Sunday, 27 April 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandad!

Yesterday was a very special day for our family - my Grandad turned 97 (though you wouldn't have thought it to look at him!). So, naturally, out came the camera and lights to mark the occasion.

The backdrop for the pictures was the rear garden of his house - with a bit of privacy and so many happy memories there, it was the ideal setting.

Past experience has shown that taking a 'posed' picture of my Grandad is akin to photographing a young puppy - I find myself with a maximum of just a few short minutes before he decides it's time to move off to get on with other more 'exciting' activities (thankfully, I have also learnt not to take this reaction personally!). So, with this in mind, I set up the lights in advance, making full use once again of the wireless capabilities of the Nikon Speedlight system. For more examples of this system in use, see the content label list on the right; if you have any questions, please post them via the comments link below.

The diagram here shows the basic arrangement, viewed from above. As you can can see, the main light was fired through a translucent umbrella; I often use this approach as it provides a clean and flattering diffused illumination which softens the skin nicely.

Behind the subjects were placed 2 other (undiffused, SB-800) flash units - one either side, each at approximately 30 degrees, creating a nice rim light and giving clear separation from the background. This would have been accentuated even further had the subjects' clothing been darker.

For any keen photographers who are reading - yes, you're quite right, the the main light is in fact a Metz, not a Nikon. Simply put, the Nikons were set to fire off the Metz, thanks to the SU-4 hack. Want to know more? You should definitely check out
this page over at Strobist, where David Hobby gives a great run-down of this excellent slave function.

But getting back to the point... and the whole reason we create pictures in the first place. Regardless of subject matter, every image is designed to be memorable, meaningful, impactful in some way. Of course this process is subjective to varying degrees - the photographer's beliefs, his/her stylistic preferences, even one's state of mind at the time of capturing the image - all can influence how the picture turns out. And every picture has a purpose, it's own story to tell.

On this occasion, I simply wanted to document the fact that my Grandad has reached such a great age. The caption would read nothing more than "Grandad in the garden on his 97th Birthday". In years to come, I will be able to look back on these photographs and remember the happy memories of that day and of the years that led up to it; the times we spent together in that place, the fun we had.

And therein lies photography's greatest strength - the ability to capture moments in time, no matter what content fills the frame. It is there to preserve those moments for the benefit of future generations. Technology is wonderful - but it is merely a tool which allows us to realise our visions.

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