A few months back I was shooting a client in the Ginza district of Tokyo at night. I was basically relying on the bright and crazily coloured neon lights to provide my lighting – giving a funky, modern, fast paced big city feel to everything.
Then I found a really good location, but it was too far away from the bright neon lights I had been relying on. Stumped, I gave up on that spot. But it did cause me to recall something…
Ages ago I saw Zack Arias* in a video using a speed light mounted on a short stick with an umbrella as the modifier. I think he called it ‘light on a stick.’ Finally got around to knocking one up today. Here’s one test shot. Three more tests with it on my work blog here.
* this is not the original video I saw. Can’t find that one now. In this one he calls it a travelling light
The Brenizer Method is simply taking a grid of photos of a reasonably close portrait subject with a long or longish focal length and wide open (or close to it), and then stitching them together to make a single final portrait image.
What it gives you is an image that looks wide or wide-ish and still has a shallow depth of field. Usually it has a depth of field more shallow than you would expect for that lens and format. It is a great way to mimic medium or large format results.
It was popularised in recent times by the work of Ryan Brenizer, hence the name. It is also known as panoramic stitching, bokeh panorama and bokehrama. The actual technique or idea has been around for ages – since 1843 according to the Wikipedia entry.
Anyway, I’ve been playing with it for a while now. Here’s two recent-ish shots. With both more and less attention to fixing up the background oddness that can result. In fact, I often like the surreal weirdness that can occur after the stitching.
In a reply to a comment last year,* I mentioned shōji, or, Japanese sliding paper doors. I thought I’d expand on it here a little.
It’s very common here in Japan to have shōji, especially in washitsu – traditional style Japanese rooms. They are often used as an inside layer on the main sliding glass doors that lead outside from living rooms, etc. In some ways, they serve the same purpose as blinds or drapes. They also add a layer of insulation.
As a bonus, they also let in a huge expanse of wonderful soft light when the sun is shinning on them. In winter, when it tends to be clearer in the sky, you get more direct sunlight and subsequenty a really good look from them. Thus I refer to them as my Japanese soft boxes.
Often all I need is the light from my shōji and a reflector.
Below are some photos I took yesterday, showing the light you can get from shōji. The first portrait is sans reflector, and the second portrait has a reflector. You can see it in the catchlights. You can also actually see it in the third photo. All three are minimally adjusted camera generated jPEGs from an X100s & TCL-X100.** Under these are some photos of the shōji themselves, sans the teleconverter.
* you know, like a few minutes ago
** ignore any metadata. In all cases above, I think I had the camera set for the wrong lens
Despite moaning that I find the XF56mm f1.2 a little long for easy use in cramped Japan, I really do love the results. Here’s one more, from a set taken for this year’s nengajo (New Year cards).
Wait, I do have a photo I can put up now. Took this back in July (?? maybe). I just grabbed it at semi -random last night when playing around with my newly downloaded version of Capture One Pro (#8), and then I Lightroomed/Photoshopped* it a little, just cos I could.
X100s, maybe the TCL-X100 Teleconverter (can’t remember now), a couple of speed lights in soft boxes (possibly just using one as a reflector though – can’t remember that either), a third one with a red gel and via a route that went Capture One Pro / Lightroom / Photoshop / Lightroom.
* apparently “to Photoshop” is a verb, but “to Lightroom” is not
X100s + TCL-X100 & Lightroom + VSCO via Capture One Pro
Here are some of the final edits from a recent session – same session as the images in the last post.
All X100s & TCL-X100 via Capture One Pro & Lightroom + tweaked VSCO.