2023 started off balmy and warm in the North Carolina Piedmont and with warm weather on the horizon a second round in the woods with Jo seemed like the ideal way to begin the new year. Jo and I had initially planned an indoor natural light shoot. Studio strobes can make you lazy: by and large your camera’s settings remain set in stone and while you will change your lighting ratios, this is done by pushing a few buttons and moving a light or two.
Natural light is trickier. Your light source is constantly on the move. Not by much, but during my first natural light session with Jo we went from her standing to sitting in about 20 minutes, because even in that short amount of time the light had moved just enough that it was no longer illuminating her face.
Then you have clouds popping in and out or locations 15 feet away that have heavier canopies that block out more light. You need to be nimble and rapidly change your camera setting to meet the new conditions and I have spent years not doing that.
Consequently, my knowledge of my cameras is more narrowly focused and I’ve found myself just winging it and fixing my mistakes in post. I hate winging it. I’ve been shooting for four decades and when I started you had to get it right in the camera. If you over/under exposed you didn’t have a magic digital safety net that would save your bacon. Your session was ruined. That “get it right in camera” ethos is a very good mindset to adopt and one that I am not willing to abandon.
So for this session I made a checklist of things that I wanted to accomplish. “Slow down” was number one, because I haven’t been adapting to changing lighting conditions as I should. My MO has been more like, “shoot, shoot, shoot, oh fuck – I need a higher ISO.” Numbers 2-5 were variations of “learn your camera.” My OM-1 can save four custom white balances, but I rarely needed to use that feature until I started dabbling in natural light. I haven’t shot in Manual mode on the reg since the 1980’s, but it’s massively helpful when conditions are prone to change. The OM-1’s layout is PSAM and not the dedicated aperture, shutter speed, and ISO dials I’m used to; therefore I need learn how to quickly access these tools.
I put all of these into a checklist that I shared with Jo & Claire so they could hold me accountable (and they did!).
The result was a session with two delightful friends where I captured fewer images of each than I ever have, but came away feeling more comfortable and confident with the results. There was a consistency throughout that has made post-processing a joy rather than making me feel like I was having to fix my mistakes.
Fun fact: shooting in 65º weather was also much preferable to 45º for all involved. It was so nice out that we spent more time chatting than shooting and the big fuzzy robe went totally unused.