Shooting movement

So I set up my first dance shoot yesterday, and thought I'd some some ideas.

The gear

2x Nikon SB-5000 (triggered via WT-R10)
1x Nikon SB-800 (optical slave "SU-4" mode)
16x Panasonic Eneloop BK-3MCCE

2x Rogue Flashbender 2 XL Pro
1x Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Stacking Grid
1x Lastolite Silver/White 120cm Reflector
3x Phot-R Professional Photography 3m Stands (£40.99 for 3!)

1x Nikon D5
1x Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2

The set up

The lighting set up was woefully inadequate. This meant a couple of things:

  1. Distance to subject makes a difference if stepping down is not any option. In the second set, I was shooting from about 10 meters away at 200mm f/5.6, this meant the DoF is around 1m, compared to 10cm at 3m away
  2. Reduce ambient lighting ratio. By this, I mean "switch lights off" and work in the dark. This also means relying on AF-assist lamps on the speedlights and being smart on when re-focusing is needed (because even on the D5, using centre point that's rated to -4 EV, focusing can be hit and miss).

SB-5000 in a Flashbender XL, supplemented by a makeshift softbox set up with a SB-800 optically slaved to SB-5000:

Makeshift softbox

Makeshift softbox

Additional SB-5000 at 45-45 degree at stage left with a 12-degree grid.


Lessons learned

Pro gear makes a difference
...For all day shoots. Specifically, high eye-points really makes a difference after 2 hours if you wear glasses, f/2.8 lenses in low light makes it easier to see what is going on stage. I guess the Nikkor 200mm f/2 AF-S would have really shined here - although I'd be stepping down to f/5.6, the larger aperture would have helped with a brighter viewfinder and AF.

Heavy gear get very heavy after 8 hours.
I should have bought a tripod or at least a cheap monopod. The D5 weighs in at 1.4kg, the lens at 1.5kg - my wrist is still aching after holding 3kg for 7 hours straight. Only way I could make it through was to find things to prop my elbows on.

Interrupt rather than wait
If the model moves out of the zone, consider stopping. It is always a balance between keeping the flow going and interrupting, but that being said, any pictures out of the zone is likely to end up rejected. Is the model out of the zone temporarily, or have they lost their way? As the photographer, you have to make the call!

Know your gear
What is the latency between you pressing the shutter release and the rig firing? 1/4 of a second is a long time when the talent is moving - this could be the difference between a shoot, and missed opportunity.

In multi-light set ups, what does "good" sound like? If your lights are set at different powers, they might sing in unison at the beginning, and throughout the shoot the beeps might get out of sync. This might be a telltale sign that a battery change will be due at some point. Anticipate this and you might avoid running out of juice in mid-dance.

AF-ON (back focus button)... wow. Shooting in the dark with the set up above, this is a must. Pre-focus once, learn your DoF and only re-focus when you need to. I really wish the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2 was parfocal, but it's not. Oh well.

Backlit buttons are pretty useful when you are sitting in pitch black. Conversely, bring gaffer's tape so you can tape up those bright LEDs (WT-R10, I'm looking at you!).