I am an "available light" photographer. Not because I think natural light is better. Not at all. That's just another way of saying I'm too lazy to lug around a ton of lighting gear.
While on a trip sitting at the Providence airport, I noticed that my red-haired friend, Scott, was backlit by the fiery orange lights of the haute cuisine-ery behind him. (Arby's?) I thought it might be fun to exaggerate his hair color with the backlighting so I snapped off a shot. I didn't pose him ... just said, "ready?" and immediately fired off a single shot.
Later, in post processing, I realized that the relatively diffuse light from the wide array of distant ceiling lights left his face washed-out. After HIRALOAM, WB and some curves, I attempted to add drama by adding a bit of contrast. I was totally unsuccessful. Or rather, I was totally successful at making him look eerie and unnatural. The normal techniques of pushing curves, overlay mode, dodging and burning ... everything just left the image looking plastic ... contrived.
There is a good reason to lug a bunch of heavy lighting gear around ... FOR GOOD LIGHTING! ummm ... gee ...really?! Yup. You can't bake in good lighting if it wasn't there when you took the shot.
The other reason I don't carry lighting gear is because I don't know how to use it. But I can see I'm going to need to learn.
I've been following Dustin Diaz's posts on Flickr where he not only shows the final work but also the lighting diagram. He uses relatively simple setups in a wide variety of situations and posts almost daily. It's worth following for all of us novice "strobists". Then there is Strobist. A must read for the lighting master wannabe. That blog will lead you to a million more. Just follow those dancing little spots on the back of your eyelids from all the flashes.
Bye for now and peace,