Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Orbis Ring Flash + Metz Ring Flash vs the Zombies

Written by Gary on October 12th, 2014

The annual zombie shuffle was on again in Melbourne yesterday.

This is a very social event with thousands participating including many, many photographers and it always has a great fun atmosphere.

The zombies spend a LOT of time creating their personas and love being photographed.

It is outdoors and forecast for midday sun is a bit of a nightmare for getting great shots, and you generally only get 5-10 secs to compose and get your shot with each zombie before the photographer horde gets in your way.

This year I decided to take a different approach and did a bit of testing the day before so I could shoot with a main flash light inside an Orbis Ring Flash Modifier to create an off-camera beauty dish effect, supplemented with a Metz macro “ring” flash on the lens as a fill flash.

To deal with a potentially sunny background and the desire for a wide aperture, I used a polarising filter and manual flash via PC sync cables which allowed me to push the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera to 1/400th sec shutter speed – this does result in a small part of the “top” of your frame not being lit by the flash – no problem if there is no subject there!

The ambient exposure was intentionally under-exposed, and by using CTO gels on the flashes with custom WB for the CTO gelled flash, this gave a lovely deep blue background – at least when the sunlit areas was not in the background.

Most were shot at ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/400th sec. Metz flash was on 1/16th output. I used a Canon 580EX II flash in the Orbis Ring Flash (I could have used my Olympus FL50 instead with same effect), and this needed to be fired at almost full output.

All of these were taken with the nice little Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens, – although tethered to the Orbis Ring Flash and thus relatively confined to being 1.5m or so from the subject was a little limiting – but I knew that would be the case. I could make the subject lighter or darker by moving the Orbis flash closer or further from the subject.

However, given the rather clunky way the Orbis needs to be held in one hand, have a light, compact OM-D in the other hand was an essential component to the success of this technique – and I did what I rarely do – use Live View on the rear screen instead of the EVF even though the screen was blurry to me (I need reading glasses for it) – I was able to compose at arms length and let the amazing eye detection AF do its job – but being mindful of te fact that some zombie’s eyes cannot be detected in which case I locked AF using the centre AF region and half-press shutter button, then recomposed.

The first shot of the day was something I had pre-planned the night before and required a different set of maths to work out, but in only 2 shots, I managed to come up with this awesome image:

Zombie coming through the time space portal attacking a zombie killer ready with her laser gun:

claw

Zombie laser gun:

zombie killer

Zombie bride:

zombie bride

Cute retro zombie:

retro zombie

Zombie guy:

zombie guy

 

As with any relatively small light source, the light from the Orbis is very directional and relatively harsh, so if shooting portraits, you should ideally avoid oily skin and ensure some face powder has been used to avoid unflattering specular reflections from the skin.

The Orbis could also be used as a true ring flash with the lens protruding through the flash to give that typical shadowless fashion look with soft shadows surrounding the subjects on the wall behind. This usage can be great for emphasising creative makeup and colours while de-emphasising skin texture but may not be flattering for all subjects, particularly those with fuller faces. Be aware that this may produce red eyes with the light being so close to the lens axis.

More details on key shifting and color shifting using flash can be found here.

 

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