Ok I have a confession to make: "Um … hello everyone, my name is Jonathan and uh … I’m a strobe junkie" I admit it: I never leave the office without a strobe be it one of my SB-800’s, my case of 4 SB-26’s for tricky location lighting or my big azz case with my monolights; I always have a strobe with me. I don’t always use them but they can be such problem solvers that it is just a smart thing to have. Even a bit of fill light can turn a bad lighting situation into something rather usable. Then there is the constant problem of walking into your location and seeing how boring and ugly it is but with a liberal application of lighting and voila! … it’s rather nice. I have always been in two camps with strobe: 1) TTL either on camera or with a TTL cord or 2) fully manual control with the strobes synched via Pocket Wizard remotes. I’ve had the SB-800 units for a while and knew that their wireless TTL system worked well and have done some quickie portraits with them but I have never used them out of the portrait realm. Until last night.
I had to photograph a 17 year old and his two adult team mates in a bar playing a computer trivia game. They are ranked #1 in the country so that’s cool but I knew going into it that it was likely to be 3 guys looking at a screen in low and poor light. I had a thought: maybe I could light them with my SB800’s to simulate the moody ambient light in the bar but have a usable exposure, i.e. not ISO1600 1/4 sec f/2.8. Instead I could shoot @ ISO 200 1/8 sec f/8. I had one strobe with a CTO gel on it and the other backed a stop down. Both were on those little plastic stands that come with the strobes – love em!
So the technicals are: Camera – Nikon D200, tungsten white balance, ISO200, Nikon AF-S 17-35 f/2.8 at 17mm, 1/8th sec f/8, two SB-800’s one with CTO gel at normal exposure and one controlled without gel at -1 exposure all controlled via Nikon CLS with the built in flash on the D200 acting as the commander with it’s exposure set to -2. This made the ambient go a bit blue from the window light and the non-gelled strobe going quite blue while the CTO strobe is "clean" due to the matching color balance setting. The setup looked like this:
This is not an amazing photo but it is making something out of nothing which is often what I have to do.
The lighting made for a more dynamic looking photo than the pitiful light in the place. Frankly I’ve never "studio-ized" a news assignment like this before since it meant that I had to put Pocket Wizards on my other strobes and that is often too much junk to carry around. I like to work fast and light whenever possible but I gotta say, the CLS system worked splendidly. Now I’m even MORE of a strobe junkie. Oh well!
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