We had a Strobist St. Louis photo shoot the other night at a venue called “Fear The Drip.” I’m not big on haunted houses but I like taking photographs and trying (some) new things. Dolls seem to take a lot of abuse at this time of the year and this one is no exception. I took this photo before it got totally dark outside and before the fog machines were in full production. After that it was rough going because the autofocus on the camera refused to play in the dark.
The doll photo was taking with my DIY Ring Flash adaptor on the camera and my DIY Beauty Dish on a stand to the right of the camera. The flashes in this photo were triggered with Yongnuo RF-602 remotes.
Of course I had configured the camera settings for something closer to normal conditions and that would not work here. I turned the autofocus assist light back on and switched from continuous focus to single focus. Then I switched from focus release to focus+release. I ended up mounting a flash on the camera to take advantage of the more powerful focus assist light on the flash. I was still shooting off-camera flash with an SB800 in SU4 mode.
Going into this situation I had planned to shoot everything in manual flash and I did until it got so completely dark and foggy that the camera could not focus at all. We went through the haunted house several times and each time I tried a new flash configuration to see what would work best. I wanted to try using the Nikon CLS but that meant I would have to change multiple settings on the flashes. I could use either the SB900 or the SB800 as a Master on the camera or perhaps just the pop up flash. Since I already had the SB900 on the camera I decided just to use the SB800 in SU4 slave mode and keep the power settings on manual. That worked pretty well except that I got one or two random fires from the other photographers flashes going off.
Another reason to own multiple flashes seem to be that you can configure them ahead of time to work in a certain way and then swap them out if conditions change. I usually set the SB900 for iTTL shooting and my other flashes for shooting in manual. If you have plenty of time you can fiddle around with the flash settings and change them relatively quickly from one mode too the other but only if you practice ahead of time and are familiar with the flash menu settings. In this case I had no time to fiddle and no light to work by. I was also pretty limited in where I could place the flash. We were really running to stay ahead of groups of customers going through the haunted house at the same time we were taking photographs. My friend Darren calls this “run and gun” photography. Once we had the flash and camera settings sorted out we were shooting more than just blanks.