Lemon Drops

3 05 2012

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So here we are on a wet Thursday afternoon. Middle of Golden Week, the national holiday of springtime Japan. It’s chucking it down with rain for the second consecutive day, and it’s my job to entertain & educate my two small boys, and their mates. Let’s have a bit of fun with flash:

We’ll take this PET bottle and cut it roughly in half lengthways. A fishtank would have been better, but we just didn’t have one lying around. We’ll put some towels down on the floor, and another towel on this low table. Lay the bottle on top of the towel, and light. A Nikon SB26 in the front, set to 1/16th power, and a Metz 40MZ in the back, at 1/32nd power. Fill the bottle with water, and find some colourful fruit……

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Having these Nanostands makes life quite simple. The Metz in back is fired by a radio trigger, and the SB-26 simply has an integral optical slave unit, which explains a lot of its popularity, I think. In the setup pic above, I put a black poloneck shirt on top of the towel, to try to make the background a more continuous black. We hung a black canvas background behind the set. Much as I would LOVE Black Sabbath curtains, I can’t see the missus going along with it.

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Find a willing participant – no shortage of small boys wanting to get wet and lob fruit around. Great! This guy’s even colour-matched his pajamas to the lemon. Take aim, and fire at will:

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Missed! No fancy laser beams or sound/light triggers here, just a degree of ever more accurate prediction of impact. Just a fraction of a second later, and I would have nailed it. But the beauty of this little setup is, you can have as much splashy fun as you want. The camera and shutter speed are largely unimportant…….because, as I explained to a group of students last week, the only light in this shot, is coming from the flash. Which is burning for only perhaps 1/2000th of a second. Maybe even less. You just want to make the exposure based only on the flash, ie a low enough ISO, small enough F stop, and high enough shutter speed, to completely exclude available light. All shot at 125 asa(iso), started at 1/800th F5.6, and ended at 1/1250th F8. Just experimenting really. I should add that I shoot with the Nikon D1x, whose flash sync speed is unlimited. Most current cameras can’t sync beyond 1/250th, but with dim available light, that shouldn’t present a problem.

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Getting closer

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Ah-ha! Perseverance pays off. I’ll own up to being a grumpy old curmudgeon and say now that there are a number of things I’m not happy with – could always use a little bit more depth of field with the water drops, some of the ribs in the PET bottle have distorted the light, there are lots of ways that this could be improved but yes, we had fun, my two sons both have their own DSLR cameras and got involved with shooting, which was half the battle really.

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And yes, he really got his teeth into our little project…..still scratching my head about that. Happy trails!

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