Friday, December 19, 2008
Setting The Stage
Environmental portraits tell a story with setting, props and creative light
Moriatis can control the intensity of his remote flashes from his camera position with the Nikon SU-800 Commander unit attached on the camera’s hot-shoe, or, if he uses another flash unit such as the SB-800, up to four separately controllable lighting sources with built-in flash compensation of plus or minus 3 EV in 1⁄3-step increments can be used.
The SU-800 Commander communicates with the remote Speedlights by an infrared signal up to 66 feet away. The sensor on the Speedlights must be in the line of sight for the infrared signal to be read, but the signal is powerful enough that it will bounce off reflective surfaces and be received by the flash units. If one of his SB-800 remote units doesn’t fire because the infrared signal doesn’t reach it, the flash can be triggered simply by the pop of the other flashes. The drawback to this is having to adjust the intensity of each flash directly on the individual unit.
For lighting on location, Moriatis usually carries four Nikon SB-800s, a Nikon SU-800 Commander unit, several small light stands and several small Photoflex softboxes. As with other types of strobes and flash units, color gels can be added to either color-balance mixed lighting situations or to create a dramatic surreal-looking image. The main advantage of working with Speedlights rather than strobes and power packs is portability. Moriatis can set up his lights without the need to find external power sources, get his shot and pack up quickly, so he can move on to his next assignment.
While not all photographers may be able to invest in this sophisticated flash setup, all photographers who are interested in environmental portraiture should begin building a flash system. To achieve the illumination necessary for smaller apertures and greater depth of field, mastering artificial light is the key. When multiple flash units aren’t available, look for other ways to add light to a scene. Move a lamp, reposition the subject nearer to a light source or use a reflector.
To see more of Mike Moriatis’ photography, visit www.mikemoriatis.com.
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