I’ve neglected this blog for a little while but it’s mostly because life has been somewhat busy and the temperatures outside have been as high as 107 degrees (actual temperature- not heat index) along with a drought so not exactly inviting shooting conditions.
Later this month, I will be doing my 3rd Alaskan Malamute Rescue Calendar shoot which will be a great deal of fun like always. I volunteered to do this in 2008 without really knowing what I was getting into and initially thought it was going to be a group photography event but as I got more and more details, it was obvious that I was going to be it. Not only that, there was an entire group of caring volunteers from all over Texas who have dedicated their lives to rescuing these beautiful dogs and so the pressure was on not to let them down.
At the time, I had my Nikon D40, Sigma 10-20mm, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8, SB-600 flash, and a 55-200mm VR f/4-5.6. Not exactly pro gear, but also no slouch. The D40 took beautiful pictures and because of the type of shutter it had, allowed me to use 1/500 sync speed in iTTL mode which meant that my little bitty SB-600 flash had much more power when used as fill flash and it could tone down the ambient light. To give you an idea, my D90 only has a sync speed of 1/200 in regular mode (there is a mode called Auto-FP which allows to use a faster shutter speed with flash but results in a great loss of power).
So what does this mean? Well suppose I am shooting in the bright late morning sun which was giving me an ambient reading of 1/200 f/16 and want to balance the flash with that ambient light (although it’s even nicer to overpower the ambient by a little to get saturated skies). I could shoot natural light but then there will be squinting if they stare at the sun or I’d be forced to choose between exposing the correct exposure for the background and the foreground, but in this case, I want to have a perfect exposure for the background AND the foreground.
Keep in mind f/16 is a very narrow aperture and a small flash is unlikely to have enough power to match it. Really, I would need a very powerful plug-in strobe to be able to do that. Not only that, at f/16, EVERYTHING will be in focus which I may or may not want (for portraits you want to isolate the subject and blur the background). The beauty of the D40 or any other camera with an electronic shutter is instead of 1/200, I could bump up the shutter speed to 1/500 (I’m talking about iTTL mode…I nkow the D40 can go much much higher in manual mode).
So again, WTF does this mean? Shutter speed only affects the AMBIENT light and not the flash so what we did is reduce the background exposure by 1.5 stops. What does that mean? It means to balance it out, we can use a lower f/stop and instead of f/16, use f/9.5 which is much more manageable as far as power goes. Even if you use the flash for fill, it puts much less strain on the batteries and the flash tube.
Looking back at the 2008 pictures, I may have overexposed some pictures with the fill but overall, I was very happy with the results. Since this year I’ll be using the d90, I have to be much more careful with the lighting. I also figured out that it’s best to hide the leash on the dogs to allow for easier photoshopping!