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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Nigel and Me….

Apr 11

In Advice, Lighting, Thoughts at 7:19am

When Nigel gets hungry, he won’t let me work. He’ll just come up to my laptop and rumble and purr and generally get all sorts of adorable. If that doesn’t work he just starts walking back and forth in front of my computer screen, stepping on random keys. Last week he sent an email to 7 people at the National Geographic. Had to finish that one quick and follow up, lest the venerable editors there thought I had resorted to incomplete sentences with no sign off.


I am using the pop up on the D300 in commander mode.
Leaving the USA on Sunday.
I have (3) SB 800’s, D300 and I am lost….
What I know.
1. Can set them up to all fire wireless using the pop up flash on the D300
What I don’t know or what is the step by step (SB 800 for dummies) how to set up one to use as fill, add power to one less power to one,etc…
I see in the D300 to do this, ok. But to navigate thru the SB800 back and the manual. I just don’t get it……..I write this after 10 t o 12 hours and $20 in batteries. I read the strobist,etc,,,,,,,.
Do anyone know of a blog, book, web site that can give a picture and tell or plain simple (remember SB 800 for dummies) to help me??
A quick response is most welcomed.
Simple in Kentucky

Okay….here we go, as best help as I can be. First off, on the SB 800, if you ever get totally lost, simultaneously depress the mode, and the on/off button and keep ’em depressed for like 3 seconds. The unit factory defaults back to a straight up TTL setting. Can’t tell you how many times that has saved my butt.

The key to the SB800 programming is the SEL dial in the middle of the back of the unit. Depress that for 3 seconds and you’ll get a 4 box grid. (Don’t do this with gloves on. You’ll just mash away and the unit will do nothing. Get your digit square onto that puppy and push.) Toggle right to the upper right box with squiggle lines and flash symbols. Very artful.

Tap SEL again for a split second and the up/down cursor arrow goes live. You can go through options here, and the ones you are concerned with are MASTER and REMOTE, presumably the latter cause you have the pop up in the D300. Toggle down and highlight REMOTE. Depress SEL again for 3 seconds and the REMOTE info panel comes up in the lcd. It says REMOTE in capital letters. You know when you are there. Upper left is channels–double check this against your setting in the pop up. You gotta be on the same channel. Hit SEL again and you highlight the groups box in lower right. A-B-C. You got three flashes, so choice of group is up to you and where you position them. (Note!!!! Just got this straight from Pete Wilkinson below–no C group with the D300!)

Now check your pop up menu. Go to custom option for built in flash…comes up usually as active in the TTL mode. Toggle down to Commander mode. Toggle right. Commander mode comes up, and the pop up is active as a flash, which I will presume you don’t want. (Why would you go to all this trouble and still have the damn pop up active, which is the size of a dime and gives out just as cheap a quality of light? Dunno, except as maybe you put it to minus 3 EV and use is as a wink light fill type deal.)

I digress. Highlight the little box that says TTL. Then toggle downwards ( I believe it is downwards, I don’t own a D300.) You will run through the options, including auto mode, and manual, and then you get to a flat cursor. Ta Da! The pop up is now off as a flash. Will still act as a commander, and still flash. But the flash is a monitor pre-flash, an informational burst of light that occurs milliseconds before the real exposure. Don’t sweat it. It is not gonna register in your real exposure.

Then just zip through with the toggles to A , B or C groups, making sure they are reading TTL. The box to the right is the plus/minus EV area, with you can dial in to your desire. That will drive the power rating of the SB800 remote strobe you just programmed. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PROGRAM A VALUE INTO THE 800 UNIT ITSELF. IT GETS IT’S COMMANDS FROM THE POP UP PROGRAMMING YOU HAVE JUST SET UP! You don’t have to do anything else to the SB800 except make sure the receptor dish is unobstructed. that is the little recessed circular area about the size of an M&M right near the battery chamber. If you use the 5th battery add on chamber, be aware you are cutting the angle of reception this sensor has access to, and therefore may occasionally have trouble tripping it. If I am ever feeling like the remote is in a tough spot to receive the master signal from the pop up, I take the 5th battery chamber off so the sensor’s field of view is clearer.

Make sure when you program the pop up commander menu, you hit OK on the back of the camera. If you don’t, when you close out the menu option, all the settings you just programmed will disappear. Sucks. So remember to hit OK.

OK? Helpful on any level?

As far as arraying the units, and then dialing them in for power settings, I can’t say cause I ain’t there with you. I can say it is a game of ratios, or levels, and it all works depending on your eye. There is no right or wrong answer. Just a couple things to remember. Light has a logic. If the unit looks like it is too far to the side, your subject will be side lit. Try not to open up everything with light. Leave room for shadows. Try to reflect the units off of or through something. Remember, these are small flashes, and the game is to get them to behave like big flashes.


The Nikkor 200 f2 is maybe the sharpest telephoto I have ever used. That’s basically it. And, at f2, the DOF drop off is occasionally really pleasing for portraiture.

Kino Flow Lights….Drug a pair of them out to location the other day. Wanted to see what all the fuss was about, as they are very popular lights indeed right about now. Had a good time, but nothing magical happened. You can see the light, and the quality, to be sure, and that is handy. Kind of missed the pop of a strobe, and the little bird chirp of the recycle though. Small things keep me happy, I guess. Used one 4 tube kino flow on Rick here. Didn’t use both of them cause one didn’t work. Welcome to location shooting. My subject was Rick, who has just an amazing face, and an amazing history.

Kelby Training Online

Jan 26

In Advice, Links, Tips & Tricks at 11:18am

Kelby Training Online

I’ve been doing these training videos on location light for my buddy Scott Kelby. They’ve been a ton of fun to do and, at first glance, I’m even mildly coherent. Click here to preview the lessons and site. If you can get past my visual appearance (hump, twitch in the left eye, constant drooling), there’s a fair amount of ground we cover about lighting both in the studio and on location, and using both large strobes and small, hot shoe flashes.


Ballerina at the BeachFirst one is up, and I take a look at light shaping tools from umbrellas (shoot through, reflected), to large and small softboxes, direction of light, methods of softening the light to achieve a good portrait look, to using a second strobe to provide fill and a bit of glamour. We chew through a bunch of stuff in the studio, some times being successful, and sometimes not, making adjustments, trying different stuff, even a quick ring light set, and then at the end of the day, real time, chasing the fading sunset, we do a seat of the pants strobe set on the beach with Jennifer Concepcion, a truly magnificent ballerina.

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