Santa's workshop

Sometimes I just get a vision in my head. I can see exactly how I want a photo to look and feel. I start thinking of how to make my vision a reality... then I try and usually fail miserably. But sometimes it just comes together.

This was a perfect example for me to see the difference between taking a photo (see the iPhone snap to the left) versus making a photo look the way I envisioned it. I always thought this transformation was either Photoshop magic or some camera settings I had yet to discover but in fact, it is all about the lighting: quality, direction, and ratios - all controllable right in-camera because of the use of flashes.

In this case, I wanted to make a quiet photo of my grandfather working away at his true passion - collecting stamps and coins. I wanted that "Santa in his workshop" kind of look, as Jen describes it, of him at his basement workbench, painstakingly sorting, filing, and organizing his growing collection for the sole purpose of passing it on to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren some day.

And so I didn't want my lighting to call attention to itself, but instead to just look like how the scene would be if you were standing there in the room with him. With the thought-provoking concept that most real-life scenes have all kinds of different colored lighting mixed together illuminating them, I tried to "dirty up" the light a bit on this one in hopes of making the lighting look natural yet interesting.

While the main light is a flash outside in the garden blasting though the window (and a torn-apart white plastic trash bag taped over the window for diffusion), the "fill light" opening up the shadows is actually colored by a green gel. This makes it look like the fluorescent lighting that would naturally be in a basement work area (and actually is here, lighting the back of his head, it is just too dim to show up well in rest of the photo).

The only thing he loves more than his newest hobby? Sharing it with those he loves.

Strobist info: The key light is an SB-600 outside the house with a 1/4 CTO gel zoomed to 50mm and fired at 1/2 power through the window which was covered with a white plastic trash bag for diffusion. Fill is from an SB-800 with a full plus green gel in a shoot-thru umbrella just to camera right, zoomed to 24mm and fired at 1/128th power. Slight shutter-drag brought the ambient in just enough to blend it all together the way I wanted.