22 May 2007

Nikon D200 and SB800 working the strobist way

As announced yesterday, I worked a bit more with my Nikon D200 and my SB800 strobes to work in a setup as used by the strobist. I allowed myself the freedom to use the built in wireless strobe control system, called CLS. David Hobby from the Strobist Blog uses Pocketwizards to trigger the flashlights. There are two reasons, why I didn't go this route at least for now.

  1. The Pocket Wizards are rather pricy, at least from a South African perspecitve and I want to keep the expenses low.
  2. A quick and not comprehensive websearch did not result in any import of the Pocket Wizards in South Africa.

I couldn't find any volunteers today to work with me as models, so I had to the experiments on myself. At least I warned you. I thought about the setup for a while and came to the conclusion that I want to try to balance the outside light with the strobes inside. So, my first step was to do a quick measurement of the outside light. I did that using the spotmeter in my camera, checking the exposure of the vehicle in front of the house. A quick test shot pleased my expectation and started working with the strobe.

I mounted it on a lightstand fitted with an umbrella. A combination, I would also use at a customer's site. In the past I would have relied on the built in TTL system and would have chosen a TTL +1 or similar for the flash exposure. Well, this time I went straight to manual operation of flash and camera. I selected the aperture/ time combination I measured earlier and did my first testshot with the flash with a guessed 1/4 of the strobe power. Life would have been great, if the first test would have been perfect. I played around a bit with the right relationship between aperture, time and flash intensity, until I got the balance of light, I was looking for. Finding this balance, did take only a few minutes, as I also played with the position of the flash to avoid reflections etc. In this photo, you can see the even distribution of light between the outside and inside. Is this always the most pleasing result, I would go for. Probably not, but this was not the aim of the experiment.

The next step was for me to put a person into the picture to work with foreground, middleground and background. Achieving a nice exposure went smooth and easy. Looking rather intelligent and getting the focus right not that much. That is rather a problem of self portraits...

To get my ego really going, I took another picture with changing the balance of the light and depth of field to give it a bit more tension and a feel of three dimensions.

Later one of my cats decided to get cozy on the couch and it was amazingly simple to adjust the light to the new setup. I reckon that is one of the big advantages of working this way. You have far more control over the design of the light and can change settings on the go according to the needs.

The last image illustrates the setup of flash, camera and cat.

My conclusion after these simple shots is: The technique is fast, simple and allows massive amount of control over the outcome. It is up to me to refine it and apply it to different situations.

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