Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Twilight strobe work

   A few weeks ago I had a unique opportunity to work with my friend Tony Granata while he captured some unique images of the brightly painted "CAG bird" for VMFA-312. This F/A-18C had been the centerpiece for the squadron's 70th anniversary celebration, and the maintenance department was kind enough to tow it out by itself for us to photograph. Fortunately Tony's style differs greatly from mine, even in basic composition, so it was possible to work around the jet simultaneously without getting too much in each other's way.

   While Tony was working some very tight shots of the aircraft's nose with his strobes, I opted to try to light the majority of one side with mine.  I used two flashes for this, a Nikon SB-910 and a Nikon SB-700.  The SB-700 was positioned on the ground. set to its widest beam, and pointed at the aft junction of the canopy and the airframe. The SB-910 was handheld by me, and pointed at the vertical tails of the aircraft.

   I started with a rough guess of the aperture that I would want based on my expected depth of field, starting with an aperture of f10.  From there I started to dial down the shutter speed until I got the overall exposure for the image that I wanted, and started shooting with the strobes to set the final aperture since I was using Nikon's TLL to drive the strobe's power for overall image exposure.  I shot several test images with a variety of apertures before I settled upon a final aperture of f7.1.  This gave me the desired balance of strobe on the airframe while allowing me to capture the last bit of twilight on the horizon.
   A little cropping to emphasize the fade to black of the twilight, but thanks to working so deliberately to manually manipulate the lighting, very little adjustment had to be applied to the resulting final image.

[Thanks again to the Marines and Sailors of VMFA-312 for making this shoot possible, and for inviting Tony and I to share this celebration with you!]