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On Assignment: David X. Tejada, Kicking Butt with Small Flashes

First update: Adds podcast link to bottom of post.

Alright, confession time.

I was scanning through the new pix in the Strobist Flickr pool and I come across some thumbnails of mix-light, outdoor photos.

As I was deciding whether or not to drop this guy a "hey, pal, we try to limit the pix to off-camera strobe around here" note, I opened one up.

Well, shut my mouth.

Not only is Colorado-based pro David X. Tejada using his SB-800's subtly, effectively and creatively, he is doing it in ways that do not call attention to the light itself. He's just making killer pix.

You want subject-driven lighting?

Here it is, from one of our own.

Do I wish I had made these photos? Yes.

Will I be, uh, incorporating what I have learned into my own photos? Sure will.

Take the top photo, for instance.

This is not the garden-variety, mix-light city scene it first appears to be. It's a shot of the mass transit train rolling past, done for the maker of the cars. David just decided to amp the photo by including the cars into a beautiful mix-light scene of the city.

But, as you know, the shutter speed at that time a day is not going to be anywhere near what you need to stop the train. So David just let it fall where it may (1/13 @f/4) and used two small SB-800's on Pocket Wizards in the garage below him to freeze-blur the train as it went past.

This guy is going out on shoots with a little gear and a lotta brain.

(Click on any photo to see it bigger.)

Take this architectural shot, for instance. Looks like available light. But David has two SB-800's (just outside of the frame on each side) to provide detail for the two planters.

Subtle, but very effective.

And that's the next level you reach for after you have grown tired of the "HEY-LOOK-AT-MY-LIGHT!" style of lit photography.

Finally, this simple graphic of an I-beam uses small flashes to add color and detail to the main subject by lighting it from each side. Ditto the guy on the left.

If you want to know what this picture would have looked like without flash, look at the smaller beam at right.

I talked to David on the phone after seeing his pictures pop up in the Flickr pool. He and I both agreed that, even though you own the big lights, it can be more fun to leave them at home and find ways to solve problems with the little fellas.

If you are a photographer and you want to see what can be done with small flashes on a larger scale, check out his stuff. He is providing good info on techniques in his Flickr postings.

And if you are a company who wants some good art, hire him. Just remind yourself not to worry if he shows up for your annual report shoot with a body, a tripod and a duffel bag full of "amateur" flashes.

And if you would like to hear David talk more about his lighting philosophy, you're in luck. StudioLighting.net has a podcast interview with him from a little ways back. It's 18 megs, so dial-uppers should be forewarned.

Next: Stainless Steel and Cookies

(Thanks for the heads-up on the podcast, Pete G.)


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