Early Morning Strobist Shoot
Make your own sunlight
The wake up call was well before sunrise. The shoot schedule time was not long after the wake up.
The assignment was a series of photos of a fitness athlete doing warmups at sunrise, then follow her for the day for training and meals.
For anyone who shoots at sunrise you know the planning is precise. The sun is in the right position for a very short period of time before it loses its warmth or the angle is too high. To capitalize on the early arrival we began the shoot before sunrise.
In our case sunrise was a little later than normal because the sun had to break across a line of trees across the lake where we were shooting. It also meant that the angle would be higher when the sun first appeared so our time with optimum light would be less than a location where the eastern shore wasn’t obstructed by trees. We made our own sunlight.
The location I’d planned was along an eroded edge of the lake where I could stand below the athlete shooting into the morning sky. The tree added a graphic compositional element to help balance the photo. An assistant stood in front of the athlete with an SB800 at the end of a very lightweight monopod. He raised it just high enough to simulate the angle of a rising sun.
Using Nikon CLS I underexposed the ambient light to pull down the sky and darken the tree. The strobe exposure was increased slightly to compensate.
We ran through a series of poses moving the light left to right to change the horizontal angle of the simulated sunlight. Further to the left created more of a rim light along her profile. Further to the right placed her more in full sun.
The unique aspect of using the strobe instead of the real thing was we were able to create different sets of photos with differing angles without changing the composition.
To have moved the athlete into different positions to create rim light and full sun would have required both of us to move to different locations. That would have changed both the sky background and the placement of the tree.
We continued during and after sunrise shooting similar poses. It’s interesting to show people the entire set of photos. The approval rate is all over the board with some preferring these simulated sun photos while others like the sunrise itself.
The next time I shoot at this location under these circumstances I’ll add a second strobe on a different channel to slightly fill the tree behind her. Shot with a 70-200mm in RAW.
Processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.
Editor’s Note: Repost of previous article