync at 1/250th max while controlling the exposure with your F-stop and film speed.  Even then, it was nearly impossible to create dramatic skies with properly lit subject matter.  To work around this, I used a LEE hood and filter setup that allowed me to add in multiple neutral density filters to “stop-down” the sky to create a more dramatic effect.

Of course, when adding neutral density filters in front of the lens, the amount of light passing through the lens was cut by the number of stops each filter was rated at.  To compensate for this, the power output in the strobe heads and/or the aperture would have to change so that the subject matter was still properly exposed while retaining the desired dramatic sky effect.

In this particular shoot with Joanna Krupa, I was able to use the sun, which was directly behind the model, to create the halo effect and add the highlights in her hair.  To camera right, I used a medium softbox with a single head, likely using all available 2400ws from the single pack.  The next image was shot with the same technique giving a somewhat surreal, almost nighttime look to the image.

I’ve used this same technique a handful of times throughout my days of shooting editorial and commercial look-books.  It was an effect that created some dramatic scenes, but of course, it has its place and does not work in many situations.

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