Wednesday, July 15, 2009

InStep Quartet Photo Shoot - Part 2

The Flash Rig

I want to say that the InStep Quartet are lovely people, patient, fun and appreciative. We had a great time shooting these pictures to our mutual benefit.

We decided to shoot the pictures at the now closed Alameda Navy Base for some rustic (and rusty) atmosphere. I expected bright sun and figured on shooting in whatever shade we could find at high noon. The flash would help even out the lighting. I was also hoping for some clouds and wanted to use the flash to control the ambient sky light in an artsy and dramatic way. There was not a single cloud in the sky, just bright, hot sun. The rig did work but was a challenge get everything right. More on that later.

I am in the market for flash equipment for studio and location work. Renting is a great way to get experience and field test expensive equipment before you buy. Fortunately, the San Francisco bay area hosts the photography rental company "Borrow Lenses". They are not far from my home and I was able to rent the lighting equipment I needed for this shoot on Friday, practice with it over the weekend, shoot the quartet on Monday morning and return it before 6pm.

The company is easy to work with and I appreciate that they were able to adapt to my needs. Nikon equipment is currently very popular so it is a good idea to reserve your equipment ahead of time, easily done on their web site. You also have the option of buying damage insurance.

I rented a Nikon SB900 Speedlight flash (ask for the manual and the color filters), 2 Pocket Wizards, a 13' light stand (the only size they rent at that time), a 48" reflective umbrella (again, the only size they rent) and a Gary Fong Lightsphere (which I never used). Batteries are your responsibility. There were none in the Pocket Wizards and the SB900 ran out after a few uses. There was no indication that an umbrella adapter was included or available. I called to talk about this and they noticed it before I was able to ask. So they ran out and bought a few (complete with brass monkey and cold shoe) and included one at no cost.

I had the weekend to experiment, scaring the bird and the wife with umbrellas and flashing lights in the house, referring back to Zack Aria's One Light Workshop video several times (mentioned in Part 1).

If the equipment is new to you, practice opening and closing everything. Take things apart and put them back together. Ask for the manual for everything you rent and read through it. Practice going through the menus on the flash. The idea is that you do not want to take time learning how to setup the stand or configuring the flash during the shoot. I discovered ahead of time that the flash does not lock into the cold shoe and the set screw can come loose with the flash falling out. I secured it with a velcro strap before the shoot and had no problems.

I totally neglected to take a picture of the setup for posterity, so dumb.

I did take the opportunity to try utilizing the flash for my Backyard Bird Photography project. Results? Well, let's just say you learn more from failure. The goal was to stop the action of birds in flight. I need more research for the proper setup to accomplish this. I did observe that, for the record, birds are not concerned with the flash and this was setup (without the umbrella) very close to the bird feeder. But that project is a subject for another post.

The InStep Quartet is a professional, high quality and multi-genre San Francisco bay area string quartet. Read more about them on their web site.

Next: Part 3 - What Could Possiblie Go Wrong?
Part 1 - Part 3

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