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.

How to add HSS Sync to the latest cameras using PocketWizard Flex system

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

Getting this type of photo of the hummingbird I used the PocketWizard Flex system to help trigger my Nikon SB-900 and SB-800 flashes using TTL HSS.

I started to shoot this with my Nikon D750, but it wasn’t working. I quickly realized the PocketWizard system wasn’t working with the Nikon D750. That was easy to fix.

I fired up the Macbook Pro and plugged my PocketWizard TT5 and later the mini TT1 and updated the firmware to the latest version.

In case you wonder what is up with the green tape, I use it to help me know which channel is assigned to that PocketWizard.

I have the small Mini TT1 on the camera with the AC-3 on top. I have A Channel marked Orange and C Channel marked Green.

First thing I had to do was update the PocketWizard Utility to the latest 1.58 version.

While on the website to update the Utility I noticed the list of all the hardware and the latest firmware. You can click on the release notes to see what they improved.

Once I downloaded the software I then had to install it.

Then the PocketWizard Utility alerted me to download the latest firmware. I had the PocketWizard TT5 plugged in so it knew which firmware I needed.

After the update the Utility shows you a picture of the device you have plugged in with serial number and gives you all the specs including which firmware version is installed.

Now I can easily use the system with my Nikon D750 which was newer than the PocketWizards, thus the reason for the need for a firmware upgrade.

PocketWizard’s newest firmware platform taps into the camera’s digital communications to enable an entirely new level of remote flash capability through our proven radio system. ControlTL allows remote i-TTL for Nikon CLS / i-TTL systems as well as Manual Power Control.  ControlTL firmware is configurable and upgradeable for “future-proof” continuous improvement.

TIP

Go to all the websites of your camera gear and be sure all your gear has the latest firmware. If you are not sure on how to do this just use Google and search for your camera gear and also add the word firmware.

Think Story when shooting a Band Concert

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—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. 

Think Story

Too often I see people going to concerts and just getting the photos of the band playing. Hey I like doing this just as much.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—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 even work really hard to get close so the viewer is right there with the band. You need to do this if you are shooting any stage performance of a  band.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—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.

Now I backed up a little to show the bands audience. While it is a small group you quickly can see how an all boy band will attract mainly young women.

I rounded out the coverage with some detail shots like the one of the management reminding everyone that bands must play their original music to be legit and not breaking the law. You have to pay royalty fees to the songwriters who own the copyright if you perform their music.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/60—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.

Now having people shopping and buying all the band’s T-Shirts, CDs and arm bands would have made a better photo by itself, I find still needing just simple photos help. This is really true if I were to put this into a video.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—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 would normally say this is more of a snapshot photo you take for yourself and not to tell a story, I think here is really communicates the small venue and how the young ladies enjoy being so close to their favorite bands.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

We arrived early for a VIP time where you get to hang out with the band before they perform. This is a way that the band can make a little extra money. But when you arrive early you quickly see this bands all do the work themselves. They set up and take down without much help.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.2, 1/60–Bounce flash with SB900

Here you can see how the band members just hang out with their fans during their VIP time.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60–Bounce flash with SB900

The key to having a successful package is to be sure you have a WIDE VARIETY of photos. Don’t just shoot the band on the stage.

How good are you? Ask those you impact.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/9, 1/100

While in Honduras we were interviewing some of the dignitaries to put later into a larger video package.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/25—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

If HOI, the organization I was working with, went on camera and said that they were well received in the community it doesn’t have the same authenticity that interviewing the local mayor would add to the package.

So, I interviewed the mayor at the grand opening of the new school that HOI helped to build. Listen to his interview here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fohG5M-xxlk]
The key to documentary work is letting each person speak for themselves as much as you can.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/160

When to use flash and not to use flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 160, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

Available Light

I love to use available light–that is any light that is available to use. Here I was shooting Ubaldo demonstrating how to rope a calf. Ubaldo teaches this during the family missions team trip each year to the kids.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 250, ƒ/5.3, 1/250

When I first started shooting I noticed very quickly that Ubaldo’s skin was just dark enough that with the light calf he was getting lost in the photos. Also as you can see in this photo that I didn’t use the flash your eye goes to the background more than to Ubaldo and the calf, which was where I wanted you to focus.

Compare that to the first photo and this photo.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

I always prefer not using a flash if the light is working for me. However, if I can improve the photo and draw you in using the flash I will use it.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/14, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

When photographing Francisca Padilla, the gardner, I wanted to show that she was in the Agalta Valley. I wanted you to see the mountains. Well the problem is where she needed to stand she was backlit.  I used the off camera flash being held by a person about 45º to my left and the subject’s right. This way I was able to slightly underexpose the scene which helped the mountains pop.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/6.3, 1/250

For the photo of the teacher I chose to not use a flash. There was large window on my left and smaller strip of windows on my right as well as overhead lights.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/6.3, 1/250

The photo of the girl at her desk is the same classroom as the teacher above. In my opinion I liked the light as it was and didn’t add the flash.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100—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.

When I was photographing this scene without flash the outside was blown out and the people were heavily backlit. I added the flashes to help light the room up and balance it to the outside light. I wanted the audience to see the location of the school.

When do you use the flash?

You have to know in each situation what you are trying to capture and why? Will the flash help you tell the story?

If you are looking for the simple formula or that always use the flash kind of an answer you will not hear that from me.

Mastering photography isn’t just learning exposure, lighting and composition. Mastering photography is mastering the craft so you can control it to help the camera capture your vision.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500

Parting Shot–Moonrise over Rancho el Paraíso located in the Agalta Valley of Honduras.

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?

Photographers: Three ways to direct the audience

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1100, ƒ/3.2, 1/100 Custom White Balance with ExpoDisc

Composition/Graphics

To help direct your audience through a scene to where you want them to look, you can use compositional elements like leading lines in the photo above. I have the lines from the shirt directing me back into the photograph to the guy talking.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller

Light

Now with this photo of the kids watching the balls racing each other down the incline I am using the incline to lead your eye, but I am also now using another element to help direct your attention—Light.

By using an off-camera flash I am able to put more light on the man at the top of the incline and also light the kids. As the light drops off to the background is is slightly darker so your eye doesn’t go there first.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel and 20º Grid being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller

I knew that if I didn’t use a light on the subject here holding the weight you may drift to anyone of the people in the background.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller

Here in this photo you can see my photo assistant being a VALS [Voice Activated Light Stand].  This is helping me pop the subject out from the crowd.

Now on the flash I am using a 1/4 CTO gel that is working well with the available light. I started with 1/2 Plusgreen gel but even with color correcting using the ExpoDisc the color just never looked right on the faces as compared to the background.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 Custom White Balance with ExpoDisc

Color

You can also use color to draw your eye into a photo. Here the lady in pink draws your attention because she is wearing Pink. Same photo in Black & White looses the directing quality of the color.

To now make a B&W photo work photographers will burn and dodge to direct your eye with available light photography. Here I have burned in some of the areas of the photo so your eye is directed by the lightest area.

Light is the greatest influence in photography

Photography is writing with light. That is what the word means. Now take a moment later I decided to add light to the situation above. Watch how much I am now directing your eye with the light.

While the lady in pink is drawing some of your attention, I have more light on the scientist here holding a brain model.

In black and white I have now really isolated where I want you to look. I have removed the color influence of the pink jacket and you are now because of the introducing of a spot light on the subject a way for me to influence where the audience looks.

Put it all together

Here I am using the off camera flash and using a longer lens of 90mm to come in close on the two little girls. Most importantly I am capturing a moment where their eyes are communicating interest and this is the second most important part of a photograph—The Moment.

Here I am using the off-camera flash to light the young boy and make the background darker. The mother’s orange jacket is a complimentary color to the blue jacket and I am also using the color to help direct you. I am using the hand of the scientist holding the brain model while the mother’s hands continue to direct you towards the boys expression on his face. This moment of interest is caught by his eyes and mouth expressions showing interest. The mom’s expression also compliments her son’s expression.

Here I am again using the off-camera flash to brighten the people in the foreground and the background is now darker. I am still using composition to help direct you and most important looking for the moment that tells the story. The embroidery on the scientists sleeve almost replaces the need for a caption.

Capturing a moment with a father and daughter is enhanced with the off-camera flash. The photo reads faster than had I relied solely on composition alone.

As you can see in this last photo your eye will wonder if the photographer hasn’t used all the tools necessary to direct your attention.

When you look back at your photos from something you attended and nothing is really standing out, there is a reason. Are you using all the tools at your disposal to capture moments? Of all the tools you can use, off-camera flash maybe the best weapon you have. Do you know how to use one?

Give me a call for a personal class for some one-on-one instruction if you would like to master this technique.

The environmental portrait

Tom Butler, coffee farmer on the Big Island of Hawaii. Tom sells the incredible 100% Kona coffee.
Nikon D4, 28-300mm (300), ISO 2000, ƒ/10, 1/200 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 pointed at the coffee farmer.  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. Flash is 0 EV and the camera is 0 EV. A second Flash is setup the same way but on different channel at -3 EV pointed at the coffee on the branch.

Before I start this blog I want to thank Tom Butler for letting me photograph him. If you want some great 100% Kona coffee you can go to his website http://paradisefoundhawaii.com.

The environmental portrait is the bread and butter of the working photojournalist.  I wanted to show you three options I did for a portrait of a coffee grower in Hawaii.

I had to really look for the cherry looking coffee berries on the trees. It wasn’t the time for harvesting, that had already been done earlier. This is the season for pruning.

This first choice you see here I tried to tie the coffee plant in with the coffee farmer.

The second choice has the coffee farmer in front of the plant rather than behind it as in the first photo.

The last choice I asked him to pick some of the coffee and present it to me for the photo.

You most likely like one of the three better than the other. However, the professional photographer will give options to the photo editor. The editor knows then that I worked the situation and tried to give them some options.

Which one is your favorite and why?

Rock Band Promo Shot

Nikon D4, 28-300mm (44mm), ISO 100, 1/160, ƒ/5

“Hey can you take some photos of our band for a promo shot?” Was the request from Late Night Reading’s drummer Drew Cottrell.

Earlier I took some pictures of the band when they were in town a couple of months ago.  Here is the blog post I did then.  What I wrote about back then was that even the D4 was struggling to take photos in a dark hole like the Swayze’s Venue in Marietta, GA.

I had in my van my monobloc lighting kit this time in addition to the Nikon Speedlights.

I went into the parking lot a little later after they had played and set up my lights.  I also asked them if they had something they were looking for.  They didn’t have any ideas, so I took the lead and told them about this concept you see above.

Here is the setup for the photo.

Now lets play

Once I have the lights set and get a few of the shots that I was initially looking for, I asked the band to have some fun.

I then took the same setup and moved it to where you could see the Tatoo Shop and the Pawn Store lights in the background.  Here are some of those shots.

For these I used a tripod and dragged the shutter to 1/13th of second.  Everything else stayed the same since there was almost no light on the band.

I would prefer to shoot the promo photos all the time over the concert photos.  Just compare these above to the same band performing below.

Live Performance 

Nikon D4, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/60, ƒ/4

The strobes are on the PocketWizard Transceiver TT5 and They are on Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stands and the Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe to hold the flashes. I am triggering the TT5 using the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and PocketWizard AC3.

I turned the ISO up to about ISO 6,400 because I didn’t want the background to go totally dark.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/60, ƒ/4

Nikon D4, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 10,000, 1/60, ƒ/5.6

While these are pretty good for shooting in a dark hole, I still prefer having the control I had with the studio strobes and moving the band members around.

My friend Zach Arias launched his successful freelancing business just shooting bands like Late Night Reading’s promo shots. He started by just using a Vivitar 285 on a light stand. He was so successful he started a workshop teaching photographers his “One Light” technique.

You can see my whole take here from the evening.