Friday, August 21, 2009

Alien Bees vs. Nikon's SB900: Engagement Session at Toronto's Waterfront with Stephanie and Rene

It's been awhile since I last posted here but I had a few good reasons to keep me away from the computer. First of all, I got married shortly after shooting Angela and Sunny's wedding and then it got real hectic moving out of my place and moving in with my wife. After the dust had settled I had multiple shoots week after week, so I had been slacking off on my blogging duties for the technical aspects of my shots.

Stephanie and Rene's engagement session was long overdue as our schedules didn't coincide for the longest time. I decided to bring as much gear as I could in order to get the shots that I wanted. Little by little I've perfected my "equipment carrying" technique to the point that I can take a Vagabond II, a B1600, a 13' heavy duty light stand, a 22" Beauty Dish or Octabox depending on the location or effect I'm looking for, three (3) SB-800s and one (1) SB-900, two (2) more smaller light stands, two (2) dual purpose umbrellas, Pocket Wizards, Camera body and three lenses all by my lonesome. More often than not, the convenience of the Speedlights wins over the power of the B1600, but there are times where the SB-900 is not enough to overpower the sun.

Here's a clear example:
While I like this frame, it's clearly underexposed in comparison to the background and for a good reason, I was shooting straight into the sun. I had the SB-900 on camera set to Manual and at full power.

I took a few more frames using the Sb-900 but I made sure I had the sun coming from the side, as opposed to trying to overpower it. This made it a lot easier to underexpose the ambient, as seen here.

or here

I still wanted to have a dramatic sunset as a background so it was time for the B1600 to shine, triggered via PWs and set to 1/4 power. Believe it or not, at 1/2 power it was blowing out the highlights for my subjects:

In this image the 22" beauty dish was powered via a Vagabond II and set at camera left at approximately 45 degrees:

Same setups, with closer crops:


As you can see, the B1600 is very good for those times when you need raw wattage. However, when the sun settles and the ambient light starts to disappear, an SB-900 is more than enough to get the job done, as evidenced in this image:
The setup for this one was as simple as it gets: one (1) Sb-900 on a translucent umbrella set to TTL EV -0.3 triggered via CLS positioned at camera left.