In my last post, I had just finished shooting a "cute kids with horses" photo, and set about executing the original concept, a photo that highlighted the sponsors and planners of this charity event. I caught up with the event's publicist, and together worked out a shot that included three co-chairs, an Olympic Equestrian, and a representative from Bentley Motors, a major event donor. It seemed logical to have a Bentley in the photo, so we chose to make it in the display area in front of the stables, which you can see in the background. Besides, convincing people to pose by a car would be easier that getting them next to a horse. We agreed that the shot would be made at exactly 3:45 and take no more than 15 minutes so that everybody would be available for the hors d'oeuvre and champagne party Bentley scheduled for 4:00 pm.
More Planning: A shot like this doesn't just happen. Since the shot would be made in broad daylight, I would need to have as much light as I could muster. Speedlights weren't up to the task. While three SB-800s fired at full power might be bright enough, the ten-second recycle times would not be well received. With something of a sigh, I drove back to retrieve my "big guns", a pair of Norman 200B flashes. I normally use two in a cross-light arrangement for large groups, so I brought them both, along with two Eilenchrome Skyport radio triggers. Now I follow an old wedding photographer's maxim: Carry two of everything, just in case. So I packed two six-pound 200B battery packs, two Quantum X flash heads, and two Skyports packed in a backpack. To hold them aloft, I had a 12-foot light stand with double anchor points in case I had to mount both flash heads. With the flashes in a backpack, the light stand on my left shoulder, and my full camera kit on my right shoulder, I felt more like a pack-mule than a photographer and when I walked the 300 yards from my parking spot to the the per-determined location.
Backup At The Ready: As a precaution, I took my second body, a Nikon D300, installed a 24-70mm lens, and applied the exact same exposure settings as the D7000. I did this so that if something goes wrong, I could simply pull the Skyport transmitter off the D7000 and install it on the D300 without worrying about the settings not matching.
- Be sure you can see the light. (If they can't see the light, their faces will be in shadow.)
- Turn yourself so that you are facing slightly away from the camera. (This has a slimming effect which most people will appreciate.)
- Turn at the waist towards the camera. (This slims down the waist by making the shoulders appear slightly wider)
- Put your weight on your rear leg. (When people are turned, one leg will be closer to the camera than the other. By putting all of your weight on the rear leg, it gets "shorter", forcing the forward leg to bend slightly. This allows you to re-position the front leg to take advantage of resulting bend. Bringing the ankles together creates a smoother curve.)
Light Modifiers? In this case, I used the Quantum flash heads without any light modifiers. Here are three reasons:
- Umbrellas and softboxes could be blown over by a modest gust of wind.
- The flash output would have to be increased significantly, perhaps by a factor of four, or more.
- I would have needed a HUGE softbox or umbrella to have a noticeable improvement.
The designated Event Photographer for the Menlo Circus Club spoke with me briefly after the shot was made. She commented that she was having a great deal of difficulty producing usable images whenever there was sunlight involved. While she had a D700, a 24-70 Nikkor and an SB-900 with a Quantum Power Pack, I explained that there simply wasn't enough power in a single SB-900 to properly fill direct sunlight. That single Norman 200B has the same power as 3 SB-900's but deploying a Norman flash takes time, effort, and thorough exposure testing, since this was a totally manual proposition. But the final result was worth the effort.
Incidentally, Photo #4 is the image my editor chose. Sorry kids.