Fortune favors the prepared mind – Louis Pasteur.
Although I can’t necessarily impart all of the experience that helped prepare me for this shoot and the resulting image, I can share the philosophy behind it and some practical advice.
There was a chance for rain on the day of one of my recent engagement shoots. I have shot in the rain many times and my Nikon D850 and Nikon Z7 are very well suited for any weather I might encounter. Knowing that the cameras are ok getting wet but the strobes not so much, I grabbed a few small wash clothes just in case I needed them.
Brief side tangent: I never use plastic to protect my gear. Plastic will either funnel the water where I don’t want it or allows a small collection of water to form that goes in the wrong direction when I remove the plastic. This is why I like something absorbent like a washcloth.
I also knew that my bride, Devyn, was bringing an umbrella just in case. Everything was ready—Que the rain!
Keep an eye out
Throughout the shoot, I constantly looked around to see what the light was doing to mentally prepare for the next image. I noticed that the clouds to the east were getting very dark and the temperature was dropping. As we finished and began walking back to the car, I took another look around and saw that the sunset had the potential to be amazing.
A little tip on sunsets
I say “potential” because it was dark and gloomy at the moment, but it’s wise to never give up on a sunset too soon.
If you leave before the sunset, you have no chance of seeing a good one. Obvious, I know, but I see people leave all the time just before or immediately after the sun has dipped below the visual horizon. The best time to capture a sunset, especially if there are clouds, is about 5-15 minutes after the actual sunset. During this time the sun itself is blocked from our view but may still illuminate the underneath side of any clouds. So be patient and keep an eye out.
If you want to take the extra step, I recommend get yourself an app like PhotoPills or Sunseeker to help keep track of the exact time and location of the sunset.
I noticed that the sunset was getting better and better and I remembered the umbrella that Devyn brought—It’s time to make an image! Without the rain, I thought it would be cute to have my couple silhouetted against the sunset with a backlight to create separation. I love silhouettes against a sunset. I imagined the scene as a couple sitting together taking in the majesty of nature happening around them. I wanted to keep it simple, as anything more for me kills the mood and feels unnatural.
I had my groom, Cameron, hold a strobe with a warming gel to give them a little “pop”. Just as I started taking images it began to softly rain—Perfect timing.
Why I chose a strobe
I could have used a LED light, but with a strobe, I had control over ambient and strobe lighting levels separately. Also, if I used a LED light, it would have been much harder to underexposed the sky just one stop to help increase separation for the silhouette and improve color saturation. I use the Nikon SB-5000 as TTL controlled lighting. Any system can do the job, of course, but what I like best is the ability to control the strobe power remotely.
Thanks to being prepared and a fantastic couple willing to stay a little longer and get a bit wet, we had a great experience and awesome images to go along with it. Ten minutes after we started the shot, the sunset was done and I had the images I hoped for. This quick turnaround was a great reminder of how important it is to “know your gear”. Master your gear so it is never in your way and you can create without the hesitation. A moment like this so much easier and more likely to be successful when I can think more about what I want and let my muscle memory take over from there.
Watch the post-process
When it comes down to it, capturing the image is only the first half of my vision, and often times, working with changing light rarely affords the “perfect” in-camera image. You can see how I tuned this moment into the image I had envisioned in the video below from my Spicyjello YouTube channel.
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