Guerrilla Lighting in Cuba

Portrait of a man on the street in Trinidad, Cuba.
Light, whether natural or artificial is an indispensable tool in achieving great images. To have more control of the look of my images I make a lot of photos with artificial light. I prefer to use big strobes either in large, light boxes or bounced off white flats when I want to achieve a nice, soft feel but if l am going after a “harder” feeling, I’ll use snoots or grid spots that keep my light source narrow and focused. On my recent trip to Cuba, I decided to try something different. I wanted to shoot some street portraits. I hadn’t been to Cuba in over eight years and I was interested to see not only how the country had changed, but also how the people had changed. I would need a smaller and more portable light source to emulate my large lighting scenarios – guerilla lighting in Cuba – very appropriate.

I immediately noticed that the Cubans I encountered were more forthcoming and talkative than those I had met on my last trip. There was no undercurrent of repression. To visually communicate this, I wanted my portraits to be bright and “open”, not dark or shadowy and moody. I was shooting with a Panasonic Lumix GH3 with the FL 360L flash and the 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens. Since the camera and flash work wirelessly, I was able to keep the flash off camera and out of the hot shoe. Before leaving for Cuba, I researched many different light modifiers for these small units. I decided on the Lastolite EzyBox Speed-Lite, a mini softbox, that is an 8.6×8.6 inch (22cm) square unit. I liked this unit because I could set it up quickly and it didn’t take up a lot of space when folded. A softbox this small, however can be a source of harsh light unless it is really close to your subject. In order to achieve the soft feeling that I was after, I gave the flash and softbox combo to one of my traveling companions and asked her to hold it very close (sometimes only inches away) from my subject’s face. Although this was probably annoying to my subjects, by placing the light source close to their faces the reflection of the light from their skin became very soft and diffused. And by adding a slight warming gel to the flash, I was able to achieve nicer skin tones. Keeping the light this close also creates a prominent catch light in the eyes, which draws the viewer into the portrait. I didn’t want to compete with sunlight so I shot most of my photos in the shade. By incorporating colorful backgrounds, I was able to enhance the feeling of the Cuban experience.

_1030258

I set the strobe to work automatically with the camera through ETTL and varied my exposures using the camera’s convenient plus and minus strobe control. It took a couple of days of “Guerilla lighting” before I was able to develop a good sense of how to balance the flash and available light. In the majority of cases, I set the camera to underexpose the available light by half to a full stop.

130404_TRA_070_original

Tourists riding antique cars through Havana, Cuba.

The Lumix GH3 and the 12-35mm lens make a good, compact package that does not draw attention, which is one of the reasons I like working with it. When I added the soft box to the small Lumix strobe, I had a terrific, portable lighting system that enabled me to achieve the portraits.You can see these portraits and other images of Cuba at http://stock.irablock.com/-/galleries/faces-of-cuba.

Photo Workshop in Istanbul

Date: November 3 – 9, 2013 (Limited Spots Left) / November 10 – 16, 2013 (Limited Spots Left)

Join National Geographic’s Ira Block in Istanbul!

Imagine yourself in one of the world’s greatest cities, beautiful Istanbul; exploring the magnificent Blue Mosque, discovering the stunning Ottoman architecture and strolling along the legendary Bosphorus River while soaking up the local Turkish culture. We’ll visit the magnificent Hagia Sophia and the Topaki Palace, as well as the legendary Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. Hands on technical classes and daily critiques will take your photography to the next level.

You can get more information at http://lizapoliti.com/lizapoliti/istanbul.html.

Photo Workshop at National Camera Exchange in Minneapolis

Tuk Tuk, an auto rickshaw a Bangkok, Thailand street at night.

Date: Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4, 2013

Location: National Camera Exchange
12055 Elm Creek Blvd, Maple Grove, MN 55369

Ira will be teaching a two day, hands on workshop exploring the world of hybrid photography. This exciting field merges video and still photography using light, moment and composition to create dynamic storytelling.

For more information please go to here.

National Geographic Photography Expedition in New York City

Statue of Liberty on a Misty DayApr 25 – 28, 2013

Ira will be leading a photography expedition to New York City at the end of April.

Brimming with towering skyscrapers, historic parks, vibrant ethnic enclaves, and the colorful bustle of street life, New York City presents photographers with an endless array of subjects. Photograph the environs of Ground Zero, and Battery Park City with its views of the iconic Statue of Liberty. Capture the diverse architecture of fabled Fifth Avenue and the sights of Central Park, and complete a portrait assignment in the lively neighborhoods of Chinatown or Little Italy. Photograph the sunset from the top of Rockefeller Center, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge or bustling South Street Seaport, and the new High Line Park in the early morning light.

This workshop is designed for amateurs who are interested in improving their digital photography. All participants must bring a digital SLR camera, a laptop computer, and software for organizing and presenting images. The workshop is limited to 25 participants.

For more information please go here.

National Geographic Photography Expedition in Cuba

Remember the MaineMar 31 – Apr 08, 2013

Ira will be leading a photography expedition to Cuba in the beginning of April.

Meet and talk with Cubans in diverse settings, from urban Havana to colonial Cienfuegos. Learn firsthand from Cuban locals and experts about their splendid colonial cities, vibrant music and art scene and lush rural landscapes, and experience the timeless beauty and fascinating culture of this enigmatic island nation. Engage Cubans directly in discussions about their lives and work, culture and traditions. Meet with Cuban historians, teachers, artists, musicians, naturalists, and others, and experience this fast-changing island nation through their eyes.

For more information please go here.

Panasonic Presents Ira Block and the LUMIX G Series at B&H

Night view of a stone arch at Devils Garden in Arches National Park, Utah.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 | 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio
420 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

Admission: FREE

Veteran National Geographic Photographer Ira Block will speak about the photographic challenges and changes he has faced in his 30 years of shooting for the magazine. From film, to digital and now video, Ira will discuss the technology leaps needed to stay ahead of the changing world of photography.

There will be a Panasonic camera (GX1) give-a-way at the end of the talk.

For more information please go to http://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/eventDetails.jsp/id/1453.

Samy’s Camera EDU Panasonic GH3 Workshop in Los Angeles

_1000289

Join NatGeo photographer Ira Block as he puts the Panasonic GH3 through it’s paces for this hybrid photography workshop. Participants will be shown how to shoot video using their GH3 cameras in the classroom. Then it’s off to the Farmers Market to shoot stills and video at this eclectic location.

Learn to use your Panasonic GH3 to it’s fullest from acclaimed photographer Ira Block.

Panasonic’s new top-of-the-line digital single lens mirror less camera, the LUMIX GH3. The GH3 doesn’t only record still images and video in extremely high quality; it also features a tough splash/dustproof design to withstand the harsh conditions of professional use.

Samy’s Camera EDU Los Angeles
475 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Saturday, February 2, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (PST)

Price: $195

Please go to http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5195824852/ for more information and the ticket.