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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Hacer in blue

This is one of my own shots from the Lausanne Strobist day. We had been presented with a range of locations around the EPFL campus by Thomas and Basilio, and the “eggshell” sculptures were high on my list of locations that I wanted to use.

We arrived in a group of seven photographers – myself, Radu, Niall and Margot, Shawn, John and Matthias – with volunteer model Hacer and decided that we wanted to leave the curved metal sculpture in comparative shadow, lighting the walls behind the sculpture and Hacer heself. Once we’d set up and taken some other shots from a closer range, we asked Hacer to stand in front of the larger of the sculptures to take some full-length portraits.

Having already found out that the ambient daylight was far too bright to suppress using in-camera settings, I had remembered a technique suggested by David Hobby on his website and at his workshop at CERN. By working in daylight and setting the camera to a tungsten white balance, it was pretty easy to turn blue. Tungsten lighting is the kind of warm, orange light you typically see indoors using traditional light bulbs, whereas daylight – particularly in shade – is blue.

By telling the camera that the scene is lit by warm tungsten light, the camera “turns down” the light temperature… making things which are already blue (such as the daylight) very blue indeed! the light cast by camera flashes is very similar to daylight and so without the light being corrected, that too would turn bright blue. The simple addition of one full layer of Colour Temperature Orange gel (CTO) to any flashes brings the light cast onto Hacer back to white.

So, although this shot looks tremendously theatrical and lit in a complicated way, it was actually lit with just one flash gun: out of shot to the left. All of the blue light is simply daylight! By underexposing the daylight, the blue is exaggerated even more.