Off-camera flash photography

Since the Autumn I have been taking more photographs of people than places. Through a Facebook advert I had seen that 36exp run bite-size evening workshops and I signed up for one on off-camera flash since the dark evenings had also resulted in me using my flashgun quite extensively.

Leake St, SE1

The course was really fun and also my first experience of shooting with a professional model. This was quite intimidating at first, but Julie was very professional and it was a lot less stressful than when trying to get the perfect photo that family demand, but have little patience to achieve!

Leake St, SE1
Leake St, SE1

The first three photographs were all shot with a single light on to the camera’s right. I do not remember if the light was modified with a soft box or umbrella. One immediate thing I observed was that light stands need to be very high—we are used to seeing light shine down from a very high angle from both the sun and ceiling lights, so to achieve a natural look the light needs to be positioned above the model and angled down.

Leake St, SE1
Leake St, SE1

This shot introduced a second light onto the back of the model’s head to highlight her hair. I really like the effect of the hair light, but I am not sure it works well in this context.

Leake St, SE1
Julie

These last two used a single light on the model and a second light to illuminate the background. While editing this collection I realised that filters and effects make a lot more sense for photographs where the subject is the main focus. With my travel photography I am aiming to capture the atmosphere I experienced, whereas here the entire scene is constructed at the direction of the photographer, and so it is very logical to continue the creative process into the darkroom.

New website look and feel

This blog is run using WordPress, a very powerful piece of open source software that now claims to be used on about 25% of the web. I had been using the previous theme since early 2012, and since then I have come to believe that a good website should work well, and load quickly, on a greater variety of screen sizes as well as the need to optimise for higher latency and less reliable mobile networks. The new theme is a customised version of WordPress’s latest, Twenty Sixteen, which I hope brings a modern feel to all platforms while remaining an evolution of this site’s own identity. Using Safari’s “responsive design mode” was very useful for understanding how a page would look on a variety of device screen sizes, including different orientations.

While updating the theme I also spent some time looking at how to optimise the site’s Web Page Test score. The most significant gain seems to have been made by switching the caching from WP Super Cache to W3 Total Cache. Both plugins were configured using the default/recommended settings but W3 Total Cache seems to be able to significantly reduce the First Byte Time, taking the score from an “F” to an “A”. The high number of photo posts, plus the embedded youtube videos, means that the front page is currently just under 10MB.

Either the new theme, the new cache plugin, or a combination of both, did not work with the SyntaxHighlighter Evolved plugin. It has been disabled and may or may not be replaced at a future date.