Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Someone recently noticed the ludicrous amount of spices I have and asked me why I have so many. My reply, in short, was "can you ever really have too many?" That's pretty much the way I feel about my collection of photography equipment as well.
Most of the stuff I have may seem like overkill, but honestly, I use just about every piece of equipment I have on a regular basis. That being said, I don't always use everything I have all at once, but if the need arises, I'm prepared for the situation. Having so many duplicates of things may seem like overkill to some, but actually, having exact duplicates of things I use on a regular basis just acts as an insurance policy. If a particular piece of hardware breaks, if batteries die, if a stand gets driven over by a TARC bus and so on and so forth, I can simply grab a replacement and keep shooting.
With flashes in particular, its important to have at least two of the exact same type. If you're shooting on location, and for whatever reason one stops working, its nice (not to mention efficient) to be able to grab another one and keep shooting. Ask any wedding photographer, location photographer or even a studio photographer and I can bet you most of them have backups of everything they regularly use.
I took the above shot for a project in my girlfriend's Flickr group called the Artist's Eyes. The project was to take a photo of something that defines who you are. Since I'm sorta notoriously known for hefting around a truck load of speed lights and gear whenever I go out and shoot, I thought this shot seemed appropriate.
However, I can't take credit for the idea as it is actually my attempt at duplicating a shot I saw in Joe McNally's latest book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes. I don't have nearly the amount of cool techy stuff that he does, nor the skill to represent it so stylishly as he did, but I liked it and wanted to try it out for my self.
While the shot might look difficult, it actually couldn't be simpler. I dialed in an aperture that I thought would give me the best depth of field for the shot. Then I adjusted my shutter speed to get an even exposure according to my D300's built in sensor, then dropped that shutter speed a few stops below that to under expose it just a bit.
I set my on camera pop-up flash to commander mode and "--" which means it won't contribute any light to the shot, it will just trigger the other flashes. Then I set all of the flashes (a mix of SB-800s and SB-600s) to TTL in camera on group A. I also made sure to position the sensor on each flash so that it would see the signal from my pop up flash. I then arranged the flashes in a manner that would light the entire area fairly evenly and took a test shot.
BING! All of the flashes fired and gave a pretty good even dispersal of light but I thought I could use just a little more fill light, so I placed another SB-600 out of frame camera left, and pointed it towards the ceiling. I set this flash to manual, at 1/8 power and group B. By using a different group than the lights in the shot, I could control the different output of my lights in the shot, and my fill light from my camera. Then I took another test shot...
Almost there! It still looks just a tad bit dark for my taste, so rather than adjust any of the flashes in the shot, I dialed +0.7 compensation on the camera which is a global setting affecting the flash and the camera exposure. This made the scene just a little brighter with just an adjustment in camera.
The final specs: f/11 at 1/5 sec ISO 400. I also used a tripod on this, but with all of the flashes, I could have just as easily hand held it.
This seems like a much lengthier process in writing than it really is. Actually taking the shot only took about 5 minutes. Organizing everything for the shot took a little more time than that. =)