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on Jan 14, 2013 in Aviation

Project Lighting


After a recent presentation, I was asked a bunch about my very simple, shooting on the move lighting. A little background, when working with biologists and pilots, I can’t stop them during their work, ask them to backup, set up a shot and go. I have to shoot on the go and get the shot when it happens. I really prefer being transparent and if possible, not even use flash so the subject doesn’t know I’m shooting. There are times when that is simply not possible so the flash comes out. Working with these folks, space is usually part of the equation. There isn’t much which is a plus and minus. The plus is I don’t have to have much light. The minus, me and the gear gotta squeeze into that space. With that said, here’s one example.


I’m photographing Stu, an amazing “metal” guy busy fabricating ribs for this aircraft as he restores it to airworthy. It’s an fascinating craft and art that I love to watch (and ask lots of questions). What was once done in mass production is now done one piece at a time, often with no blueprints. Stu is working rivet by rivet in this section matching up what he hand made with the side of the aircraft just like it came from the factory. He has one high powered work light on the right side that is a source I have to take advantage of. In the background is the roof of the hangar lit by daylight from the open hangar door. The rest of the scene is dark as sin as far as the camera is concerned. Shooting with the D4 set to ISO 800 and with CS e4 in use, shooting with the 18AF (A favorite lens) and SB-900 on the SC-28, I pop up through the hatch (still have a lump from that!). I need to underexpose the ambient light (roof & work light) and light the rest of the tail section & Stu. To do that on the fly, exposure comp in the body is dialed down -2 and the exposure comp on the flash is zero. The flash it turned backwards otherwise it would have lit the tail section like a tunnel, bright closer to the camera and darker back at Stu. With CS e4, the comp dialed into the body only effects the body or ambient light exposure and does not effect the flash. I find this Custom Setting SUPER valuable in my work. I hope this makes some sense and helps you get an idea of how I work on the fly on a project shoot.