nikonians

Even though we ARE Nikon lovers,we are NOT affiliated with Nikon Corp. in any way.


Sign up Login
Home Forums Articles Galleries News Workshops Shop Recommended
members
All members Wiki Contests Vouchers Apps Newsletter THE NIKONIAN™ Magazines Podcasts Fundraising

You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author
Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Mon 24-May-10 07:46 PM

This may be old, but I just saw this video. HBB, Joe McNally can give you a run for your money in the SB800 herd competition.

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

MEMcD

US
28347 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#1. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 0

MEMcD Moderator In depth knowledge in various areas Nikonian since 24th Dec 2007
Mon 24-May-10 08:07 PM

Hi Curt,

Great Stuff!
Thanks for the link!
It is always nice to have a few extra voice activated lightstands around.
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!

Best Regards,
Marty

HBB

Phoenix, US
8599 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#2. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 0

HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Tue 25-May-10 08:06 PM | edited Tue 25-May-10 08:10 PM by HBB

Curt:

Thanks for posting this. I rarely shoot daylight shots without at least a couple speedlights ... someplace in the image.

Agreed: One can never have too many speedlights.

I don't know how many he has, I only saw seven SB800s in the video, but my current herd includes the following:

SB900 (1)
SB800 (12)
SB600 (1)
SB400 (1)
SB-R200 (4)
SU800 (1)

The video would have been more interesting without the loud music, which overpowered the commentary.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Go here for a list of membership upgrade benefits.

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

Freewheeler10

Englewood, US
1105 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#3. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 2

Freewheeler10 Registered since 17th Apr 2008
Wed 26-May-10 01:05 PM

>Agreed: One can never have too many speedlights.
>
>I don't know how many he has, I only saw seven SB800s in the
>video,

At a recent lighting seminar here in Denver, someone asked
Joe how many speedlights he used. He said the maximum he could
remember using in one shoot was either fifty-three or fifty-seven
SB-800s and '900s, to light the inside of a cargo plane.

>The video would have been more interesting without the loud
>music, which overpowered the commentary.

I actually thought it was pretty well engineered for a you-tube video.
http://gallery.me.com/freewheeler
http://freewheeler10.blogspot.com/

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#4. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 3

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Wed 26-May-10 06:54 PM

>At a recent lighting seminar here in Denver, someone asked
>Joe how many speedlights he used. He said the maximum he
>could
>remember using in one shoot was either fifty-three or
>fifty-seven
>SB-800s and '900s, to light the inside of a cargo plane.

"Fifty-three or fifty-seven"! Hal you have a reputation to uphold. You can't let this guy surpass you! Or course, it'd be nice if you could get Nikon to give you some.

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

HBB

Phoenix, US
8599 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#5. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 4

HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Wed 26-May-10 10:08 PM

Curt:

Thanks for the challenge.

Nikon doesn't even know I exist, despite all of the night time, moving vehicle, law enforcement images I have posted here over the years, many of them using my entire herd of twelve SB800s. Probably because all of my work with law enforcement agencies has been volunteer. I don't advertise or promote in any way, and don't have Joe's need for financial reward. I prefer it this way, as I always have complete control over the shoot ... No "expert" clients to satisfy.

While Joe does impressive things with speedlights, they are not magic. With time, an understanding of camera basics and illumination, and a bit of practice, any Nikonian can accomplish the same things he does. Getting past the CLS learning curve seems to be the major obstacle for most people. Once CLS setup is second nature, applying a herd of speedlights in imaginative ways is easy ... assuming one has the herd to begin with. As I have mentioned many times in past years, SB800s (and other speedlights as well) multiply in the dark, feeding on lost socks and dryer lint.

I once lit the interior of an empty Air Force C5A cargo plane with a single SB800 on a D2X (See Image Below). Yes, there is some inverse square falloff from my position to the distant rear bulkhead, and I did apply a bit of shadows/highlight tool in CS4 to bring it back, but it is still a single SB800.

D2X, ISO = 100, 1/60 second
Nikkor 17-55 mm Zoom at 17 mm, and F/5.6

I can't imagine how one would use 53 or 57 speedlights in the interior of a cargo plane, even one this large and cavernous. I could have done wonders in this plane with just half a dozen, max, plus an on-camera SU800.

You can judge the size of the interior of this plane by looking at the people standing in the rear of the cargo bay and the crew member on the ladder descending from the upper deck.

While on this trip, I also got a brief session in the C5A simulator ... vastly different than my one hour session in an F16 simulator.

Thanks again for your kind words.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Go here for a list of membership upgrade benefits.

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

Click on image to view larger version


Attachment #1, (jpg file)

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#6. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 5

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Thu 27-May-10 12:56 AM

Great shot Hal. I was just talking to someone about doing some gratis car photography to get some practice. I was thinking I might need a Elinchrom Ranger RX kit to get enough power to do the shot. Your example shows that and SB800 works inside without any problem. I'm imagine doing an outside shot and over powering the sun would be another matter.

I can't imagine using 50+ Speedlites either. He may have done it just for the challenge. Just think how long it would take to set up and take down. Elinchroms would be a better solution and he owns them.

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

HBB

Phoenix, US
8599 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#7. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 6

HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Thu 27-May-10 01:42 AM

Curt:

When using speedlights outdoors in daylight, you do not need to "overpower" the sun. Set your camera to manual: shutter and aperture. Then, select an aperture that provides the desired depth of field. Next, select a shutter speed (up to maximum sync speed) that underexposes the ambient light (sun) exposure by the desired amount. Finally, bring your speedlights up to the power level required to make them the dominant source of illumination without overexposing or blowing out the subject.

In this mode of operation, shutter speed controls ambient illumination exposure, and speedlight power settings control supplemental illumination exposure.

If you cannot underexpose the ambient illumination enough at maximum sync speed, you will have to set the aperture to a smaller opening (larger F/number), realizing that your depth of field will increase.

Once you have done this a few times, it becomes second nature. I can't remember the last time I shot anything in any of the automatic modes.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

Freewheeler10

Englewood, US
1105 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#8. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 6

Freewheeler10 Registered since 17th Apr 2008
Thu 27-May-10 02:22 PM

>I can't imagine using 50+ Speedlites either. He may have done
>it just for the challenge. Just think how long it would take
>to set up and take down. Elinchroms would be a better
>solution and he owns them.

That's why he has a crew of "Voice Operated Light Stands." At the seminar
here in Denver, he was using up to a dozen SB-900s, setup took very
little time with two to three "gaffers." Nikon took back all their '800s in
his last equipment swap out, he has to make do with all SB-900s now.
....poor guy.

Where there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us
nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in
which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.
____Dorothea Lange

http://gallery.me.com/freewheeler
http://freewheeler10.blogspot.com/

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#9. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 7

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Thu 27-May-10 08:48 PM

>When using speedlights outdoors in daylight, you do not need
>to "overpower" the sun. Set your camera to manual:
>shutter and aperture. Then, select an aperture that provides
>the desired depth of field. Next, select a shutter speed (up
>to maximum sync speed) that underexposes the ambient light
>(sun) exposure by the desired amount. Finally, bring your
>speedlights up to the power level required to make them the
>dominant source of illumination without overexposing or
>blowing out the subject.
>
>In this mode of operation, shutter speed controls ambient
>illumination exposure, and speedlight power settings control
>supplemental illumination exposure.
>

Hal,

Thanks for the information. I shoot almost exclusively in Manual mode so I understand the procedure. If I'm following your logic, you're saying that the flash produces more light than the sun when it fires even when set far enough back to illuminate a car. I'd try it, but it's STILL RAINING here in the end of May.

Lacking actual sun I recalled the sunny 16 rule. For a correct exposure in full sun, one would set the shutter speed to 1/200 for ISO 200 and an aperture of f/16. I just did a test with the flash set to full power and 35mm, my Sekonic set to a shutter speed of 1/250, and I triggered it from eight feet away. It gave me an aperture of f/13 so it wouldn't be enough. I chose eight feet as that is how far away I had to be to shoot my roadster in a 3/4 view. Were you thinking of using multiple strobes at a closer range? I have two SB800's and an SB80.

I know you said under expose. Given, I'm up against the sync speed at 1/250, I'd have to go to f/22 or smaller. I remember that small apertures bring up problems, but not what they are. I guess I could go to LO 0.5 or LO 1.0 on my D3 or an ND filter. Have I missed something here?

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

HBB

Phoenix, US
8599 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#10. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 9

HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Thu 27-May-10 10:21 PM | edited Thu 27-May-10 10:26 PM by HBB

Curt:

You are on the right track.

Think of combined ambient (sunlight) and supplemental (speedlight) photography as two exposures combined in one image: One exposure created by ambient illumination (sun) and the other by supplemental illumination (speedlights).

Given these two light sources, we can balance their contribution to an image in any ratio we want:

a) Ambient dominant, Supplemental secondary.
b) Supplemental dominant, Ambient secondary.
c) Ambient and Supplemental evenly balanced.

The sun is a continuous light source at a given intensity, an average of 92 million miles away. To drop the sun's intensity by one stop, we would have to place the subject 130 million miles away from it (92 X 1.414 = 130 million miles). To increase it by one stop, we would have to place the subject 65 million miles from it (92 X 0.702 = 65 million miles). Not easily done, in either case, unless you have access to toys that I don't.

Since we cannot shut the sunlight off, or easily control its distance from the subject in any meaningful sense, we control its contribution to the image with some combination of shutter speed and aperture. Shutter speed controls the time interval that the sun's illumination falls on the camera's image sensor, and aperture controls the amount of the sun's illumination that falls on the image sensor per unit of time. If this will not reduce its contribution enough, and still stay at 1/250 second maximum sync shutter time, we can resort to slower ISO and/or ND filters as you suggest.

Speedlights are essentially instantaneous (e.g., 1/1000 second at full power, less at lower power levels), and usually a few feet away from the subject, instead of millions of miles. We can easily control speedlight illumination in several ways, including:

a) Power Level.
b) Aperture.
c) Changing Subject to Speedlight Distance, at a Constant Aperture and Power Level.
d) Combinations of the above.

With one or more speedlights, and a fixed aperture for controlling ambient illumination, we can control their illumination by changing their distance from the subject and their power level. Keeping the inverse square law in mind, a short, bright, instantaneous pulse from a speedlight at close range, will produce greater illumination per unit of area on the camera's image sensor than the sun.

Yes, smaller apertures produce image softening due to the diffraction effect. Depending on the lens, I would try and stay in the F/8 to F/11 range if possible.

For three-quarter shots of vehicles, I would use all three of your speedlights:

a) SB80 on your D3
b) One SB800 illuminating the side of the vehicle
c) The other SB800 illuminating the front of the vehicle
d) Both SB800s set to the SU-4 mode, so they will optically slave to the on-camera SB80. This means you will setting all speedlight power levels manually.

This will provide more uniform illumination and reduce fall off due to the inverse square law.

If it is still raining, you can practice this indoors in a brightly lit room, or a room with a 300 Watt photoflood bulb in a reflector standing in for the sun. This will give you some insight to the illumination balancing issues.

Hope this helps a bit.

Let us see some results!

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#11. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 10

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Mon 31-May-10 05:11 PM

>Let us see some results!
>
>Regards,
>
>HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
>Nikonian Team Member
>

I gave it a try yesterday. I fist set my Sekonic light meter to give an aperture value for a shutter speed of 1/250. The reading on the top of the car was 13 1. The reading in the shade under the mirror was 3.2 2. The last digit in both readings is additional tenths of a stop. I then set up two SB800's just out of frame to the left parallel to the car. The were set to full power and 24mm. They were also attached to a fully charged Quantum Turbo 2x2.

D3
24-70mm f/2.8 at 48mm
1/250 sec at f/14
IS0 200

Click on image to view larger version


When I took a flash reading I got f/16 or smaller so you would think the side of the card would come out lighter. I also tried 50mm on the flash and even all the way out to 105mm without much effect. In this photo, the histogram is up against both sides so there no room for adjustment. I have to think I'm doing something wrong or do I need more flashes.
Attachment #1, (jpg file)

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

HBB

Phoenix, US
8599 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#12. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 11

HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Mon 31-May-10 07:01 PM

Curt

Thanks for including the picture. It helps a lot!

It looks like the sun was almost directly overhead for this image, yes?

I assume that you were holding your Sekonic meter somewhere over the car, pointed at the camera/speedlights (incident metering mode), yes? In this mode, your meter should be giving you the percentage of illumination due to the flash, in the upper right hand corner of the display. Subtracting this from 100 gives you the percentage of ambient illumination (sunlight). This may be a clue to what is occurring: the bright, overhead sun is contributing a significant percentage of the total illumination.

The hood and roof of the vehicle appear to be about right, possibly a bit overexposed.

Since the front and left side of the car (camera right) are underexposed, you will want to place one SB800 just out of the image in front of the car (camera left), and the other just out of the frame to the left of the car (camera right. Place the speedlights so that they do not reflect directly back into the camera, producing hot spots.

Then take an incident reading of the car and select an appropriate aperture at a shutter speed of 1/250 second. Take a series of shots starting at M1/1 (full power) for both remote SB800s. Reduce the power level on both SB800s as needed to gain appropriate illumination on the front and side of the vehicle. Once this is accomplished, Leave all camera and speedlight settings alone and capture a series of incident illumination meter readings from different locations around the car, pointing at the dominant light source in each case: Roof, front, left side (camera right), etc. Note the percentage of ambient (sunlight) illumination and SB800 contribution in each reading. This should give you an idea of what you are up against.

Your D3 has lower ISO settings that will get you down to ISO of 100. You might want to try that to knock down the strong overhead sunlight by one stop.

Your histogram is up against both sides due to the bright roof/hood of the car, and the very dark shadows under the car and in the garage behind it.

You are constrained a bit by using the SB80 speedlight on camera, and the two remote SB800s in SU-4 mode. Things would get easier if you had an SB900 or SU800 on-camera, which would make it easier to balance the remote SB800s. It would also let you shoot at faster shutter speeds in the FP mode, giving you more room to knock down the strong ambient illumination (sunlight).

You have picked a tough setup to explore this lighting exercise. Stick with it and the lights will come on.

Hope this helps a bit.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#13. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 12

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Mon 31-May-10 08:30 PM

>It looks like the sun was almost directly overhead for this
>image, yes?
>
Nearly so. It was about 11 AM PDT.

>I assume that you were holding your Sekonic meter somewhere
>over the car, pointed at the camera/speedlights (incident
>metering mode), yes?

For the first two values I gave, the meter was set to ambient mode with the lumisphere extended and no flash. I pointed the meter at the source of the light. For the sun reading, if I pointed it at the camera, the lumishphere would have been slightly shaded be the meter itself.

>In this mode, your meter should be
>giving you the percentage of illumination due to the flash, in
>the upper right hand corner of the display. Subtracting this
>from 100 gives you the percentage of ambient illumination
>(sunlight). This may be a clue to what is occurring: the
>bright, overhead sun is contributing a significant percentage
>of the total illumination.
>
Didn't know about the percentage. Thanks

>...
>Since the front and left side of the car (camera right) are
>underexposed, you will want to place one SB800 just out of the
>image in front of the car (camera left), and the other just
>out of the frame to the left of the car (camera right. Place
>the speedlights so that they do not reflect directly back into
>the camera, producing hot spots.
>
Both SB800's were off camera on light stands about three feet about the ground pointed slightly downwards. Pocket Wizard driven with the flashes in SU-4 manual mode. I didn't use the SB-80, but you're right about the shadows under the chin. I need another Pocket Wizard.

>Then take an incident reading of the car and select an
>appropriate aperture at a shutter speed of 1/250 second. Take
>a series of shots starting at M1/1 (full power) for both
>remote SB800s. Reduce the power level on both SB800s as
>needed to gain appropriate illumination on the front and side
>of the vehicle.
>...
Given I was already at full power in the example shot and the side of the car illuminated by the flash is quite a bit darker than the top, I'm not sure I'll be able to over power the sun, which is what this test is for. None the less, I'll give it another try.

>Your D3 has lower ISO settings that will get you down to ISO
>of 100. You might want to try that to knock down the strong
>overhead sunlight by one stop.
>
I have LO 0.5 and LO 1.0. Which one is the equivalent to ISO 100?

>Your histogram is up against both sides due to the bright
>roof/hood of the car, and the very dark shadows under the car
>and in the garage behind it.
>
Good point. Since I don't care about the light in those areas, I can stop down more or drop the ISO.

>You are constrained a bit by using the SB80 speedlight on
>camera, and the two remote SB800s in SU-4 mode. Things would
>get easier if you had an SB900 or SU800 on-camera, which would
>make it easier to balance the remote SB800s. It would also
>let you shoot at faster shutter speeds in the FP mode, giving
>you more room to knock down the strong ambient illumination
>(sunlight).
>
See above for placement. I have the SU-800. I may try using it and the flashes in automatic mode to see what it can do.

>You have picked a tough setup to explore this lighting
>exercise. Stick with it and the lights will come on.
>
I wouldn't normally shoot in this light. As with landscape, early or late daylight or flash in the shade would be ideal. This is just an exercise to master a challenging situation. It's overcast today so I'll have to wait for harsher conditions

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

Curt

Redwood City, US
682 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#14. "RE: You Can Never Have Too Many Speedlites" | In response to Reply # 12

Curt Registered since 02nd Sep 2004
Tue 01-Jun-10 10:25 PM | edited Tue 01-Jun-10 10:43 PM by Curt

We didn't get full sun until afternoon today and I didn't have enough room to shoot the car from the other side. My stand in is a cart with some white background material draped over it. The shots have be cropped to show just a portion of the top and the side towards the flash.

My ambient light meter readings in shutter priority mode at 1/250 seconds where f/13 2 pointed straight up and f/3.6 2 pointed to where the flash would be. I shielded the lumisphere from the sun with my hand for the second reading.

In the first shot the flash didn't fire due to user error. It shows you what it looks like without a flash.

D3
85mm f/1.4
f/16 at 1/250
ISO 200

Click on image to view larger version


As you can see the top is slightly under exposed.

For the second shot, the flash was set to 1/1, 50mm, and was three feet away. When I took a flash reading, the meter gave me f/45 2 at 1/250 seconds. The flash contribution was 100%. I switched to my 105mm so I could stop down beyond f/16, but this shot is still at f/16.

D3
105mm f/2.8
f/16 at 1/250
ISO 200


Click on image to view larger version


The exposure was slightly blown out in the blue channel. I didn't correct for it. The flash side is brighter than the sun side, but just barely.

For the last shot I stopped down some more. I moved the flash to four feet and set it to 24mm. That about how far I'd have to be back to keep them out of the shot when shooting a car.

D3
105mm f/2.8
f/20 at 1/250
ISO 200

Edit: clicked the wrong button. To continue:

Click on image to view larger version


Nothing is blown out in this shot. I did another shot at f/32 and one at f/36. They just got darker overall.

So it seems to me that you can just barely over power the sun given with one flash. I think I would need more than three to make the top even darker and illuminate the entire side of a car. I'll try it with two as the weather allows. This is fun and educational too!
Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)
Attachment #3, (jpg file)

Curt

A San Francisco Peninsula Nikonian

WilliamRowePhotography

G