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Natural light shooting practices


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#1 Mihai Nicolau

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 06:09 PM

Hello,

I'm about to shoot a 5-6 min short on 500T Vision emulsion. For the exterior shots I want to shoot as much as possible during dusk, dawn part of the day because the light looks much better and more dramatic.

I want to have a shot where the character walks in the middle of the road approaching the camera at dusk with the sun as the backlight. The problem is that the light from the sun also reflects on the asphalt making it golden. what is the best way to expose not to make it look an ugly overexposed white stripe : Incident metering dome pointed towards the sun/sky or reflected meter towards the asphalt or incident meter towards the asphalt.
Also the character would need to be filled with light so as not to make him a silhouette. What light ratio would give me a natural effect for this ? Say the key light is at f.8 should the face of the actor be a about 5.6 , or 4 because it feels logical for me that the actor should be a little underexposed given the situation.

I'll logically be using an 85 Wratten on the front of the lens for the exterior shots. But as i'm nearing dusk and as the K slowly fall down towards 3200 wouldn't keeping the 85 on make everything look to warm ? I mean if i'd have about 4000k at sundown and with the 85 correctinh about 2850k of termperature i would get a 1150k balance for a 3200k balanced emulsion. Wouldn't this make it look to warm ?

Thank you!
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 07:45 PM

If you have enough light to use the 85 filter, then it's just a question of whether you want to accurately capture the warm late afternoon color to the light or not. If you don't, then you can either use an 81EF for a partial cooling off, or you can time out the warmth in post, or you can use no correction filter and have a blue-ish image that you can time back some warmth in.

Just remember that only the direct sunlight gets warmer at the end of the day -- the shadows and skylight can get bluer if anything, so by shooting without the 85 filter, you may be shifting the bright highlights to blue but the shadows will go even bluer. Filters can't really fix a color temp difference like that, they can only change the overall bias.

The point of photography isn't to neutralize all the color casts in real life -- near sunset, you have warm highlights and cool shadows, and that looks natural. Unless you are trying to make sunset light look like high noon light.

If you are shooting into a bright glaring backlit asphalt roadway, first of all, try using a Pola filter if you want to remove some glare.

If you do that and you still have a big difference in the brightness of the sky and roadway versus the faces, then generally you'd underexpose the face in shade to a level where you know you'll still be recording detail rather than go black, so you don't get a pure silhouette effect. Generally that may be about two to three stops underexposed for the shadows, depending on how extreme the contrast is and how much bright information you are trying to keep as well. If the contrast isn't too extreme, then you don't have to underexpose the shadows as much.

But even with a less hot background, in backlit sunlight, you generally expose the shadow side of faces so they are a bit under "key" level because that looks natural. With a very low backlight where most of the face and frame are in the shade and the sun just creates a halo effect, then maybe you'd only underexpose the face by about a stop under.
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#3 Mihai Nicolau

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 02:30 AM

Thank you for the answer David.

So what you are saying is that shooting at sunset with a tungsten balanced emulsion without a filter would just give me neutral white balanced tones. I don't want this i want the sunset to be nice and warm I just thought that using an 85 filter at sunset when color temperature is already dropping below 5600K would give me to much of a warm tone.

One more question. For close-ups of my talent i'll be using foam reflectors to get some light into her face if the contrast is too much. But for larger shots can I just trick this from exposure because a foam board won't give a visible effect at that distance and I don't have the possibility to use daylight fixtures for the exterior shots.

Thanks.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 09:45 AM

Thank you for the answer David.

So what you are saying is that shooting at sunset with a tungsten balanced emulsion without a filter would just give me neutral white balanced tones.


Where did I say that??? No, that's not true. Removing the 85 would make the shadow side go very blue-ish. It would only take out the warmth of the direct light, but probably more than you want. But you can correct the shot in post if you remove the 85 but you'll still have the issue of the shadows being much bluer than the sun at sunset.
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#5 Mihai Nicolau

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 04:13 PM

OK got it. Thank you!
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