Creating Nighttime during the Daytime

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/640–Alienbee B1600 with CTO +1 triggered with Pocketwizard TT1 and TT5 system

If you need to create a night time scene the easiest way to do this it so turn your color temperature to 3200º Kelvin or even lower. Then the daylight will appear blue.

Next warm up your subject with an Color Temperature Orange filter over your flash. This will make their skin appear more neutral in color.

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/400–Alienbee B1600 with CTO +1 triggered with Pocketwizard TT1 and TT5 system

How bright it is outside is controlled with your shutter speed. The proper exposure for the subject is more about ISO and Aperture.

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/1000–Alienbee B1600 with CTO +1 triggered with Pocketwizard TT1 and TT5 system

As you can see the 1/1000th of a second darkens the available light as compared to the 1/400th exposure.

Just experiment and see what you like the best. By the way you need to be able to shoot with High Shutter Speed Sync to make this work with a wide aperture of ƒ/1.4 like I did here.

To do this I am shooting with the Pocketwizard Flex TT5 system and using the AC9 plugged into the Pocketwizard and then plugged into the telephone cord slot of my Alienbees B1600 flash I can shoot HSS and also control the flash from the camera. Very cool!

These are all test shots. I will later add a smoke machine and have the people in costume–so stay tuned for more photos outside during the daytime that look like nighttime.

How to shoot at ƒ/1.4, ISO 50, 1/4000 Shutter Speed and with Studio Strobes

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 50, ƒ/1.4, 1/4000–2 Alienbees B1600

Getting this photo of Truett Cathy at the Original Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA wasn’t as simple as just pulling out the camera and shooting it at ƒ/1.4. Here is what you get if you do that alone.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 50, ƒ/1.4, 1/4000

I put two Alienbees B1600s on light stands. I used the Vagabond Mini™ Lithium to power each light. To trigger the lights I am using the Pocketwizard Mini TT1 with the AC3 on the camera and using the TT5 with AC9 on the flashes. This lets me shoot using Optimized High Speed Sync.

I would not been able to shoot with the flashes at ƒ/1.4 with flash that limits me to the sync speed of 1/200 due to the limits of the D750 and most flashes. I was already at ISO 50 which is as low as the camera will go.

I put a CTO gel on one of the Alienbees Strobes and position this a little behind the statue so I would make it look like the sun lighting the scene. Then I put the other strobe straight on acting as a fill light.

I just turned the power up and down on each flash using the Pocketwizard AC3 to control the flashes. This meant I could just take a photo and look at the back LCD and then make changes, rather than having to walk over and dial the power up and down on the back of the Alienbees B1600 flashes.

Working with a recording artist Sydney Rhame

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, AC-9, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

Today I was privileged to work with Sydney Rhame who was on The Voice this year. To get those chairs to turn as she did you have to be comfortable in front of the camera.

Sydney on iTunes.

Here is her Facebook fan page

Sydney needed little direction. I just needed to spend a little time before we started asking what she was looking for in her photos.

This is one of my favorite photos today. I used the high speed sync using he Pocketwizard TTL system with the Alienbees. This let me shoot at 1/640 shutter speed. Here is the lighting diagram.

The trick was to take a few test shots until I was able to get the rich colors in the background balanced with the flashes.

The photo on the left [ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/500] and the right [ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/400]. I also dialed the flash down in power on the right.

This is what I call experimenting to get the look you are wanting.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/640

I also like to have subjects bring a variety of outfits and let us try a few looks.

This is the setup where I have main light on her face and separate light to just add a little kicker in the back.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, AC-9, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

For this photo I took the white umbrella off the light behind Sydney to give a little more kick on the hair.

I also believe you really mix up the backgrounds and looks when you are helping someone with things like model portfolios, PR kits for musicians and actresses.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200–Alienbees and Softboxes

Here is more of a traditional headshot.

Now to give a different look that this I just shot with the available light with the same setup.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

I believe we were getting some variety throughout the photo shoot. As Sydney and I got more comfortable with each other the expressions just got better and better.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160

While backing up and showing more of Sydney gave a different look, my favorites where up close where you can see her eyes.


Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

When shooting at ƒ/1.8 her eyelashes are not even in focus, just her eyes.

Now shooting at ƒ/4 gave a little bit more depth-of-field.


Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

While the shallow depth-of-field looks great it is difficult to get all your photos in focus.

Going for “look” can sacrifice great “moments”

Because you choose to want that silky smooth BOKEH means that you will be tossing out photos just because they are not sharp where you need them to be. Therefore you may lose the best “moment” because the “look” is more important to you.

This is one of the reasons I am not shooting at wide open all the time. I prefer to stop down just a bit to get some leeway allowing me to more likely not to toss out the great “moment” because I missed the focus due to such a shallow depth-of-field.

Use flash outside

By using the strobes outside on an overcast day I was able to help the subject pop and not look flat due to the natural light.

Using high speed sync let me shoot at wide apertures and just crank the shutter speed up to control the available light.

Photography Boot Camp great way to learn photography

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 5000, ƒ/25, 1/40–off camera flash with Alienbees B1600 powered by Vagabond and triggered using the Pocketwizard system.

Many people will talk about being Baptized by Fire when they took on a new responsibility. This is when you either sink or swim as one might also say about a new job.

There is a new movement in the IT industry called “Coder Boot Camp.” 12 Weeks To A 6-Figure Job was a piece first published in December 2014 but continues to get traction.

One fan of these programs is President Obama. In March, the White House announced the TechHire initiative to help communities recognize, and hire, boot camp graduates in order to close the famous “skills gap.”

“There’s a lot more we can do together to make sure that more Americans benefit from a 21st century economy,” Obama said to the nation’s mayors. “Folks can get the skills they need in newer, streamlined, faster training programs.”

According to a recent report on NPR:

These programs promise, for several thousand dollars, to take people and in a manner of weeks, turn them into job-ready Web developers.

Virtually unknown just four years ago, today at least 50 of these programs have sprung up around the country and overseas. Collectively, the sector has taken in an estimated $73 million in tuition since 2011.

And the top programs say they are placing the vast majority of their graduates into jobs earning just under six figures in a rapidly expanding field — filling a need for practical, hands-on skills that traditional college programs, in many cases, don’t.

photo by Robin Nelson

Since 2006 I have been part of a Photography 12 week boot camp that does a similar training for those wanting to know photography.

The students in the course I work with each year in Kona, Hawaii do nothing but this one class for 12 weeks. The more I heard about the “Coder Boot Camp” on NPR as I was driving the more I realized this is what we have been doing in that class.

Patrick Murphy-Racey, Sony Artisan Associate, takes a moment to talk with Lily Wang at workshop about the Sony mirrorless camera system. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/250]

I do not think a boot camp replaces a college degree. Career advancement and promotions are based on multiple factors, however, having a bachelor’s degree can be a major factor. Employers often view a college educated employee as someone who is motivated to learn, able to meet deadlines and has problem solving and communication skills. Many management and administrative positions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What a boot camp does do that college degree doesn’t always do is train you in those very practical skills you need each day in the profession.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/100

The multimedia workshops that I am now teaching have no tests and grading. No one cares in the industry if you graduated Magna Cum Laude, they want to see your portfolio. The boot camp experience is where you will spend a great deal of time hands on and producing just like you would do on a real job.

The difference between the job and the boot camp is the coaching and teaching that comes along with the instructors. They will review your work and help guide you to help you produce a portfolio that without the instruction would have taken you a much longer time to do on your own.

Photography has very few Boot Camp Programs where in a 12 week period you get the practical skills to start working as a professional. The School of Photography program that Dennis Fahringer runs in Kona, Hawaii with University of the Nations is the only one that I know of. It is designed for Christians who want to use photography in ministry/missions to impact the world.

There are shorter workshops that will teach a specific skill like I do with my Multimedia Workshop or Lighting Workshops where you learn in a short period of time a skill.

+/- Photography Boot Camp

  • The most important key element about attending a bootcamp was a COMMITMENT to and PASSION for learning the technology. You will get a great deal out of the program if you bring an insatiable desire for knowledge.
  • You realize that it is a portfolio that will get your hired and not how many classes you have taken.
  • You take on all the projects with the desire to redo any part of the process until it is portfolio worthy.
  • If you are not carrying your camera around most of the time this is good clue you might not benefit from this program.
  • If you find that spending 8+ hours a day doing nothing but photography to be too much then you need to avoid this.
  • If you have trouble dealing with criticism this isn’t the profession for you. While no one enjoys criticism the person with a passion realizes they need to get better and welcome the criticism rather than recoil from it.

I am a lifelong learner and realize that every few years I must take a deep dive into something new that I need to learn. This might be a class to learn a new software or going to a workshop to learn about a new piece of gear that has just been introduced. Whatever the case, I realized long ago that I will never know all there is to know about photography and that I can always learn something new.

I have a one week bootcamp in Multimedia Narrative Storytelling in Mexico with Coffee Growers. Click here to learn more.


Why I photographed them this way (Part 3)

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1000

Flash Outside

I love to use two different Flash systems outside.

1) I use the Nikon SB900 with SU800 on my Nikon DSLR or on my Nikon P7000. I also use the Radio Popper PX system to be sure the signal is consistently firing outside.

2) I use the Alienbees 1600 with a Vagabond Mini Lithium batter and the CyberSync system to fire them.

The first photo i used by SB900 to shoot the photos. I could shoot the photo and fill-flash with the hot shoe flash quickly and move around. The flash had to be very close to the people outside to be useful.

Walk and Talk photo I like to use. Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160


The next two photos are using a technique I learned from Jeff Smith a corporate photographer back years ago.  Back then I was shooting film and with today’s flashes this is easier to do.

I like having the subjects walk side by side talking to each other. Often as in the first photo they walk straight at me and other times like in the last photo they just follow the path of a sidewalk for example.

I have an assistant either carrying the Nikon Speedlite system or my Alienbees system.  The advantage of the Alienbees is I can have the assistant further away and still with the power of this flash fill in easily.  Actually, most of the time the Alienbees are firing at 1/16 or 1/8 power.

The assistant walks off to the side, usually lighting them at 45 degree angle to the camera.  They walk just outside the picture frame and keep an even pace with them as they walk. You need to hire an assistant who can walk and chew gum at the same time for this technique.

My portable system for Walk-and-Talk. AlienBees 1600, Vagabond Mini, CyberSync radio remote control

CyberSync Radio Remote Control

Vagabond Mini

The reason I like the Walk-and-Talk technique is it gives something to the subjects to do. I find this not only helps to focus them, but after a couple times doing this they tend to not only relax, but I get great expressions.


If you use this Walk-and-Talk technique I recommend you tell them to walk close enough to each other they feel each other occasionally touching. In addition, I recommend one person talk and the other listen. Lastly, I ask them to look into each others eyes or at each others faces.  There is a tendency for people to look at the ground or off somewhere else.  I want them to look interested in each other.