Photo Tip #4: Know Your Gear

One thing I LOVE about Nikons is the Creative Lighting System (CLS).  Recent Nikon cameras and speedlights can be linked via line-of-sight infrared (IR) communication and you can trigger your Nikon speedlight off-camera without buying any additional equipment.  The system is great and if you own a Nikon dSLR and Nikon speedlight (SB600/700/800/900), it's a great introduction to off-camera flash that you can play around with.  By setting the speedlight as a remote, you then use the built-in flash on the camera to trigger the speedlight.  You can tell the built-in flash to either fire or just be a trigger.  I don't have time to put together a tutorial, but if you're interested and not sure how to do it, just look at your manual[s] or google "Nikon CLS" and you can figure out how to do it.  It's relatively simple and straightforward, so go out and use it!  You'll be amazed at the results you can get just with a little tinkering.  One piece of advice: take note of what channel the speedlight is on!!!  Last night, I embarrassingly made the rookie mistake of not keeping track of what channel the speedlight was on and what channel my camera was sending messages to.  As a result I got very frustrated and didn't exactly get the shot I want.  This takes me to today's photo tip:  know your gear before going out in the field!  You've got to be familiar with every aspect of your gear before going out in the field if you're going to get the shots you want.  Read your manuals and find willing guinea pigs to try out your gear before going out on jobs.  That way if you run into trouble, knowing your gear will help you effectively and efficiently troubleshoot.  I figured out my problem last night relatively quickly (probably within 3-4 minutes), but I only had a couple minutes to get the shot I wanted, so by the time I figured out what was wrong the opportunity had passed.  While I'm disappointed in myself, identifying the source of problems and learning from your mistakes will make you a better photographer.  I hopefully won't be making this mistake again, and by sharing my experience here I hope you won't either!

Elinchrom Ranger Test

So far on this blog, you've read about me talking about photography but you haven't seen me pony up any shots.  I thought now would be a good time to throw some pics in the mix so to speak.  I recently acquired a new toy, the Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS set with the "S" head.  I ordered it from B and H because they were, well, the cheapest.  It didn't come with the proper power cord which was annoying, so I couldn't charge one of the batteries.  I had to wait two days before I could contact them (warning: B and H is closed on saturday) and get a replacement.  Luckily, I ordered the set with two batteries so I was still able to do some shooting.  When I finally got the cord, the first battery charged and then gave me an "Er" msg, which isn't good, but I charged it again and it seemed to be working.  I also ordered the 53" octabox from Amazon which is a big ole softbox.  First impressions....well, the 53" softbox is big and not the easiest thing to put together by yourself.  It's kinda like putting a tent together, so if you've ever done that you'll probably be alright.  It also came with a 33" shoot through umbrella, which I'll put to use on other shoots.  When it came time to shooting, I used the supplied sync cord plugged into the pc-sync port of the D300 and fired away.  I'm still relatively new to off-camera lighting, so it's gonna take me awhile to get the hang of it, but I'm pretty pleased with the shots I got.  Plus, I fired off about 240 shots and it didn't even make a dent in the battery life.....and my set came with two batteries.  Pretty pumped about what I can do on location with that.  Nikon CLS users take note: one annoying thing about trying to use CLS and my SB900 in conjunction with the pc-sync port....doesn't work.  CLS takes precedence and your pc-sync port won't fire.  I wish both did, but since I'm planning on getting radio triggers in the near future, this shouldn't be a big deal.  Anyway, check out the shots below....not bad for a first time with the set.  Shot with a Nikon D300, Nikon 24-70 f2.8g, flash power ~ 5.3, aperture ~11-13.  Enjoy!