Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘flash

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

Fuji X100 : Intelligent Flash

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Fuji X100 | 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800

You know those tiny and often useless flash units built into many smaller cameras or that pop out of the top of many DSLRs? The ones that many people totally avoid using because they seem to hurt more than help? The X100 has one of those. Here’s the thing though: I actually find it useful.

Sometimes you’re dealing with pretty crummy lighting and you need a small amount of fill, a kiss of light to hit your subject to keep them from being all shadowed up. Muah:

A few more examples of how well the fill flash works on this camera.

In these three image there was so much harsh sunlight (the sun was directly above us at this particular time of the day) that a straight shot without flash would have looked terrible. So I had my subjects look down, essentially shadowing their faces, and I popped some on camera light at them. Worked great for preserving detail in the background without completely silhouetting my subjects.

There is one problem you can run into however. You can see it in the image of the wifie above: Notice how her eyes and nose are lit by the flash, but there seems to be a loss of light from her nose down? That’s the accessory hood getting in the way:

I kind of light the spot light sort of look it gave to the image, but in most cases you’ll want to remove the X100’s lens hood (if you have one) before you use the flash.


Fuji X100 |  1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400

I wrote a post a while back that covered the X100’s ability to sync with my SB-900 flashgun at crazy high shutter speeds. That high speed sync helps the camera’s tiny, relatively low-powered built-in flash as well, allowing you to shoot wide open and still light a heavily backlit subject with it, as seen in the example above.


Left: Fuji X100 | 1/30 sec, f/2, ISO 3200 || Right: Fuji X100 | 1/40 sec, f/2, ISO 3200

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t go out of my way to use that tiny little on-camera flash. Sometimes however, using it becomes the difference between getting a shot and not getting a shot. In that sort of situation, I’m pretty surprised at how easy it is to get natural results with the built-in flash. Low light portraits are a good example (above).

Ever use flash to take someone’s photo in a dark room or outside at night and get a super bright or even blown-out subject with a black hole for a background? Yuck. You can usually compensate by manually using a slower shutter speed to burn in some ambient while you mix your flash in to get a better image, or in the X100’s case, just turn the flash on and shoot.  Both of the low light shots above were taken in Aperture Priority Auto. All I did was turn the flash on and the camera did the rest, properly exposing my subject and balancing in the ambient (whatever little amount of ambient there was anyway).

Of course, human beings are not the only subjects the little flash can help you out with:


Fuji X100 | 1/750 sec, f/10, ISO 400

A little on-axis fill to lessen the harsh shadows on Bo Bear here. Also comes in handy for bringing a little more detail out of heavily shadowed areas of your frame. Check out the difference in detail, especially inside the shadowed area of the gas pump on the right, between the first image shot without flash, and the second with flash activated:


Fuji X100 | 1/340 sec, f/5, ISO 800 (flash off)


Fuji X100 | 1/300 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 (flash on)

I like that the results are subtle. They don’t scream “taken with flash!!!!”


Fuji X100 | 1/220 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

These leaves were pretty heavily shadowed. Use the flash to lighten them up against the background.

I must say, when I first saw the little built-in flash on the X100 I just chuckled. But hey, it comes in handy. Fuji calls it an “intelligent flash.” Seems like an appropriate name considering how easy it is to get natural results with it.  Good job, Fuji!

Written by Jonathan

July 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Fuji X100 – Super High Speed Sync!

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Today I discovered another of my new Fuji X100’s unique powers. Its leaf shutter has the ability to sync with a flash unit at an ambient-crushing 1/1000 of a second. My D700, by comparison, has a maximum sync speed of 1/250th (you can go higher, but it dramatically cuts your speedlight’s effective power).

With a sync speed so high, I can compete with noon day ambient with a single flash gun and use wider apertures for shallower depth of field, something I couldn’t possibly do with my D700 without much more powerful lights. I tested out this really cool feature today, connecting one of my SB-900 flashes to my X100 with a sync cable (above). For the shots below, however, not only was the SB-900 running light through its dome diffuser, but also through a softbox with two more layers of diffusion material. Despite the bright, harsh sunlight (we took these pictures at around high noon) and all that extra diffusion cutting the flash power, I was still getting my exposures the way I wanted them.

Notice the aperture settings below. To give me even more control over the ambient while using as wide an aperture as possible, I activated the X100’s built-in 3-stop neutral density filter:


Fuji X100 – 23mm 1/1,000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Of course, there’s no TTL communication between the SB unit and the camera, so everything here is manually set. I pegged the shutter speed at 1/1000 to give me a wide aperture, and simply adjusted my flash power/distance to taste (flash output was between 1/8 and 1/1 power for these images).


Fuji X100 – 23mm 1/1,000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200


Fuji X100 – 23mm 1/1,000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200

Never thought I could saturate a noon-day sky so much at such wide apertures while using a single hotshoe flash (through several layers of diffusion!) to light my subject. The results are pretty surreal. Suki, however, is obviously not amused.


Fuji X100 – 23mm 1/1,000 sec, f/4, ISO 200

Sorry Suki.


Fuji X100 – 1/1,000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Wow, I thought I loved the X100 before I discovered it can sync at such a high shutter speed. Now I’m utterly head over heels for this camera. =)

See more on Flickr!

Written by Jonathan

June 11, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Party Photography

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—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/80 sec ISO800

One question I’m often asked is something like : “How do I get sharp photos when taking pictures of my friends dancing indoors? What lens should I get for this purpose?”

Well, in most cases, the answer has less to do with your lens and more to do with whether or not you’re using flash. Just so happened to have hosted a dance party last night at my house, so I took the opportunity to demonstrate what I mean, using a variety of lenses and shutter speeds, and of course, my hot shoe flashes. The dancing took place in my living room at night, which means no daylight pouring through the window to give me f-stoppage. The room is lit by two floor lamps, providing, I dunno, just about f/0.1 inside. Seriously though, even using my fastest lens, I ‘d probably squeeze out a shutter speed of about 1/80th shooting wide open at f/1.4 at ISO3200 in this room. Ouch…not nearly fast enough to stop action under these conditions.


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO800

Freezing motion in bright day light out doors is relatively simple, right? You can easily hit say 1/640 or 1/1000 and higher, even stopped down, effectively freezing motion. Can’t really do that in a room like this. There’s simply not enough ambient. Using flash lets you shoot at lower shutter speeds and still freeze action.

Wait a minute! How is it that you can freeze motion with low shutter speeds when you use your flash? Another question I get asked a lot. They key, again, is in the pop of light you’re throwing at your subject. The shutter may be going at say 1/80 or even 1/15, but that flash is hitting your subject at like 1/1500th, fast enough to freeze them in their tracks. If you want to imply motion in your dancing shots, you can drag the shutter at around 1/10 to 1/15 (make sure you camera is set to rear curtain sync):


—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/15 sec ISO800

Or select higher shutter speeds to freeze them completely:


—–Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 14mm f/5.6, 1/80 ISO800

Another note: you gotta go manual exposure in scenes like this. Throw your camera into aperture priority, for instance, and it will select what it thinks is an appropriate shutter speed to expose the scene. Well, you’re pointing your camera at darkness, which means it’ll select shutter speeds that are far too low. Use shutter priority and you camera will open up your lens to its maximum, limiting your depth of field options. For the entire night, I dictated the shutter speed and aperture and let the camera’s intelligent flash system work its magic. Worked well in this case too because in such a small, dimly lit room, almost all of the light is coming from my flash units.

Another question I get asked: “My lens doesn’t have VC/VR/IS. Can I still get sharp shots with it?” Yes! None of the lenses I used last night are stabilized:


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 at 95mm f/5.6, 1/80 sec ISO800


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8


—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8

It’s important to remember that neither lens nor sensor based image stabilization systems help freeze subject motion. They only help reduce blur induced by small movements caused by the photographer hand-holding the camera. They key, again, is the flash.

Of course, when people are standing still, it’s even easier. =)

Written by Jonathan

August 30, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Being a Tourist in My Own City

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[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/3.2 1/30 second ISO160 ]

Wow, had such a great time this weekend! Two great friends from Japan visited our home and stayed for a few days. We took them on a tour of the city, heading to the usual “tourist spots” as well as places we locals like to visit. Running around with them made me realize that I can’t even remember the last time I drove around SF just to see the sights. It was pretty fun actually! Ready for a long post with tons of images spanning the course of 3 days? Ok, here we go!

Day One…

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Home Improvement Time!

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The wife decided to start sprucing up various rooms in our house this week. Had a friend come over and help paint the walls of one of our rooms in Tiffany blue. I played the lazy photographer husband while they did all the work =)

Gotta hurry! We have some friends coming in from Japan this weekend who will occupy this room during their stay.

Even Suki got involved…well, no more involved than I was actually. No, she’s not sleepy here. It’s just that every time I set my camera to rear curtain sync, she blinks! Oops!

________

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 10.5mm DX // Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Written by Jonathan

August 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Photo shoot: Jasmine Libatique

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Got a call yesterday from Jasmine Libatique, a local singer/songwriter here in San Francisco, requesting a photo shoot for her upcoming album entitled Dreaming Away. Her album is still in the recording stage of development, but she wanted to start compiling some concepts for her album artwork.

San Francisco’s Mission District is filled with cool urban art, and Jasmine selected one of the Mission’s many murals to incorporate into the shoot. This will be the first of likely several different concepts we will attempt before she makes a final selection of images to include in her album.

It was a very last-minute shoot! Had to rush home after work and quickly grab whatever gear I could get my hands on before heading out to the Mission District before the sun went down. My SB-800 unit failed on me due to bad batteries during the shoot. I was using it as a commander so I could get my command pulses firing behind or above me to my remote SB-900. Without it, I had to bounce the command signal from my camera’s pop-up off my free hand towards the remote unit. It actually worked! It also made me think a little more about how nice it would be to have radio triggers.  Anyway, despite the rushed nature of the job, we had a great time!

Want to get a preview of Jasmine’s music? Head on over to her Fanpage, where you can listen to all the songs on her upcoming album. Become a fan!

Also, check out more images from this shoot on my website!