The final word
Nikon’s radio-controlled flash technology frees you up to have fun, says Joe…
Joe McNally has fun with a few Speedlights he had kicking around the garage
There’s something about an old garage, an even older truck, an oxyacetylene torch-wielding dude and a bunch of tarnished, beaten up junk that makes you want to pull out the camera.
I don’t do landscapes very well. I go to sleep at the tripod. But put me in a garage like this and I’m like a kid in a candy store.
I’ve been especially giddy lately, ’cause I’m tackling things that would have been impossible with line-of-sight Speedlight technology. The SB-5000 radio TTL system makes this shot, well, not exactly a no-brainer, but something that is fun and challenging to put together, instead of frustrating and painful. In other words, I’m able to freely place and hide flashes wherever I want, and not have to make compromises to accommodate whether a remote flash can see the commander unit. And, I’ve got full TTL or manual control over exposure right at the camera.
Let’s take it in steps. Spike the camera. D5 with a 14-24mm on a heavy duty Gitzo. Notice the windows at the back. I’m cheating. Means there’s natural light back there and I can dial that up and down as a fill with shutter speed.
Light with a purpose, piece by piece. Main light for subject, fill light for subject. Light (s) for engine compartment. Light for front grill work. Rim light for the left side of vehicle. Red gelled light for simulated tail light. Put light in prop work lamp, and run the work lamp cord up to a boom perched on a high roller. Make sure all these lights are gelled warm. Put in backlight. Blast it at your subject’s backside, but soften it with a blow of smoke. Define the far wall below the windows with flashes washing upwards from a low position. Put a rim light off the work light, camera right, to give the right side of the photo a bit of lift and separation. I’ve never described a Speedlight as a brassiere before, but there you go.
Below is the road map, a sort of Rube Goldberg map, of our day in the field. The lighting is actually remarkably simple, in a way. There are only two light shapers – an Ezy Box Hot Shoe Softbox, and a Lastolite Speedlight box. Everything else is just a raw light, some with dome diffusers, others zoomed to control spread. There are gels on virtually every light, mostly CTO. But that’s it. Two light shapers, over and under. The rest of the time I’m just splashing light here and there and seeing how it looks…
IN NEXT ISSUE: more light-shapin g advice from joe