I already wrote the story of how I met Stacy-Ann and it's a tale of serendipity and preparedness. From that moment i saw here in the fog over the Christ The Redeemer statue I had the thought that I have many times when I'm walking in the street. "I could take a great photo of that person" Some of that is the bizarre ego that is part of being a photographer (which is far too often just a tiny bit of ying to the crushing yang of "I can't believe I can't get a good photo of this...") and some of it is that when you see someone you just know they will look great in front of the camera. Within days of our meeting we were on a beach. Stacy-Ann showed up ready and after taking about 15 images with the dress she arrived in we made a quick change into a bikini from Krista Renee Designs and the American Flag that she had brought to Brazil for the Olympics. I had my D5, two SB-5000's paired to a WR-10, and the brand new Nikkor 105 1.4
The new Nikon 105 1.4. The only current 105 1.4 in the world. The lens stunned me. I wasn't prepared for the 20 mm between 85 and 105 to make such a difference to me. The added compression. The (in my opinion) creamier bokeh. The feel of the actual lens. it all came together for me. Combined with the D5 and a couple of SB-5000's I was ready to make some images that I would be proud of.
My process for flash photography is really simple. I pick an Fstop based on how much depth of field I want. Then I pick a shutter speed to control the ambient light. Then i start painting my subject with light. It can be from strobes, from speedlights, from car headlights or a reflector. Any light I add after is the light i control. In this case it was my SB-5000's. Due to a ton of wind and me being nearly 5000 miles from home I didn't have any mods that i felt comfortable using. My umbrella nearly snapped and my Rogue gear turned my light stands into sails that already blew over once. So i brought it back to basics and thanked the lighting gods (related closely to the thunder gods like Thor, Perun, and Thunderbird) that Stacy-Ann has flawless skin that loves the light. By moving the flashes closer (as close as possible) i made them larger in relation to my subject and thus as soft as they could be. By the time we were taking these images it was about 11 in the morning so the ambient was pretty harsh and the speedlights would have to work overtime to beat them. Between the wind and the iTTl pre-flash we were having some issues keeping Stacy's eyes open so I made the move to manual with the main light being set to full power in oder to over power the sun.
Here is the first test image so that I could get an idea of what I working with. I picked f/2 because i wanted shallow depth of field (and wanted to test the bokeh properties of the 105) and then 1/8000th of a second to kill some of the ambient light and help create a bit of mood, deeper colors, and of course to give me some sky. By making those choices i'm helping to tell the story of Stacy-Ann and her bikini and the flag. Despite the shallow DOF we know we are at a beach but that is as much as you need to see - the "feeling of the beach" is more important for when we moved to open sun and in the images set in front of the surfboards the f/2 rather than 1.4 meant that they are clear without being sharp. Attention is drawn to Stacy-Ann rather than being distracted. As i say - shallow DOF is not best. It's a choice. If i was doing a surfboard Ad then I would have stopped down to 5.6 or maybe even more in order to make sure that the boards were sharp and equally focused as Stacy.
Once those two decisions were made (and I'd fluctuate a bit moving the aperture from 1.6 to 2.8 at various times for just a taste more or less DOF but the shutter stayed at 1/8000th through this set) it was time to start working the flashes. I had Mark as my Voice Activated lightstand and for the images on the surfboard stand I placed a bare SB-5000 behind Stacy to get some separation from the beach and boards. I turned it down to 1/8th power and zoomed it out as wide as it would go in order to create a faint rim light. We started with the light up and to camera right but moved it around as Stacy moved.
I was intrigued to try the 105 since the day it was announced and it didn't disappoint. Focus was fast and accurate when combined with the D5 and the lens is just sharp as anything i have. Up until now the lens that I've always drooled over when it came to longer (to me who usually shoots with wides such as the 20 1.8 or 35 1.4 for environmental portraiture) glass was the 200/f2. That lens is amazing. Sharp and just renders the bokey perfectly. It is also big and hard to carry and not the most comfortable lens for me since I move a lot when I shoot. This lens has instantly ascended to my must carry list and will be the perfect companion to my 20 and 35 for a trifecta of lenses. Those 20mm do make a difference to me. especially when compared to my 35 and 20 work which depends on careful placement of the subject to avoid unflattering images.
In the end I'm proud of these. I wasn't there to shoot. I didn't think I'd be creating stunning images with a stunning woman. I didn't think I'd go 5000 miles to photograph a woman that lives 20 miles from me. Serendipity. Lighting Gods. Thanks