Lighting up the Omo valley in Ethiopia

    My favorite thing when traveling to work on my personal project is to bring studio light out into the field with me. This short lesson will not be comparing different light settups or flash units, but simply shows lighting diagrams and my setups I have used in Ethiopia. Normally I use two light sources. One I bring with me is Elinchrom Quadra flash with Octa 130cm softbox and the second is up there in the sky - the sun.  

    Generally, I first decide what look I want for the image and choose appropriate f stop and shutter speed. Being a canon user I can't get above 1/200s so I might supplement with use of ND filters to keep the aperture needed for the photo. After taking a basic exposure reading for the photo I will step down to get more moody image and I expose my subject correctly with the flash.  Below you will find photos with a short description and lighting diagram.  I would like to thank for being able to use their online diagram creator. 


     In this image of a Hamar girl I have had her leaning on a tree turned around 45 degrees to her left with flash positioned almost directly in front of her and to my right. This gave her nicely lit face with the shadow side from where I photographed sculpting her face and features. I tend to aim the softbox slightly away from my subjects so they get lit by just a tiny pop of light rather than a bulk of it, providing very soft light.  The sun was almost 90 degrees to my right hidden in the clouds making it one massive soft light source lacking any shadows.


     For this Hamar elder I chose slightly different pose to what I usually do.  Standing by the fence near his house he faced full 90 degree away from the camera. I created lots of negative space behind him and had him looking away from the frame. Breaking few basic rules along the way, but I think it works for this  image. Softbox was positioned directly in front of my subject and slightly up dumping majority of the light to his right  away from the camera.  Photographing in the evening as the sun was setting through the clouds at around 11 o'clock position to me. This lit up the fence in nice warm colour, giving it a lot of definition and contrasted with his back separating him nicely from the background without having any rim light.


     In this photo of a Dassanach woman I have chosen to use a tree as a backdrop as light outside was still too strong and I was running into flash sync problems. Standing in the shadow of the tree I was careful to position her so there is some sunlight coming through rim lighting her left hand and bringing it out of the shadows. Softbox is turned towards the left of the image and creating a nice contrast on her right hand being on a light background.  Again I'm photographing on the short side shaping the face and body with light. 


     On my last day in Omorate  valley I crossed the river for the last photo session with Dassanach tribe and John, my guide, assistant and all around great guy. Way too late in the day I was reluctant to let go.  I couldn't even drag shutter any longer and keep the image sharp, so I settled for very dark and moody photo. Flash was positioned about 2 feet behind my subject and only lighting her with the side of the softbox at very low power. Lighting diagram shows sun behind me, but it was way below the horizon by the time I took this photo.  I'm mostly back lighting her face with the majority being in the shadows, but I like the effect this has on her face and eyes.