Phoenix Strobist Seminar Report

David Hobby at Phoenix Strobist Seminar I snuck into a seat near the back of the bland conference room at the Phoenix Airport Hilton this past Saturday not quite knowing what to expect from the latest Strobist seminar. Little did I know how much I'd learn about turning a boring conference room to into a photographic playground. The Strobist movement is a revolutionary approach to lighting just about anything - weddings, still life, photojournalism, portraits - with small but effective shoe-mount strobe flashes. Our instructor, David Hobby, has been a photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun for the past few years, before becoming the 4-star general in an army of photographers using his unique blend of guerrilla lighting techniques. He would probably say he didn't invent it, but he has certainly been instrumental in spreading the word about this novel approach to photographic lighting, and his blog - is certainly one of the most influential photography blogs on the internet today. His marching orders are simple: Less Gear, More Brain, Better Light. And on Saturday, I sat riveted as he took the recruits through a lighting 'boot camp' with a combination of theory and practice. The morning session was an in-depth review of 7 key variables that affect the quality of strobe-based lighting: Position, Softness, Balance, Restriction, Reflection/Refraction, Color Shifting, and Time-Based Controls. Then the afternoon was a 'live ammo' session where David took us through some simple but effective demonstrations of what a little light can do with a little knowledge as leverage. David put it well when he quoted David Tejada as saying that "a photographer using the Strobist approach is like a special forces soldier, using lightweight gear to get in, shoot with nimble precision, come out with spectacular results". David used me as a subject(I like to think it was because of my good looks, but it was probably just because I was wearing black) to show us how to turn a white backdrop into pure black, then pure white again; how to light a large conference room with just two small shoe-mount strobes; a bread-and-butter setup for separating your subject from the background with a bit of backlight; and how to use a bedsheet as a giant softbox. My only regret was that I had to leave early to shoot a wedding that evening. But you can bet that the bride and groom got a little taste of the Strobist recipe that evening. Strobist Info: This shot of David was captured using my own internal bio-wizard cat-like reflexes. Which really just means that I slowed down my shutter speed to 1/40 sec and got lucky pressing the button at the same instant as David. Either that or pocket wizards can trigger involuntary twitches through aluminum tooth fillings.