How The Shot Was Made

Equipment Used
Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, Einstein 640w Barebulb
Time of Day
Around 6pm in mid September, sun around 30 degrees above horizon, and 45 degrees to front left side of model with light 45 degrees front right side of model. 
Malibu, CA
Camera Settings
With strobe - f/11 - 1/250 - ISO160
Natural Light/sun behind - f/2.8 - 1/1250 - ISO160
On Rocks - f/7.1 - 1/320 - ISO160

Note About This Shoot

This shoot started with the intention to shoot mid-day with the sun high above and with 2-3 strobe lights with light modifiers to create some unique shots. But it was super cloudy, with the sun poking in and out. By the time we decided to start shooting, the sun was closer to the horizon for that nice natural and soft light. We did some shots with one strobe and the sun in front of the model, then the rest were all natural as the look was more pleasing. This also allowed for more variations to the camera settings for various depths of fields, depending on if I wanted a creamy background or more detail in the rocky background.

Natural Light + One Strobe

  • notes
  • Camera settings
Sun is out over the ocean, 45 degrees to the left of model, 30 degrees above the horizon. Filled shadows in with bare bulb strobe directly to the right of model.

I always shoot at a minimum of 1/250 shutter speed to reduce risk of camera shake from holding a heavy lens, especially when zoomed in. The further you zoom, the more you amplify the effects of camera shake, it also makes the depth of field more shallow to better separate subject from background.

Another useful function of longer focal lengths is that it keeps facial features in better proportion. For example, shooting this same shot with a wide angle would elongate the parts of her body closest to the edges like her legs and top of her head, and make the horizon seem much further away.

Telephoto lenses can help backgrounds seem closer, hence every photo where the moon looks gigantic, is shot with a telephoto lens to bring it closer to whatever the foreground element is, like a city skyline. 

One final note, there isn't a huge difference between using the strobe here and the all natural light photos below, and thats what I want. I generally don't like for it to be blatantly obvious that I used artificial light, I'm working towards more subtle cinematic lighting like you'd see in movies like Her and Denis Villeneuve movies. 
Aperture - f/11
Shutter Speed - 1/250

All Natural Light
Wide Open Aperture

With these images the sun is behind and 45 degrees to the left of the camera. At 2.8 aperture I needed to significantly increase the the shutter speed to not completely blow out the background and the parts of Hillary that the sun was hitting directly. When the sun is low, it'll wrap nicely around the subject, especially in wide open areas like a beach or field, giving the soft light seen below. 
Aperture f/2.8
Shutter Speed 1/1250

As discussed above, shutter speed is very important when shooting with a telephoto lens as it will eliminate motion blur, which some people wrongly attribute to not focusing properly. The focal length is 140mm to the left and the full 200mm on the right. Basic rule of thumb is to shoot at a shutter speed double that of the focal length, especially if you don't have a steady hand. Bump up the shutter speed if your photos don't seem tack sharp cause you probably have the shakes! 

All Natural Light
Smaller Aperture

Now Hillary is facing towards the sun while on some algae/moss covered rocks. This creates some nice contrast between highlights and shadows and between the green moss at the bottom and blue at the top. Totally intentionally planned strategically. 
Aperture - f/7.1
Shutter Speed - 1/320
I shot at a bit smaller f/stop to keep some detail in the big ol' rocks in the background and occasionally crashing waves. Had some excellent opportunities for giant waves to crash dramatically behind Hillary, but Hillary f'ed it up everytime because she'd stare at the wave in bewilderment, rather than looking unnaturally suave and model-esque. Typical Hillary.