A Second Sun

24-70 f2.8L detail

Over time I’ve developed a kit of photo gear that I’m very happy with. On my shoulders is a sling bag holding my trusty 70-200 f/2.8L IS, spare batteries, angle finder, 17-40 f/4L, a small nalgene for water & a clif bar for stocking up on energy. In one hand is usually my 5D & battery grip, loaded with a 24-70 f/2.8L.

On this trip, I have a new addition:

Flash Device
It’s a wireless handheld flash contraption, in case you’re wondering.

For the last while I’ve wanted to try carrying a small strobe with me, for practical and artistic reasons. Practically, a flash can help manage contrast in mid-day equatorial sunshine – shooting dark skin often results in excessive dynamic range, beyond what a digital sensor can capture. Artistically, a strobe allows creative control over contrast, giving me a second light source. I’m no longer at the mercy of the sun.

I’ve rigged together something portable that I can hold while shooting, or have someone else hold for me (human light stands are more flexible than metal ones). It consists of a post mounted onto a threaded handle (actually designed for shock-mounting a microphone), onto which tightens an umbrella angle bracket. I’m using Pocketwizard wireless flash releases, one on the camera, the other on a custom threaded mount (a screw welded onto a hose clamp, which tightens around the handle). On top of it all is a Vivitar 285HV flash.

The results are dramatic. Otherwise unshootable scenes transform into photographic frames with pop. My favorite technique is to cross-light, using the sun as fill and the flash as key light. Here are a couple examples from a recent gallery:

Rwandan Kids in Field 1Rwandan Kids in Field 2

I’m very pleased with the results, and I’m looking forward to using this technique in Bulembu. The original idea for this combination came from conversations with Jesse and reading Strobist, a great online resource for photographic lighting.

Here’s a few photos of the kit all put together:

Strobist Kit 1Strobist Kit 2
Strobist Kit 3Trev in 24

Gallery – In & Around Kigali

Kigali Kids - Large

The last few days have been fun shooting days, mostly with with my 5D, a 24-70 f/2.8L and a wireless flash. This gallery is in two parts: yesterday, driving outside of town to a limestone quarry and a farm; and today, walking down some of Kigali’s dusty roads with Jeff-u (Jeffrey’s Rwandan name), my custom flash contraption in-hand. Click the pic to take a look. (Check out the Post Index if you’d like to see more galleries.)

Under Construction

Today was a relaxing day, spent mostly reading and researching for my upcoming trip to Bulembu, Swaziland, picking up some extra audio and doing some writing. I’ve also been practising my off-camera flash techniques with a new set of Pocketwizard wireless flash slaves.

Here’s a “mini gallery” of construction shots from around the compound (click the pic to view).

Together on opposite sides

Strong stories are buried deep on all sides of the Rwandan story. Many are full of pain and suffering, and in some cases the divisions continue. But there is hope. Stories like the one we filmed today.

Widow & Son - small

A Tutsi widow, who lost her husband and most of her family in the genocide. A bright Hutu boy, whose father is in jail for participating in the genocide. After his father’s conviction, the boy’s mother left him to fend for himself. Despite good grades he had to look for work. The widow offered the boy a job cleaning and doing odd jobs. As she learned of his needs, she helped him – she paid his school fees and allowed him to study after work. And eventually, she took him in as her own son. In his eyes she didn’t see a Hutu, the son of a killer, someone of another ethnicity. She saw a boy, a person in need of help.

Our translator, Grace, became emotional as she heard the story of a Hutu taking in a Tutsi. It is a rare and beautiful thing for forgiveness to be so complete and so real.

Still enjoying the RED… click the picture above to see a full-size frame capture. All natural lighting…

Wallpaper – Birds in the Water

Wallpaper - Birds in the Water preview

I’ve been digging through my photo library, cleaning and organizing for my assignments in Rwanda and Swaziland. In the process this photo appeared. It’s a bit of an enigma – though it was taken last March, I’m not sure the story, or where it was taken. Somewhere along the way I simply stopped to snap these five birds standing in the cold, still water.

I’ve created it as a wallpaper for you to enjoy. Right-click the link and save-as to download: Wallpaper – Birds in the Water.

Check out a few other wallpapers here.