Creative lighting

hands-onA couple of weeks ago, an interesting parcel arrived for me containing a couple of items that I had ordered from the USA-based Camera Books. The parcel caused a great deal of merriment in the post office when it was noticed that it had been posted from Horny Hollow on the Crooked River Ranch. Camera Books’ Petra Kellers later wrote to me that her business is indeed based in Horny Hollow, and that the Crooked River Ranch had been a working ranch until the 1970s. It seems that the cowboys lived in the Horny Hollow area, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how it got its name.

One of the items in the parcel was a DVD produced by the Nikon School, called Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting, which is presented by Bob Krist, who I hadn’t heard of before, and Joe McNally, who I had. The whole rationale behind the Creative Lighting DVD is to show how to get the best out of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, which includes their various speedlights and the means to control them remotely. As mentioned in a previous post, I had already started going down the off-camera flash road, thanks to David Hobby’s Strobist website. David concentrates on using manually-adjusted flashes but, through his site, I got to hear of the Krist and McNally DVD.

The DVD kicks off with a couple of lessons by Krist on how to set up one’s camera to work with the selection of Nikon flashes that are available. It turns out that a certain Nikon cameras can control off-camera flashes wirelessly, through their pop-up flashes, while the other camera models need the optional SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander. Krist explains exactly how to set all this up, from the various models of flash, to the cameras, and the SU-800.

It all does sound a bit intimidating and complex but, if you watch the DVD carefully, you can soon pick up exactly how everything works in relation to everything else. The miracle for me is that you can have almost any number of flashes grouped into three groups, which can each fire at a different intensity, so that you can have, for example, a main light, a fill light, and a hair light. The output of the three groups of flashes can be controlled from your camera, with incredible ease and precision.

The first part of the DVD was certainly inspirational but, when McNally took over and began to demonstrate the system in the real world, it blew my mind totally. He shows a number of different scenarios, including ones where he uses one, or at the most, two flashes, to achieve amazing effects. What that man can do with a ballet dancer and one flash on a stand, is incredible. He loves to put his flashes outside a window, or door, and there is a priceless shot of his assistant, Brad Moore, standing out in the rain, guarding a flash with an plastic bag over it.

There are many different scenarios demonstrated, including a group portrait, the ballet dancers I’ve mentioned, and many others. For the grand finale, McNally shows how he goes about lighting a fishing boat and its crew, with 12 or more flashes, and gets an absolutely fantastic result.

I’ve been exposed to a joys of off-camera flash for a couple of years now but I still had no idea of the incredible potential that these speedlight flashes have. I think that the Guide to Creative Lighting Guide by Krist and McNally, in terms of the knowledge gained, probably represents some of the best value I have received from what I’ve spent on my photography.

Before I close, I should say a quick word about Petra Kellers and her Camera Books store. I have now dealt with her a couple of times and, on both occasions, the goods have arrived quickly and have been as described. Even more importantly, her response to queries has always been a extremely quick and the delay between the time that I’ve submitted a request for a quote on international shipping, to the time the answer gets back to me, has always been very quick. I’d put her service up there with B&H’s, ie. very good.

A note for Canon users: The Hands-on Guide is probably going to be a waste of money for you guys. There is plenty of general inspirational stuff about using small flashes, but there is an awful lot of Nikon-only info in it.

A highly recommended to The Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting and to Camera Books!

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