Portable Sunshine – Fun with Off-Camera Flash

It was the first day of summer and I wanted to get out and about to see what I might find to celebrate the occasion.  Actually, I was hoping to find some Leopard Lilies which often appear by now.  And while I did find a few, the wind was just too much to deal with, especially in the tall (and possibly tick-ridden) grass.   But I also wanted to play a little more with some off-camera flash to get a better handle on its possibilities and challenges. 


The first image is that of a Foxglove (Digitalis purporea) taken along the Gualala River in the “Hot Spot” here in Sea Ranch.  The wind is usually negligible here and this lone foxglove was in a nice sheltered area, perfect for shooting.  I set up my tripod and my camera with a SU-800 Commander Unit mounted on it.  I used an SB-910 Speedlight hand held as my off-camera (and wireless) flash.  Once this is set up, it’s easy to try various angles and direction of flash to control the lighting.  I really liked that I could basically eliminate any background by controlling the flash output.  In the shot here, I was able to get some light up into the downward facing blossoms and light up the detail inside these spectacular flowers. 

Corn Lily Leaves


Corn Lily

In the next two images, I used the off-camera flash held more to the side to create more shadows across the ridges of these large Corn Lily ((Veratrum fimbriatum) leaves.  Getting the flash low to the ground also added some back light through some of the leaves as well.  As in the Foxglove image, I was also able to control the light enough to limit the background from interfering with the sharp shadow lines of the ridged leaves.  My wife Barbara said she may want to do an art quilt based on these shapes/lines.  I hope she does.

I also hope to be doing more off-camera flash in the future as I can see a world of possibilities here.  Lugging all this equipment around is a bit cumbersome, but I think the results are worth it.  I have another Speedlight, and I might try two flashes, but I’ll have to bring an extra (but very small) tripod along for the extra flash unit.  In any event, I hoped you enjoyed these experimental images. 

Happy First Day of Summer!!!

Equipment:  Nikon D3s; Nikkor 24-70 mm f2.8 lens; Nikon SU-800 Commander Unit; Nikon SB-910 Speedlight; Oben Tripod

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2 Responses to Portable Sunshine – Fun with Off-Camera Flash

  1. Chris Wendt says:

    Really cool, Phil. What settings did you use for the foxglove?

  2. D Tolles says:

    Strikingly beautiful and artistic. I’d love to have some cards with these images on them.

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