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Basic Dubai Shooting Kit: Hi Speed Sync & a Hoodman Loupe

May 7

In Lighting at 6:28am

Just back from the Middle East, Spain and Italy in reverse order. Up at 4:30. Time for lunch!

Got some blogs and bits and pieces coming from the trip. David Hobby and I threw together a desert shoot at the last minute that mixed in a bunch of SB 800 units, one lovely lady from the Czech Republic, a makeup artist from China, an assistant from India, two wild and crazy desert drivers manning Land Cruisers, a bunch of camel dung, and, when it comes to David and I, two overcooked imaginations that could only be produced by hours and hours in detention hall.

That’s David on the 50 cal! They were closing in! We were low on ammo and fuel! We went to SU-4 mode on the SB units!

Really dating myself here, of course. The Rat Patrol ran for two seasons back in the (gulp) 60’s. Funny what sticks in your head. I mean, you know, my head. Oh, well…..more tk on the adventures in the dunes.

The sun in Dubai obviously kicks your ass on a regular basis. Comes up big and nasty. It’s a good opp to explore Auto FP Hi Speed Sync. (Say that 10 times really fast.) I’m guessing (and could be real wrong, here) it’s a mode many folks don’t pay a lot of attention to, especially when trying to get acquainted with other, slightly less exotic features of the SB flash. You’ll see it come up in the back lcd panel, next to TTL and BL settings.

“FP” refers to focal plane shutter, and what happens in hi speed sync mode is the flash pulses through the slits of the shutter, and essentially stays “on” for the duration of the exposure. Thus the entire scene sees the flash as the shutter travels, and you don’t get that black slash of unexposed area that you would traditionally see when you exceeded the standard upper level of flash sync speed on the camera, which nowadays is commonly 1/250th. In the Nikon system, you can permanently enable the Auto FP feature by going into the custom menu under “bracketing/flash” and seek out the flash sync speed option. Move the camera into 1/250s(AutoFP). That’s it. You can tell it’s enabled when you look at the flash sync speed option in the menu and you can see a tiny asterisk there. Boom, you’re good to go.

So here’s the catch. (Hey, it’s photography, there’s always a catch.) You lose power. To make this hi speed sync deal work properly, you gotta move the strobes in close.

The specs on the above read out at 1/8000 sec at f4. The lights are slightly back of the subject, the ever cool Salim, giving him a hot rim of light, and skipping some angle of incidence/angle of reflection highlights off his form. Think of it as playing air hockey with the light.

Here’s the lighting rig. Turned and caught a local soccer team wandering through our set.

A closer look involves Sid, our Gulf Photo Plus assistant, doing the old make believe you’re adjusting the light deal. “Not you, henchman holding wrench. Not you, henchman arbitrarily turning knobs, making it seem like you’re doing something.”

Why multiple flashes? If you can gang ’em, they will compensate for the loss of power. That, along with closeness of the light sources to the subject, definitely helps. You can pull more power of course by yanking off the dome diffusers, and zooming the throw on the strobes from wide angle to 105mm. That gets you some extra punch.

Of course you can do it with just one direction to the light as well.

Zied here looks like he’s levitating effortlessly. Only indicator he’s traveling upwards off a trampoline is the up kick of the tag on his swim suit. Was looking here to fly him by the sun, and would have wanted one of those Arabian sunsets we have all read about, but never got one. The dust and the haze gave this sunset all the pizzazz and energy of a turd that just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass. So I hyped it a bit in Capture NX, and pulled in a small amount of color.

And of course, wouldn’t have known what the hell I was getting without the Hoodman Loupe. Essential for blazing light conditions like this. In fact, it’s just plain essential. Goes with me everywhere now.

More tk.

Christof says:

on May 7, 2008 at 6:52 am

Wow! That’s so cool… Have to make an investment plan for a couple of strobes and stands… Awesome!

Joebob says:

on May 7, 2008 at 7:57 am

Clearly, with all those SB-800’s you must be sleeping with a Nikon Rep!


Mark K_NJ says:

on May 7, 2008 at 9:03 am

Camel dung…ah! The life of a pro shooter!

Welcome home…if, in fact, you’re back.

Andriy says:

on May 7, 2008 at 9:06 am

That’s some crazy setup! Do you use heavy lightstands for those multi-flash racks? They don’t look very steady on the pic, I guess sand really helps here but what to do on hard pavement?

Mike Jandavs says:

on May 7, 2008 at 9:51 am

Wow. The last pic is amazing. Actually, so is the first. I wish I could afford all those SB-800, better yet, the batteries to go with them. Ouch! Amazing stuff as always.

Ken says:

on May 7, 2008 at 10:11 am

Hello Joe,

Love this blog. Been using these 3 SB800’s now for 3 weeks after your teaching at Kelby training. Your Dubai shoot really helps me. Thanks.

One of the emirs from Dubai has a horse farm in my home town in Kentucky. He comes trotting in, in his personal 747. Quite a sight to see. I understand his personal photographer for his horses is from England.

I did a shoot using two of the SB800’s at a religious fund raiser last week I was not to satisfied but it was my fault not the SB800’s. If was a run and gun shoot.

On a lighter note, I blamed you and kelby for my $3,000 dollar garden that my wife dislikes. (can you blame her) If you want to see the mess I made in my garden. Well………..picture worth a 1000 words

Affectionately SB800

Ken from KY

Danger Girl says:

on May 7, 2008 at 11:10 am

“giving him a hot rim of light” sounds kinda kinky. I like it.

Ian Butterworth says:

on May 7, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I know what you mean by crappy light of the sunsets. Too much dust in the air. I’ve got the same problem here in Kuwait. Look forward to some cool sunset but it disappoints. Here’s a recent example: In this case I lucked out and found a few camels with their young Bangladeshi herder enjoying some tree leaves.

Michael Sebastian says:

on May 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm

The Rat Patrol–one of my all-time favorite TV series. Christopher George, the jut-jawed tough-guy man of action givin’ it to the Nazis at every turn. As I recall, it was one of those Quinn Martin Productions, so after each commercial it was Act I, Act II, etc, all the way to the Epilogue–like it was Shakespeare or something….And occasionally his hottie blonde 60’s-hair wife, Linda Day George, got a part and showed up as a Mata Hari spy or something. What a hoot.

Anyway, I’ve digressed. Great shoot; great trip–I’m jealous. I read the post from Ken in Kentucky about the Emir and his horse farm–I live on the other end of I-64 in Louisville, and I can vouch for what Ken says! You should be so lucky as to be reincarnated as the Emir’s horse–preferably his stallion! :)

Mike (Way Too Much Childhood TV) S. from The Other Part of Kentucky

tony says:

on May 7, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Damn that’s a lot of light!

Jerry Hoare says:

on May 8, 2008 at 8:53 am

Hey, Joe, I not only remember Rat Patrol but also Firesign Theater. And I still have welts on my ass from my parochial education with the Irish Christian Brothers. Brothers? Indeed.

Michael S. says:

on May 8, 2008 at 10:25 am

Just gotta tell you how I look forward to your posts….1 part information, 1 part beautiful imagery, and 1 part absolute comedy…an excellent recipe. I savor all the ingredients! Keep up the posts! :)

Michael S.

Fabiano says:

on May 8, 2008 at 11:16 am

thats almost a new solar system…the guys head is the sun when the flashes go off….

fp says:

on May 8, 2008 at 2:32 pm

That’s an amazing portable lighting package… do i see 10 SB-800s? and what diffuser? omnibounce?

Steve Walker says:

on May 9, 2008 at 7:59 am

Great shoot.

As for Rat Patrol, I remember watching reruns in 1970 (I was 7). I can still hum the theme song, is that sad or what?

Kyle Barnett says:

on May 9, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Hey Joe did you see how they pimped your book yet? Its great! :)

Matt B says:

on May 12, 2008 at 7:54 am

Hey Joe, recently discovered your blog and enjoying your travels/tips, etc. Also just discovered you used the lake pic of our group at the Maine workshops on page 176 of The Moment it Clicks! (That’s me on your right elbow). I have such fond memories of that week (don’t remember signing a model release, though ;-). Great book/blog. Keep up the good work.


Matt (in the UK)

David Apeji says:

on May 12, 2008 at 8:33 am

It was an honor and a privilege meeting you at Gulf Photo Plus. I am still amazed at how much I learned in such a short time. The beach shoot was amazing.

Shawn says:

on May 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

So when will you put together a workshop? Maybe help those of us on the dark side, (Canon).

Oliver says:

on May 13, 2008 at 2:48 am

Where is the lovely lady? :)

Big BAD Benny says:

on May 19, 2008 at 3:45 am

Hoodman rocks!
Also the Loupe can be used as a snoot or gobo projector, attached to the front of an SB… :-)

carlos says:

on May 21, 2008 at 8:48 am

Dude! I think I watched every episode of Rat Patrol…….

Late to the party, but I had to acknowledge the Rat Patrol reference.

Kfz Versicherung says:

on October 5, 2008 at 3:03 am

I have bookmarked this informativ site. Thanks Kfz Versicherung

Rob says:

on November 17, 2008 at 2:30 am

Rat Patrol rocks! I feel bad for all he heat in Dubai though.

Eliot Baker says:

on September 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm

nice shot

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