INSPIRE SPEAKER: DOUG LEVY

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In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2013. We are delighted to introduce Doug Levy, owner of Douglas Levy Photography in Ayer, MA. Doug will be teaching a class on how he uses specific lighting to achieve the signature looks he wants for his clients.

By Doug Levy

How’d you light that?!

This year at Inspire I’ll be speaking about how I lit some of my favorite images, I hope to cover 50+ images from my career with corresponding lighting diagrams, spanning everything from weddings to portraits of CEOs and ballet dancers.

One technique and piece of gear I started to use more this year was combining Nikon’s high speed sync (they call it “Auto FP mode”), with the FourSquare ( available from http://www.lightwaredirect.com/). The FourSquare allows me to safely gang four small flashes together, allowing them to effectively work as one light source. I say safely because prior to the FourSquare, I was using Justin Clamps to gang multiple flashes together, which worked great until you realize it’s not a stable solution for sending $2k in lights 12’ in the air.

Now you might ask – why not just use a big light, like my 1,100 w/s Elinchrom Ranger? True, you could achieve this look with the Ranger – when it comes to sky color and light shape, but what you can’t do is do that at F/2. In order to overpower the ambient light with a big light, you’d be shooting in the F/16 range with your shutter speed limited to your camera’s max sync speed (typically 1/200-1/250).

By using high speed sync, I was able to shoot this image of Heidi and Brian at 1/8000 F/2 at 100 ISO. So why do I need four lights for this? Could you do it with one? Yes…but no. As you enter the land of high speed sync, one thing you’re constantly sacrificing is power – to sync at those higher shutter speeds you’re taking the flash’s high power settings out of play (because you need the shorter flash duration of lower power settings). Because of this, you’re typically hanging out in the range of 1.4 – 2.8. With a single flash, all but 1.4 would be out of play, not to mention your recycle time then suffers greatly.