Photographing Hummingbirds with Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S & High Speed Sync Flash

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Nikon SB-900, Nikon SB-800, PocketWizard Transceiver TT5, PocketWizard Mini TT1, AC-3, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/2000

The hummingbird bird feeder we have is close to the house. I have a door with a lot of window panes that I put the two hot shoe flashes using TTL to control their output.

I kept the camera on a tripod so when the hummingbirds came I had very little to do except shoot.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Nikon SB-900, Nikon SB-800, PocketWizard Transceiver TT5, PocketWizard Mini TT1, AC-3, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/2000
The color is so much better than with just available light.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Nikon SB-900, Nikon SB-800, PocketWizard Transceiver TT5, PocketWizard Mini TT1, AC-3, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/2000
For comparison this is the photo I posted yesterday shot with the Fuji X-E2 and the 55-200mm.
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/6.4, 1/2000
You just can’t shoot high speed sync flash with the Fuji system that I know how to do. Maybe later.

The Big Reveal for Photographers

The Big Reveal

This is just another example of exposing for the sunset which creates a silhouette of a person and then using your flash to reveal the subject.

Most photo books call this Fill-Flash, but the silhouette reveal language that Dave Black coined I think does a better job of describing what is happening. That is because the flash here becomes the main light and not a fill light.

Here is the lighting diagram for the photo above. I also has a CTO +1 gel on the flashes. They were held in place with the MagMod system.

Here is the photo without the flashes. How I wish I had the outfit that is behind him in this photo also in the other photo.

Getting the moment in a portrait with the Nikon D4

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 500, ƒ/5, 1/640—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

I was recently hired by my client to capture her grand daughter. She wanted the best expressions and said this was why she wanted me to do the photo shoot. I continue to help her with her commercial needs and she knew I concentrate on getting the “moment.”

Nikon D4Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 500, ƒ/5, 1/800—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.

I intentionally shot these on my Nikon D4 to use the off-camera TTL flash system I have come to love. I am using the off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.

We decided to shoot outside on their deck because the little girl was really not happy when I arrived inside. The mother said she loved the outside and sure enough just as soon as we went outside she became another person.

This is where you have to remain flexible. Now I wasn’t thrilled with the railing, but I liked the plants on the deck.

Nikon D4Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/1250—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.

While the little one loved the outside she was starting to get a little fussy, so mom gave her blueberries that she just loved, but also gave me many photos with drool.

During some of the time it was sprinkling and the other time it was overcast. So getting a consistent color was achieved by winking in the flash.

Nikon D4Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/800—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.

While I liked the green in the background I found this oversized recliner that I used for a three generation photo of the Grandmother, mother and child. I prefer the cleaner background and had it not been raining I would have suggested getting off the deck so I could eliminate the railing. This would have lended to an even better background.

While I love the Fuji system, when it comes to nailing the focus and moment, I still prefer my Nikon D4.

When you travel with Super Stars you need off camera flash to make them look good

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

I am traveling with the famous Chick-fil-A Cow Mascots this week. They are traveling around promoting Cow Appreciation Day this Friday.

Click here to learn more

Dress head to hoof as they like to say at Chick-fil-A and get a free meal. Wear some Cow Attire and get a free entree.

Now let me tell you how I made the top photo. I had two VALS holding the two hot shoe flashes on either side of me. [VALS stands for Voice Activated Light Stand]

Without the flashes the cows would have been somewhat silhouetted and by adding the off camera flash I was able to keep the color temperature on them daylight and then also keep them bright enough to keep the rich colors in the background.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

Very similar lighting setup, just I am have a subject close to me blocking the light to the left. I dragged the shutter to 1/4 to be sure you saw the photo he was making on his phone.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

Here you can see one of my VALS holding the hot shoe flash. The other VALS is behind me pointing at the cow. If you look at the Cows eyes you can see the reflections of the two flashes. Notice the shadows on the concrete. This tells you they were all backlighted and the flashes made a huge difference.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

Here I am behind the flashes and you can see the other VALS here in the foreground. The other VALS is further to the left in the photo.

I don’t generally use these last two photos where you can see the flashes, but kept them to show to you so you can see how simple this is to do.

Make your photos “DIFFERENT” at events or don’t get hired

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/100, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

I get hired a great deal to cover events. Everyone with a camera could cover these events, but I make my photos look different every chance I get.

Here in these photos I am using off-camera flash to help improve the photos. This first photo the sun is behind the ladies on the left hitting the man’s face. This puts them in a silhouette and the way I fixed this was to have my assistant hold the flash on a monopod up high pointing down at them.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/50, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

Here the flash is off to my right pointing at the ladies on the left. Here you can see again that without this flash their faces would have been silhouetted. Had I used a flash on the camera I would have flattened the features. By having the assistant hold the light up high I still get some shape to the cheek bones of the ladies.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/200, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

Here the assistant is bouncing the flash off the ceiling inside the room. I am just raising the light level inside so that the outside is balanced and not washed out with no details.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/40, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash on S2 [slave setting] with the Nikon SB900 and SB800 on Pocketwizard TT5 triggered by the TT1 and AC3 to control their output. 

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/100, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash on S2 [slave setting] with the Nikon SB900 and SB800 on Pocketwizard TT5 triggered by the TT1 and AC3 to control their output. 

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash on S2 [slave setting] with the Nikon SB900 and SB800 on Pocketwizard TT5 triggered by the TT1 and AC3 to control their output. 

There are three flashes in the room all being controlled by the camera. I have the Nikon SB-900 and Nikon SB-800 working on TTL and triggered by the PocketWizard system. The Neewer TT850 has a 2nd flash setting to work with TTL flashes.  The light in the room was so mixed with different color temperatures that I wanted to clean this up with the flash.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/7.1, 1/100, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger 
Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 640, ƒ/2.8, 1/25, off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

With all these photos the camera was on Aperture priority and I am winking the flash just slightly brighter than the ambient light. Often same light value or +  1/2 stop greater to just clean up the color and give a little pop to the images.

I know that if anyone was shooting with the iPhone or point and shoot camera they would not be getting this quality of images. They are different. This is very important if you want to be hire to shoot, because if my images didn’t look different than what they are able to make with their own cameras then why hire you?

Off camera flash for beach portraits

Nikon D4, 28-300mm @ 98mm, ISO 1,200, ƒ/8, 1/50
Gitzo GT-0531

On vacation with the family I ended up making some portraits on the beach. I had my Nikon SB-900 and Nikon SB-800 with me.

I wanted to use the beach as the background for the photos. No need for a white seamless when you got this kind of natural setting to use.

I took the flashes to help give that pop to the photos.  I wanted the subjects to be just a hair bit brighter than everything else to draw more attention to them.

I also used my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod to keep the camera rock steady so I could shoot these at dusk.  This way everyone’s eyes were open and not squinting on the beach.

To trigger the flashes I had the PocketWizard Mini TT1, FlexTT5 and AC3. Using the AC3 to control the output of the flashes, I set the SB-900 at 0 and the SB-800 at -1. This way the SB-900 is the main light and the SB-800 is the fill.

Since this is working using TTL you have to play with this. The scene really affects the look and how the TTL reacts in any given situation. 

We had lots of fun making different photos of everyone down on the beach.

Lighting diagram for the photos.

Now that the technical stuff is explained and out of the way, how do you get good expressions?

Have some fun and let them goof around. After having some fun you can squeeze a few pleasant moments off as well.  

Multimedia coverage of a middle school service project

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-0FPmaH_-4]
I drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee yesterday to cover Roswell Presbyterian’s Middle School Youth Group on their summer mission trip.  They partnered with SonServents on their Work Projects that also partnered with Widows Harvest Ministry to include: building wheelchair ramps and landings, scraping and painting houses, putting new roofs on homes, or landscaping and yard work.

Technical difficulties

Two lighting problems are: 1) under porch in middle of the day the youth were in some major shadows and 2) when they are painting the house they are facing the house and are always majorly back lit. While the house maybe white and act as a reflector, it is still a major light fall off. (photo by: Knolan Benfield)

 My solution for this problem was to put two hot shoe flashes up on light stands to light under the porch and even out the light.

There is a Nikon SB-900 on the far left on a light stand with the PocketWizard TT5 to control the TTL output of the light. On the far right is a Nikon SB-800 on light stand using the same setup for TTL. I have on my Nikon D4 the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and AC3 to trigger and control the output of the flashes.  They output is set to 0.
This is my daughter being interviewed by me for the project. (photo by: Knolan Benfield)

You can see the two camera setup here for the video interview. (Photo by: Knolan Benfield)

Video setup

I have a Nikon D4 with 28-300mm lens as the primary camera. I have the Zacuto’s Optical Viewfinder on the back of the camera to help with focusing. The microphone on the D4 is the Rode Video Pro. My second camera is the Nikon P7000 and I have the Rode Video microphone on it.

To help with lighting I have the LitePanel Micro Pro that helps with the shadows. The house behind her is in the sun and she is in the shade of the trees.  The light helps fill her face and by having her in the shade she is able to talk without squinting.

Editing

All the photos are edited using Adobe Lightroom 4.  I love this software because I can easily edit all the photos from a similar situation together.

For video editing I used Final Cut Pro X. I enjoy the simplicity of this software to help do things like synchronizing two cameras. I don’t have to convert the files from the different cameras when I import them.

I really enjoy combining the still photos with the video interviews. I think the stills help the audience have a visual pause to absorb a moment, whereas a video blows right through these moments too quickly.

Start to finish on this project

Got in our van at 7:30 a.m. and drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Was at the first location by 9:15 a.m.

We wrapped up shooting all three locations by 12:30 p.m.  Drove back to Roswell and stopped by a Barbeque place for lunch. Was home by 3:30 p.m.

Finished editing all the still photos by 5:00 p.m. and finished the combined project by 11:00 p.m.

Took a dinner break for about an hour.

I had Final Cut to crash and lost about an hour of time.

There you have a quick one day multimedia project.

Shaping the light is how you light metal

Just throwing light on a metal object 

This is what you see a lot of on ebay and other websites of people selling metal objects. My examples are using my Yamaha YTR-734 Silver Trumpet, which I pulled out and started playing again.

After cleaning it up I didn’t want to waste not preserving this for myself.

You would think just putting a metal object like this Silver Trumpet on a blue background and using two off the camera flashes at 45º angles (like copy stand) would give you perfect light. This is how this is lighted.
Here is the setup for the photo above.

I have two hotshoe Nikon Speedlights (1 SB900 & 1 SB800) lighting the trumpet. They are setup like a typical copy stand photo shoot. Works great for objects other than metal. Perfect for copying flat art work and books.

This is the same photo as above with just the room light and no flash.
This is the available light without the blue background

By removing the blue fabric the white table wrap the light around the metal and give it more shape.

Two flashes

My recommendation is Tent Lighting

Here I am using tent lighting. I pulled back the front panel so you could see inside.

When you wrap an object with light all around it you get much better results.

There are four flashes lighting this setup. Two Alienbees B1600 up in the ceiling pointing towards the back and two on umbrellas as you see here.
This is the setup with white seamless background.

I think you might do a better job of selling this trumpet on ebay with lighting like this than the light above.

Notice how in the bell the blue fabric is reflected. if you look really close you will see just a little black spec. This is the camera peaking thought the front panel.

Here the only difference in the above photo is using a blue fabric.

Somewhere in between?

Maybe you want something in between the top photo and light wrapped all around the object. Instead of tent lighting just use white foam board and cut it into different shapes. You can then put a black sheet out of the photo but blocking light. Then just place the strips of white foam board to place you want to add white verses the black. Slowly you can give different looks. Use different color foam board and you can add color to the reflections like the blue fabric is doing here, but just put it outside the view of the camera but in the reflection of the metal.

Rather than me showing you everything, go photograph something yourself and see what you come up with.

Use dark objects to learn how to light

If you like this image I will walk you through the steps to get here. (Figure 1)
I started here and got the exposure to pretty close to the tones in the carving. (Figure 2)
By just adding one light off to the right I got the next image. (Figure 3)
I liked the result, but wanted a little more color in the bowl than I have in this photo. (Figure 4)
Here you can see that the statue is back lit naturally, but can see the first light to the right that I added and the second fill light I added just next to the lens on the left. (Figure 5)

The reason I chose a dark object to light is because it is much more difficult, but also shows you how the light dramatically improves the object.  It works similarly with a lighter object, but the results are harder to see sometimes.

I had the object back lighted to be sure you understand the light I am adding truly helps.  This is like having people looking at the camera and it is the best angle, but the sun is behind them.  By just turning on the flash you get a better result, but there is little to show the shape of the object as compared to getting the flash off the camera.

One flash off camera give nice shaping to the face. (Figure 6)
By adding a fill light just beside the lens on the left, we help not only fill in the shadow side, the photo transforms from an almost black and white look to a color feel. (Figure 7)

Now for all the photos above the exposure compensation was used at -2 stops under what the auto exposure was reading.  I had my flashes under exposed or 0.  The reason is the camera wants to make the statue a neutral gray when it is actually darker.  To compensate I under exposed to fool the meter to get what was correct.

I am using the Mini ColorChecker by x-rite so you can see the color as shot in each situation with this series.  This will not just help you see proper exposure, but the color space for each photo. (figure 7)
I wanted you to see you can just use a reflector to help improve the photo, but please pay attention to not just the shadows being improved, pay attention to the colors. (Figure 8)
Shot with fill and you can see not just exposure but color temperature will be different with reflector or flash. (figure 9)
Here with one flash to the right of the camera and one behind the statue you can see ho it improves the tones and the color space.  This is why I prefer using strobes over reflectors alone for portraits.  Another major benefit with strobes over a reflector, is the reflector gives a constant light source which will cause most folks to squint. (Figure 10)
This is the final result. Shot with Nikon D3s and 85mm f/1.4. (Figure 11)
This was the setup for Figure 11. By the way, I shot this with my Nikon P7000 with the flash on for fill. (Figure 12)
I thought the light behind the golfer was a little distracting, so I moved it to the left out of the photo 180 degrees opposite the main light to the right.  The Nikon TTL system is balancing the background -2 Stops under to the flashes which are normal of 0 setting. (Figure 13)
This is the setup for Figure 13.  Again I shot this on the Nikon P7000 with the pop up fill flash to help the statue and the camera gear to have some definition. (Figure 14)

Practice lighting with some objects that are dark or even black. See if you can change the mood of the situation by just positioning the lights in different places. Maybe you use the X-Rite Mini ColorChecker to see if you are setting the camera’s white balance correctly to get the best color.  If you shoot in Raw you can correct this later, but if you shoot in JPEG you can change it later, but the results are noticeably poor.