It was my first chance after a long, cold winter to go outside and try shoot something with speedlights during the day to see how they stand up in bright, late afternoon daylight. It was tricky to use any modifiers since they eat up so much light.
The step that really helped the most to prepare for those conditions was to go to the location(s) first without any lights at all and see what my settings were going to be to get the background exposed the way I wanted during that time of day.
It also turned into the idea that I've started to implement, which is keeping a folder of possible locations for future shoots.
Aperture controls flash/Shutter Speed controls ambient light:
|Straight out of the camera (SOOC)|
|SOOC underexposed by almost 1 stop|
Then I went home and pulled out the lights to see how they would perform at those settings. Turns out...speedlights (my Canon 580 EX, Nikon SB-26/SB-24) have a hard time keeping up with such a closed aperture at that ISO setting. They still worked bare within a range of 5-8 or 10 feet on full power individually, but my modifiers were nearly useless.
In the location below, there was a lot less light since it's between two buildings. There's some nice bounce light from the brighter building directly across from the scene here in this picture and settings were much more small flash-favourable at f/8, ISO 200 (a 3 stop difference!). But take a look at the second photo too see what happens as soon as that sun disappears behind a cloud. I was quite surprised at just how much light you lose! ...and at how much the white balance is thrown off.
|SOOC-backround exposed "normally"|
|SOOC-same camera setting-sun behind clouds|
Since you're in full manual mode by this point anyway, it's not that difficult to ride your shutter speed to compensate.
All around a great day and huge learning experience now 6 months or so into learning about off-camera lighting! It's highly addictive and the theme of the warmer months is going to be to get out there and shoot as often as possible to try out some great things I learned from the Flash Bus Tour in Buffalo, New York last weekend! More on that another time....