Brooke in Maui


I had a lot of fun shooting with Brooke in Maui. My plan was to spend our whole shoot at the beach but I saw this grassy field that I just had to shoot. I had already decided that I wanted to do something different from the cliche “girl in a grass field” shot. I wanted something more dramatic.

This was our first set of our session and it was probably the most complicated. Poor Brooke. 10 minutes after we met, I dragged her into this grassy field and asked her to give me a dramatic, even scared look. I usually like to get a few warm up shots so the model and I get a chance to warm up. Brooke was great though and got into the zone right away. Once she saw the images on the back of the camera she totally understood the nature of the shot and just started to roll with it and came up with some great expressions and body position.

Brooke was a first for me on several levels. She was the first blonde I have shot and also my first in the US. Her blonde hair was a treat especially for this shot. The light that I threw at it just lights up the frame.

Here’s what you need to create this shot.

- Hire Brooke (she now knows how to shoot this)

- find this exact grassy field in Maui (nothing else will do)

- a couple of small strobes

- wireless triggers or some long synch cords to fire the strobes which of course were off camera

- light stands or Justin clamps to hold strobes; I clamped the camera right flash to a tree stump just off camera

Set your camera to 1/8000 sec: this is my camera’s fastest shutter speed. The idea is to clamp out as much ambient light as possible. This was taken at about 4:30pm on a sunny, bright day. In fact, here’s what the shot looks like when exposed normally…



Not nearly as dramatic, huh? This was shot at 1/1000 sec. My light meter was happy and showing ‘proper’ exposure.


By shooting at a fast shutter speed I was able to cut out most of the ambient (sun) light. If a cloud had blocked out the sun I would have been able to make it look like true night time. This was in fact was I was going for but it was just so bright out there I had to live with what Mother Nature was dealing out that day. It turns out that I love this look too. One of those happy accidents that can happen in photography.

So if I am shooting at such a high shutter speed that the sun has been dimmed, what is all that light doing on Brooke? Well since she’s the star of the show I needed to light her. She is actually being flashed with two 580EXii’s. One is at camera right and is giving her a little rim lighting to accentuate the curves of her body. I am also firing another strobe to light up her face.

I used no modifier on the flash. There were a couple of reasons for this. I normally like to use a soft box to soften up the shadows. On this particular day it was pretty windy and my light stand would have blown away. The second and better reason is that I wanted a bit more of a dramatic feel that the harder light was going to throw.

The other problem with this shot is that by shooting at 1/8000 the flash hardly has a chance to illuminate the frame. This is a high speed synch problem. My favourite explanation of high speed synch is here: Synch Speed Explained.

So to solve this problem I just hit the HSS (high speed synch) button on my flash head. I love it when there is a button that you can press that solves problems. That’s it; it’s really that simple. Well ok you still have figure out how much power you need. And there’s the rub: instead of pulsing a single flash of light, high¬†speed synch works by pulsing lots of mini pulses so that the duration of light output covers the entire time both curtains are moving across the sensor.


Ok enough of the geek talk. Time to go to the beach…

We arrived at the Makena beach park at about 5:30. The sun sets exactly at 7pm at this time of the year. My idea was to capture as much of the golden light as possible. It was about 6pm by the time we found the right location to shoot in. We got a few shots of Brooke in one of her favourite dress and then it was time to get busy with our beach shoot. Yikes it was 6:20 and I had 40 minutes to do my beach shoot before the sun went down.

I have not shot this fast before but it was a great exercise. Luckily I already had a good idea of the shots I wanted. In fact I wanted to improve on some of my Boracay shots with Rachel where the light was very flat due to the heavy cloud cover. I used all ambient light and really tried to pay attention to how she was interacting with the light.





Once the sun went down, I pulled out the flash to get a few sun set pix.

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