Small Flashes Love Dreary Weather

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

Nikon D700 | Nikkor AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II

22 thoughts on “Small Flashes Love Dreary Weather

  1. Excellent shots, Jonathan. I enjoyed the commentary and the descriptions to go along. I especially like that first shot of the bride, she just pops from the background so well.

  2. wow dude — you are seriously impressive with your knowledge of lighting and flashes. these pics came out excellent — i never would have guessed you had any problem with lighting or the weather! great job.

    1. Didn’t really use any of the more dramatic methods I took away from Flash Bus actually. This was a pretty basic lighting setup…but don’t fear your flash! It’s not as difficult to learn as many think =)

  3. With everything happening around you, you accomplished something most people would have given up on. You did an incredible job in my opinion. I love how the shots came out. Very picture-esque.

  4. I do fear my flash! You did a wonderful job here!

    BTW, is it me or did you disappear from facebook and instagram???? I remember coming across a link to this post on facebook, but when I tried to look for it, I couldn’t find it!

    1. It’s just you….

      Kidding! Yeah, I don’t have a personal facebook page anymore, though my FB photography page remains. My instagram account is still there, though I wiped it clean and am (temporarily?) taking a break from it. I started to feel like I had my hand in too many networks, which for some people(me!) can be kinda distracting/time consuming. Cutting a few things out seemed like the right thing to do…though admittedly, I’m having pretty bad instagram withdrawal o_O

      1. i’ve missed your uploads! but i totally can relate to what you’re saying. that’s why i haven’t been on flickr. will check back here for you new stuff then 🙂 have a great weekend with bridget!

  5. you are such a PRO Jonathan!! I love all of the photos and the lighting is just fantastic! To do all of this in 20 minutes (including lighting set up) just shows how you can take a stressful situation in a calm way and deliver expert results. Kudos to you!!

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