On the island, there’s a small park with an old windmill that looked really cool. I wanted to shoot it at dusk to get a dramatic sky and to play with my SB-800s flash. Of course, the park was closed but we snuck in (as any self respected photographer would do!). 🙂 So we got to the windmill and I started doing my test shots (n.b. all shots are straight out of the camera without post processing except for the final image). Fist, I took a shot in P mode and I came up with this:[singlepic=338,320,240,,center]
The windmill is properly exposed but the sky is way too bright even washed out at some places. The colors are dull and flat. This would be the shot most people would leave with. It’s not bad for a souvenir shot but not good for a WOW shot. So the next thing I did is go in aperture priority mode, set my aperture at the lowest setting, which is f4 on my Sigma 10-20mm lens. I then exposed for the sky and made sure is was underexposed by 2 stop. To do that, I simply adjusted my EV to -2. And this is what I got:[singlepic=339,320,240,,center]
Great! my sky is perfect. Just the way I want it. But the windmill is almost in complete silhouette. Ok, lets light this sucker out! Let me try with just my pop up flash at full power (+2 EV) and see what I get:[singlepic=340,320,240,,center]
Hey! Not bad for a pop up flash. I like this a lot better than my first overexposed sky shot even though it feels a little bit too underex. If I didn’t have my SB-800s with me, that would have been my final shot (better composed and less underex of course ;)). But since I have my trusty SB-800s with me…. let’s play!
Ok, let’s get technical for a bit. If you have a Nikon DSLR with a pop up flash, you probably have the option to put this flash in Commander Mode. If you don’t have the option or you don’t have a pop up flash, you’ll have to use another SB-800 or an SU-800 wireless speedlight commander on your camera and set it to Commander mode. Now set your other flashes to Remote. Make sure they are on Channel 1 and Group A. Now set your flash to manual at full power and at 24mm with the drop down diffuser on. Why at 24mm? So that the beam of light is wide enough to cover the whole structure. Oh, and make sure your pop up flash is up to emit its signal to the remote flashes.
All right! I then placed one SB-800 to camera right at 90 degrees to the windmill with a CTO gel (the one that comes with the flash) to give it that orange glow. Here’s the result:[singlepic=341,320,240,,center]
You’ll also noticed that the sky is cooler than in the other photos. Nope, no Photoshop. 🙂 I just changed my white balance (WB) to Daylight for a slightly cooler look. I wanted to keep the warmth of the CTO (orange) gel so putting my WB to Incandescent would have removed all of the orange and the sky would’ve been too blue, unnaturally so. I could have stopped here because I love the image as is but I wanted some cool light on camera left. So I placed my second SB-800 at 45 degrees on camera left (without a gel). It gave this:[singlepic=342,320,240,,center]
Interesting but for me, it removed the haunting spirit of the windmill that I aimed to create. It also lacked depth. So I moved it slightly behind the windmill to create more of a “hair light” effect. And voilà![singlepic=343,320,240,,center]
Here’s the final image straight from the camera. It took me roughly 10 minutes to go from the top shot to the WOW shot. 🙂 What a difference a few lights can do! I was really impressed at the power of the Sb-800s. I never thought that one flash would light the whole windmill. And here’s the final shot post processed in Photoshop CS3.[singlepic=344,320,320,,center]
I my next Photoshop video tutorial, I’ll go through the post processing steps of the final image.
PS: If you find some of the technical setup mentioned here a challenge, I strongly urge you to go through Strobist’s Lighting 101 tutorial series. It’s a must if you plan on using external flashes like the Nikon SB-800 or the Canon 580EX II.