Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘off camera

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

Behind the Scenes

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This week’s project shot of Suki was pretty difficult. I didn’t have any time to take the shot all week, and this holiday weekend has been booked with activity. Finally had some free time in the afternoon this Sunday, and a bunch of friends wanted to get together for some hiking. So we decided to bring Suki along, and figured we’d get a shot of her while on the trail. Well, we got to the end of the trail, and I still had nothing! So I handed an SB-900 to my cousin, and took an impromptu, dramatically lit shot of Suki for week 21 of 52. See the final image on my Flickr page.

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Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 135mm f/18 ISO100 1/320 Second // SB-900 gelled warm, TTL, +2.0EV

Written by Jonathan

May 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Nomar

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This weekend I did a little photo session at a friend’s house. They have a little 14 month old boy named Nomar. He’s adorable, has a great personality, and we had a lot of fun. Bringing Nomar’s favorite toy, a little Luigi, made him a very cheerful little guy, and really helped during the shoot.

He and his mom photograph really well! For the more “formal” family shots on the couch, I used a 3′ by 3′  Lastolite skylite panel  on a C-stand, with two speedlights firing through it. A reflector on the floor gave some fill from below.

Nomar was even goofier when with his Dad, mostly because mommy was behind me making him laugh. He seemed to be really fascinated by my camera too.

Of course, his Dad knew how to make sure he had a blast during the session too. I used the skylite panel and a tri-grip diffuser over the window to soften the harsh light for the natural light photos.

I thought it was pretty cool that father and son had matching outfits. Very cool!

Nomar’s other favorite toy besides a plush Luigi? His mother’s cell phone!

Don’t break it now!

In all, I have about 80-90 photos ready for the family, which I’m still processing. These are a few “previews” from the shoot. So much work to do!

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Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, Tokina 50-135 f/2.8, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

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.