A fence is just a fence….unless you have an SB-800.
Flash has always been painful, right? Especially painful in the cold. Really, really painful in the kind of cold that exists in Yellowstone National Park in January. Batteries dying, trying to meter the sky, meter the flash, meter your diminishing heart rate…
Now we have wireless strobe! Pretty fancy stuff. Cameras and strobes keep talking to each other, even when you can’t say a bloody thing cause your teeth are chattering like Carmen Miranda’s castanets.
I shot this first pic available light, straight up, on a D3 with a 14-24mm lens. No big deal. D3 meter handled Yellowstone severity with aplomb, taking in extreme highlights, bleached white snowscapes, steam, and hot flaring sun with no exposure compensation dialed in. I mean that. I think I touched my EV button once during the 4 day shoot. The dynamic range and the metering system of the camera is astounding. Okay, the camera’s working, but my eyes are not. Blah, blah, blah. Cool fence but flat light. My first frame has all the punch and verve of C-Span. But it’s late in the day, and the sun has set off to camera right. With the last of my unfrozen synapses firing, I think, what if I could make the sun come back?
I slapped a full cut of CTO (amber gel) on the flash, turning it the color
of a bedroom lamp. Warm light. The color of the sunset. Problem was, I left my dome diffuser on, which scatters the light (with that puppy on there, the SB 800 stays at it’s widest zoom (14mm) and light goes everywhere. Look at this second pic. Light’s spilling and sloshing and because the strobe is camera right, close to a white snow fence, creating strong lines of white highlight which pulls the eye to the edge of the pic and then, bye-bye! I might as well have put up a highway sign–EXIT PHOTO HERE.
Took off Mr. Dome Diffuser and zoomed the flash to 105mm giving the light a hot core, not something you ordinarily seek, but appropriate here. The edges fall off dramatically, and maybe, just maybe, dear reader stays with my fence for a nanosecond longer than they might have before they click back to streaming video of WWE.
A little light up front, and now I’ve got a lever over the sky tonality. Pulled that down by a stop (-1 EV), and dialed a little more power to the flash and made three frames. Ran this through Nikon Capture NX (more on that puppy in the future) and it’s done. Really happy for the wireless control features here, cause that heated van back at the parking lot was looking real good and the wireless deal got me back in there a lot quicker than working with, say, a Norman 200B or some older strobe system that I started off in the business with and would now be the rough equivalent of striking two rocks together to make sparks. (“Joe make fire!”)
Why was I in Yellowstone? DLWS! My dear friend and iconic shooter Moose Peterson invited me along on his road tour of nature a couple years ago despite my having zero (and I do mean zero) credentials as landscape photographer. (I mean, at first I was suspicious, ya know? Thought they were enticing the city kid out into the wilderness where I could be bear bait… “Here Joe, just hold this rack of lamb and we’ll be over in the bushes with a six hundred!”) I come along and teach lighting and portraiture, and try to learn the myriad ways of Photoshop, and photographing the natural world.
It’s cool, and the Digital Landscape Workshop Series is hands down one of the best educational photo experiences on the planet. Plus, Moose and his wife Sharon, Laurie Excell, Kevin Dobler, Joe Sliger, Josh Bradley and Brad Moore, excellent shooters all, share the same mildly bent (in Sliger’s case, seriously bent) sense of humor and love of photography. It’s cool, doubly so when you go to Yellowstone in frikkin’ January. I mean the scenery is so spectacular even I feel like Ansel.