Strobist Boot Camp 4

I am happy to say that I completed all 4 Strobist assignments — my first attempts at off-camera flash — and learned a great deal. (My other posts in the series are here: -1- |  -2- |   -3- ).

The final assignment was to take a picture of a vehicle and “get creative” with it. So I decided to take a picture of my car (thus satisfying the vehicle part of the assignment) at night (“creative” bit, I hoped). As with the previous assignments, I found that lighting a car at night was *much* more problematic than you think it would be. It proved beyond me I’m afraid and I was not particularly successful.

First of all, the image is too dark and you can’t see enough detail and that white highlight at the back is distracting: but it got me out there trying new things and that is what matters, or at least that is what I keep telling myself.

The hardest thing about taking a picture of anything at night but particularly a black thing like this is getting separation from the background, especially with just one strobe. The haze/fog was my solution to that.

Well, Mother Nature did not cooperate on the fog front so I did a quick search on Strobist and, amazingly, found not just one but two articles that helped me out. Well, $35 and a trip to Lowe’s Home Improvement later, I was the proud owner of a Halloween fog machine with “Fog Juice”.

A fog machine clearly labeled “for indoor use only”. Grr. Although it functioned as advertised, the amount of fog it produced was not that great. And even though there was almost no wind, there was still enough to disperse the haze very quickly. Still, I managed to get enough to create some separation and a pretty nice pattern as the light from the streetlight across the way filtered down through the leaves.

This is my driveway, which is the only place I felt even moderately comfortable setting up the fog machine. Even then, each time I sent out a blast of fog, cars driving by would apply their brakes when approaching, which concerned me at first but delighted me later when I saw that that their head- and brakelights added a nice streak of light to the photos. Nice bonus. No one ever actually stopped, by the way.

However, because it is my driveway, I was pretty much forced to live with the power lines and trees in the image. Oh well, it was a great learning experience.

Strobist – I took a 30-second exposure and then walked around the car with my SB-800 set on 1/4 power, shooting through an umbrella. I fired the flash manually, including one blast inside the vehicle. Opening the driver’s side door (on the opposite side of the car from the camera), did create a bit of blur, which you can see on the exterior mirror, especially if you view large on black. While I was in the car, I quickly flipped the headlights on & off.

Nikon D70 camera with kit lens (Nikon Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5) at 29mm. Manual mode: f/9 at 30 seconds. ISO 200 to reduce noise as much as possible. White Balance Automatic.

Note – This was my first foray not just into taking a long-exposure image but also into the (vaguely intimidating) world of RAW. I am not sure how different the image would have been had I shot in JPEG but I can announce one distinct advantage: I didn’t need to fret over white balance at all since since CaptureNX2 lets you choose your white balance after the fact.