Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Lights

Christmas morning has come and gone, and while there are still about three cubic yards of wrapping paper stuffed under the coffee table and Lincoln Logs scattered about, the madness has faded back into everyday life.

Shots of the kids opening presents are always a favorite, and can be quite a challenge in available light, given the tendency of Christmas morning to happen in the winter at 5:00 am. Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, conduct christmas outside in the mid-day, or have a new D3 you're going to have to add light to the scene somehow.

Last year, my first as a DSLR photographer, saw me produce images like this:
ISO 1600, cheap lens wide open at f/3.5, 1/15th of a second. I had to shoot ten just to get one that was recognizable of everybody. But I stuck to my vow that I was NOT going to use my pop-up flash and take nasty point and shoot pictures.

This year, due to the miracle of off-camera lighting, things worked out a little differently. I used one flash, the SB-800, set up on a Super Clamp and Umbrella stand adapter with the diffuser on and aimed at about a 45 degree angle.
The other flash, an SB-600 was located on-camera, aimed at the ceiling and manually zoomed to 50mm. This flash served as an additional light and a trigger for the SB-800, which was in SU-4 slave mode.
With both flashes set to 1/4 power, camera in manual exposure at ISO 400, f/5.6 and 1/125th, I was free to go anywhere in the room and shoot wherever I wanted at any range and zoom with good clean light and nearly perfect exposure every time.

The setup shot:

The first gifts:

More trouble ahead:

You should have heard the "Thank you!" that followed a moment after this image:

I asked for a set of Pocket Wizards, but Santa apparently forgot to stop at B&H this year, so I'm stuck with optical triggering for a little while yet. I did, however, get large prints of two pictures framed and hung so it wasn't a complete loss for me...

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