burning out / melting your speedlights & flashes

The obvious question that comes up with bouncing flash behind you, is that they do tend to fire at full power or close to full power. If you shoot events, where you need to take repeated shots with your on-camera flash, they do take a beating and even risk even burning out. I do hammer my speedlights, especially when I use the Quantum 2×2 battery packs.  This doesn’t bother me greatly, since I regard my speedlights in a way, as consumable items. They will become unrepairable at some point. Cost of doing business as an event photographer.

For this reason I have numerous speedlights, because there are inevitably at least one or two in for repairs.

My older speedlights tend to look like the two shown in the photos above. The one is a a Canon 580 and the other a Nikon SB-800. All speedlights will do this if fired repeatedly at (close to) full power. They over-heat.

Where my flashes do take the hardest beating, is with events where there is a lot of activity in a short time.  For example, with Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, you have the Hora which happens very fast  and only for a short time.  And you have to get the shots. The equipment matters less.  Don’t fall in love with your equipment and be afraid to use it.

And no, I wouldn’t buy a used flashgun from me either. ;)


using bounce flash outdoors

January 3, 2008

using bounce flash outdoors

While the bounce flash techniques described on these pages are heavily dependent on shooting indoors which provide those places to bounce flash off … it wouldn’t seem possible to use these techniques outdoors.  After all, you can’t bounce flash off the clouds.  (Although we’ve all seen photographers attempt this outside.)

So while there are obvious limitations in applying these bounce flash techniques outdoors, there are times when these techniques can still be quite effective.

This example, also shown in the tutorial pages is of this image taken at a wedding that I photographed in Aruba.

Here I had my daughter hold up the gold side of the Lastolite reflector. And hopefully this gives the idea of light from the sun setting over the ocean. (It had just gone down, and the light was blandly grey.)

However, these bounce flash techniques do imply some kind of surface to bounce your flash off.  But you shouldn’t feel limited by not having an obvious area to bounce light off.

Learn more inside…


manual flash vs. TTL flash

December 26, 2007

Manual flash vs TTL flash

For correct flash exposure, 4 things need to be controlled and balanced:
– aperture
– distance (from the flash to subject)
– power (the flash’s actual blitz of light, taking into consideration any diffusion)

Two things relate to camera settings, and two things relate to the flash itself.
To really understand flash photography, it is essential to memorize those 4 things.

If you need an acronym to remember things more easily: PAID
Power, Aperture, ISO, Distance.

There are distinct ways in which flash exposure is controlled though – Manual flash or  TTL flash. (For the purposes of the explanation here, Auto and TTL flash can be grouped together wrt D-SLRs.)

With manual flash, you have to adjust any of those settings to balance them out for correct flash exposure. You can use a light-meter, or even use the histogram to get correct flash exposure. With TTL flash, the camera and flash control the flash output (i.e., the power) as you adjust any of the other settings. That’s it in a nutshell – the differences between Manual flash, and Auto / TTL flash.

But let’s look at this more closely …

Learn more inside…


my choice of on-camera flash modifiers

There is a fundamental principle in lighting : the larger your light source, the softer your light.

Using any of the myriad of flash modifiers that are on offer, helps in achieving that – spreading the light from the on-camera Speedlight much wider, thereby creating softer light that direct flash would’ve given.  However, (and this is a big however), these flash modifiers also throw light forward.  Ultimately all flash modifiers do the same thing – they disperse a lot of light around the room, while throwing some measure of light directly forward to lift shadows under the eyes and bring a sparkle to the eyes.

That is a huge step up from using direct flash – (or poorly bounced flash.. ie, flash at 45′ or 60′ forward) – but won’t be as good as directional light.  Directional light falls onto your subject from a specific angle.  This direction can very often be carefully chosen even when you use an on-camera flash indoors.

For this candid portrait of the ring-bearer, I touched up the WB in RAW, and that’s that. Simple, and it looks just great. The light is soft, and the little guy wasn’t bothered by any direct flash … since there was NO direct flash at all.

The way I achieve directional light from my flash is by adding what is in effect, a half-snoot on my on-camera flash.  The half-snoot (or flag) will partially block the light, and also direct it.

Learn more inside…


how to photograph lightning

November 10, 2007

how to photograph lightning

The breathtaking sight of lightning splitting the evening sky has to be one of the more dramatic subjects to photograph… and also surprisingly easy.

A vivid burst of purple lightning over this store, framed by the arch of the veranda I was sheltering under, contrasts perfectly with the yellow cast of the artificial light. Of a series of 10 photos I took here, there were 2 usable images with lightning.  The strong color cast are from the street-lights, and having used daylight-balanced film.

April ’91 .. Colesberg; South Africa
Pentax Super-A;  Pentax-A 24-50mm f4
15 sec @ f8.0 .. Fuji RD 100 .. tripod.

Learn more inside…


directional light from your on-camera bounce flash

Most often when photographers start using their flashguns out of the directly-forward position, they move the flash head to point 45’ or 90’ upward. The idea here is to bounce flash off the ceiling. Even though this is an improvement in most cases over using the flashgun pointing directly forward, this is also most often not ideal. We can improve on this.

If we consider how studio lights are set up, we’ll rarely see a light source directly overhead of our subject. Top lighting just isn’t as flattering as light coming in from an angle to the subject. And in the same way, why would we want to bounce flash directly overhead of our subjects?

The subtitle of this post should be: You don’t really need that Lightsphere .
(Or whatever is the flavor of light modifier for this particular month.)

We need to consider the direction of our light carefully. This is one of the areas in which we can really set ourselves apart as photographers – by carefully choosing the direction our light falls onto our subject, we can control the mood of the photograph completely.

We have to think of the actual area that we’re bouncing light off, as our light source – and not of the flashgun as our light source.

Learn more inside…


finding the light

September 12, 2007

This web article was first posted in April ’06 on the DWF, as a tongue-in-cheek reaction – or caustic response then, if you will – against the numerous articles and seminars where we photographers are urged to just look for the light.

What triggered me to write this article in the first place, was that there seems to be a trend where use of flash is disdained in favor of only using available light.
As if it is always that simple.

(This article was also published in the Sept ’06 issue of Rangefinder magazine.)

Finding the light …

I’ve been so inspired recently by the various photographers at seminars and magazine articles, telling everyone to just look for the light and to find the light.

So many photographers just use available light, and make the rest of us who aren’t blessed with perfect light like they have in la-la-land, feel so inadequate. It is our failing as photographers if we can’t find the light and use it properly.

I felt I had to rise up to this and push myself as a photographer, and just look for the light.  It is there to be found!  Inspired like that, I approached this very colorful Hindu ceremony (April 2006), with a fresh mindset …

The temple itself is beautiful and imposing from the outside, in a blocky New Jersey kinda way.

The late afternoon light was incredibly harsh, and I knew I had to do something here so that my portraits wouldn’t look like the few candids I had to shoot outside in the sun. So for the portraits, I moved the bride (and others) into the open shade between the pillars in the front. The strong vertical lines behind them helped to make the simple portraits more striking.

Learn more inside…


equipment as inspiration

September 7, 2007

A constant debate that I see online is whether a specific piece of equipment is justifiable.  And whether it is justifiable in terms of a business decision.  The discussion typically centers around something like the eternal, “What will the 85mm f1.2 give me that the 85mm f1.8 won’t? And is it worth $1000 more?”

But I feel that in phrasing the question like that, the real effects that equipment choice have on our style are disregarded. I firmly believe that:

Style should always be evolving, borne from our choices and not from our limitations.

And those limitations are quite often our equipment choice.  Indeed, f1.2 vs f1.8

So does it bring more business?  That I can’t say – but I do know that using the very very best equipment does affect how I shoot, and does affect my results.  It also directly affects my confidence during a shoot – and therefore during client meetings. I know I can pull it off,  no matter what is thrown at me during a shoot. I have the skills and the equipment.

So let me back that up with an image from a wedding this past Saturday:

… taken with the Canon 1D mk3 and the Canon 35mm f1.4

Yes, I could’ve gotten that moment with the mk2N and the 24-105mm f4 .. but it would’ve looked vastly different.

Learn more inside…


You know you’ve arrived when …
other photographers start ripping off your images and text from your website

Someone let me know that when googling my name, there is a link that comes up with another photographer’s website.  So I checked it, and sure enough – there it is with some of my images, and a copy of the original HTML-based design of my website, One Perfect Moment, as it appeared at the time. My entire website ripped off!

Here’s the screenshot of the Google search …

I then followed the trail to this photographer’s other website.  And it is all duplicated there as well – the entire website, and some of my images.

Learn more inside…

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additional lighting – 01

August 15, 2007

Someone asked me about the lighting I used at the reception of a wedding I recently photographed.

Here are two of the images I blogged there ..

I often vary how I set up additional lighting at reception venues.  In this instance, I had a 580EX flashgun that I held up high in my left hand, that was triggered by an on-camera ST-E2 transmitter.  I also had a second 580EX that was wirelessly slaved via the ST-E2.  I would therefore try and control my viewpoint and perspective, to have the second 580EX light up the background and give some sense of depth.  This would also avoid that dreaded black-hole background.

I haven’t really been happy with using the 580 as the on-camera master, since the results aren’t predictable. I’m getting more consistent results using an ST-E2 transmitter. The second 580EX was fastened on top of a CP-E3 battery pack that I placed on top of one of the DJ’s speakers.

In these images there was no wall behind me that I bounced off. Just the rest of the reception room.

The strobe on the DJ’s speakers was angled up, and not direct.
Because the ceiling is low, the light isn’t as spread out as I would’ve liked.
The way the light in the background is concentrated, is a result of the flash being bounced off a low-ish ceiling, and not because it was direct flash.

The flash in my hand – I don’t use it directly.
In this instance I had a Stofen on top of it, with the top cut off.
This way I can still direct my light to a large extent, instead of turning it into a barebulb type omni-directional light source.
With my hand I can also cover part of the front of the omni-bounce and have less direct light if I want.

I adapt my technique from wedding to wedding, dependent on the venue, the ambient light sources, and the results I want.
In this instance, the light levels were very dim, and I had to use flash.
But the ceilings were too low to use my Q-flashes that I most often use as additional light sources,
eg here: finding the light

Techie info for the first image:
Canon 1D mk2N / Canon 24-70mm f2.8 /  1/125th @ f2.8 @ 1600 iso

Techie info for the second image:
Canon 1D mk2N / Canon 16-35 mm f2.8 mk2 /  1/20th @ 4 @ 800 iso