Control of Background Brightness in Outdoor Portraiture
By: Heinz Richter
Most photographers have the misconception that outdoor portraiture allows no control over background brightness. After all, the sun, the only light source, illuminates the subject and the background with the same intensity. However, some simple methods do offer considerable changes in background brightness.
In bright sunlight, subject and background will be exposed the same if both the subject and the background are both lit by direct light. Obviously, this cannot be changed for the background. We do, however, have considerable control over the illumination of the model’s face. Positioning the model such that it is backlit will put the face in a relatively deep shade. Correcting the exposure for the face requires more exposure. This of course also means more exposure for the background, with the result that the background will be substantially lighter. This is referred to as key shifting. The relatively flat lighting on the face of the model might be less than ideal and side lighting might be a lot more desirable. Repositioning the model to allow side lighting from the sun will bring the exposure of the background back to normal since again both, the light side of the face and the background are lit with the same intensity. However, positioning the model next to a tree will lower the light intensity substantially. In addition, the side of the face facing the tree will be shaded from the ambient light under the tree, allowing the other side of the face to be lighter. This will effectively create soft side lighting. Again, the light intensity on the model’s face is substantially lower than with direct sunlight. The resulting exposure correction will again overexpose the background, resulting in a substantially lighter background.
What if no trees are available?
Any location shoot can only be successful with careful planning ahead. The choice of location will of course predetermine if natural gobos like trees etc. are available. If not, some simple accessories can create the same effects. A piece of black foam core makes a great substitute for the tree. The illumination of the face in these cases is totally dependent on the intensity of the ambient light. Much greater control, and subsequently control over background brightness in the photograph can be exercised with the help of scrims or diffusers. Positioning the model such that the face is crosslit by the sun, and then placing a scrim between the model and the sun will do the following: First of all, the light will be a lot softer, since the harsh sunlight is now diffused. In addition, the scrim will absorb a certain amount of the light, again making it necessary to expose more, which again will render the background lighter. A second or third scrim will of course lower the exposure values on the model even more, making the background even lighter. Yet, the lighting ratio between the lit and the unlit side of the face is again dependent on the ambient light level. Control can be exercised here by blocking the ambient light on the shaded side of the face with gobos at varying distances, subsequently allowing a large amount of control over the final lighting ratio.
How bright the background will be in the photograph will be very much dependent on what we choose for a background in the first place. Needless to say, if a very light background is desired, anything dark like pine trees would be a bad choice to begin with. A relatively light background, like sunlit grassy areas can be rendered quite light with the above method. Sand on a beach, on the other hand, can be rendered virtually white by applying the above controls.
The next question is how to make the background darker. Is that at all possible? Of course it is, within reason.
Here again, the initial choice of background will make a huge difference. But, besides that, there are additional means to effectively render the background darker. Again, the basic light source is sunlight. In order to render the background darker, it is necessary to increase the light level for the model. The resulting exposure changes will then underexpose the background by a certain amount, making it darker. As long as the model’s face is lit by direct sunlight, the initial exposure values for the face and the background are the same. However, reflectors like silver reflectors, positioned to add light to the model, will also increase the exposure value for the model. This also allows a certain amount of control over the lighting ratios. The face, lit evenly with sunlight, will be lighter on one side if that is where the light from a reflector is aimed. Another method would be to have side lighting from the sun and then using reflectors to add front lighting to the face. Not only will this lighten the shadows, making them less harsh, but it will also add light to the sunlit side of the face. This too will increase the exposure value of the face. Again, the resulting exposure correction will underexpose the background, making it darker. How much darker will ultimately depend on the efficiency of the reflector material. Using diffusing reflector material is generally desirable, because it will not cause any distinct shadows like a highly reflective material like a mirror would. This allows more than one such reflector to be used, which would increase the light level for the model even more, resulting in an even darker background. Multiple reflectors will also allow considerable control over the final lighting ratio, since they can be used to add various amounts of light to both the light and darker side of the face. In addition, a reflector can also be used to add a hair light to the set, if such should be necessary.
The above examples are meant to explain the basic approaches available to a photographer to control background brightness with outdoor shoots. I am sure that there are many more examples of how this can be done and how the use of scrims and gobos can offer e great measure of lighting control with outdoor shoots. Photography is, without a doubt, an ongoing learning experience and often there is more than one solution to a problem.
This article was first published on the LEICA Barnack Berek Blog
Battery-Pack Renewal, Motor Drive R8
By: Bill Caldwell
We all have times when we overlook or neglect certain equipment. I had not exercised my film R8 with its Motor Drive R8 (MD-R8) for sometime. The Battery-Pack (Leica 14423, known as the “AKKU – Pack MD – R8”) would not light even one red LED (there are three red LEDs, and all light when the Battery-Pack is fully charged). To put it simply, the Battery-Pack was dead. Unfortunately, I had two Battery-Packs that were in that condition.
The two Battery-Packs were put in succession into their Leica Quick Charger (14424)[see Photo #1], and only one showed any sign of life by lighting one of the three LEDs after charging (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes according to the manual). Of course, the “Full” green light on the Quick Charger was glowing green even though the two Battery-Packs exhibited either one glowing LED, or none. With that result, I either had to find a new Leica 14424 Battery-Pack, or have my two existing packs fitted with new batteries by a company that rebuilds Ni-MH battery packs.
The third option was to continue to use the Quick Charger to discharge the two battery packs, and then recharge the two packs in succession. The Quick Charger has a “Press for discharge” red button on the top of the unit. While I had pressed that red button with the first Discharge / Charge, I had not held it for a number of seconds. From my experience, one needs to hold that “Press for discharge” button for several seconds to get a full discharge.
The long story short is that after three complete Discharges / Charges, the Battery-Packs were showing more life, one had two glowing red LEDs, and the other had one glowing LED. To let the Ni-MH batteries cool, I alternated the two packs in the Quick Charger. For a single Battery-Pack, I would suggest at least an hour of cooling to prevent over heating before putting it through another Discharge / Charge cycle.
After five cycles (remember each cycle is well over an hour and one-half), the first Battery-Pack was fully charged with three glowing red LEDs. [See, Photo #2.] The second pack took six Discharge / Charge cycles, but it too is now fully charged. Both Battery-Packs were charged over four days ago and are still holding full charges. The MD-R8 contacts were cleaned with a pencil eraser, and the R8, with the MD-R8, and one of the rescued Battery-Packs performed flawless in an afternoon shooting session at an Italian festival here on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
P.S. Ten days later, and the battery charges in both batteries are still holding with three LEDs glowing.
Q: What Eye Do You Use In Your Viewfinder and Why?
By: Stephen Snakard
Photo of Carl Merkin’s favorite “old war horse” Leica, sent to me with his reply.
Q: What Eye Do You Use In Your Viewfinder and Why?
By Denise Snakard
This being THE FIRST WEBSITE CHALLANGE, I found myself asking what technique all LHSA members need to use to take a good picture and are willing to share with fellow members. A technique so simple it may not be apparent to all, but it should be understood by all, including this author, who is a novice and intimidated by such fine photographers of all levels and subjects.
The answer to my question was right in front of “me eyes” ... the viewfinder eye. To write this tip, I took a random sample poll from around the globe of LHSA membership. Contrary to what most members thought to be the obvious dominant eye (including my husband, Steve), the responses of others as to individual dominant eyes were candid and their motives are clear as a picture image.
FOR ALL WHO RESPONDED to my poll, before I discuss my findings, I thank you for your participation. Your personal comments about the dominant eye, which run from well constructed and reasoned to humorous should be an eye opener to all. Most importantly, what I have learn from this mini poll is that the LHSA has many promising years of creativity ahead and I have made many new friends from the following question: "Hi, I am taking a poll for the Website Challenge contest. Question: What eye do you use in your viewfinder and why?”
Right eye: 12;
Left eye: 14;
Here is a bird’s eye view our members’ responses: Leica Lassie first .... Right out the shutter box is my dear friend, Carolyn Santee, "I use both eyes, because I don't use a viewfinder, but the digital back of the camera. I also use both eyes when shooting even though I'm right eye dominant."
Now for the Leica Laddies .... First, Carl Merkin: "Hi, Denise, I am left-eyed and always enjoyed using a rapidwinder or motor on M cameras. Using an M Leica left-eyed, your right eye is up against the winding lever, so you have to take the camera away from your eye and you loose sight of your subject if you don't use a winder. This is only true when you shoot a horizontal picture, and vertical format is very comfortable. Regards, Carl...."
Helge Johannsen knows down to the diopter how he keeps his eye on his subjects: "Dear Denise, this mail is coming from member Helge Johannsen from Germany. He goes on to say: "I am using my left eye out of [for] two reasons: 1) My left e by far my better one. Left +2 dpt [diopter], right +5,5 dpt [diopter]. So it is possible to correcmy left eye by a correction lens on the viewfinder. 2) As the viewfinder of the Leica M is on the far left side of the camera the camera has a good contact to my head (forehead and nose). This would not be the case if I would use my right eye. I have never understood users quoting that the advance lever is poking into their right eyes if they are looking into the viewfinder with their left eyes. I have never had such problems. Kind regards from Germany."
Who doesn't want to hear advice from a youngster, as in, 85 year old, Marshall Windmiller? "Got my first camera when I was ten, a Univex that cost fifty cents. Film, from Belgium, was a dime. I think the camera had a wire view finder with no glass, but I am not sure. Later I got a Kodak Bullet camera, I think it had a glass viewfinder. My first fully adjustable camera was an Argus AF, and later got an Argus C3. I used my left eye on all of these, and on a Speed Graphic after the war (WW2). I think I did my best work with a Rolleiflex TLR with a waist-level finder.
I realize that most cameras are designed for right eye viewing. I have tried, but have never been able to break the left eye habit."
Then we have, Dave Berry: "Right--I'm Right handed." Followed by Arturo J. Abascal: "You are supposed to use your left eye when viewing through your viewfinder, why? Because if you use your right eye, you have your left eye exposed and your tendency would be to open your eye so this would create a weird situation."
I love Don DiNaro and wonder why he kicks with his left foot: "Left, is it a habit? I personally kick left footed, and I am right handed."
These responses by Carl Bretteville and Ed Schwartzreich are truly enlightening regarding how one can overcome a handicap. Both are exemplary illustrations of how, if one enjoys photography as much as Carl and Ed do, you don't have to give it up using your Leica due to a medical problem. Carl Bretteville explains: “Right, had to retrain from my left due to keratoconus a few years ago." Ed Schwartzreich's answer is incredible, going from left eye to right eye: "I am right-handed and right-eyed. In the past I trained myself to shoot left-eyed with Leica M's, so I could use external viewfinders without placing my nose accidentally on the camera's viewfinder. Shortly after that, unfortunately, I developed a detached retina in my left eye, which after surgery left me with deficient vision in that eye. So I went back to using my right eye."
Bob Lampert, a 30 + year member: "Use my right eye since I'm right handed this is the strong eye, if I'm viewing the LCD screen both eyes."
Seth Rosner offers a valid reason, or two: "Left eye; because it's there! ;-) Denise, I believe you will find that the reason is that [almost] everyone in the world favors one eye or the other, as almost everyone is right-handed or left-handed. In my case, my left eye is considerably stronger than the right which has strong astigmatism." ;- ) is Seth’s signature for his 'Right eye wink'... what a flirt!
I loved hearing from Argentina; I will surely contact Alejandro Blaquier when I go there. Alejandro replied: "Hi, I use my right eye, because it is my governing eye. Thank you. Alejandro."
Daniel Zirinsky says: "I use my left eye as I have trouble with the right one. However for many years, and before the trouble, I used my right eye." Dr. Pierre Jeandrain, Portugal, shares his first Leica (IIIc) story: "The left one, because I started with this one when receiving my first Leica (IIIc) in 1949. I know it is not the recommended (logical) one, but I am acquainted and much too old to change."
Scott Arquilla and Richard Wasserman both offer
valid reasons for using their viewfinder eye. First Scott: "I use my left eye. It is easier to shut my right I than my left." Richard Wasserman said: "My right eye is dominant, so that is the one I use with all my cameras." Terry Walker thinks like all shooters do: "Right handed, right eye... shoot the same way." Paul T. Collura likes the “feel” for the eye he uses: Paul writes: "Right eye. I guess I'm right eye dominant. I'm right handed if that is a factor. It just feels right."
Kenny Shipman educated me on the problem with his nose: "Left eye, because my right eye is weaker. When I next update my eyeglass prescription I might go back to using my right eye so my nose won't be rubbing into the back of the camera."
Sebastian W. Trujillo listens to his eye doctor (yes sir, just following the doctor’s order): "I use the left eye, and simply because according to my Eye Doctor is the strongest I have." Bill Abbott’s reply got way over my head: "I am right-handed and right-eyed so I have always used my right eye since I moved from a Rollei SLR (using both eyes on a glass screen) to an M4 in 1973, and then onwards to R's and other Ms."
Could Roy Rodger [American screen cowboy] have been Gordon Smith’s boyhood hero? Gordon said; "Right eye. Everyone has a dominant eye and there is an easy test for it. I know because of years of competition pistol shooting."
Steve Snakard is right eye dominant for both viewfinder eye and skeet and trap. "Moi uses both with my sweet D-Lux."
Saving the two best replies for last. Will David Schumaker please take a picture of the following? "Right, because I was born with a camera stuck to that eye."
We all know past LHSA President, Dick Santee, for his Don Rickles' style of humor to his being a serious photographer to shooting and, occasionally, shooting down a Manhattan or two. Dick's response: "Hi Denise, I use the right eye because I am right-eye dominant. I also shoot with the right eye. Your tip could include: “To determine your eye dominance, extend your arm and point at a distant object with both eyes open. Then close one eye. If your finger remains on the object, that is your dominant eye. If it jumps to the side, it is not your dominant eye (the other one is). The task is a little more difficult if you have three eyes. You need to extend both arms. Cheers, Dick"
Conclusion: What qualifies for a fine photo is an insatiable appetite to want to shoot ... and it begins with YOUR eye through a Leica viewfinder.
Click-click, Denise Snakard, Winnetka, Illinois
Mounting Screw Mount Lenses
By: Carl Merkin
If you have a problem getting the thread "started" when mounting screw mount lenses to screw mount LEICAS or M-to-LTM adaptors, try taking the lens off the infinity setting seen in photo #1. Turning the focusing scale to the NEAREST distance will hide the inner focusing helix as in photo #2, making it easier to engage the E39 outer thread. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE!