Big Jobs with Small Flash…

A few weeks ago I was offered an opportunity to redo all of the marketing material for a retirement community here in Indianapolis. As it turns out Justus homes isn’t just a custom made housing company, but they also own several retirement villages. This opportunity came a little differently than a normal shoot like this would, as this one came through the newspaper as opposed to from the outside world. Anybody who reads the blog, knows that I prefer to use Speedlights when on location, but sometimes getting down to low 100 or 200ISO can be tough with speedlights. Advancements in cameras allow us to climb relatively high into the ISO scale to accomplish what we need with minimal noise though. I’ve shot jobs with lights that have taken me all the way up to 2500ISO for commercial print. The D3 is an amazing camera when it comes to High ISO noise, but despite that fact, the lower you can stay in an ISO range, the better. That’s not why I chose to shoot this assignment for the newspaper with my personal Nikon gear though. I chose to shoot this with my personal Nikon gear instead of the 5D Mark II and L lenses they provide me is because of the Nikon iTTL Wireless Speedlight system.

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-F4.5@26mm. 1/50th@F5. Single SB900 Speedlight behind the wall to camera right pointed towards the coffee drinking lady at the table shot through a 43″ Umbrella on a stand set to TTL+/-, Single SB900 Speedlight set to TTL-1 zoomed to 70mm Fired into the opened refrigerator door to illuminate the food prep lady. Both Speedlights fired by Nikon SU-800 Speedlight Commander on Camera)

The director of marketing had some very specific things in mind when it came to the shots we were to take at the Crestwood Village retirement communities. (At the time of this blog, the media on the website aren’t mine. The media on the Direct mail is though). These communities are especially known for hosting an active lifestyle, and all of the residents that I met were genuinely ecstatic to be not only there for the photos, but to live there in general. The staff was very helpful as well, always making sure peoples concerns and needs were taken care of, which in this next photo was something we wanted to show.

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 50mmF1.4G, 1/400th@F2. Two SB-900 Speedlights zoomed to 70mm set to 1/4th power sitting on the desk pointed into a bedsheet draped on the wall to camera left. Both Speedlights were fired by SU800 Speedlight commander unit from on camera.)

Aside from that yellow office being yellow, it was significantly smaller than it looks in this photo. Made sure to use the trusty bed sheet for lotsa reasons. All the residents thought I was out of my mind when it was pulled out of the bag, but when they saw the result on the back of the camera I received half of my perceived sanity back. There were still plenty of thigs I did later that day that removed that last bit of percieved sanity though, which is why I kept track of getting it back I suppose. Things like this…

(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@35mm@35mm. 1/30th@F8. Single SB900 Speedlight to above camera right set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard through a 16″ FotoRosa softbox. Single SB900 Speedlight in the hallways fired by pocketwizard into the hallways ceiling set to 1/4th power. Single SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm fired by SU-4 Magic eye set to 1/2 power shot directly into the lamp on the bedstand to the left of the frame, and the bed.)

This may look like someone looking at a laptop on a bed, but really it’s someone looking at a laptop on a bed while being lit by a strobe bounced off of a lamp. Like I say when I give lighting workshops; light is like a kid in a mud farm, it picks up the color of anything it touches. In this big blue room I couldn’t use the walls to bounce the lights, and I didn’t want to waste the models time going back out to the car to get yet another light modifier like a reflector. The white lampshade in the corner of the room did just fine. Really it was a bit of a gamble, I had no idea how much spill there was going to be, but happy accidents are just as good as planned accidents in my book.

(Nikon D3, 400ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/60th@F8. Single SB900 Speedlight fired through a 42″ Umbrella set to iTTL +1 to above camera left. Single SB900 fired through a 43″ umbrella set to 1/4th to behind the left of the subjects fired by SU-4 Magic eye. Single Nikon SB800 Speedlight sitting on a table to camera right set to iTTL +2 shot into the wall to camera right as to illuminate the ambient in the scene.)

Those guys were more than eager to play poker for us for a little bit. The room was relatively large, but the three speedlights made relatively short work of it all, creating media that the director was very pleased with capable of being printed poster sized which made the client incredibly happy. I’m pretty sure the three gentlemen continued to play poker for a while after we left too, which was too funny as I have no idea how they actually concentrated while I was there. Speaking of concentrating though, These ladies got the good end of the deal; we gave them cake!

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/200th@F2. Single SB900 Speedlight 20 feet to camera right set to iTTL+1 shot through a 43″ umbrella. Single SB900 to above cameara left set to iTTL +/-0 fired through a 43″ Umbrella as well, Single SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm set to 1/4 shot into the ceiling 45ish or so feet behind the table being photographed. All speedlights were fired by a Nikon SU-800 Commander Unit from On Camera.)

This room is probably about 75 feet deep, and 40 feet across, and the small strobes I packed in the bag did a wonderful job of lighting this for me. It’s definitely an advantage of using the Small strobes out places, but what really makes things work well is the wireless iTTL of the Nikon speedlight system. Without this, it would have taken me much longer shoot these photos, having to moved to adjust the lights every time there was a mistake, or having to figure out the ratios during setup. As it was, I traveled 147 miles that day to four different Crestwood Village locations and was able to provide quite a few usable images to the client; many more images than were shown here.

Shooting with small strobes is greatly versatile, Nikon and Canon have given photographers the power to quickly light things like never before. It’s not just about being able to take your camera up to 1600ISO if you want to, because you should only do that when you NEED to. Now it’s about being able to shoot ANYTHING for glossy poster quality. Anything’s possible in any space. Joe McNally once used 47 speedlights to light up an aircraft. What could you do with a few? More Soon.