Ah, the weather in “Paradise!”
Stephen Dantzig, Psy. D.
It was supposed to be one of those spectacular Hawaiian days—beautiful sunshine to match the incredible scenery. The game plan was to head up to the North Shore for a series of location shots with Raeceen Woolford, a former University of Hawaii Wahine Volleyball standout and current Miss Honolulu title holder. (Note: Raeceen went on to become Miss Hawai’i the follow The weather, at our 2:00 PM rendezvous, was less than impressive. There were breaks in a thick cloud/vog [vog is a term for the volcanic ash that occasionally travels up the island chain from the Big Island], but it was hardly a “postcard” day. We bailed on the road trip and decided to try a location closer to “town.”
Sand Island is not necessarily known for it’s spectacular beauty either—it is very industrial and it is the harbor for the major moving companies to unload their goods. However, there is a small beach park at the end of all of the junk yards and loading docks, so off we went.
The initial challenge was to create light wasn’t flat and boring. Nature had provided us with a huge softbox, but there wasn’t any life to the light. The color temperature would also be on the high side and would yield a bluish color cast. Popping a strobe would help give some contrast and direction to the light, but it would not do much to create that warm glow of the Islands.
There have been many times when I have used reflectors in conjunction with a strobe on location, but this combination was a little unique. We fit a 7” parabolic reflector over one of my Dynalite Uni400 units and put in a 30 degree grid. We then dragged out my 5 in 1 reflector set [I think it is 42”] and chose the silver/gold reflector. My buddy Domi [thanks Domi!] held the reflector over his head and angled it down with the strobe aimed into the reflector. We tried our best to match the exposure of the now changing background but needed a little help so I bumped up the ISO on my camera to 200 [and metered it for ambient plus strobe at ISO 160]…and suddenly we were back in Hawaii!
The sun was blazing through clear blue skies by the time we wandered down the beach for our next set-up. The sun was still way too high in the sky to use as a solo light source and sticking my strobe in my trusted halo would produce a light that would be too soft to combat the harsh sunlight. In the vein of “fight fire with fire” we used the strobe with just the reflector and grid to fill in the harsh shadows with a pretty harsh light source. We placed Raeceen on the “shady” side of a thin palm tree and metered the direct sunlight on the sunny side and it recorded an exposure of f 11 and 8/10 at 1/250th of a second. I like a lot of depth of field in my images, but pushing f 16 is a bit much. I reset my ISO to 100 [metered at ISO 80, so the ambient direct sunlight was now f 8 and 8/10 at 1/250th of a second] and measured the impact of the strobe. We moved the strobe in [it was on full power] and finally got a reading of f 8 and 6/10 [f 10] at 1/250th of a second. The harsh strobe blended with the ambient light to create a believable image with just enough light to keep Raeceen’s eyes from disappearing into the shadows. The direct sun on her cheek and arm cerates a subtle but nice highlight.
One of the trademarks of Hawaiian beaches is the beautiful juxtaposition of black lava rock and the deep blue ocean. We had such a scenario a few feet from the palm tree. The sun was still a bit high, but was moving into a usable position as we approached the rocks and jetties. This was one of those times when I want a harsh light: Raeceen has been an accomplished athlete at a very high level [the University of Hawaii Women’s Volleyball Team is a perennial national contender] and her physique reflects the hard work that she has put into her career. A harsh side light would accentuate her figure in a very flattering way, so she was positioned with the sun just past 90 degrees camera right. The same silver/gold reflector that we used to create a sunlight effect earlier was used to bounce light into Rae’s face and [her] right side.
This shoot had some technical challenges, but it was a blast. I’ve known Raeceen for only a short time, but I can see why she has been described as one of the emotional and spiritual leaders of the Wahine Rainbow Volleyball Team.