I wasn't one of those. I would just plain tell anybody who would ask me that I'm simply overwhelmed by the math involved with flash -- the metering (which involves f/stop and shutter and distance); the dialing up or down of a flash's power by various mathematical increments (1/3, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, whatever); the degree of light intensity one flash would emit versus another, and how that relates to the distance the light is to the subject; or the different number of "groups" a wireless flash setup involved to control the main (key), fill, background and accent lighting (actually, that math isn't too bad -- it's just one, two or three ... or A, B and C).
And then there is the "how" of setting up a wireless flash system. You need the equipment -- a pocket wizard, for example -- to direct all the units. Then umbrellas (which come in various sizes) and light stands or other gear associated with lighting above and beyond detachable flash -- such monolights, accent lights, soft boxes, snoots, ring lights. OK, you don't have to have all of them, but your degree of ease and professionalism -- or even savvy -- is directly proportion to the gear you have to work with -- and, most important, the skills you acquire to handle it all.
Well, I decided I wanted to get past that large blockade, and start by taking things one step at a time. On Tuesday of this week, I took a day off from work and bought admission to the Indianapolis stop of the Flash Bus Tour, a daylong seminar on flash photography featuring Joe McNally and Dave "The Strobist" Hobby Flash Bus Tour 2011. Both also keep (McNally and The Strobist) blogs, although Hobby's "The Strobist" blog is by far the better known.
These two guys are among the best-known flash-savvy photographers in the country, for sure -- and perhaps even the globe. McNally has had his worked published in an array of prominent publications (including TIME, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, National Geographic, New York ... the list goes on and one). Hobby was a longtime photographer for the Baltimore Sun before leaving a few years to work freelance. He's since launched a local (Howard County, Md.) photo-news blog, HoCo360, that is in its infancy stage.
I did walk away feeling I was able to sort through a little of the confusion. If I actually owned umbrellas and light stands, for example, I would be far more comfortable today to set them up and use them for a shoot, using my Canon Speedlite 580EXII as a master/commander/key light and my Speedlite 420EX as secondary/fill/slave. If I also had sunlight, I'd have a third light source and could play off that to determine how to use the two flashes ... or even just one of them. Sometimes two, or even one, can be enough.
Saying all that, and feeling like I'd made a decent dent into better comprehending strobe lighting, would you be surprised if I said my happiest moment Tuesday was the walk back to my car from the Indiana Convention Center, when I stopped and grabbed a couple dozen shots of interesting things I was finding among the urban landscape and skyscape?
Well, it's true. With a 39% full moon high in the rich, blue, nearly cloudless, late-afternoon sky, I was juxtaposing it every which way I could maneuver -- between the spires of St. John's Cathedral, off the windows of several glass-facade structures and alongside Regions and Chase bank buildings and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Monument Circle. I also caught some amazing reflections of other things off glass facades and an interesting pattern -- cast by the Chase building -- onto the AT&T building a half-block away.
Yes, despite my ground-gaining on the strobe flash education front, good ol' available light photography of the lines and patterns and reflections Downtown is where I derived my most joy Tuesday. I start (at the top, and immediately below) with two shots of a reflection off the glass facade of the building on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle. The one above -- where the window divider also reflected a reflection of the moon onto another pane of glass as well as the monument's spillover reflection onto the masonry -- fascinated me the most.
Enjoy the images.
Above: You may have to squint to find it, but that IS the moon between the two spires on St. John's Cathedral.
Above: Benches in the plaza across from the convention center. Even though it has no moon or reflection, this shot actually was high on my list of favorites from the day.
Above: A reflection of a portion of St. John's facade off the convention center windows.
Above: A helicopter and the moon, objects the eye sees as the same size, yet they are some 240,000 miles apart.
Above: The federal building in one reflection ...
... and the Indiana War Memorial in another.
Above: The ATT&T building, catching fascinating patterns in reflection from the Chase building (below) a half-block east.
Above: The moon between the flag and Chase Bank.
Above: A very feint moon in the panel to the right of the flag -- reflected, along with Regions Bank, in this facade on the west side of Meridian Street.
Above: One more look at the moon, hovering to the left of the Regions Bank building.