Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘CLS

Small Flash and The D800

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Nikon D800 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII | 200mm, 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 100 | 9 image stitch

When Bridget and I work together on a shoot, we try to goof off as much as possible. Ok, I’m kidding, but there are times when I do point the camera in her direction during a gig, just for the fun of it. The above is a bokeh pano that started with a remote-triggered SB-900 providing some light on the wife’s lovely face. Manually setting the flash power to 1/64 got me the exposure I wanted, and keeping it at that power while shooting a total of 9 images made sure there wasn’t any exposure variance to deal with when stitching the photos together. The resulting file, after merging and cropping to taste, was over 100 megapixels!


Nikon D800 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII | 190mm, 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 | single off camera SB-900 with dome diffuser camera left

As I become more and more acquainted with the D800, I keep discovering improvements over my D700 that I’m really loving. One big one for me is the way the camera’s TTL metering behaves with flash. Heavy backlighting used to confuse the TTL meter quite a bit with my D700, requiring that I either move to full manual or really work the camera and flash exposure comp dials to steer the system in the right direction. I relied on the D800′s TTL metering over the weekend for a series of photos using flash, including the one above, and the system very consistently gave me perfect exposures, even in tricky lighting situations that used to throw my previous systems. I haven’t had a chance to post on the topic yet, but high ISO files look great from this camera as well. So much for missing my D700 ;)

Written by Jonathan

May 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Forgotten Keepers

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Every now and then I go through and purge “junk” images from my archives, and as I’m deleting the throw-away images, I always discover forgotten keepers like these shots of Suki. The one up top has some weird flare in the frame, but I love Suki’s expression. Taken with my now retired Nikon D300s and Tokina 50-135. Two strobes to my right are combating the really bright background to provide light on Suki’s face.

Another shot with the D300s and 35mm f/1.8G, an excellent lens that I still use when I shoot DX.

This was taken during my 52 weeks of Suki project with the D300s and the stabilized Tamron 17-50. One light through a Lastolite tri-grip.

And this…is just hilarious.

Written by Jonathan

March 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

Small Flashes Love Dreary Weather

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The wedding I shot this past weekend was a wild ride. Some unexpected circumstances arose that forced us to cancel our original plans for some on-location formals between the ceremony and reception. With the reception rapidly approaching, and no time to travel anywhere beyond a couple of minutes from the reception hall for some portraits, we scrambled to find a place that would work.

Fortunately, my wonderful wife located a small community park tucked away in a neighborhood a few blocks from the reception hall. We all headed there, not knowing what to expect. Gotta be ready for anything in this business!

As it turns out, the park didn’t look very promising, at least at first. As I entered, I was greeted by some rusted old fences, areas under construction, and a tattered restroom hut. But as I pushed a little further, I found a long stretch of grass with some nice trees far in the distance.  Good spot to hunker down and quickly work through the formals. Moving fast was key. The entire family was there along with the bridal party, and it was cold….and the reception was to start in like 20 minutes. Yikes!

The weather was bad at the park. The late afternoon was foggy, dark, cold, and the lighting was completely flat. Some in the group were concerned about how the scene would impact the pictures.  Indeed, it was easy to look down range at this field and just see a dark, dreary scene. As I pulled my SB units out of my bag, however, I saw an outdoor studio.

Hot shoe flashes thrive in dark, shaded areas.  I was able to shoot the top two images wide open on my 70-200 2.8, and the resulting shutter speed pushed the remote SB-900 flash that I was using as my main light into hi-speed sync. This dramatically cuts the unit’s power, which was already being cut by running the flash through an umbrella. But since I didn’t have a strong amount of ambient to compete with, the strobe didn’t struggle to give me adequate output. Sweet!

Three lights were in play for most of the shots: An on camera SB-900, used as a commander for two remote units and for on-camera fill, set to TTL. The main light is a single SB-900 through a 42″ translucent umbrella, also set to TTL. A third SB-900 is zoomed to 200mm and firing at my subjects from behind for some rim lighting, set to a different CLS group (Nikon speak, sorry if some of these acronyms are not making sense), firing manual at…hmm…I think it was 1/8th power or so. All of this lighting came together to give my final series of images the clarity, punch, and dimension that the scene wasn’t giving me on its own.

It was  all over in a flash (har-har), and it would have been great to work the location even more than we did, but we still came away with some great images for the family…images that I’ll be really busy processing over the next few weeks.

Congratulations to the beautiful newly weds, Michelle and Rodney!

See these images in high-resolution

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Nikon D700 | Nikkor AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
www.jonathanflemingphotography.com

Does Flash Have to Look Like…Flash?

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Suki and I headed out to the beach for a stroll along the water this evening after I got off work. The weather has been totally gloomy in San Francisco lately, however, so there wasn’t any dramatic light to make use of when arrived on sight. The test shot I took of her above gives you an indication of what kind of light was out there tonight. Blegh…Suki knows it too.

There was simply too much wind to use any sort of large light modifier, so I had to add some light in with my bare strobes. What to do? Thought I’d create a sunset-like effect with a single SB-900 placed maybe 20 or 30 feet from our position. Here’s how it turned out:

Placed a full cut of orange gel (CTO) over the bare SB-900 to give it the orange glow you’d expect from the sun when it’s low on the horizon. See? Flash doesn’t have to look like “flash,” right?

Now Suki is getting into it!

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Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Written by Jonathan

August 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Suki and the Trolly

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Watch out Suki! Well, she’s actually not in any real danger here. This particular spot where we took Suki’s latest image for my photo project, combined with a real long focal length, gives the impression that Suki is in danger from on-coming traffic. In reality, she’s quite safe, comfortably surveying the scene from a sidewalk.

The image above was actually a test shot that I ended up liking. I noticed that Suki kept getting distracted while I was shooting. In this case, a loud sea gull pulled her attention away from the camera.

In this image, it was a group of tourists across the street yelling “look at that doggie! Hi doggie!!!!” that made her turn her head. While I thought this was pretty annoying at first, the resulting curve in her posture turned into a really appealing pose for the image.  Besides, most of Suki’s best images are taken when she’s not looking at the camera.

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR

Written by Jonathan

August 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm

The Last Minute Group Shot

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This morning I attended a graduation ceremony for a group of students who successfully completed a rigorous training course in American Sign Language. It was an exciting event that drew a few hundred people, mostly friends and family of the students. Bridget and I were involved heavily in helping run the course, and I even brought my camera to every session to document the entire semester. This morning, I arrived about an hour early to help set up the A/V equipment needed to run the graduation, but soon after I arrived, I was asked to take a class photo. A group of 35, a relatively dimly lit hall crowded with people, and uh oh…I didn’t have my camera. On top of that, the shot needed to be done BEFORE the graduation started.  The wife ran home and grabbed whatever she could for me while I set up the A/V. By the time she got back with some camera gear, however, we only had about fifteen minutes or so to get the shot. A photographic nightmare! I was sweating bullets as I frantically set up a light stand camera right with an SB-900 through an umbrella, feathered high and left. Second light is hand held by my wife standing on a chair camera left, feathered high and right. Now I had about 8 minutes until the start of the graduation program. Gulp.

See how many people were there? This is the reason why I had to use my ultra wide lens for this group shot. There were a TON of people already on site, including a crowd of people with point and shoot cameras behind me. This meant I couldn’t back up very far. So I mounted my Tokina 11-16,  rushed like crazy to try to get all the students in some sort of order, fired off four or five frames, and that was it, time to start the ceremony. Whew….trust me, it was harder that in sounds!

View the “last minute” group shot larger here.

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Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Written by Jonathan

July 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Don’t Start with a Plan

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When I first started Suki’s 52 week project this year, I tried my best to have a very specific concept in mind for each image, planning each shot as meticulously as I could before we even headed out the door. I’m nearly halfway through the project now, and I’ve learned that having a plan is not always the best way to get a great shot. Reminds me of what Jay Maisel, a highly regarded NY based photographer once said:

Not knowing what you’re going to shoot is the great adventure. If you go out knowing what you’re going to shoot, the great adventure is gone. Most people work to have a plan; I’ve worked to not have a plan for shooting when I go out.

I love this advice, and I’ve done my best to incorporate the principle behind it not only in my 52 week project, but in my photography in general.

Nowadays, the only planning I do when I go out to take a photo of Suki is deciding the location. Once we’ve settled into a spot, I then start scanning the area and coming up with ideas. It forces you to be observant, to look intently for interesting compositions, lines, and light. Instead of locking down on a specific plan, you find yourself exploring with a free and clear mind, and exploration and adventure is what makes photography great.

My best images of Suki this year are the ones where no planning was involved, where I’d just say “hey, let’s go to [insert location here] and try to get some sort of shot of Suki.” The images you see in this post, for example, are from a series I shot of her last Sunday during an early morning stroll. No plan involved. Just me, some camera gear, and a Shiba Inu. We walked and walked until I saw an element of the environment that struck me. It’s a great way to approach your photography. Just make sure you always have your camera with you!

My Favorite Lenses

So lately I’ve decided that my two absolute favorite lenses in my bag right now are…..[drum-roll]…. The Nikkor 70-300mm VR (used in the top image) and the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (used in the third photo from the top). Yup. My longest telephoto and my widest wide-angle. Both allow me to greatly exaggerate the perception of distance in an image. Want to really add some impact and dimension to your photos? Move further away from your subject and rack out your telephoto lens. Using an ultra-wide? Move in super close to your subject. Experiment and see what happens!

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Camera Info:
Nikon D300s
1st image: Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 260mm f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200
3rd image: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 11mm, f/16, 1/320 second, ISO200
CLS triggered SB-800 + SB-900 used in both images