Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Separation lights for Altar return groups

Saturday I was at a church I had photographed many times. The altar area is large, under lit, and far from the back wall. This all leads up to a black hole for the altar return groups. Black tuxes and black hair will fade into the background and no amount of dragging the shutter will help. Long before you lighten the back wall the ambient on the front area will overpower your mainlight.

Soooooo, I was determined to do something different. I wanted to make these groups "pop" from the dark (even black) background. Because I had so much depth, I could get two lights behind and to the sides of the groups. I put two SB28 speedlight set to 1/4 power about 20 feet behind and just out of frame. I aimed them for the middle of the groups. This gave me the nice rim-lighting you see on the shoulders of the tuxedos and the hair.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ooops, I forgot my remotes!

Last Sunday night I was at a reception that required a backdrop for larger groups. I didn't have any radio remotes to fire the lights, so I thought about using the Ultra Zap 2400's built in optical slave. I thought I could use my SB800 and swivel it to point backward towards the Ultra Zap and use it to trigger the Ultra Zap. But the normal setting on my SB800 is TTL and it sends out a little pre-flash to determine the exposure. That little pre-flash triggered the Ultra Zap so that when the actual exposure was made, the Ultra Zap was recycling and did not fire.

Setting my SB800 to manual and dialing it down solved the problem. Manual doesn't give you a pre-flash, so only the actual exposure flash triggered my off-camera optical lights. Situation resolved.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


It's been a while since I posted. I have some neat images for the blog and as soon as I process them I will post and talk about them. I really like the SB800 and the Nikon Creative Light System!

Yesterday's wedding was at Independence Grove here in Libertyville. It was a full day in the sun, but the temp was only in the upper 70s and the humidity was bearable. The breeze really helped, too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sunset with the bride and groom

Last Sunday night I was at Independence Grove with my associate, Emma. The bride asked for a sunset picture, so we walked down to the waterfront. I posed them looking at the sunset on their wedding day, and had Emma take a Lumedyne with a radio slave around the side and slightly in front of them. I metered for the sky, underexposing it by about a stop. Then I took a test shot and adjusted the aperture until the light on the couple looked nice. I re-metered the sky (keeping it a stop under exposed) and banged off a few shots.

It was 95 degrees out there last Sunday and we went through a lot of water and Poweraid. Remember to keep hydrated!

Why you need to test

Last time I said I marked the floor of my garage with two marks ten feet apart. Yesterday I got the Nikon SB-28 speedlight I bought on eBay (gotta love that place). I tested my current SB800 against the newcomer to get an idea of relative power. Here are the results at full power ISO 100 at 10 feet.

Zoom SB28 SB800
24mm f4.0.9 f5.6.1
28mm f5.6.0 f5.6.3
35mm f5.6.4 f5.6.8
50mm f5.6.8 f8.0.1
70mm f8.0.1 f8.0.4
85mm f8.0.3 f8.0.6

It looks like the SB800 is consistantly about 1/3 stop stronger. That could be due to the age of the capacitors in the SB28. But now I know that they are pretty much the same. I think a third of stop is pretty close.

Now I have two similarly powered speedlights (and I just got the PC male to PC male sync cords) so I can do some of the cool stuff that David Hobby talks about on the Strobist (see links). Have fun and keep shooting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Testing, Testing, Testing

I am such a geek that I marked my garage floor with two lines ten feet apart to facilitate testing flash units. Now I have a quick and easy (and repeatable ) way to experiment.

I tried a Lumedyne flash vs. a Nikon SB800 and found that the SB800 delivered the same amount of light at full power at the the Lumedyne at 100ws. That means that the Lumedyne at 200ws is only one stop brighter than the SB800. You could compensate for that by increasing the ISO or opening up one stop. Nice to know and have in your bag of tricks.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Another great blog and resource

Yup, I am a photo-dork. I am meeting my associate at the studio this morning at 9:00 AM to leave for our wedding. So I got up at 6:00 to make sure I had time to get the van loaded, make lunch, and get ready. All that is done, so here I sit surfing the web, looking for inspiration and new ideas. Yup, I am a photo-dork.

I came across a great site dedicated to weddings and lighting weddings. It is http://www.flashflavor.com/ and I will include it in my links. That's all for now, so keep shooting!

Saturday, July 7, 2007


As the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Universe says, DON'T PANIC! Tonight, I got a frantic call from a friend. He was shooting a wedding when he had tried to review his last image. Suddenly his camera said that there were no images on his card. The counter on the top display said that he only had one image left, so something was on his card. But the monitor said there were no files on the card. Clearly something was wrong.

I told him to remove the card and set it aside and keep going. DON'T PANIC! It won't help. Just replace the card and keep shooting. As it turned out, the images were all there except the last one. Something happened and it was corrupted. That caused the camera to be unable to read the card. I was able to successfully download the card and determine that the images were there. This same thing happened to another friend a few weeks ago, but it happened to several different cards, which meant she was nearly out of memory. Her husband was about to go to Walgreen's and buy some more memory, but they were able to finish the night with what they had.

At Studio West, we shoot the entire wedding in raw mode. This takes the maximum memory. Our standing orders are to shoot raw (or NEF, or RAF, or RAW, or camera raw, or whatever). If, however, we are running out of memory at the reception, we can switch to Large Fine JPG for the dancing. If that still isn't enough, we can shoot with a lower resolution or more compression. You see, it pays to have a thought-out procedure; the proverbial Plan B!

Just an update for you all. I am in the midst of three weddings in five days plus a camp on the sixth day. I have some really great things from yesterday's wedding and should have some unusual things from tomorrow's wedding. I will post them early next week.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Putting in your time

Like any new toy, I just can't keep my hands off this blog. No images today, just a few thoughts. As Zig Ziglar says, "Everyone is entitled to my opinion."

My blog's sub-head says, "Learn your trade, not just the tricks of the trade." I don't know where I heard that, but I think it is so true. A friend of mine is a tradesman, and a very good one at that. After so many years of doing what he does, he makes it look effortless. He knows his trade inside an out. He has literally practiced daily for years. He has done it so often that he could probably do it in his sleep.

The difference between my friend as a tradesman and myself as a wedding photographer is that if he messes up, he can do it over. As a wedding photographer, if I mess up there is no do-over. I cannot practice of the day of a wedding. I have to practice on my own.

When I first started as a wedding photographer I spent hours each week studying wedding photography. I studied exposure, my camera, posing, and even my "bed-side manner." I watched as other photographers interacted with the bride and other participants, decided what I liked and what I didn't like and worked on emphasizing the former and eliminating the latter.

Today, twenty years into wedding photography, I still spend an average of ten hours a week on the Internet fine-tuning what I do. I am constantly looking at other photographers' web sites for inspiration, information, and instruction. The links that I list are just some of my favorites.

I find it incomprehensible that people can go out, buy a camera, and proclaim that they are photographers. And then they pout, they moan and groan, when asked to do assignments on their own to show that they have mastered something or to give them new skills.

I don't care if you don't have time. If you are passionate about photography, then you will make the time. If you are not, then put down the camera and find something you are passionate about.

The bottom line is that you must practice you trade. Constantly. A musician would never consider practicing only when he is on-stage in front of an audience. And neither should a photographer. Do you homework. Wander around the Internet. Get inspired. Grow!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Window light and an accident

When I arrived at the country club for this wedding, I was immediately drawn to this location. I determined that I would photograph the bride here, set against the window. I metered the indoor ambient light and under exposed by one stop. I wanted some detail, not a total silhouette. When the bride was ready, I placed her under a down light and made an exposure. I adjusted a little and then shot away. It reminded me of somthing I had seen on DWF (digitalweddingforum.com) from an old manor home in England.

This next image was a happy accident. With the veil over her head, I wanted to do a window-light lit portrait of the bride. When I had positioned her, I noticed that the veil was in a shaft of sunlight that totally blew out all detail in that side of the image. I moved her forward until the veil over her face was in the shaft of light. I directed her to look back at the camera while her face was turned into the light. This caused her visible eye to be off-center in her eye socket. It put all the white of her eye on the left side and emphasised her eye, adding impact.

Both of these images were shot with a 28-70 zoom.

Location Portrait of the Groom

Last Saturday I had the chance to photograph the groom and his party at a very cool location. It was the Dominican University Priory (thanks, Marisa, for suggesting that he pick an location other than the church). After doing the traditional photos, I looked around for something different and found an architectural element that I liked.

The entrance to the chapel had arched walkways. I placed the groom under one archway and shot through another to give more depth and interest. I placed the groom's back to the sun and spot-metered off his black coat. I underexposed his coat by two stops to keep it black. The direct sunlight on his shoulders provided a strong separation light. Then, the sunlight reflecting off the stone to his right provided the light on his face. It is split lighting, but I liked the effect on his face. I could have had him turn his chin to his right and had a more traditional light pattern, but I thought this worked for him. It seemed more masculine to me.

I posed the groom with his feet a little more than shoulder width apart and square to the camera. You would normally turn the subject slightly to one side or the other, but this groom was so extraordinarily thin that I wanted to make him look bigger and broader. His hands are in his pockets and I had him bring his elbows out from his body just a bit. This made him look wider and stronger.

I used a 70-200VR lens on a tripod to compress the image.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Opening Day

This is the opening day of my new blog. I am Michael David Fisher and I have been a professional photographer for the past twenty-three years. In this blog I intend to talk about photography, lighting, and the world in general. I hope to see you here often and help you to see, shoot, and show your work more effectively, efficiently, and effortlessly.

Thank you, David Hobby at strobist.blogspot. com, for getting me off my butt and into this blog.

God bless you all.