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Big Canyon, Small Flash

May 18

In Lighting, On Location at 2:02am

Been experimenting with seeing how far I can throw a commander signal from a hot shoe mounted flash to a set of remotes. Figured Dead Horse Canyon would be a good place to try. So last week, got up in the middle of the night and went out for sunrise in Moab. Got in touch with our bikers, Beth and Sean, through Poison Spyder Bike Shop in Moab, which, for me, has been the place to call if you want to work with good riders. The folks who either work there or are connected with the shop can really rock it out on a mountain bike.


Triggered the remotes from an SB900 on my camera. It had the diffuser dome off, and it was zoomed to 200mm, which is a good strategy for squeezing out a few more yards of range. All three remotes are hooked up on a c-stand via Justin Clamps. All have 1/2 cut of CTO warming gel on them, and they in turn are zoomed to 200mm, to get punch and direction along the lines of the rising (hopefully) sun.


Sean and Beth took turns, and I just kept adjusting at camera for the changing light. I was swinging the camera left and right to maybe do a pano stitch, so I took it out of aperture priority and just slammed it into manual. After experimenting a bit, I decided I needed all the juice I could get outta the lights, so I sent them a signal to fire at manual, 1/1, the max power you can get from the 900.




They both did great out there on the edge of the canyon. And the lights did okay, too. Consistent fire and recycle, ’cause each 900 was hooked to an SD-9 external battery pack.


Then there was this tree, which is evidently famous. It’s all bent up, kinda like it was growing one way and then decided to make a u-turn back the other direction. It’s cool looking, as trees go. My buds Kevin Dobler, Moose Peterson and I worked out a lighting combo that had two 900 units warmed up with CTO gel, and at first zoomed to 200mm, firing at the tree from both camera left and right, with each flash being about 20 or so feet from the greenery. Changed up the zoom when it looked like the lights were getting too spotty, and widened them both out to about 85mm. Group A to one side, B to the other, in case we had to ratio them differently. Saturated the sky with underexposure, and powered up the lights.


And, I became one with the tree. Figures. We’re both a little bent.

Couple schedule things….

Heading to Florida on Friday to teach lighting in Orlando, courtesy of the Orlando Camera Club. Great bunch of folks, and the organizer, Wayne Bennett has been tireless at putting together what looks to be a terrific program. Here’s the link….

More tk….

68 Responses to “Big Canyon, Small Flash”

Martin says:

on May 20, 2010 at 6:16 am

thanks for sharing this, amazing location and amazing Images as always

pj finn says:

on May 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

Gawd I love that tree…

You really brought it to life.

Omar Ibrahim says:

on May 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Waw. superb>:)

rithzal says:

on May 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

marvelous! inspiring as always. :)

Doede says:

on May 23, 2010 at 5:57 am

G’day Joe,

Thanks again for sharing the technical info. A few weeks ago I asked about + or -EV corrections and you covered some of it in this blogpost. Many thanks!

Aid says:

on May 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Man you are awesome and a great inspiration,

Loving the Hot Shoe Diaries.


Adam Sasim says:

on May 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

Great stuff Joe !

For my taste, light seems a bit harsh – but I belive you want it that way.


SKIZO says:

on May 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm

In your honour and in the honour of wall the Photographers, I published an ilustration.

David Solo says:

on May 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Joe, You are so Freakin cool! I hate you :-)

megalibraryonline says:

on May 25, 2010 at 12:45 am

cool man,,,,

David says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

I loved dead horse canyon but never saw that tree. Shot the canyon at sunrise, got there when it was still dark.

On the distance thing, a couple weeks ago I shot in an auditorium. Used my long lens and triggered an SB800 on a lightstand from the far back(maybe 60 yards) with the pop-up flash on my D300. I recently got a D3s and though I have 2 SBs I really miss the popup flash for use as a commander.

Chris Ward says:

on May 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I just about died trying to keep up with some Posion Spyder guys on the porcupine rim trail several years back. Back then I brought 2 bikes and no cameras with me. Next time will be all about the cameras. How things change.

Love the image where the biker looks like they are jumping into the canyon.

Miles Wolstenholme says:

on May 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

Fantastic series and location, I especially like the composition on moab_mt_biker_2010_0345. Keep up the great work.

Carl says:

on May 28, 2010 at 4:06 am

Hi Joe, being a biker and photographer I love the shots! I have both your books and a d700 and 1 sb900 and a sb400. Coming back from Non Hodkins lymphoma, hopefully I will have the strength to try some of your techniques? For the rest of the guys reading, the new flashwave III triggers a supposed to be good.
Cheers Carl Melbourne Aus.

Börje says:

on May 30, 2010 at 5:43 am

Nice pictures as usual :)
How far away could you trigger the SB-900 from the on camera flash?
Do you see a difference in distance when you use the SU-800?


Nick Bicanic says:

on June 5, 2010 at 7:01 am

awesome work there Joe!

stinna arto says:

on June 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I must bow down in the dust for this! GREAT!

Photography says:

on June 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Wow totally amazing shots. I love the shot of the mountain biker in mid air. It gives me nightmares just thinking about how far down and hard the landing will be. hahaha. Well done.

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