Strobist shoot of Eddie and a 75 Nova

My friend Eddie and I headed up to Mounds View Park in St. Paul for a little evening photo shoot. I wanted to let you know how I took this shot.

First, we are in the twilight hour, just before the sun goes down. I decided not to meter this manually. I set the camera on aperture priority, with -1 2/3 exposure compensation. This is what is controlling the background exposure. For the lights, I used manual. I usually shoot in TTL, but I both wanted to experiment, and I knew that for the light on Eddie it was going to need pretty much full power.

I started with a SB800 speed light toward the front of the car, that is skipping across the side. I had one SB900 mounted on a stand to the left of the car in a 24″ lastolight softbox. This was pointed at Eddie. My 3rd light was on the camera, a SB900 acting as a commander. But, the back of the car was too dark, and as the light went down, I was able to switch to just the popup flash on my D7000. I was surprised, but happy that I had another light. I was out of stands, (only 2) so with only the foot, and pointed up at 45deg at the car, I lit up the back end of the car.

So, if you caught that, I am using the pop up flash on my camera to trigger the flashes in manual mode. The cool thing about this, is that I could change the power of the lights without going over to the units themselves. I would have had to do this in SU-4 mode. Instead I was able to adjust the power and settle on 1/4 power while staying at the camera.

The next issue was that I didn’t get enough power out of the flash on Eddie. I had it zoomed to 200mm, but it was fairly far back to stay out of the frame. (Shooting at 55mm if you were wondering). So, to fix it, I upped the ISO from 200 to 400. This gave me the power I was looking for from the flash, and we were good to go.

The rest was all composition. I think some of the best shots came from the low position when I was kneeling on the ground. The only issue is that you can’t really see the city in the background this way. Anyway, there are some other pictures on my portrait site.

Are you iPad Ready? (No flash allowed)

Are you a photographer with a flash site? Do you know that the iPad, just like the iPhone, will not display flash content? What’s a photographer to do? Scott Kelby looked at this earlier today.

When Kelby first put up his flash portfolio, I decided to create a javascript only portfolio site to do the same thing. See my portfolio here, and my post here.

I think my code is successful, to a certain extent. It works great on the desktop, but doesn’t work as well on the iPhone, and I don’t yet know on the iPad. Need to try that out. Anyone that wants to comment about that, please do.

I think that my issue on the iPhone is the size of the images. I think they need to be smaller to save on bandwidth, and prevent the phone’s browser from having to scale the images so much. That may be the issue on Kelby’s site too, because his new non flash site didn’t work well on the iPhone either. His new portfolio is also a jQuery javascript site done by RC. It was too slow to be useable on my phone. I wonder if image size is the issue there to. Now his site was optimized for the iPad, not the iPhone, but I want mine to work on both. I will need to do some more testing with smaller images to see.

D90 Pop-up flash as Commander

The above image was taken with a D90, pop-up flash as commander, and a SB-900 held out at camera left. I think that there is something wrong with these photos, but the subjects liked them. My issue? There was too much flash, especially from the front, and there is a shadow at the bottom of the image. But why?

I was certain that I read somewhere, saw a video, or a podcast that said that the D90’s pop up flash, when acting as a commander could not contribute light to the scene. I was wrong.

At home, I had previously been trying to use a two light setup with one light on camera, and another off to the left in an umbrella. Both were SB900’s. I had been playing with the lighting ratios, and what the light looked like. I would leave the umbrella at full power, then decrease the on camera. Then I would lower the umbrella, and increase the light from the on camera flash. This was all done via CLS.

Then I was shooting some informal portraits at a wedding. We were at a country club, on a golf course, and the sun was going down. Twilight blue sky. I set my subjects up with the golf course and the mountains behind them. I held a SB900 with dome difuser on in my left hand at arms length. (I didn’t have other diffusion materials with me.) I popped up my on board flash to use as the commander. It didn’t register that it was set to TTL. I took my picture with a Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 lens on the front, and a shadow shows up in front of their feet! Whoa! Where is the light coming from? I was a little confused and didn’t have time to figure it out, so I just zoomed in a bit more so the shadow wouldn’t be as noticible. I also added some dodging in post to even out the light a little bit.

It wasn’t until I was back home looking at my pictures that I figured it out. The light from the built-in flash was contributing to the exposure. I know that in the past I have sworn at Joe McNally because it seemed like my flash was contributing to the light, when I know that he has said over and over that when using CLS, the commander flash doesn’t contribute light to the exposure. Except when you don’t pay attention.

So, if you do not want your pop up flash to contribute to the exposure, make sure that beside the line labeled Built-In, in the left column it says “–“. If you do want some light from this flash, set it to “TTL”. You will most likely want to lower the light from this flash so it acts as just a bit of fill, by setting the right column to -2 or even -3.

I think my mistake (probably more than once) was when I looked at the menu and saw TTL, and thought, of course that is what I want. But, you probably only want light from the off camera lights set to TTL, and the pop up set to “–” for commander. The most I can hope for is that I have learned my lesson.

Nikon Creative Lighting DVD

Nikon Creative Lighting System DVDI just finished viewing the Nikon DVD called “A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting”. You can see excerpts of this DVD from Nikon here. You can get it for around $30. (I got mine from West Photo) This DVD features the host, Bob Krist, and Joe McNally.

This is a pretty good DVD, with something in it for everyone. Probably not for the ripest beginner, or the most advanced flasher, because it covers a lot of ground. A beginner or intermediate photographer with a speedlight or two willing to pause, stop, and rewind this DVD a few times will probably get quite a bit out of it.

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Studio Strobes vs Speedlights

Scott Kelby has a post up where he compares studio strobes and speedlights. This is somthing that I have had going on in my head for quite some time now.

I took a studio lighting class, and the instructor was pretty anti speedlight. Maybe he just hasn’t use them much. I sure wouldn’t want to tell Joe McNally and David Hobby that small off camera flashes don’t put out good light. So, I decided that I would start small. Leave the studio strobes for some later time. Let me be able to say that I can do everything that is possible with one light.

So what did I buy? Well, I had an SB800 before the price lept off the insanity board. I figure you need a hotshoe flash no matter what, so it wouldn’t be a wasted light purchase. I now use it all the time. So what other gear¬†I purchased was a strobist kit from mpex (without the flash). See this post from a couple of days ago. I still intend to post more about the kit, but¬†I took these pics recently with that kit and that mini softbox from the friday post

I have to say that you can get quite different pricing than Scott got. Not on the same equipment, but how “pro” do you want to go? Mpex has one light¬†strobist kits for $219 that includes a flash! Yes, I know that it isn’t as powerful or feature rich as the SB-900, but hey, the price of entry is pretty cheap.

Then there are the alien bee’s studio strobes. The AB800 is $279. That is quite a bit cheaper than the Elinchrom BXRI 500s. ($625 at B&H, but out of stock) So are the AB800’s second fiddle? I haven’t seen enough lights to know. I do know that there are several people that have appeared on Scott’s guest blog that use Alien Bee’s lights, including Zack Arias and Dustin Snipes. I also used the ABR Ring Flash¬†at my class which I loved. So… when I get around to it, I am leaning to the bees.

But for now, I have a lot of learning to do. I have the Nikon CLS video¬†waiting to be watched, and I have wanted to order the Strobist Workshop DVD’s¬†if not attend a workshop myself. I think it would also be cool to attend a One Light Workshop with Zack Arias. ¬†I have read Joe McNally’s The Moment it Clicks, and right now I am reading The Hot Shoe Diaries.

That’s a lot of material to master. I figure I might add another speedlight, or LumoPro LP120¬†from mpex or two in a little while, but maybe I will wait until I can pull of this group shot with a single SB26 manual flash.