Having the opportunity to visit the industry at PMA and CES this year was rad, but what was even radder was the chance to meet and have fun with a few of my personal industry heroes, Zeke of Nice Photo Mag, Matt of Nasty Clamps and James of Orbis. We spent some time talking gear and the industry but having spent too much time confined in the show rooms, Zeke and I need some venting. We took a Nasty Clamp a Canon s100 and an strobe and roamed the strip. Having limited gear, we wanted to see what we can come up with.
What started as a fun (yet cold) evening ended with security kicking us out of the boardwalk for taking professional photographs, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Arriving At Vegas
I wanted to take a shot of me arriving to Vegas and we spotted a nice “welcome to Vegas” sign. Zeke took a snap and we were not surprised that exposing for the sign left me in total darkness.
Out of the bag goes the strobe (an old and faithful SB80DX) and goes on a NastyClamp. If you’ve never seen one before, this is what it look like.
Holy pop tarts! The s100 does not have a hot shoe!!! We thought that we are screwed right then and there. While the Nikon SB has a sync port, there was no way to connect it to the camera. But wait the Nikon SB has an optical slave (as Nikon smartly put in almost each of their strobes). We devised a clever mechanism of using the non-shutter-hand to flag off any light from the subject, while letting some light hit the strobe sensor. Think pilgrims staring into the sun kinda gesture.
We set the strobe to have some light on me. We obviously wanted to have some light on me, but also to have a bit of light on the road behind. Strobe was set to 1/64 if I recall correctly, and the beam on one of the wider zoom setting letting some spill hit the car behind me. Here is the final shot – me desperately trying to hail a cab.
A Nice Head Shot
Heading down the strip we could not resist one of the locations. It is a mall-ish kind of place that had a long staircase that seemed like it could be a good background. The nice thing about it was a street lamp casting a light opposite of the boardwalk.
Zeke and I had the same thought, excellent back light. Let’s take a nice headshot. This is how the shot looked like with back light only.
Now to add a key. With no stands or rails around to clamp a nasty to, we resorted to the old strobe in hand method. To soften the light a bit we placed it in a bag that we got from one of the show presenters (casemate, if you must ask, they make kick ass iPhone cases, turns out they also make some darn fine strobe diffusers). After taking the test shot, the balance seemed to be off. A 1/4 CTO went right on the strobe inside the bag.
Here you can see the entire setup, lit staircase behind, strobe and bag in hand and a street lamp hovering above.
Lastly, Climbing Up The Stairs (and getting kicked out)
Those stairs were too cool to pass on a shot on the other side, so we went up and clamped the nasty on the hand rail. I believe that this is what got security’s attention. but we did manage to take one shot before we were thrown out.
With everything orange around, the 1/4 CTO went on the strobe again. I usually keep a 1/4 CTO on the back of strobe gaffed with a little piece of tape. Then if there is a need, I peel away the gaff tape and re-stick the gel on the strobe.
This is how the setup looked like from a bit closer (My biz card turning a hot shoe into a cold shoe).
Then the fun was over, and security came. She was super nice and told us that we are not allowed to take pictures using professional gear.
We showed her the palm-sized Canon s100 and she laughed, and said, “oh, if you were using that instead of the pro gear, you could have stayed”.
To which we replied “yes, this is what we used”, sadly she did not buy it. We even tried waving our hand, “those are not the droids you are looking for”, but to no good. This was it.
With the time already late, we both had our warm milks and went to bed.
All that said, there are three takeaways from that trip
1. A night shooting with a friend is always a good night
2. A single strobe will get you far if you are not afraid to use it.
3. Nothing feels better than getting kicked out of an On The Strip property for taking pictures with professional gear when really, it was only a strobe and a point and shoot.
(Top image, Matt helping me discover pop tarts in a local 7/11)