Two Lights, a Gray Wall, Many Voices

It's a good thing I'm starting to hear voices. Not voices of destruction and mayhem but voices of teachers, lessons, mentors and common sense. Well ... three out of four ain't bad. I had been wanting to do a simple portrait shoot with a stark background and an engaging subject for a while now. A friend of mine at work needed some portraits done and I thought this might be a chance to get what I was waiting on.

Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.8; 1/100 @ f/5.6, ISO 400 SB-800

First off, I couldn't remember what their home had to offer for background, ambiance and general workspace. I had been hitting +DavidHobby Lighting in Layers Disk I, lessons two and three pretty hard and trying to memorize "the Strobist voice." David talks a lot about balancing the ambient light with flash, in fact, using the ambient light as the first light in your kit. I started making a couple diagrams and jotting down notes of things to remember: work in manual, get the exposure set, move around the setting, key light, fill ... all that stuff.

Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.8; 1/100 @ f/5.6, ISO 400 SB-800 ... ya gotta get the hair flip.

When I got on site (read — got over to their house) it was a gloomy day, raining outside and the ambient light was not very attractive. But imagine my delight when I saw this wall, a gray wall, about six feet wide with pictures hanging on it. And enough room to clear furniture and have a great old time!

We made a plan for some family portraits with the dog and all, worked through those first including a couple of passport photos, and then we could concentrate on individual portraits and take our time ... with the gray wall.


For the portraits of Sarah, I set up a 30" softbox to use as my key light and a 16" softbox to use as a rim, er ... kicker, uhhh ... hair light! See? Many voices! See lighting diagram for most of the details. This setup actually came from +ErikValind and his voice from the workshop a few weeks ago (see post Shaping Light: A Small Flash Workshop). The key light was an SB-800 triggered with a Pocketwizard and the kicker was an SB-800 in SU-4 Slave mode! It worked great! I had never thought of using SU-4 mode ... voices always said CLS is the way to go. Wrong, oh CTO breath!

Takeaways from the shoot

  • I think my key light should have been a little higher in relation to the subject and pulled closer to axis; maybe at 30 degrees instead of 45.
  • My NEF files seem to be consistently 2/3 stop underexposed ... "watch your histogram," a voice I didn't hear that day but will from now on.
  • Engaging with an engaged subject is quite engaging ... that might be a +JoeMcNally voice I was hearing.
  • Should have shot at ISO 200. I had plenty of light power.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the work we got done. It's become reassuring over time that I have voices to listen to. They've taught me a lot and are a great reference to help guide the work. Thanks gentlemen.


And I Call Them Brooms

Twenty years ago, on Saturday, October 30, 1993, two of my best friends were married in an Episcopalian celebration of High Mass. Present were long forgotten numbers of guests, parish dignitaries and attendees, and a ceremonial pastor also a close friend. We celebrated in dignified honor the joining of two gay men. I'm still not sure which one signified the bride and which one signified the groom. I have since settled on addressing both celebrees as "brooms." They don't seem to mind and we all get a good chuckle over our shared interpretation and the double entendre.

Todd & Robert

The ceremony took place at St. Paul's On the Hill on Summit Avenue. Founded in 1854, it is one of the oldest churches of its kind.

The wedding party, as well as the brooms, were all regaled in turn-of-the-century tuxedos, the women in gowns of exceeding splendor from the same period. The church was scantly appointed for what could have been a modern-day wedding but for the turn-of-the-century attire the church needed no further embellishment. It was perfectly appointed, scented with incense and lined with straight white candles (no pun intended).

Many things have changed over the past twenty years. Back then it wasn't easy to find a congregation willing nor worthy of celebrating a "same-sex" marriage but now they're a dime a dozen. Back then strict rules would have our presiding pastor defrocked for performing the ceremony; he has since been refrocked. There were even threats of protests, TV stations and other news authorities fervent in their convictions to show humans how capable they are of shaming the whole race with their behavior; although, none showed up. So much for conviction.

By now, we've been treated to DOMA and other acts of silliness rendering most of us nauseated by convention dripping with that sweet taste of hyperbole. It's been an interesting adventure that never knocked off course the conviction Todd and Robert had pledged those twenty years ago. There was nothing more made of their celebration than that of a simple passing rain, leaves falling or the smiles of friends.


On Wednesday, October 30, 2013, we gathered again to celebrate what had been recognized by a church all these years and that which will be recognized by the State for time to come. Essentially, we're all just asking, "how come it took so much bullshit and so much time?" Once again, we met at St Paul's On the Hill, dressed in similar ceremonial fashion and celebrated in dignified honor joining our friends.