I wanted to update you all on what worked and what didn't during last Friday's shoot outside at 1 in the afternoon. To review, I suggested 3 ways to deal with the sun: #1 Get out of it, #2 Overpower it, or #3 Diffuse it. Let's see how they did...
#1 Get out of it
This ended up being the big winner. I ended up using a big tent like canopy to block the direct light. With so much light coming in from behind him on the edge of the shadow, I ended up with a nice backlit blown out which wrapped the light around his head. And then later in the shoot we were working in the shadow of a building against a very nicely colored brick wall. Shooting RAW made the kind of pictures I wanted possible, because there was enough latitude to save both the shadows and the highlights in post.
#2 Overpower it
Hmm.. not so much. My Canon 550EX Speedlight at full power and a few feet away couldn't overcome the big hot light in the sky, which was 93 million miles away. Maybe if it was bare bulbed it would have worked, but not with any sort of diffusion. And a bare strobe was not the look I was going for. I'm sure if I had a more powerful light this would have worked better. Perhaps one of those Quantum systems, or certainly a studio strobe with battery pack, but we didn't have time for that kind of thing.
#3 Diffuse it
This one worked some of the time. However in the middle of the day with the sun coming almost straight down on the subject, it's hard to get the diffuser in position and keep the assistant out of the shot. Also, the sun was so bright that while testing, I found that I had to stack two diffusers on top of each other to get the light as soft as I wanted. So this one worked, but was not the most convenient.
In the end, trying to modify the terrible light was more trouble than it's worth, especially when you have the option of just getting out of it in the first place.