Capturing Portraits with Alien Bee Strobes


Ria & Luke


More than ever I am convinced that learning occurs on at least two levels. I hear about something or hear about it but it is only after I put what I’ve learned to use that it comes alive. Action involves time. Time is essential to learning, both while executing an action as well as those in-between times when I’m not doing anything.

In a group email from Bikkhu Samahita, he American-born Buddhist monk wrote about thīna-middha, one of the hindrances that a meditator has to overcome to arrive at neighborhood concentration, the threshold of samadhi. The hindrance is translated as “lethargy-and-laziness,” commonly present in the practice of neophyte meditators and associated with doubt or the absence of faith. The bikkhu uses traditional Theravadan scriptures to discuss how thīna-middha can be overcome:

What is the starving cause that makes Lethargy-&-Laziness cease?
 There is the quality of initiative.  There is the quality of launching action.
 There is the quality of tenaciously enduring persistence. Frequently giving 
rational & wise attention to these three mental elements, is the starving 
cause for the non-arising of Lethargy-&-Laziness, and the starving cause 
for the arousing and stirring of already present Lethargy-&-Laziness. 
 Samyutta Nikaya 46:51

Generating initiative that leads to decisive action and persisting in action if at first it does not win the desired effect one overcomes a sluggish, lazy mind. Action is energy and energy must be expended to win energy.

Likewise in learning, one must use the body to incorporate an idea if that idea is to turn into insight (vipassana in Pali). But action has to be coupled with perseverance when one pauses between action and listens, listens with the inner ear that the inner heart feels what the intellect knows. When both beat to the same rhythm, learning is accomplished.

Well I knew that professional photographers used strobes to take pictures. I started out taking still pictures with video lights because my initial idea was to dive into video and filmmaking. It was only three to four months ago that I bought my Alien Bees, two 6000K and one 8000K flashes triggered by a Pocket Wizard.

Since then I’ve grown quite proficient using strobes, a development that came along with wanting to shoot more location pictures, without putting up my elegant white or black backgrounds and complicated ensemble of video lights.

For this afternoon’s shoot I used only the large Alien Bee triggered by Pocket Wizard to take these family photos. Somewhere along the way I’d also learned that increasing the ISO to about 160 even in daylight or strobe light turned out richer pictures. The results exceeded my expectations.

I am certain I shall learn more about using strobes, especially to take portraits if not model shots. I’ll start combining strobes for more interesting lighting effects and I’ll even experiment with shutter speeds, aperture and focal lengths. The journey of mastering the craft continues. I am excited and thīna-middha is getting pushed further at bay.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s