Anybody that reads this blog should already know that most of the stuff I shoot, happens to be shot with Nikon or Canon Speedlights.  It’s not secret.  While I’m not David Hobby, or Joe Effin McNally I have started to get a name for using the speedlight systems for more than just on camera paparazzi type stuff.  Some of you may recall they did their big Flashbus tour earlier this year, and while this could be construed as similar it wasn’t really in quite a few ways.  While I did have a camera tethered to my laptop tied to a projector so people could see the epic mistakes for the first time with me, this was much more seat of the pants and crowd driven.  The people picked the volunteers, and told me how they wanted things to be lit.

(Nikon D3s, 200ISO,Nikon 28-70F2.8@65mm, 1/20th@F5.  Single SB-900 Speedlight set to 1/16th power shot through a 16″ RPS Studios Softbox about 4′ off camera right. Speedlight fired by a Pocket WIzard Flex TT5 unit, from a Pocket Wizard Flex TT1 unit on the camera with a Nikon SU-800 attached.)

That’s Al.  He’ happened to be sitting in the front Row and Joe Konz, who happened to be assisting me, picked him as a volunteer/victim.  This was probably about an hour in, after we’d talked about different light modifiers and how they differ from just having a flash on top of the camera set to epic.  We actually even used the Manual from a DVD player as a bounce card for fill on a frame.  The motivation here was for Al to be looking at some of the artwork on the wall (the artwork really being my 16″ RPS Studios softbox).  The projector was a bit more contrasty than the laptop screen, but that happens and everybody took a minute to check out the Laptop screen at the end where the images were put on slideshow for people to see.  The really interesting part of the demonstration happened later when I opened up the floor completely for volunteers to decide who, how and what shot was going to be made.

The group was made up of about 50-60 people (some said as many as 75, but I can’t count that high so I can’t verify the number).  Everybody had their own thoughts which a few were very eager to voice.  This young lady was chosen by the crowd to be an artist in the gallery working on some sort of…..well…….art…

That shot is relatively close to ambient light, which later we discovered was 800ISO 1/25th at F1.4.  This one was a bit brighter, but there’s also a speedlight in an umbrella firing in some unknown direction not far away to give a little light on her.   Took this shot to show the crowd what was up, and how I saw it from my point of view.  Nothing more. The crowd then decided we needed to show this artist (who shall only remain nameless because I can’t remember her name), in her artistic environment.  That environment needed to be edgy.  So we walked through this process step by step, as to how I would light this if I was shooting it for a Magazine. This is what we came up with…

(Nikon D3s, 200ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/200th@F2.  Nikon SB900 Speedlight zoomed out to 24mm set to 1/32nd power to camera right shot through a 16″ RPS Studios soft box.  Nikon SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm Behind the model to the left of the camera on the edge of the frame set to 1/16th power.  Both speedlights fired by Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 transcievers from a Pocket Wizard TT1 on the camera with a Nikon SU-800 attached)

I left the light right at the edge of the frame because I felt as though the flare gave it more the impression that she was lighting her paper to draw.  This is the shot I would have chosen out of the four dozen or so that we shot of her.  While the crowed seemed to dig the effect they also requested a much different shot with a little green as kind of a kicker for separation…

(Nikon D3s, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8@65mm, 1/60th@F2.8.  Nikon SB900 Speedlight zoomed out to 24mm set to 1/16th power to camera right shot through a 16″ RPS Studios soft box.  Nikon SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm Behind the model to the left of the camera on the edge of the frame set to 1/8th power with a Tough Green Gel.  Both speedlights fired by Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 transceivers from a Pocket Wizard TT1 on the camera with a Nikon SU-800 attached)

You can decide which you like better, I think they are both very solid and usable frames; I just prefer the first one.  The crowd was pleased with what we had done, but then a guy named Jake asked a background lighting question and I decided myself that he was going to be the victim volunteer for the next frame.  He asked how I dealt with backgrounds that had no light to pull from, or what about during the day.  My answer was simple in that I’d just add a little light to create a more dynamic frame. I used the same green light that I already had set up in the previous shot to prove my point.

(Nikon D3s, 200ISO, Nikon AFS50mmF1.4G, 1/160th@F1.8.  Single Nikon SB800 set to 1/16th power reflected out of a collapsed umbrella above Luke to camera right, single SB900 Speedlight on the ground about 50′ back behind the crowed zoomed to 180mm set to 1/8th power right into the wall behind luke with that same Tough Green Gel as used before.  Both Speedlights triggered by Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 units from a on camera Flex TT1 unit with an attached Nikon SU-800 commander.)

Aside from Jake here being a little sunburnt I feel as though I should have shot this with the 85mm or the 70-200, but I was also informed moments before this shot was taken I had about 15 minutes to wrap it up so we could vacate the building.  Something about them closing and locking the doors for the night.  Who does that?  Either way, I ran with the 50mm which happened to be on the camera at the time.  I pulled a little red out of his face in Photoshop, but couldn’t do much more without making him look unnatural.  Sorry Jake, you’re sunburnt bud.  You were probably on a vacation enjoying a beach someplace and deserve it for not taking us with you though, so feel good about it.

It was a very good group to say the least.  Being on a 20′ radius to the computer was awkward as hell though.  I’ll have to research longer cables for if I am ever asked about doing something like this again.  Tomorrow I’m speaking at the Art Institute, which is also usually a good group.  Won’t be shooting tethered to the computer though, which will be nice.  The students there won’t have to see the plethora of shots it took to get the good ones, which will save me a bunch of time.  On second though though, I guess I do have two hours to fill……More Soon.