Sharing the joy of photography

Alberni photographer Norman Silverstone shares his tips and tricks to taking good pics.

Photographer Norman Silverstone assists students at Eighth Avenue Elementary in taking each others’ portraits during Art in the Schools.

Hello, loyal readers. Yes, I actually met another person that reads my newspaper column.

My goodness, that makes four now.

At the beginning of February, I was part of “Art in the Schools” at Eighth Avenue Elementary School. I was tasked with determining how to get the photographic message across to grade school children?

I thought I could set up a professional studio on the stage, set up my camera on a sturdy tripod with a cable release and have the kids take turn being the photographer and the model. So that is what I did.

Unrolling a 15-by-30-foot black cotton backdrop that would become my shadowless, non-descript background, I then taped it to the floor using “Gorilla Tape”. Setting up the lights, I decided to use a “softbox” at the camera for the main light and a photographic umbrella for the fill light.

It took a while to unravel the mess of material that was the softbox, put in the spines, the bracket for the White Lightning and fasten it to the beast of a flash unit.

I looked at my watch—big mistake, as there were only 20 minutes left to countdown. I moved into rapid gear and set up the fill umbrella to the left but halfway between the camera and the subject. Now it was time to test the lights and work out the ratio.

I sat on the subject’s stool, plugged the softbox flash unit into my flash meter, pointed the unit at the camera and fired the flash. The flash meter said f22….no way, too much depth, the image would be in focus all the way to Mexico.

I adjusted the angle of the softbox so that it was high and pointing down at a 45-degree angle towards the subject.

I cranked down the strobe power until  my flash meter read f8.

Continued / 19

From / 14

Back to the stool with the umbrella flash unit plugged in this time and the flash unit set at ¼-power. Bingo!

I get f5.6 on the flash meter, exactly what I want: one stop between the main unit and the fill unit means that the fill will not overpower the main flash, but just nicely fill in those deep shadows and give me a nice f8 with both flashes firing.

I called Gittan over to sit on the stool so I could test out the lights for strength, quality of light, coverage, ratio. She sat on the stool and looked pretty as only Gittan can. I fired off a few shots to check on the flash recycle times. Hmm, immediate.

The light was perfect: soft, enveloping, natural colour and good shadow detail. I had time to have a sip of coffee, then looked up and saw herds of children heading my way.

I turned on the flash units, explained that they must be in groups of two, one as the subject, one as the photographer, then they switch. They were allowed to shoot three photos each, with the “photographer” deciding on the pose and angle of the subject.

The kids had the time of their life, and so did I.

A week later I delivered the DVD to Melissa Martin, arts administrator at the Rollins Art Centre and organizer of the Art in Schools event. I hope that each child received her/his photos.

Any questions?  E-mail me at      nsilverstone@telus.net.

 

Norman Silverstone teaches photography through North Island College and Eldercollege in Port

Alberni.

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