The fi­nal word

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Joe brings all his flash skills to bear on lo­ca­tion in a pup­peteer’s fas­ci­nat­ing work­shop

So, what do you do when you walk into a mod­ern­day, real-life ver­sion of Gep­petto’s

work­shop? Hope­fully, light it rea­son­ably well. Your ef­forts should be en­er­gised by this rare op­por­tu­nity. And that would be the op­por­tu­nity to visit the work­shop of the famed Lam­bert Pup­pet Theatre in Ire­land, with your sub­ject be­ing Liam Lam­bert, who con­tin­ues this fa­bled tra­di­tion of pup­pet theatre, handed down to him by his father. What could be more fun with a cam­era in hand?

Move fast. Time is lim­ited. Po­si­tion the cam­era, and use a tri­pod. Bleed­ing some am­bi­ent light into this scene may re­quire play­ing with shut­ter speeds, but your frame of ref­er­ence, what you are see­ing through the lens, should re­main a con­stant. One of your mis­sions as a lo­ca­tion shooter is to elim­i­nate vari­ables, and the tri­pod, in this in­stance a heavy-duty Gitzo, helps you do that. The cam­era, a Nikon D5 with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, is at rest. The world you are about to light re­mains fi­nite and de­fined.

Start prop­ping – within the lim­its of your sub­ject’s pa­tience. Liam re­mained ever-calm and agree­able, even as we moved his master­pieces around the shop, hooked them on shelves and placed them where he would never put them.

Main light first. In this case a Las­to­lite Ezy­box soft box, the one with the white in­te­rior. No sil­very, fash­ion-y, bouncy light needed here. Just sim­ple, smooth, rounded light. That an­noy­ing sliver of sun­light crack­ling full bore through the sky­light, cre­at­ing a hot zone, a four-stop dis­par­ity of ex­po­sure right across where you want to shoot? It’s easy to fix with a 3×3 diffuser panel, which flags and soft­ens that hard slash of sun.

Light in the dark­ness

Then iden­tify the black holes in the pic­ture. Why move all those lovely pup­pets in there and not see them? Use ra­dio-con­trolled wire­less SB-5000 Speed­lights, all gelled warm with full CTO gels, to pop some light here and there in the back­ground. For in­stance, one was help­ful putting a glim­mer on a vin­tage baby bas­ket be­hind Liam.

This is where the Justin Clamp, other­wise known as the Man­frotto 175F1, is in­valu­able. You can hang flashes all over the place in dis­creet fash­ion.

All told, we used a to­tal of five flashes, just to splash some light on the back­ground and the var­i­ous amaz­ing pup­pets in the pic­ture. None had shapers. We had to move fast and just pull some de­tail out of the scene.

It is your obli­ga­tion at the cam­era to man­age fore­ground, mid­dle­ground and back­ground for the en­joy­ment of your viewer. To let some­thing go black in the back­ground is to cheat peo­ple out of some mea­sure of the spe­cial na­ture of the visit. So, how­ever quickly you need to move, throw some light around. There’s a main light for Liam, a bounce fill for the rack of pup­pets over his shoul­der, a key kicker on the pup­pets hang­ing on his shelves to cam­era left, the afore­men­tioned baby car­riage light, and a spritz of warm light on the back­ground. Fi­nals at cam­era: 1/20 sec, f/5, ISO100.

To let some­thing go black in the back­ground is to cheat peo­ple out of some mea­sure of the spe­cial na­ture of the visit

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