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Seeing the Light

I’ve always been fascinated by light, you could say I’m a seeker of light. Without light we cannot practice our craft. Lets take a moment before we take the picture and see the light. Is the available light going to fulfill my creative vision? Often times I don’t have the luxury to shoot when the light is at it’s best. That’s when I ask myself can I use the light that is available and compliment it in some fashion to complete the image in my minds eye.

Recently I did and engagement shoot and came upon a cool location, tall prairie grass with the urban skyline of Chicago for a backdrop, awesome juxtaposition. The only challenge was the hot, direct sunlight. It was harsh! I made a few frames and knew I could do better. I thought to myself “I can light that.” Using some of that cool technology I used my Canon Speedlights to create the light I wanted using all the light available to me.

Take a look at the scene, tons of potential. I used my EOS 5D Mark II and a 14mm f/2.8 L Series lens, ISO 200, 1/200th second @ f/10.

I was photographing a beautiful couple with great energy, they loved the idea of the city in the prairie. I walked them carefully into the tall grass, didn’t want to mess up the garden.

Here is the first shot.

Same camera, same lens, same exposure. Nice, but it’s missing something. The image needs a little sparkle. A reflector would be awesome, but I’m working solo. It would be tough to hold the reflector in one hand and the camera in the other and keep the horizon straight. I tend to drift to left a little anyway, so it’s two hands on the camera for me.

I had my trusty Bogan Nano light stand and two Canon 580EX II Speedlights, I don’t leave home without at least two Speedlights. I dug into my ThinkTank Glass Taxi back pack and pulled out my Canon STE-2 wireless transmitter. Yikes, it’s too bright and I’m shooting right into the sun. Big bad sun, poor little optical transmitter, what to do. Radiopoppers to the rescue! Oh and I don’t leave home with those either!

Now we’re cooking with light. This is what I saw in my minds eye. Here’s the set up. The EOS 5D Mark II with the amazing 14mm f/2.8 lens, two 580EX II’s ganged together acting as one and the STE-2 along with Radiopopper transmitter and receivers. Hold one a tic, what’s ganged them together mean? I knew the sun was strong and one little 50 watt second Speedlight might be able to fill flash but I needed more wattage in the cottage. Using two Speedlights together in the same group will effectively give me 100 watt seconds of light, combine that with dare I say it, HIGH SPEED FLASH SYNC, and you can pull off that magazine look that you thought would take tons of power. High speed sync or FP in Nikon speak. High speed flash sync allows the camera and flash to sync at any shutter speed the camera is capable of shooting. The 5D Mark II syncs somewhere around 180th or 200th of a second. For this shot I wanted a deep blue sky, so I under exposed the sky by a stop or so. Remember shutter speed = ambient light and aperture = flash output.

Here’s the receipt: EOS 5D Mark II, 14mm lens, ISO 200, 1/320th @ f/10, camera in manual mode, STE-2 on camera with a Radiopopper transmitter in the STE-2, two off camera, no light modifiers, on the light stand each with a Radiopopper receiver, flash in ETTL mode. Works every time.

Lighting Diagram

Final image

Come join me at Pictage PartnerCon where I will be sharing how use small dedicated speedlights to create the light I want any where any time and they are even letting me do a shoot. There are many great speakers so bring a positive attitude and a thirst to better your skills.

See you in New Orleans,

Bob Davis

Written by Bob Davis

Capturing Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls, covering national presidential elections, shooting Eva Longoria and Tony Parker’s wedding in Paris—it’s all just another (spectacular) day for Bob Davis. With a career that spans over 25 years, Bob’s subjects may shift from time to time, but his passion for photography is unwavering.

Bob Davis’s next photography workshop is a two day intimate workshop held in Lemont, Illinois on October 19-20th. Bob will show you how to get the shot mastering your flash and camera settings. You will be shooting with him as he revels his techniques and helps you improve the quality of your images right out of camera. For more information visit www.davisworkshops.com. Also, Bob will be speaking at PartnerCon 2010 on”Creating the Light You Want Using Small Portable Strobes”. For more in formation visit the speaker page of www.partnercon.pictage.com.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!