Its like most things in life and photography, its practice. I use flashes on 80% of shoots I do, and that's pretty often, so for me anyways its almost instinct. I can rock up to a spot, take a look at the ambient light and guess what the flashes need to be pretty spot on first go.
So when I want to set up and strobed shot I do this:
- Take a second to look around, work out where the sun is, what kind of terrain there is to work with
- work out what lens to use, long, wide etc etc
- work out what angle you want to shoot from
- work out if you want a nicely balanced shot, so flash and ambient work together well, or if you want something more flash heavy.
- Then get the flashes out of the bag.
- Work out where you want light to fall on the rider/trail...put them where they need to be to do that.
- Then work out zoom and power settings
- then start shooting...
Something that not to many people seem to realise is that shutter speed only really affects ambient light , and not flash, and flash light is controlled in camera by the aperture.
So if you set up the flashes and they are a bit hot, go for a slightly higher Fstop, and in turn lower the shutter a bit. Or just go and turn the flash down... ha
Anyway now I will show you a few of my fav shots I have used flash on and tell you where and roughly the flash set ups for each shot.
A pretty balanced shot as far as lighting's concerned...one flash behind the tree in the center of the shot on about 1/16th power and pretty wide zoom. one flash just out of shot to the bottom left of the shot on about 1/4 and about 50mm zoom...
A more flash heavy image here. Flash behind the tree on the left of the image will have been wide and about 1/8th power. then flash just out of shot on the right on the same side of the track as me on about 1/8th and again wide.
This is a good example of using the sun as a natural rim light. Only one flash used just to the left of the camera, very zoomed in around 80-100mm and on about 1/4 power as I was about 20 feet from the rider.
Flash just out of shot to the right of camera , wide and about 1/16th power. Flash just out of shot to the left is about 6 foot lower down the landing, zoomed in to about 50mm and about 1/8th power. Sun as natural rim light.
Again a pretty balanced shot ( I tend to shoot this way ) Flash out of shot on the right is pretty zoomed in and on 1/16th power. Flash out of shot in the left is wider probs about 24mm and about 1/8th.
So the typical lighting set ups are normally 2 flashes. I have 3 but don't really use the 3rd as 2 well placed lights is normally enough and takes a 3rd of the time to set up.
You often see flashes in a diagonal line crossing the rider. One as Rim and one as main fill...That's a tried and tested set up that just works. But for more interesting shots, you need to think a bit more outside the box...
Try and guess the lighting set up for these ones, if any one guesses them I will send you a free print...