I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Printmaker Laura Boswell for Artist & Illustrators magazine this afternoon. Click through to read a few (dazzling) thoughts on lighting by mimicking ambient light.
Occasionally on enviromental portrait shoots you arrive at the location and are immediately presented with beautiful ambient light and ready made set ups. In this case Laura's splendid kitchen area worked perfectly for a photograph of her pre-carving a piece of Lime Plywood.
The bright afternoon light was spilling in through a large window in front of Laura's working table and a couple of smaller windows behind her helped to fill in the background. The area looked perfectly and evenly lit to the human eye but trying to capture the scene in camera would have been tricky. The difference between the foreground and background exposure was far too much for my camera's small dynamic range to deal with. Instead I recreated the ambient light using my special edition 2000x ambi mimic (not for sale) speedlights. I placed a large soft modifier in front of the window to light Laura and her table followed by a speedlight off camera at the back of the room bouncing off of the (white) ceiling to fill in the shadows behind Laura. The final light was a small softbox behind and right aimed back towards Laura as if it were a sunbeam shooting in through a rear window. The finished artificially lit images look the same as the natural light filling the scene. Sometimes it just makes sense to copy what's in front of you.