When I set out to create this portrait of “Grizz” I had a preconceived vision of how I wanted it to look. I wanted a dark, moody portrait that told a story and communicated a sense of depth in the setting.
My first step was to dial in my base exposure so that the entire room was black and the bright window was underexposed by about a stop or so – I arrived at a base exposure of 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 50, at 35mm. Next I added a Strobepro X600IIwith barn doors and a ½ CTO gel to simulate warm evening light. By positioning the light outside the window and keeping it half covered by the window frame I minimized the risk of lens flare as it fired towards camera. This back light skipped across everything in its path and added a great rim light that hinted at details but minimized clutter. At this point some of the shadows were still a little deep, but through experience I knew that my main light would bounce around the room a little and lift the shadows just enough to give me the tonal range I wanted.
Next I added a second X600II modified with a Strobepro Rapid Pro 24”x36” softbox with the optional grid. By placing the softbox camera right and on the other side of the table pointed back towards camera left it gave the main light the appearance of coming from the window – important for the light to make sense and look somewhat natural. The optional grid helped me to control the light and keep stray light from polluting the rest of the cabin and ruining the mood of the shot.
I had a hard time getting light to Grizz’s eyes due to the brim of his hat so I had an assistant hold a silver reflector just camera right in order to reflect light back from my window light adding a nice sparkle to his eyes.
Based in the artistic village of Elora, Ontario, Wayne Simpson is a professional photographer who specializes in dramatic portraiture and landscape photography.