How it Was Shot: Gear Page

ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/60sec
Nikon Coolpix S560 @6.3mm (35mm full frame equivalent)

I wanted to do one of those (possibly stereotypical at this point) photos where the subject (in this case me) is surrounded by a crap-ton of gear. Because of the limited space in my house, I decided to use the trusty old futon that resides in our basement studio.

The angle and (relative) cushiness of the futon made it difficult to set up too much stuff, so I opted for the big items. Camera, lenses, mutes, horns, and some speedlights. I was tempted to roll out the valve oil, more mutes, music books, mouthpieces, and every other little piece of camera gear in my kit; however, I decided it would be too cluttered and the risk of things falling over was greater. Eventually I think I’ll try one of those everything-scattered-but-neatly-arranged-on-the-floor shots. But not until I have a bigger space.

There are some problems with the photo. I wish the gear was brighter, I wish I had organized it a little differently, etc. But it’s not horrible for having shot it while dealing with screaming children all evening.

The main problem I faced with setting up the shot was figuring out how to get my D200 in the photo, because I wanted a highly quality photo and I wanted to use off-camera flash to light it. I don’t have another body at this point so a DSLR was not an option. The iPhone is pretty much always out of the question for me for a variety of reasons but I did remember that I had an old Nikon Coolpix laying around somewhere. So I dug out my Coolpix S560 and started tinkering.

After charging its battery and digging around the menus a bit, I realized that I couldn’t control the aperture or shutter speed but I could control the ISO. I also could control the focus point and the flash (on or off, no power levels). As the S560 has no hot shoe and nowhere to plug in a sync cable, I had to rely on its built-in flash to trigger my SB-26 via its optical slave.

If I could have adjusted the built-in flash power, I would have used it as a fill source, but I couldn’t. So I decided to try taping a tiny piece of folded paper just under the flash so that it would fire at the ceiling. I tested the results (after setting the camera’s ISO to 100) and the scene was sufficiently dark to where it wouldn’t overpower the effect of my SB-26.

Another thing I could have tried was to move the camera back further and set the ISO down as low as possible (64 on the S560) and see if the flash would have acted as a better fill then. Maybe, I’m not sure. But I also wanted the wide-angle look to the shot, which I wouldn’t have achieved by moving the camera back and shooting at a longer focal length.

As far as the light is concerned, I was using the aforementioned SB-26 (it’s my only flash with an optical slave) in a 43″ shoot-through umbrella up and off to camera right. It’s about 30º from the subject (me) because I was trying to get a little more light to spill over to the gear on my right. In hindsight, I could have moved the light stand back further and raised the power of the flash which would have more evenly covered the scene in light (less falloff). Regardless, it would have required that I move our keyboard and a bunch of other crap out of the way in the studio, and did I mention that we have very little space?

As I write this, I keep thinking about more solutions to the lack of light falling on the gear.

I could have raised the ambient light in the room and see how the S560 reacted.

I could have put a radio trigger on the SB-26 and another on a flash to camera left for fill. Same thing for more of an on-axis fill. Same thing for bouncing off the ceiling. Ah the choices. Did I mention the screaming children?


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