There’s something about an old garage, an even older truck, an oxy-acetylene torch wielding dude who could have had a cameo in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a bunch of tarnished, beat up junk that makes you want to pull out the camera. I don’t do landscapes very well. I go to sleep at the tripod. But put me in a garage like this, and I’m like a kid in a candy store.
I’ve been especially giddy lately, ’cause I’m tackling things that would have been impossible with line of sight Speedlight technology. The SB-5000 radio TTL system makes this shot, well, not a no brainer, but something that is fun and challenging to put together, instead of frustrating and painful. In other words, I’m able to freely place and hide flashes literally wherever I want, and not make compromises to accommodate whether a remote flash can see the commander unit at camera. And, I’ve got full TTL or manual control over exposure right at the camera. And it’s dependable. And, instead of the traditional three, it’s got six groups, A through F, you can direct, giving you literally double the flexibility in terms of dictating flash power for various areas of the photo. What’s not to like?
Let’s take it in steps. Spike the camera. D5 with a 14-24mm a heavy duty Gitzo. Notice the windows at the back. I’m cheating. Means there’s natural light back there and I can dial that up and down as a fill with shutter speed, so it’s potentially an area of the photo I don’t have to light. Orient the old truck, which means pushing aside a bunch of heavy clutter. “Worth it!” as Deadpool might remark.
Light with a purpose, piece by piece. Main light for subject, fill light for subject. Light(s) for engine compartment. Light for front grillwork. Rim light for the left side of vehicle. Red gelled light for simulated tail light. Put light in prop work lamp, and run the work lamp cord up to a boom perched on a high roller. Make sure all these lights are gelled appropriately warm. Put in backlight. Blast it at your subject’s backside, but soften it with a blow of smoke. Define the far wall below the windows with flashes washing upwards from a low position. Put a rim light off the work light off to camera right, and that will give the right side of the photo a bit of lift and separation. Hmmm, never described a Speedlight as a brassiere before, but there you go.
Above is the road map, a sort of Rube Goldberg map of our day in the field. The lighting is actually remarkably simple, in a way. There are only two light shapers in the whole picture–an EzyBox Hot Shoe Softbox, and a Lastolite Speedlight box. Everything else is just a raw light, some with dome diffusers, others zoomed to control spread. There are gels on virtually every light, mostly CTO. But that’s it. Two light shapers, over and under. The rest of the time I’m just splashing light here and there and seeing how it looks. The sketch above shows how you get from here….
I fully acknowledge my artistic abilities fall way short of coherence, and may be hard to follow. Ample evidence above. The good news is this garage adventure, and others I will blog about, simpler setups, as well as more complex, are all covered in a really easy, explanatory video. Check it out here. The video starts with one SB-5000 Speedlight, and goes forward into multiple radio units, and then shows a “grand finale” lit with 5000’s mixed in with line of sight SB-910’s.
It was a fun day in the field, as it always is when playing with flash accompanied by Obi Wan, the Speedlight maestro of Nikon, Lindsay Silverman. He shot the BTS stills seen here.
There’s more shots done for the video we’ll blog about shortly. Popped this one out as we just used our garage mechanic as a header over on Facebook, and some folks had questions. I’ll be patrolling comments here, if anyone has anything they want to ask, I’ll do my best to answer.
Love this explanation and diagram…. AND love your comment about falling asleep at the nature tripod…. me too! Carry on Ansel Adams… we’ll be in the bar. lol…. thanks Joe
Wayne Smith says
Who’d thought all that goes into a garage torch man shot. Definitely awesome. Love the sketch. Looking forward to seeing the video.
Joe, you are the best thing ever. Not only do you understand light, but you explain it in a way us mere mortals can comprehend. Thanks so much!
Craig Taylor says
I never knew you could get drunk off of radio triggered flashes. #FlashDrunk 🙂
Does Nikon have any plans on backward compatibility for those of us not using D5/500? I am thinking like an upgraded SU 800 that would support both infrared and wireless
Danny Bailey says
Approximately how many different facial expressions did you shoot and did you know that the one posted was “the” shot when you got it ?
Tom Ogle says
Joe- You are THE Lighting God. Again. The best part about the web and digital is WE get to follow you….just as I did beginning in the 70’s. Today it’s so much richer for the experience. THX!
Joe McNally says
Hmmm…good question. I shot maybe 70-100 frames once we got to the final lighting grid. I think I knew I had it early, but kept shooting just for variation, and to satisfy my own paranoia:-)))
Seriously awesome Joe! You always inspire! Thank you!
Anthony C says
“Spike the camera” Great expression. That’s gotta go back to your NYC days on the street, or maybe SI?
Joe McNally says
Yeah, def. an old school expression. Find the spot for the camera! Many thanks for taking a read…..all the best
Hi! Thanks for sharing. Always an admirer of your work. Tried the link to SB-5000 video but it seems that the page is not there. Would it be possible to send a correct link?
Hi Joe – great job but quite complicated. I’m amazed how many flashes are involved. Could it have been done with less – or was it impossible?
Great post but it seems the links to the video are dead…
Vardhan Kale says
This is incredible and an extremely difficult photo to capture even after learning how you did it. Every photographer needs to read your blogs to understand what photography really is.
It’ s amazing how much light can change a picture by only slightly changing the light, will have to follow to learn more tips.
Hi Joe. Amazing picture and great explanation. Thank you!!. I’ve a question. Have you try to use a SB5000 with Nikon D4?
Joe McNally says
No, I haven’t. I don’t own a D4 anymore.