Modeling light and manual focus
Last Saturday I was doing a photography session for musicians in a place in the province of Barcelona. In this case there was no possibility to focus with the automatic focus since there were no overhead spotlights focusing on the musicians. So, there was not what is known as modeling light and I had to use manual focus during the whole session in which 3 musical groups performed.
The main theme of today’s post will try to address and define what both are. The modeling light and the impossibility of having an automatic focus. My intention is not to define these two topics in a profound way, but to speak broadly of them without going into complex technical aspects or others that would make their understanding difficult.
What is modeling light?
The modeling light is a tungsten light source that includes some studio flashes and that can be used, among other things, to preview the effects of lighting (usually in the studio). Another advantage is that you can make use of the autofocus of our objectives thanks to that modeling light.
It can also refer to the light that is used to create a three-dimensional effect through the play of light and shadows.
There are photographers who use this modeling light to get a slight idea of how the shadows are going to be projected (for example) once they trigger a studio flash. Most studio flashes have modeling light that is available throughout the session.
Some cobra type flashlights (the portable ones) of medium / high range have a similar modeling light, but they do it by means of continuous flashes. Other flashes incorporate a point of light under the head of the flash and in the front that without being a modeling light helps us with the purpose of this article, the use of automatic or manual focus. To give an example for a flash Canon Speedlite 430 EX-II the manufacturer calls this extra help to focus , which in this case is to emit a beam of infrared light that offers the necessary contrast to help the lens with the autofocus on light conditions.
We could summarize the previous text and its interaction with the automatic focus of our camera as its main ally and also that not having modeling light or a focus aid deprives you of the automatic focus of your equipment. Sometimes that light helps the focus, (modeled or not), points to where the precise focus should not be or is insufficient. In this case we will obtain photos with little or no sharpness in the specific point if we use the autofocus.
If you had had this problem before and could not find the explanation, this text may have been useful, and if it had not happened, I suggest you try if you are interested in this topic.
Well, we could also summarize that not having a modeling light or autofocus help at the point right where we want to focus is a great bitch . And yes, it is, but not all is lost. We have a switch on the lens to force the lens to switch to manual focus mode.
Autofocus and manual focus
The first equipment, of which I have proof, that incorporated the autofocus was the Konica C35 AF camera. This camera was manufactured in 1977, which stipulates that the date of the invention of the autofocus. I do a rewind in this article and I come back to the point, that putada and I think about the amount of photographers who could not use this technological advance. What did they do then? It is very clear, they always used (and for any type of photography) the manual approach of their team.
I imagine a work by Jacques Henri Lartigue where the main subject is a racing car of the time and how he managed to focus.
Using manual focus
The use of manual focus is not easy and requires a certain degree of technique, much more the more movement the protagonist of the image has and also the more technical the further away he is. Some lenses have a very sweet manual focus mode that allows you to be very precise when using this type of focus. However, the low-end objectives do not usually offer much help when it comes to focus in manual mode. On the other hand there are objectives in which the focus can only be manual. To give examples, the objectives of the Samyang brand and those of the Peleng brand.
In the supposed cases that we do not have modeling light, or that the objectives do not include the autofocus system, we have it very complicated for example for sports photography. But .. If someone already got it successfully, we may also be able to do it.
The focus in manual mode is achieved by rotating the focus ring that incorporates all DSLR camera lenses, the telemetry cameras have a different focusing system. And in the recent equipment has incorporated a help to the approach through the LCD screen that is known as live view , what is achieved with this software is to see the scene on the screen before taking the photo and using the screen zoom you can specify with the focus, as long as you are not reluctant to do so. For example, I like to use the peephole in 100% of my photos.
Focus method used in the example photo
Not only in the example photo, but in the whole Saturday session, where 3 groups performed, I had to use manual focus in a compulsory way. This was so since I did not have a reliable modeling light and above all, because I did not have a modeling light at the exact point of the photo I wanted to take. All the photos except a few to which I applied abstract effects were taken with manual focus for this reason. Since, the aid to the approach of one of the flashes used was not useful to me since it was oriented towards the scene and not towards the protagonist that was (in this case) the battery of Sisters of a Town.
The use of manual focus is something that I do not usually do, but in this case I had no choice if I wanted to get a “decent” photos, so I had to improve my technique “in situ” using the test / error method. For me, the best method to learn these things.
Equipment used for this photo
For the realization of this photo I used a camera body of the brand Canon range great public together with a telephoto lens Canon EF-S 55-250 millimeters F4-5,6 IS. For lighting I used the strobist technique . With a simple wireless synchronization device of the brand Phottix that consisted of an emitter mounted on the hot shoe of the camera and two receivers that served as a hot shoe for the two flashes used. The flashes were a Canon 430 EX-II and a Nissin Di622 Mark-II .
Exif data and lighting scheme
To make this photo I adjusted the diaphragm aperture in F-5, the exposure time was 1/100 seconds, the ISO speed of 400 and the focal length was 146 millimeters. The focus mode was manual.
I used the Nissin Di622 Mark-II flash mounted on a tripod to the right of the battery bounced on a projector screen of about 60 inches and it was at a distance of about 3 meters from the battery, the flash regulated it to full power and He was in a straight line with the musician.
The second flash was placed on another tripod, this was off the stage at the maximum possible height, approximately 2.10 meters. This flash I graduated to a power of +1 2/3 and placed it on a downward trajectory right next to where I took the picture. This would be 5 meters away from the battery.