Birds, Nikon Z9, & Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL

I have preached over and over on my blog about how Flash can improve the colors in your photos.

Flambient is even a new term you will see in photography that was being done long before. This is where the photographer blends available light with Flash.

No Flash [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 4000, 1/160, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

This is without a flash shot of birds on the bird feeder. I am shooting from one window of my house, and I put the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL in another window about 15+ feet away, creating a triangle between camera, subject, and light.

Birds at Bird feeder using the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 4000, 1/160, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

The hard part of doing this is balancing available light and the flash.

Birds at Birdfeeder Using the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 16000, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 380)]

This, to me, is a little too much flash. What you choose to do will be part of your style and approach.

Birds at Birdfeeder Using the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 16000, 1/500, ƒ/8, (35mm = 600)]

Tip Don’t Use TTL

TTL Flash works by the flash doing a pre-flash, and then the camera takes a picture with the second flash. I think you could risk startling the subject and affecting the one with the actual moment.

Another problem is you will drain your battery for a flash much quicker, with it taking two seconds every time you take a photo.

Processed in Lightroom and Topaz AI Sharpen Birds at Birdfeeder Using the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 8000, 1/250, ƒ/8, (35mm = 600)] Flash set to 1/16 power.

I think you dial in the best settings to take the photo without the flash and then add the sparkle. I suggest having the flash -1 EV of the location you have before.

Birds at Birdfeeder Using the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL [NIKON Z 9, VR 120-300mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 5000, 1/250, ƒ/8, (35mm = 600)] Flash set to 1/16 power

The exotic photo location maybe in your backyard

The Roswell Presbyterian Church Youth take the Child Development Association kids for a day of fun at the Chattahooche Nature Center located in Roswell, GA.

This year Roswell Presbyterian Church in Roswell, GA is doing a mission project locally with their youth.  They are calling it The Well.  The high school youth are staying in town and working with the local mission partners.

There seems to be a theme I am picking up with my friends also this year about doing things in our own backyards.  Here is my friend Gary Chapman’s blog post about his coverage of a mission group here in Atlanta. 

What I was really enjoying about this missions project is it is all about being someone’s friend. I think the one thing many folks forget about in missions is it isn’t about our building buildings and digging wells–it is that we are doing these things to have a relationship with people.

The best part about shooting something like this mission trip that I did with my church locally is the investment you put into this project doesn’t have to be a one time event.  You live near these people and can go back and maybe even develop a larger package.

The best part for those doing something local is you get to build on a relationship.  Each person you get to know can be someone you might just develop a lifetime friendship with and you don’t have to wait till you travel again overseas to see them again.

I just love this moment with the small girl and the older teenager.  What do you see when you look at this photo?  Write me a comment below and let me know.

She is letting the little boy know where she lives and he is telling her where he lives on the map of the Roswell area.

I love taking walks in the woods.  Here I think the canopy of the trees is like a cocoon.  The teenagers are bonding with the toddlers and together they are having fun.

I want to encourage you to find something near you that you can go and photograph this summer.  Some of the best opportunities are in your backyard.  Can you tell me some of your projects that you are doing in your community?  Post your ideas below, you may just inspire all of us to do something we haven’t thought of before.

Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC

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We are in Charleston, SC this weekend to celebrate our oldest son graduating from The Citadel.

We had some time to stop by the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and just wanted to share with you some of my sights while here.

Which ones are your favorite?

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I always travel with a tripod

Gitzo GT-0531 Mountaineer 6X Carbon Fiber tripod
I always try and have a tripod with me at all times.  Finding a sturdy tripod was pretty easy to do.  However, once you start to fly and carry your tripod through airports worldwide you quickly will look for something much lighter.
Carbon fiber has high tensile strength, low weight, and low thermal expansion make it a perfect solution to make tripods strong durable and lightweight.  So a few years ago I researched and tried a few tripods before buying my Gitzo GT-0531 Mountaineer 6X Carbon Fiber tripod. 
Weighing only 1.6 lbs, 20.9” tall folded, extends to a height of 51.6″ and can go as low as 10.6” with legs spread. 
When looking for a tripod the smaller it is folded and then combined with a really tall height when expanded will make a tripod cost more.  The carbon fiber cuts the weight by 1/3 as compared to a similar tripod made of metal.
Manfrotto 492 Micro Ball Head
This tripod doesn’t come with a head.  I liked ball heads and needed again something small yet strong.  I bought the Manfrotto 492 Micro Ball Head.
This combination fits in a small carry on bag and keeps my camera steady when I need it.  

Cades Cove – Personal Retreat

Knolan Benfield, my uncle and professional photographer, and I took a few days to do what we love to do—photograph wildlife in Cades Cove.

Carter Shields Cabin George Washington “Carter” Shields (1844-1924) bought this land and cabin from John Sparks in 1910. The cabin dates to the 1830-40s. Shields lived in the cove until 1921. This cabin is located at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove contains more historic buildings than any other location in the park.

“It is great to take time like this to put all those years of honing your craft to make a living and then spend some time shooting for yourself like this,” Knolan commented just before we finished our time in the Great Smoky National Park this past week.

When I first picked up the camera, I shot for myself; it was a lot of fun. I then pursued this as a career. Over the years, I knew I could do a better job, so I continued to the workshops, seminars, read books, and did a lot of self-assignment tests to sharpen my skills.

It had been a while since I spent time photographing nature like this—back when all I shot was film. I would shoot and then look at the back of the camera, evaluating the image. I would pull up the histogram and see if it could be improved. We played with different white balance settings to see the outcomes of our efforts.

We just had fun.

Only another photographer would put up with our long shoots with one deer and a tripod. Most of our friends would think, “haven’t you got enough already?”

Oxeye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) rhizomatous perennial growing erect to 1 metre in height; lower leaves spoon-shaped, coarsely dissected and stalked; upper leaves narrower and stalkless or clasp the stem; daisy-like flowers borne at ends of stems; central yellow disk flowers 10 to 20 mm wide; white ray flowers are 1 to 2 cm long Photographed on top of Clingmans Dome, Tennessee which is part of the Great Smoky National Park.

What I noticed the most were the memories in my mind of conversations, bears we saw that turned and went into the woods before we could get our camera up, and funny moments that rejuvenate the soul.

I hope I do not take as long between this adventure and the next time I shoot for myself.