I wanted to start off this series with one of my favorite images, which was actually relatively simple to make. The piece is titled “Sunshine in the Rain” and began with a concept and a rainy day.
I don’t remember exactly where I came up with the idea for this shot, but it was something that I had been kicking arond for some time. I had a vague notion of how I wanted to juxtapose the rain and “sunshine” with the umbrella by making it look like light was shining out of it. As I recall, it had been raining for a while and Vicky and I were stuck at home. I was itching to shoot, so the idea just popped into my head and started to take shape. I was envisioning the model stainding in the park with rain pouring down all around while holding an umbrella with “sunshine” coming out of it.
Challenge #1 was how to get the light to “shine” out of the umbrella. I thought of using a standard silver photo umbrella, but 1) it didn’t have the right “look” and 2) I had no idea if it actually was waterproof 🙂 I ended up taking a plain ol’ large rain umbrella and lining it with foil (taped in with duct tape). I used a cord to tie the strobe to the shaft, high enough to be hidden by the curve of the umbrella. Since I didn’t have a park handy, I decided a cityscape background would look good as well. I knew this place around city hall that had some open space with not a lot of foot traffic to get in the way of the shot. We ventured out (in the pouring rain 🙂 and set up. I was using a 35mm equivalent prime to get a pretty big FOV, as I knew I wanted sky in the image, as well as the ground with the light shining. The scene was metered for ambient, and the strobe was fired wirelessly in TTL mode. Played around with a couple of shots/angles, but I wound up liking this framing with city hall framed between the two buildings.
(note – that is the actual raw file, directly converted without any processing whatsoever.) Pretty rough, huh? I knew it would be a bit of work to get to the final product. Most notably the “pool” of light on the ground is fainter and ill-defined. I knew that this would be a compromise going into the image. Because of the inverse square law (light falloff), given that her face was so close to the light source, if I had exposed for the light on the ground, I would have gotten a totally blown out face, but If I had exposed the face properly I would have gotten no light on the ground at all. I compromised by overexposing the face a bit (recoverable) and underexposing the ground a bit, and planning on fixing in post. Normally I like to do as much as possible in camera, but his was a case where I knew I would need to enhance it in post from the beginning.
With my concept in head, there were a few things I needed to do right off the bat – firstly to clone out the areas where light had leaked through cracks in the foil. I wanted to keep the umbrella “solid”. First the image was straightened and the overall exposure adjusted in lightroom. Then it was exported to photoshop. Since I knew I needed to do a lot of selective darkening and brightening, created two dodge and burn layers. In short this is a layer in “overlay” mode filled with 50% grey. By painting into this layer using either black or white you can selectively lighten or darken areas of an image (like dodging and burning in the darkroom). White dodges (lightens) and black burns (darkens). I made 2 separate layers, one for dodging and one for burning. I burned in the outer edges of the pool of light while simultaneously dodging the inner area to create a more defined circle of light to enhance the “streaming out of the umbrella” effect. I then lightened up some of the dark areas in the foreground and darkened the sky /lighter areas to give the overall ambient exposure more balance. Once I was satisfied with the lighting I created a new layer, and cloned out the light spill in the umbrella Finally, a HSL layer was added to give the colors a bit more “pop”, masking out Vicky to prevent oversaturating the skin etc…
in the end the layers looked like:
and the final image:
Amazingly that was pretty much it for processing. You can really do a lot with just dodge and burn techniques. although the image was relatively “simple” I think it works well, and is to date one of my favorites (if not my favorite) in my portfolio.