Of Strobes and a Flower

D700_DSC_2868A couple weeks ago, in a desire to instil a bit of spring into the house after yet another week of frigid temperatures, I bought a bunch of tulips. As cut flowers do, they opened up, and I saw an opportunity as the petals opened up to get some interesting photos. I began to get an idea of how I’d like to do this.

My intent was a tulip bright against a black background, as you can see from the photo on the left. The execution was really quite simple and went fairly quickly. Here is the run-down:

I set up a black fabric background using some old curtains someone gave to me (one never knows when old black curtains can be useful, so I said I’d take them). Now, I could have blacked out the background, which in the room I did this has beige walls, using the basic inverse square law of light, but the room is rather small, and I wanted to help the effect along. I positioned the tulip on a small table in front of the curtain.

My main light is a Nikon SB900 flash pointed down at the tulip, power set to 1/5 and zoomed in to 200mm to make a nice tight source of light that wouldn’t spill onto the blackdrop much. After a few test shots, the shadow that appeared behind the bulb on the stem was not pleasing. So I dug out a Nikon SB600 and placed it just below the flower pointing it towards the back to fill that shadow. It was zoomed to 50mm and the power dialed back to 1/20 to again minimize the spill.  Here you can see the overall set up.

Photo Shoot setup

A blackdrop, two strobes and a tulip.

Using an 85mm lens, I set my camera to ISO 250, shutter 1/250s and aperture to f16. The SBs were triggered using Nikon CLS. This resulted in the image like the one below. Minor adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom to cut out the blacks some more, and a little adjustment to contrast and a tweak of saturation. Overall, not much post was done.


A slight change for the photo at the top of this post in that I moved the SB600 around to behind the tulip. I like the shadow disconnect in the stem.

For fun, I put on a full CTO gel on the SB900 to see what came out (leaving the SB600 still bare). It had a neat effect. I like it.


A selection from this shoot will go into my iStock portfolio and the ones you see here into my Smugmug gallery for purchase.