review: Frio coldshoe adapter for speedlights

[ edited to add: This review was for the original Frio, but it has now been improved with an updated version. ]

The Frio is such an elegantly simple device – ready-made for those times you need to attach a speedlight to a light-stand or umbrella bracket. What makes it so neat is that you don’t have to tighten a twisty knob to attach the flash. And neither do you have to un-tighten that same over-tightened knurly knob when you want to release the speedlight again.

Where the Frio really shines is with the modern speedlights that have a pin & lock system. This make them nearly impossible to seat securely in some coldshoes. With the Frio’s way of clipping the speedlight into position, that’s not a problem any more.

The Frio has a unique way of keeping the speedlight secure – it just slips in, and then the clip at the end holds it in position. To release the speedlight, just push down on the end of the clip, and the speedlight is easily shuffled out. Simplicity itself, with no risk that the speedlight can accidentally wiggle loose over time.

Since the Frio is made of a hard plastic, it can shatter if knocked too hard. I’ve lost one of them that way. But I see this as an advantage in that the Frio gives way; not my speedlight’s hotshoe. I can more easily replace the Frio.

The Frio can take anything that has a male hotshoe connector, such as a microphone or an LED video light. So that gives it a certain flexibility in use, and an easy choice to just have 2 or three in your camera bag anyway. It’ll find a use, somehwere, someday.


buy the Frio

The Frio is available as a single Frio, or a 3-pack, or a 5-pack.


how to carry your camera over your shoulder

An interesting comment came up in the article on choice of lenses for wedding photography. The observation was that the photographer, Lou, felt like he was the proverbial bull in a china shop when he carried two cameras over his shoulder. With the lenses protruding on either side, it was tough going through doorways without knocking something.

There are numerous camera strap solutions available on the market – rapid straps and holster systems. Most of them work well. I still like the old-fashioned camera strap on the camera. One thing I should mention here is that I really got to like the way the Canon bodies work. Attaching the strap to the bottom of the camera makes absolute sense. Then the camera dangles vertically, and it is easy to swipe the camera to the side under your elbow when it hangs from your shoulder.

I liked this so much that I got the Camdapter plate (vendor) to attach to the bottom of my Nikon bodies. This allows my Nikon cameras also to dangle vertically from my shoulder. Perfect. If I had to choose from scratch again, I’d probably settle for the Kirk plate. This too has a place for the camera strap to loop around, at the bottom of the camera. Perfect.

Now, it might not be immediately obvious when you pick the camera up and hoist it over your shoulder, but there are two ways to sling the camera …

You can have the lens dangling outwards, catching on everything, and knocking stuff over, and smacking little kids in the face … or you can turn the camera around, and tuck it behind your body under your elbow. Out of the way. Simple, and less of a hazard to people around you, and less of a danger to your own equipment.


using a macro lens for a photo session of a newborn

I had the pleasure of photographing the newborn baby of Jen and David recently. (David regularly follows the Tangents blog!) Aside from photographing the proud parents with their little one, I also needed to get detail photos of the baby.

With detail images, you see even more clearly just how small this newborn baby is, when you show the scale. A tiny hand clasping a finger. Tiny toes gently flexing against her mother’s hand.

For this, a macro lens is an essential part of my camera bag …

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review: Custom Brackets Digital Pro-M rotating bracket kit

The makers of the Custom Brackets flash brackets, recently sent me a copy of their latest and best rotating flash bracket, the Pro-M rotating flash bracket (vendor), for review. Of the various makes of flash brackets I had tried out when I first started doing wedding photography full-time, the Custom Brackets was the one I settled on out of all of them. As far as I was concerned theirs was the flagship of the flash brackets. So I was curious to see what the updated model could offer …


the reason why we’d use a flash-bracket:

We would use a flash bracket when we want to avoid that side-ways shadow when direct on-camera flash is used and the camera is held vertically. It really does look ugly. See the tutorial on flash brackets for examples. Now, if you only use your camera in a horizontal position, then the flash shadow falls behind your subject, and is less of an intrusive element in the photograph.

When working indoors where there are bounce-able surfaces, I find a flash bracket less of a necessity, thanks to high-ISO capable cameras and the use of faster lenses. Bouncing the flash off other surfaces, and purposely shielding my on-camera flash from directly falling on my subject, I can achieve results which are quite remarkable for on-camera flash.

But photographers who shoot red carpet events or news events, don’t have the luxury always of working indoors with walls and ceilings off which they can bounce flash. Then a flash bracket can really improve the look of the photographs by avoiding that distractingly hard side-ways shadow.

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comparison between a softbox, a white shoot-through umbrella and a bounce umbrella

I’ve had several requests from readers of the Tangents blog about how the light from a softbox would differ from the light from an umbrella. Spurred on by that, and by my own curiosity, I met up a while ago with my favorite model, Anelisa, specifically to do comparison shots.

And here it is …

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using multiple speedlights with high-speed flash sync

This photo of Angelique, our model, was taken at 1/8000 @ f2 @ 100 ISO. Yes, an eight-thousand-th of a second.  The accompanying wide aperture (with an ultra-wide angle lens), gives a unique look to the image. The shallow depth-of-field and high shutter speed are mutually dependent effects in shooting in bright light. Working with a fast shutter speed, brought us into high-speed flash sync (HSS) territory.

Do keep in mind that this shoot was more of a technical exercise to work through the settings and see how the flash behaves when working in bright light, and needing either a faster shutter speed or wider aperture. (Or both.)  In this case, we achieved shallower depth of field and a faster shutter speed. Obviously, in photographing a static model, the advantage of a faster shutter speed is lost. But when you do need the faster shutter speed, this is the solution.

With high-speed flash sync, there is a dramatic loss in effective power, as shown in this previous article. To overcome this, you need to work very close to your subject, or gang up a number of speedlights as a group.

Back to the sequence of images – I wanted to under-expose the city-scape and then use flash to highlight the model against the environment.  So the lighting had to enhance the look of the wide-aperture wide-angle lens. The lens was the beautiful Canon 24mm f1.4 II (B&H). The camera that I used is the classic Canon 5D.

My friend Yishai, of HD PhotoVideo, had shown me his permanent set-up which he uses whenever he has the need of high-speed flash.  His setup consists of four  Canon 580 EX ii speedlights (B&H), held together via a Lightware Foursquare Block. To free himself up from line-of-sight restrictions, and give reliable control of these speedlights, Yishai had connected each speedlight to a RadioPopper PX unit. (They worked with perfect reliability during this shoot.)  To have the speedlights recycle fast enough, they are powered by two Quantum 2×2 batteries (B&H). By ganging up four speedlights like this, we can start overcoming the loss of flash power when going into HSS.

To show me how these work on an actual shoot, we arranged to meet up with Angelique (on this icy cold day) on this pier in Brooklyn, for a photo session. Here is what this setup looks like …

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wedding photography – best lenses

With this recent review of the Nikon 24mm f1.4 the question came up about which lenses I use when photographing a wedding, and how I use them.

How do you juggle the various lenses you have for weddings and decide which ones to bring to a wedding and when to use them? Do you carry them all and just use them when you feel, or do only take specific lenses knowing what the wedding/venue will be like and know in advance that you will certain lenses at various times during the day?

Choosing which lens to use while photographing a wedding, is obviously an extension of your own style. It affects how you want to portray your subject, or the scene, through choice of depth-of-field, perspective and angle of view … or even through some special effect, such as a fish-eye lens or tilt-shift lens.

While the specific lens you use for any shot might be motivated by stylistic choice, there are also practical matters that come into play.  Sometimes the lens I choose will simply be the one already on my camera.

I also like having a wide arsenal of lenses available to me to use.  There is a reassurance in this idea, that I have the best and fastest that is available.  I want any limitations that exist, to be my own as a photographer, not because of my equipment.

So here’s how I juggle lenses and cameras …

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Petra Hall, a pretty awesome wedding photographer in Sweden, first posted this incredible story on the Digital Wedding Forum, and she kindly gave me permission to re-post it here.

the Canon 7D might be rugged, but it isn’t entirely fire-proof …

Petra’s fiance, Erkki, recently bought a new (used) car, just before a planned vacation. They had intended on cruising in the MG convertible and just enjoy the sports car in the summer. They were going to just drive around and take some photographs of the scenery.

The weekend before their vacation started, Erkki was on his way home from work when something in the car exploded and the car caught on fire. Huge flames engulfed the entire car. Erkki’s Canon 7D (with a 24-105L) was inside the car, as well his MacBook Air laptop. Everything went up in flames – the car; the camera & lens and the computer.  Luckily no-one was harmed.

Since the car was imported from the UK, the insurance for it hadn’t taken effect yet. Therefore nothing will be replaced that went up in flames.

Here’s how the camera looks like now.

It’s going to hurt.

You might want to look away in case you’re the sensitive type …

A computer techie managed to get the hard-drive safely out of the computer, so Erkki could copy all the images that he’d taken since he got the 7D last winter.

The best part of the story though is that the 7D did keep a secret inside its melted body …

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analysis of the lighting setup during a photo shoot

The photo above of Jessica, my assistant, shows the final lighting setup during a recent commercial shoot.  I had to photograph various people at a medical technology imaging company for use on their website and promotional material.  I had to show some of the workplace, but put the accent on the person I am photographing.

Of course, it is much easier to work with my assistant, and do test shots and changes in the setup beforehand.  Then we can change the lights and anything else we need to, until we’re happy with the results.  Then only do we call in the people we are actually photographing, and place them in position.

With this post I want to show the thought process in setting up the lighting for this photo.  There were a couple of dead ends, and a couple of adjustments as we went along …

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photographing people – available light portrait

While unloading lighting gear from the van to shoot a last few images for a certain section for my next book, I turned around and noticed the way the light fell on Anelisa.  Beautiful portrait light.  The (cropped) pull-back shot will show why ..

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