Just a few miles off the coast of Cancun lies the Mexican island of Isla Mujeres, a world famous destination for scuba diving. It’s also the home of Casa Carasol, or the Shell House. I knew the unusual house would provide a great backdrop for shooting a portrait, and I was able to create a beautiful image of my model Gina on the edge of the pool on one cloudy afternoon.
Creating this shot was very simple. I used a Photoflex Octodome: Medium and with a grid placed on the right of the camera, powered by a Profoto B600 Power Pack. This single light source, softened by the large beautiful diffusion of the OctoDome is one of my favorite lights. The fabric grid attached to the OctoDome enables me to direct the light to land on the subject, and it lessens the spill onto the background and surrounding area.
When setting up this type of outdoor shot, I aim for studio-quality light on the subject and an exposure on the background to make it appear almost like a painted studio background. I will first shoot several exposures of the background without the model and dial down the exposure by roughly 2 stops. This exposure can be purely to your tastes, but I prefer the underexposure to help draw the eye to the beautiful light of the subject. In this case, I settled on an exposure of 1/125th at f/8 which gave the cloudy sky the drama it deserved.
Once the background was exposed properly, I simply placed my model on-set and started shooting. All in all, this shoot took just a few minutes, and the quick setup of the OctoDome let me focus on the creative part of the shoot, and not the equipment.
David Honl is a self-taught photographer with 25+ years professional experience. Over the years, his work has been published by Newsweek, Parade, American Cinematographer, National Geographic, and countless others. David has covered the war in Iraq from his home base in Istanbul Turkey, and completed numerous assignments throughout Turkey, Kazakhstan, Jordan, and Iraq. He currently based in Los Angeles. See more of his work at his website.