Friday, March 12, 2010

A Case For Auto FP

Yes, this is a real post! I apologize to everyone who wonders by this long forgotten idea of a blog and says, "Man I wish this was updated regularly." I once again am going to try my best to do a weekly post that actually has some real content to it. So on with the show.

Have you ever actually used Auto FP with your CLS system? No, I mean really used it because there was a need for it? I would imagine most of you have not, and you're probably wondering when and why you would actually need it other than in a desert with Joe McNally and David Hobby. I mean if you really needed 1/8000s why not just crank the aperture down to like f/32 and use a stronger light like a Profoto or Elinchrome? Simple, the client doesn't want f/32 they want f/1.4.

Case in point. I had to shoot an annual report this past week which is really not my normal segment of business, but being the photographer who can't say no to getting paid I took the job. So the concept was easy 4 outdoor portraits in a decorated garden pond area of a local nursery. Easy enough, speedlights are perfect here. Environmental run and gun portrait work. We shoot, we move, we shoot, we move. About 30-45 minutes per person is all the time we had once the stylist was finished. Not that big of an issue. A little TTL some FV Comp and we are off running quick. Here is the wrinkle. The AD wants a very out of focus background, and space limitations mean that the subject is anywhere from 5 to 15 feet in front of the background. Truth be told the subject was as important as the tonality and texture of the background it was not something which could be changed. So how do you get a nice out of focus background? You open up the aperture, move the subject away from the background, and use long glass to compress the image. Problem is again due to space constraints (both distance subject could move, and due to stray objects in the frame) long glass was not an option, and the subject moving towards the camera was not an option. The only thing I had left was f/1.4. Which works great, until the sun comes out and your subject is in the shade while the background is lit with that direct sunlight.

The savior! No not Kevin, but the two SB800 units. You have to remember that while using two flashes may seem like a lot it only gives you one more stop of. So what image did I get thanks to this setup?

I don't want to hear any complaining about image quality here. This photo has zero post processing done on it. It needs a little cleaning up. But none the less it was shot at ISO Lo 1, 1/4000s, f/1.4 with the trusty Nikon 50mm. You can just see the corner of the gazebo we were all standing under in the top right of the frame (To be cropped off). Kevin was camera left with the previously pictured dual SB800 setup. You can see there are 1/4 CTO gels on each speedlight. I had to dial in a +2.0 into the SU800 that was firing off both SB800 units on group A. Why? This is where you have to try and think like your camera. The meter was reading bright light, no need for flash or at least not a lot. It was thinking subtle fill flash pop. But we need to light a darker skin toned African American. The meter has no idea what we are doing. It just makes a middle of the road guess and plays it safe. So I dial in the correct compensation for the correct exposure on the subject. The whole thing was fired through a Lastolite TriGrip using just the diffusion fabric. I had to shoot at 1/4000s in order to get the ambient exposure on the background down. Yes, I could have used a 3 stop + a 1 stop ND filter and then thrown the juice and used a pack and head system, but heck why when you have a simple tool that will do the job?

The important thing here is the background. It is soft, out of focus, and just what the AD wanted. Which results in happy clients. Which leads to more business in the future. So yes, Auto FP

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Wedding

Congratulations to the newly weds! You may remember I shot Cicily and Casey's engagement and bridal picture a while back. Yesterday we shot their wedding in downtown Greensboro at the Carolina theater. It was a long day. Traveling from the theater to hair, to make-up, and then back to the theater, but we had a great time. It was a great ceremony at this old theater.

During the kind of formal (I say kind of, because I generally don't shoot formals all that's just the way I do it) you have to keep your eyes on your subjects between shots. And knowing these two they are always goofing of. They had a stage, and they played it to the hilt. Here the bride almost fell over when she started to just can't plan these things. The shot looks very theatrical to me, and it really works on the plain stage they had set up.

The shot was with a SB800 into a reflective umbrella on each side of the stage. It was triggered with an on camera SB900 set to 1/32 to provide just a touch of front fill light.

We had to get a couple more environmental portraits in to show off the feel of the wedding. Here we moved outside quickly. We shot this with a SB800 in a Lastolite EzyBox, triggered with a SB900.

And finally I tried something a little more dramatic. I shot a SB900 zoomed to 200mm through a really cool window that had some great cross bracing. I was hoping for some cool shadows....but!It was late, I was tired and I did not even take into account that the window glass was that old frosted kind of stuff. The light hit it, and immediately wrapped around that cross bracing, and got diffused in a hurry. the result, no cool shadows. So I just opened up the windows to provide some sharpness when the light hit them. I fired the SB900 somewhere around 1/8th power. I adjust for the ambient can lights in the alcove behind them. Framed them up inside the background lights, and shot away. One thing to note when you are using a hard light like this is to watch for odd shadows. I had to have the groom lower his near hand about an inch or two in order to avoid some weird looking finger shadows on the brides face.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shooting Downtown

Hi there everyone! I know, I know I promised to be better on the posting and well I haven't been. Sorry, just gets a little hectic for me. is a video from this past Saturday night. We shot the lovely Martinique in downtown Greensboro, NC. The video is Scott Stallings, and in true to Nikon form the entire thing was shot with a D90!The other shooter with us that night is Kevin Belton.

Hope you enjoy.

Yeah I guess you might like to see some of my shots, huh..All images shot with a Lastolite EzyBox with a SB800, triggered via a SB900, various levels of EV Comp dialed in, click through to see the EXIF on Flickr.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dobbs Ferry, Pt. 2

We all know Joe loves to use bunches of flash, but you know there is a real logic to it. Sometimes it is for shaping a subject, or crushing the sun, but more often than not it is to overcome the use of multiple layers of diffusion. You can see in the above image the we had 3 SB800s with diffuser caps firing into an umbrella then into a 3x3 Lastolite panel. Yeah, take that hard light triple diffusion! So how many stops of light are we loosing? My guess is somewhere around 3 as the umbrella was white not silver. So to maintain a nice working power and aperture we are looking at having to toss in more light.

Here he has the three SB800s mounted on the soon to be released Lastolite TriFlash

The thing I personally realized watching Joe work with all of his equipment is that to truly make images you need tools. I know everyone reading this blog is reading Strobist as well (and if you're not you need to). So it is easy to fall into always trying to use less or to make the tools ourselves. But after having an arsenal of tools on hand and at my disposal I'm now investing into more modifiers, accessories, and the like. If you are like me you hate spending money on this stuff. I don't know why I just do. I like toys that pop, are noticeable, and have that effect where you just sigh when you see them. You know, a new lens, a new body, a SB900. I mean when was the last time you got excited over a role of cinefoil or a reflector?

I guess the point of all this is to not over look our light shaping tools. And while we examine those think of the effect on the power of light you have. Do you have enough to triple diffuse your lights? If so do you have enough left over to hit your background or to kick in as some fill? I don't want this to seem like a call to buy more gear, but the right tool for the right job is key otherwise what you envision for your images will suffer in the long run. So invest your pennies wisely!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dobbs Ferry, Pt. 1

What a fun day. Lot's of great people, and I can't speak highly enough of Joe and his entire staff. They know how to take care of their guests. So I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks digesting the mass of information that Joe was trying to cram into everyone's heads. The related posts, including this one, will not necessarily be CLS/AWLS oriented, but instead focus on the lessons of lighting learned. Which of course can translated into speedlights.

The above image of Jasmine was early in the day. The focus was the quality of light. And while this particular shot was using multiple Elinchrom units the issue of light quality has to be addressed regardless of source. What modifiers are you using, and more importantly why? We started with one umbrella, and worked it using reflectors for fill. It works, and works well when you put thought into how you are using that umbrella.

You have to think about your subject. Would you want to light a big tough biker in this light? Why not? What would you do differently?

On that note, I may start an assignment series a bit (OK alot) like Strobist. They will be more like thinking assignments. I'm not going to give you a step A, B, C, etc. I want you to develop your own solution. So keep an eye out for these over the next few months.

So to wrap up a long day I want to say thanks to the models with whom we would have to shoot Joe all day, Joe, his staff, Adorama for not just helping out today but for helping photographers everywhere (including Joe's Ground Zero collection) , and last but not least Bogen and Mark for some seriously cool toys (Mark I want a 3-way bracket!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On The Road....Almost

Traveling must be the theme for lighting blogs today. DH over on Strobist is heading out for Central America. Meanwhile back at the CLS cave I am heading out on the road tomorrow to NY for Joe McNally's Dobbs Ferry Workshop on Monday. Those of you who know me know that I am super stoked about this. I owe Joe a beer for judging the first CLS contest (And yes I am still disappointed in the turn out for that). So Joe, first one's on me. On to travel...

DH shows how to cram everything into a Domke F2 (I swear those things are magic)for a compact travel bag. Me, I'm driving and don't have to limit myself as much. So I am taking my normal case for speedlights and my backpack. Now any of you who are going to Dobbs Ferry got the same info as me which stated, "You may want to bring a small kit with a speedlight." Now I figure small is relative and since Joe owns more speedlights then the rest of the world combined, that this should suffice as small. I actually am not taking any stands or umbrellas. The folks at Adorama and Bogen have us covered and then some. But in the mean time if you are just getting into CLS or photography in general you need to give thought to how you are going to carry all of your stuff. And trust me you will get more stuff, followed by more stuff, and then not only more stuff but bigger stuff. So give it some thought and plan ahead.

As for Dobbs Ferry, I will diligently take notes, pictures, and report back next week. And if you are bored until then click the picture to see some notes on what all is in the case.

Friday, January 9, 2009

SB900 Unboxed, Finally

I had to wait, and the wait some more. But I finally purchased a SB-900. Now to just make some time to use it!