Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘lastolite

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!

Soft, Wrapping Light

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Suki likes to hang out in the same room where I keep all my photographic equipment, so often times I’ll just go in the room, set up, and start photographing her. She’s there anyway, right? Last week, I decided to get a nice shot of her face, especially since I didn’t have a chance to go outdoors and make an image of her for week 11 of my 52 week project. There aren’t any large windows in the room and it was late afternoon, so it was artificial light or no shot. Suki is just about as soft to the touch as she looks, so I wanted to convey that softness in the photo.

Light from a bare strobe is not soft. It’s hard and harsh. So to make it as soft as possible, you need to diffuse it…a LOT. This is how I did it:

What you see here are two SB units (SB-800 and SB-900), firing up into an all-in-one umbrella with its reflective shroud in place. The light from the two units will hit the umbrella and come back down towards Suki, but not before it hits another layer of diffusion: a skylite diffusion panel. Using two units increases my light volume and keeps my recycle times shorter than using just one, since all this diffusion makes the SB units work harder. Now I have a bigger light source relative to my subject, and a softer quality of light (learned all this from Joe McNally!).

Poor Suki. Relaxing in a room, and all of a sudden these huge pops of light start going off above her head. This was her initial reaction to the big diffusion panel:

The sounds of the camera, the pop of light, the whine of the flashes as they recharge, the big beeps they make to indicate they’re ready to go, someone’s voice saying “look at me! look at me! stay! stay!” …. it’s a lot for a dog to hear and see. But Suki’s pretty used to it now.  In fact, she gets bored and sleepy after a while:

But hey, the final week 11 shot was worth the trouble, right Suki?!

Camera: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC and Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8

Suki’s Scarf: The outtakes

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The 52 week flickr project I’m doing about Suki only allows for one photo a week of course. This means that every week I usually have several outtake images that weren’t selected for the project. Today’s post features some outtakes from week 8 of 52.

We have this little pink scarf that fits perfectly on Suki. I’ve taken pictures with her wearing it before, but I just had to include a shot of her with it on for the project. These images were taken after she played around all afternoon at a local dog park this past Sunday. We started walking around the neighborhood after visiting the park, and at one point we just stopped on the sidewalk and started shooting.

Lighting is pretty simple here. One off camera SB-900 triggered by the on camera pop-up, gelled orange and shooting through a lastolite tri-grip diffuser. It was so dark out that manual exposure was necessary.

Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 (varying focal lengths) ISO640 1/30 Second

Super Suki

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Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/4 ISO640 1/25 second

The sun is still setting too early this time of year, so any portraits involving the sun after I get off work require that I hustle to beat the rapidly falling light. I barely made it to the beach in time for a series of photos of Suki at the beach. I love the way the clouds sweep in the direction Suki is looking. It’s really hard to take a bad photo of this dog!

Needless to say, I got a lot of sand on me… sand that inevitably ended up on my camera, which is why I was really grateful that my camera has environmental sealing. Whew!

From the time we arrived on the scene to the time we ran out of light was no longer than about 10 minutes, which was only enough time to get my camera out of my bag, figure out my exposure, and fire off a handful of frames. This is one that I particularly liked for its amazing backdrop. The other was posted on my flickr photostream for the 7th week of my 52 week project involving Suki.

Check out the other shot here!

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City Dog

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Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Post in Lightroom 3 Beta and Photoshop CS4

For my 52 week photographic project about Suki, I want to include images that tell a story about her life. I’m hoping viewers will see her personality and get a sense of the environments she encounters from day-to-day. This premise spawned the idea for my latest image on Flickr in this series. I’ve lived in big cities all my life, and I wanted to show that the city is Suki’s domain as well.

The final image for the project was harder to capture than it likely looks, probably harder for my light stand (wife) than me, as she needed to instruct Suki on what to do, light her correctly, and keep the flash unit from going into standby all at the same time. Definitely not as easy as working with a human subject!

You don’t have to look far to find urban artwork in the city. This entire building was covered in it, and I would have loved to use other portions of the art as well, but we couldn’t spend too much time on the shoot. Suki might have lost her patience! Nevertheless, the art made an awesome background to convey Suki’s urban life. We got a lot of smiles from passerby, and a few of them found their way into my outtakes.

Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/125 Second

The shot above was initially a test image to see what my flashes were up to and get a good starting point for the shoot. I ended up liking it….in a goofy kind of way. The the shot at the top of this post is the first image I’ve heavily post-processed in a while. I was going for that cross-processed look, and I really like how it turned out.

The pose in the image I posted to the project was all Suki’s doing. I was really close to her with my Tokina 11-16, and she suddenly did a “down” on all fours (like the first image in this post). I fired away. Looking at the LCD, I grinned from ear to ear:

“We got it!”

Suki got an extra helping of treats.

Please see the final image on flickr: Click Here

Dealing with “Quick Blinkers”

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Oops! Blinked!

One thing I’ve noticed in photographing Suki using flash: She’s a quick blinker! She has her eyes closed in countless photos I’ve taken of her using my speedlights. On one recent evening I was trying to get a shot of her face using an off-camera strobe, and her eyes were closed up in every single shot. What to do?

When using Nikon’s speedlights in i-TTL mode, whether hot-shoe’d to the camera or fired off-camera through Nikon CLS, the flash will fire a monitor pre-flash when the shutter button is pressed. The camera uses this pre-flash to analyze things like color and reflectance on the subject, and based on what it sees through the lens, it will then send instructions wirelessly to the off-camera speedlight(s) on how it should fire during the exposure.

If your subject is a quick blinker, however, these pre-flashes can pose a problem for you. If he/she blinks in reaction to the pre-exposure flash, their eyes could still be closed during the actual exposure! This is where FV lock can be handy.

FV lock, or Flash Value lock, allows you to initiate the monitor pre-flash yourself, separate from the entire exposure sequence. I have this feature assigned to one of the programmable buttons on my D300s. I simply frame the shot, hit the button, and the flash fires while the camera’s meter reads the scene. Suki blinks, but it doesn’t matter, because I haven’t taken the picture yet. I’ve just let the camera decide what it’s going to do with the remote flash. Now when I hit the shutter button, the camera skips firing the monitor pre-flash and uses the data it already collected from using FV lock to command the remote flash to fire. I can now get light on Suki before she has a chance to blink!

Problem Solved!   –   Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8  -

Once activated, FV lock will lock in the determined flash exposure value in the camera until you either power-off the camera, activate FV lock again, or allow the camera’s meter to shut off.