Well, its been a while since I created my first post. No excuses – I don’t even buy them. That was then and now is now. I’m finally off to the races.

One thing I try to do each day is to “learn something new” whether it is related to my photography hobby or not. I subscribe to a number of blog RSS feeds, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc, about various topics of interest to me. These subscriptions give me a starting point to explore more learning. While following the AdoramaTV channel on YouTube I came across the video below. By the way, this channel has some great instructional videos. Anyway, I have always been interested in how professional photographers utilize off camera lighting to enhance their images.  Zach and Jody Gray demonstrate in their video here a technique they use under certain lighting conditions.

I really like the effect of the underexposed sky yet properly exposed subjects with great shadows. However, they used a professional camera, professional strobe flash with external battery pack, wireless flash triggers, etc. all of which are outside of my budget for now. So, I wanted to try and see if I could produce similar images with the non-pro camera and flash that I have.

First, I needed to learn as much as possible about how my camera and flash unit work. Taking a class is certainly an option but I want to read the manual first. So, I began to delve into my manuals to see what I could find about flash and off camera lighting.

I have a Nikon D300 camera and a Nikon SB-800 flash unit. One of things that I discovered is that Nikon has something called CLS, Creative Lighting System, which allows both the camera and flash to work together in an intelligent fashion. Apparently, Canon and other camera manufacturers have equipment with similar capabilities as well. The blog, Nikon CLS Practical Guide, by Russell MacDonald is a great resource for how the Nikon’s CLS system works. Also, David Hobby’s blog, Strobist, is a excellent resource –  his Lighting 101 Tutorial in particular. Joe McNally is another Nikon CLS advocate.

So after reading my manuals and much web surfing here is a summary of what I learned about my Nikon camera and off camera lighting:

  1. I can have off camera lighting by using my existing flash SB-800 flash and D300 camera with their built-in wireless infrared links. (This has both advantages and disadvantages – more in another post)
  2. Flash exposure and ambient light exposure are two separate things AND they may be controlled independently.
  3. The Nikon CLS system makes it easy to achieve quality results with limited resources.

So now I am ready to go outside to see what I can achieve with this new information while utilizing the camera equipment I already have. (By the way, no flash meter, no soft box, no monopod, no high-powered strobe, no external battery pack, and certainly no assistant). I quickly realized that I needed to improvise since I didn’t have an assistant nor a model for a subject. I decided that an inexpensive umbrella flash kit could be used to hold my flash and would be a reasonable alternative for a personal assistant. In addition, the umbrella can be used to diffuse and expand the flash light source.  Let’s see – I can pay for a real personal assistant, bribe my grandson for hours on end, or buy an inexpensive and unimpatient holder for my flash. Assistant problem solved. Now to a more difficult problem, convincing my wife to be the subject of my tests. Unfortunately that didn’t go over very well. Then I had a brainstorm – I’ll use “Me” and make self portraits. After all my purpose was not necessarily to have a photogenic model but just to have someone stand there while I practice. Problem two solved.

YouTube can be a great resource for finding solutions to problems. I realized that I needed to figure out a simple way to take a self portrait and a ran across the vide below. You may view it here.

So I’m finally off to take some photos with my off camera lighting setup. We have a snow storm prediction for this part of the east coast in the next day or two. Hopefully, that’s not another excuse in the making for delaying my next post.