VanArts Figure Skating Shoot

December 12, 2010

One of the things that I like most about teaching the Action and Sports Photography class at VanArts is that I get a chance to shoot new things. Take this past class as an example; while we normally shoot dance and parkour outdoors, (both of which I enjoy) the weather and circumstances made that impossible this time. So my great staff at VanArts managed to round up 3 figure skaters and book us some ice time for the last day’s shoot. Figure Skating. Not something that I ever would have thought of, but something that I was very excited to shoot. And as it worked out I was also playing with the new Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 for Nikon, so I took it as an opportunity to try a few different things.

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to my blog you’ll know that I like shooting at high shutter speeds with flash. Using the Pocket Wizard MultiMAX’s I’ve been able to shoot at 1/1600th and higher fairly reliably, it’s just a bit of a process. So I was excited to try out the Mini TT1 as a transmitter used with my MultiMAX’s as receivers. The big benefit of high speed sync in this case is that I can turn the background to almost black, and isolate the action. Most of the figure skating images I’ve seen are all from competition, and most have a lot of distracting rink elements in the background. I was going for something clean, something that would look like a spotlight lighting up a dancer on the ice. I brought along a few Nikon Speedlights, these shots are all taken with 2 SB800’s high on one side, and one gridded SB900 on the other. Lights are positioned by the boards off the ice and all lights were at 1/1 power and zoomed all the way, shutter speed is 1/1000 or 1/1250, aperture f/6.3

In the past I’ve used high speed sync mostly as a fill light shooting outdoors with speedlights, it allows me to freeze the action with the shutter, and also allows me to use a larger aperture so I don’t need as much light out of my flashes. That’s nice when you’re fighting with the sun. This is one of the first times that I’ve used flashes to creatively light a scene while using the highspeed sync, in this case the hypersync feature of the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1, and I have to say I’m pleased with the results.

I intended to try this with the Flex TT5 receivers as well using the High Speed FP sync mode and compare the results, however I ran out of time. Also with the TT5 units and Nikon speedlights there doesn’t appear to be any way of using more than one flash with each receiver, definitely an issue for me as I often gang 2 or more speedlights together.

If anyone has had any luck using multiple Nikon SB800 or 900’s with one TTL receiver please let me know the details.