Long before the advent of the internet and The Strobist, I was toting small flash units all over the globe on a variety of editorial and corporate assignments, learning to do more with less.
In fact, even my buddy David Hobby, who single-handedly put small-strobe lighting on the map with his incredible Strobist blog, admitted early on to reading my book Secrets of Lighting on Location (published in 1996—I know, that qualifies as pre-history for many of you), and picking up a thing or two about collapsible umbrellas and compact lightstands.
Now I’m not going to pretend to know as much about lighting as David, but I know he talks a lot about using a direct, off-camera main light with an on-axis fill. He likes it for people photography.
Personally, I don’t like direct light on people whether I’m filling or not (Again, I’m showing my age. This type of direct light is a very contemporary look for people pix. And David is nothing if not contemporary. Why, he even wears shorts in the wintertime…in Baltimore).
But I’m an old dog….I like a big soft directional light source for my people pix, ala Annie, Vermeer, and all those other highly-paid portraitists.
I do like a direct, off-camera main light with an on-axis fill for critters though….like this Pink-Toed Tarantula in the Peruvian Amazon. To read why and how I shot the hirsute arachnid this way, hit the jump.
Most of the time, for my occasional critter shooting, the direct off-camera light source is the sun. In this case, a hot shaft of sun coming down through the jungle canopy and almost centered, like a grid spot, on Mr. Spider. Beautiful! But very, very contrasty.
Luckily he stayed put for a while (when your subject’s name begins with “Pink-toed,” you have to figure he’s modeled before, knows which is his good side, and just loves the attention!). So I had a chance to throw in some fill, add a little sparkle, and really show off those hairy gams.
I just dialed down my on-camera SB800 to -1 and took a flyer and bingo, it looked really nice, and still natural with no competing double shadows. The sun remained the main light and all the flash fill did was show off that glorious stubble.
Used the same technique below on this tailless whip scorpion. He, of course, does not have those fine hairy legs and back to show off, but look at that face! When you have a face like that, you gotta show it off!
Tech: D90, 70-300mm VR, Aperture Priority, iTTL BL flash setting (if you ask about this, I’m just gonna direct you here, so save us both some time and just click the link!), SB800 set to -1.
This Post Has 11 Comments
Brenda Tharp23 Nov 2009
This really BUGS me, Bob!! You’re a travel photographer – and you’re photographing bugs??? They must be traveling bugs…lol. But this just proves that when you know how to light, you can pull off great pics of just about anything! I love your lighting tips – it’s never been my forté but I’ve learned a lot from your book – Yes, I’m that old, too – and from the Nikon School DVD you did with McNally. Cheers!
Bob23 Nov 2009
Brenda: The places I travel lately, the bugs are the best looking, and most cooperative subjects I’ve got to work with! What can I say, I’m an opportunist….
Howard23 Nov 2009
Whoa, and to think I still have my NIKON SCHOOL PRESENTS “How to get the most from your Nikon SB-24 Speedlight” VHS hosted by Al Satterwhite, and the companion SB-24 Flash cards!!! NOW IF I CAN ONLY FIND THOSE SC-18 & 19 CORDS!!!
Bob23 Nov 2009
Howard, the book is timeless, but you need to upgrade that flash video to “Hands On….” I can help you with that….:-). Just look under the Pages section.
Shawn24 Nov 2009
Excellent work!! I have been a longtime fan and just discovered your blog. Lighting on Location and Spirit of Place are two of the best photography books and should be the starting point for anyone serious about photography. They have made me a better photographer. Thanks!
Bob24 Nov 2009
Thanks Shawn, welcome aboard! Bob
HPC24 Nov 2009
Great blog. I teach on a few Photography Holidays around the world and I’ll definitely be recommending this blog to my students who are always asking me about good photography sites!
Bob24 Nov 2009
Thanks HPC! Bob
zakir khan25 Nov 2009
Mark M12 Dec 2009
I still have Secrets of Lighting on Location on my bookshelf. It’s served me very well and doesn’t seem ancient at all. The gear’s all changed by light still travels in straight lines at the same speed.
Bob12 Dec 2009