I’ve been thinking that a few people might be wondering why I was so interested in those wireless remote flash triggers. I can see a lot of “So What?” responses so I decided to give you an example of off-camera lighting using them to trigger flashes from all angles and even inside a solid bronze sculpture.
This is a photograph of “Eros Bendato” by Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj. It is located in City Garden in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. If you do a google search or a search on www.flickr.com you can probably find a bunch of mediocre snapshots of this sculpture. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Since we are not in the business of taking mediocre snapshots I thought you might like a rundown on how I lighted this first and made the photograph.
Lighting Info: SO 400, f/5.6 at 1/60th. Nikon SB600 high left (hand held) at full power and red gel. Nikon SB600 ground-level left at full power with red gel. Sunpak 383 flash at full power inside sculpture with DIY diffusion dome and green gel filter. All flashes triggered with Yongnuo RF-602 wireless triggers. White balance set to tungsten.
The flash sitting on the little plastic foot (made by Nikon) at ground level seemed to be flaking out even at this fairly close range so I changed the orientation of the receiver (and antenna) and also checked to make sure that the flash was pushed all the way into the hotshoe. No issues after that, it seemed to fire consistantly every time. I also changed the position of the flash inside the sculpture. At fist I just reached in the lower eye opening and laid it to the right side. I was getting a hot spot and spotty triggering (this thing is made out of solid bronze) so I moved the flash over to the neck all the way on the right which is open (people like to go inside and take their photo looking out of the eyes). The flash worked better on the right and there was a more even spread of light. The dark areas in the eyes are from the texture or folds in the metal on the interior of the sculpture.
In this test shot the exposure is set to the ambient light. I fired a single flash with a red gel just above the camera sitting on a low tripod. The sky is flat gray and featureless and the flash set at 1/4 power is pretty week. I’m really just getting started at this point, putting receivers on the flashes and test firing each one before moving to the next one. This type of flash photography with simple wireless triggers is almost always done in manual mode. Don’t run off… It’s not difficult, despite what the camera companies always tell you about automated exposure systems taking the worry out of calculating flash exposures. There is really little or no calculation going on here and you don’t need a calculator or even a pencil to do it. The camera (in manual mode) meter is giving me the correct exposure for the overall scene. It’s up to me to decide how much of the available light I actually want to use and then fill in with light from my flash to get the exposure I want. By getting the flash units off the camera, I can direct the light just about anywhere I feel like putting it. Check the exposure with the camera but remember that it is only a suggestion not a commandment. A lot of people will underexpose the recommended exposure for the background and then add light back in with the flash as I have done here.
There are other ways to get a similar result even if you don’t currently own any wireless triggers. You could wait for it to get darker outside and then take a very long exposure with the camera on a tripod and then just walk around firing your off-camera flash unit with the test button. You can even get by with just one flash that way. I’ve done it this way before and ended up with some interesting light trails from passing cars and ghosts of people moving through the frame of the photograph.
Of course sometimes a simple straight shot can be your best bet at recording and preserving memories of your travels and adventures but nothing says you have to stop there either. For a change of pace and a chance to be creative try thinking less about photography and more about lighting. It’s fun.