Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘speedlight

Shiba Royalty

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The Legion of Honor seemed like a fitting place to take Suki’s next image for my 52 week project. I attempted to post one of the images I made from this shoot to Flickr, but ran into a strange problem. Nearly an hour after uploading the photo, the image wouldn’t appear in my contacts’ home pages. I discovered this after noticing the unusually low amount of traffic on the photo after uploading it. After re-uploading the image a few times with no success, I gave up for the night. Maybe the issue will be resolved later and I can proceed as normal. Until then I’m holding off on uploading anything to Flickr.

You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but there were actually a lot of people standing around us during this shoot. Suki drew the attention of a lot of people, who crowded around and watched me photograph her. She’s quite the popular dog!

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 + SB-900 cam left, SB-800 on camera

Click here for the final version of the photo for my 52 week project!

Josh Visits SF!

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC + Hand Held SB-900 // 17mm f/14 ISO200 1/800 Second

I enjoyed a four day weekend for once this week, and got to spend time with my cousin, who flew in with friends from New York. We had a great time touring them around the city and taking lots of pictures, many of which are still sitting in my computer waiting to be processed! Now that I’m back at work I have so little time. The above picture is Josh on top of Twin Peaks, sporting a D90 and the original Tamron 17-50 that I sold him. It was great to get together and talk cameras, as I don’t have any other close buddies who are into photography!

Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-150mm f/2.8 at 50mm f/4  ISO200 1/250 second

Here’s Josh with his two buddies from NY (left) as well as other family members (right), enjoying a break from the frigid weather on the east coast. What’s up with the lollipops? They’re included with every sandwich you order from Ike’s Place, one of my favorite sandwich shops in SF. I have lots more images to upload, but it’ll have to wait. Josh is still in town!

I’ve added these images to my Portfolio. Check it out!

Suki’s Night Walks

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I take Suki on shorter walks during lunch, but we usually go for longer strolls at night. This particular walk was a little more difficult for me because I was hauling some camera gear on my shoulder while out on the town, but I wanted to get a nice night shot of Suki for my 52 week Flickr project. The image above didn’t quite make the cut as my selection for week 3 of the project.  I really like this shot of her, but the fact that it’s ever-so-slightly front-focused bothers me.

Someone on Flickr asked me if I took my latest shot of her using available city light. I was glad he asked, because that’s exactly how I wanted it to look! At this spot, there wasn’t nearly enough ambient to get this kind of image, so I used a couple of carefully placed, gelled speedlights to help me out.

At times I hear photographers complain that they don’t like the look of flash and and so they shy away from using it. I say they’re missing out! Perhaps when they’re referring to “the look of flash,” they mean the harsh, bare, unflattering light that comes straight from camera axis. But “artificial” light can be modified: softened, directed, colored, and controlled to achieve a desired look. Using it creatively opens up endless photographic opportunities that simply wouldn’t be possible by relying solely on the sun or the crummy light radiating from a street lamp.

So get to know your flash! It can take your photography to the next level.

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.

It’s Hard to Type with Paws

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 at 195mm f/8 ISO200 1/125 Second

What do I do when it storms too badly on the weekend to go out and I’m stuck indoors? Photograph stuff around the house, like Bo Bear here. Bridget wanted me to take a picture of him in his new red shirt that she bought for him at the Build a Bear store this past weekend. I figured, why not make it interesting and use a couple SB units to make a moody shot?

I placed two laptops on the coffee table in our living room, originally planning to make Bo look like a really busy, multi-tasking bear. The shot didn’t look right, so I just kept the second laptop out of the shot (to the left of the frame) and used it to bounce light towards the Bo from camera left. I gelled an SB-800 with a full CTO, attached a dome diffuser, and aimed it at the second laptop’s screen, which had a white piece of paper over it. This would act as a main light, set to TTL at -1/3EV. This main light is aimed at Bo Bear, but is also rotated to spill some light on the laptop he’s looking at, otherwise half of the frame would be a completely dark box.

Coming in high from camera left is a bare SB-900 zoomed to 200mm and set to manual (SU-4) at 1/128 power. The small kick of cooler light coming from the SB-900 puts a nice highlight to the upper rim of the laptop and also casts blue light on the left side of Bo Bear’s face, simulating the light that would come from the screen. The computer screen is active in this shot, but wasn’t putting out anywhere near enough light to create the effect. Both flashes were triggered via CLS using the D300s’ pop-up flash as a commander.

The rainy window behind Bo Bear and his laptop was actually throwing quite a bit of backlighting towards the camera because this shot was taken during the day time. I wanted more of a night-time, moody look to the shot, so I used a higher shutter speed to really underexpose the daylight in the background.

Written by Jonathan

December 12, 2009 at 11:53 pm

The Grip!

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Or as Joe McNally (my hero) would call it, “Da Grip.” One of the many things I learned from studying Joe’s work is a camera hand-holding technique that I’ve found to be very solid (above left). The shoulder makes a steady base for the camera to rest on top of and keeps the camera’s center of gravity close to the body. The left hand can brace the right hand for extra support, or can even roam free to hold an off camera speedlight. It’s a great technique if you want to get your flash off the hot shoe and create some directional light when you’re on the move, but there’s only one catch: you have to shoot left-eyed.

I’ve always naturally put my right eye up to the viewfinder, so it took some getting used to. But after forcing myself to use the technique for a while, using my left eye started to feel natural as well. The effort was worth it because once you lock the camera in the grip, you think “wow, this is rock-solid!” I’m pretty comfortable using either eye now. But one more thing is needed for this technique to work: a grip! What?

A battery grip, that is. Before very recently getting the MB-D10 battery grip for my D300s, I had trouble with “Da Grip.” Without it, the camera is not tall enough to rest on your shoulder and still get the viewfinder to your eye comfortably. The only solution is to raise your left shoulder, which makes it a less stable platform than when it’s relaxed.

I was hesitant about getting the MB-D10 for a while. It has, after all, turned my D300s into a giant, D3-sized monster. It’s also pretty expensive. But the added ergonomics, particularly when shooting in portrait orientation (above right), made it a worthwhile choice.

About the images above (a screen capture taken straight from Lightroom 3 Beta’s library module):

I took both of these shots in front of a mirror, which means I had to cover the pop-up flash in order to use it trigger the SB-900 I had off-camera, otherwise the commander pulse coming from the camera would have hit the glass and ruined the shot. So I used a hot shoe attachment that blocks the visible light coming from the pop-up but allows the infrared to pass right on through it, which the SB-900 can still see. It appears that some of the light bounced off of the back of this filter and hit me, however, heating up the right side of my face a little. I must say, the accessory looks a little goofy, especially in the image above right, where I look like some sort of weird cyborg.

So yesterday I had a day off (woohoo!). I spent the entire day with Suki and the camera (not the best combination if you want to concentrate on taking pictures), and we were all over the city! I look forward to uploading some images this weekend.

Written by Jonathan

December 4, 2009 at 10:54 am

Airplane Ears

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Airplane Ears

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6 ISO640 1/30 Second, SB-800 + SB-900

Here’s Suki sittin on her favorite spot in the house: a large leather chair in the living room (she doesn’t know it’s not hers, but we’ll let her keep assuming it is). Her ears seem to have minds of their own. They orient in so many different ways depending on what she’s doing. We call the position above “hikouki,” which in Japanese means airplane, because she gets them almost completely flat across the top of her head, like airplane wings. She’s such a funny girl.

For this shot, I had very little ambient light in the room. I used an SB-900 on a light stand behind me, aimed up at a spot on the far wall in back of me, camera right. I triggered it using a camera mounted SB-800 with it’s head oriented backwards to get the commander signal to the SB-900. A -1.0EV input in the camera made sure the dark areas of the frame stayed dark, while a +0.7EV setting on the flash made sure Suki was properly lit.


Written by Jonathan

November 6, 2009 at 7:50 am