Methodical progress–speedlight practice

Arden - strobe practice 127Arden - strobe practice 119Arden - strobe practice 139Arden - strobe practice 124Calder - strobe practice 008Calder - strobe practice 018Calder - strobe practice 019Calder - strobe practice 027


Regular readers know that I’m always working to improve my toolset. Ideally, I want the tools to be invisible to you the audience so the story goes right into your head with no friction. For the photography, I’ve helped start a monthly photo review, networked with local photogs, dived into how-to videos, experimented with new delivery channels, and most importantly followed my Pop’s advice: keep shooting.

A couple of months ago, Cory Bluhm (who is one of the hardest working photogs you may not know about), challenged me to achieve a shot featuring a very specific lighting setup. That pushed me forward from my five years of shooting available light to try lit photography. After validating the direction with some borrowed gear, I made a minor investment in some speedlights, c-stands, radio triggers, and umbrellas. Above are the early results of my efforts. Happily, my house is inhabited by two models, Arden (top) and Calder, who support my development and agree to brief photo sessions.

My setup here is one Yongnuo 560 EX III speedlight up high and right with a shoot-through umbrella. I am trying different apertures, flash powers, focal lengths, and distance to subject. My goal is to get very good at this simple setup and then try other setups with additional lights. Photog Zach Arias, who early in his career went broke by binge-buying gear, says get a light and shoot that for a year to figure it out. He also offers some good mantras that I now use: “Eyes to the light” and “Head in a clean spot”.

My “studio” for the photos above is about 24 inches wide, a piece of wall between the piano room window and the door frame to the living room. I like the ambient light from the window, the neutral blue wall, and the fact that this rig is mostly out of the way of household traffic. Picasso and others said there is no art without constraints, so such are my constraints.

GSD, every day.


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