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Chris Smith is a professional photographer in Charleston, SC. A photographer for almost 30 years, Chris offers a superior knowledge of creating perfect images. For many years, Chris has been the official photographer of the Family Circle Cup, a professional tennis tournament held annually in Daniel Island's tennis stadium

The Skirmish at Gambles Hotel

I received so many great comments on the photos I did for the recent Civil War Reenactment of The Skirmish at Gamble’s Hotel. So I thought I’d share a little BTS info on how a single off-camera flash helped me create some of the images.

My friend, Robert (seen in the first two photos) is a hardcore reenactor. In fact, he has a full set of Union AND Confederate outfits. Since these programs are designed to be full-on period-gear only, he loaned me his other outfit. This allowed me to fit in with the rest of the scenery. And by concealing my circa 2013 camera in an old rucksack, the organizers even permitted me to be the only photographer allowed on the field of battle!

For simplicity and portability, I carried one camera, one lens, and two flashes. I used my Nikon D4 with Nikkor 24-70 f2.8. I chose two Nikon SB-800 flashes for their big power in a small size. They were carried in a ThinkTank Chimp Cage hip pouch under my jacket. One had a RadioPopper Px Transmitter on it, the other a RadioPopper Px Receiver. When I wanted the help of additional lighting, I’d mount one on the camera in CLS Commander Mode only, the other became my Group A remote flash.

For most of my shooting, I manually dial in the power ratio I want the off-camera flash to use.  But situations like this where I’m running-and-gunning, I set it to TTL and just dial in +/- EV as needed.  Without any lightstands, I relied on the kindness of others to act as VALs (Voice Activated Lightstands), natural ledges to set the flash on, or simply my outstretched hand.

It was an absolute photographer’s dream to photograph this event. And I got some really neat images. To see more photos, head over to http://chrisandcami.com/blog/2013/03/13/the-skirmish-at-gambles-hotel-civil-war-reenactment/.

This BTS shot really shows the harsh lighting I was working with!  Look at the dark shadows on the captain’s face to the right.  By contrast, look at the dramatic difference made by a single SB-800 speedlight on Robert’s face!

And the resulting image!  ISO 50, f5.6, 1/250th

Natural light from the open barn doors gave great light on my subject.  But the background was flat, boring, and dark.  A single SB-800 on a ledge in the background, aimed at the back of my model’s head, made all the difference!

ISO 320, f2.8, 1/200th

The natural light and wood texture of this pantry was the perfect scene for Rae.  But the “black hole” behind the door swallowed her up.  An SB-800 set on an old oil drum, aimed back at her, provides a nice rim-light while adding depth and dimension.

An SB-800 in my outstretched left hand, zoomed to 105mm and pointed at my subjects face, illuminates the character that would have otherwise been lost in harsh shadows.  I also used high-speed sync on this image to give me the shallow DOF I wanted.  ISO 50, f2.8, 1/800th