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Archive for May, 2008

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.

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

May 3

In Seminars & Workshops at 1:57pm


You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of light, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of pixels and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into…the Dubai Zone.

Dubai. This just may be the final frontier, indeed. It is 3 parts Vegas, one part planet Tatooine, and 6 parts oil money. Mix in a pantload of concrete and rebar, every luxury brand name store in the world, some very gracious people, a rampant interest in digital photography, one of the best faculties I’ve ever been honored to be associated with, and BOOM! Gulf Photo Plus springs up out of the desert heat right along with the skyscrapers.

(I realize in the first 10 sentences I’ve just mixed up together a whole bunch of sci-fi adventures.)

This is an amazing group of instructors. I mean out there. And the best part has been, even though we have been working hard, we’ve been able to hang a bit, too. You know, like hang out, like at the neighborhood bar. Except in Dubai, one of the neighborhood bars just happens to be the Skybar at the Burj Al Arab, touted as the finest hotel in the world, possessor of seven stars, and a monument to reserve and understatement. David Hobby, the wonderful, over the top genius of strobe, and Chase Jarvis, photographic visionary with an incredibly open and giving spirit, above, are just about to beam out of the bar and back to the planet earth, where presumably you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy a beer. (Note to Kraj Diesel…I would not buy you Johnny Walker Blue here!)

So if the Burj is so frikkin’ fancy, why’d they let us in? Thanks to Mohammed Somji, who worked a connection, they let about 15 ragtag photogs and friends in the joint. I’m sure today a memo went around banning point and shoots.

More tk.