Sunday, 28 February 2010

Macro Photography Workshop

My thanks to everyone who attended the Park Cameras close-up and macro photography workshop yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experience with everyone. Please don't forget if you attended the workshop to upload your best images to the UK Photo Walks Flickr group at:

We shared some stunning images at the end of the day and it would be good to share them with future potential workshop participants.

Off camera flash - Canon EOS 1DS, 100 mm f2.8 macro

For anyone who hasn't heard about these workshops, we cover a wide range of indoor close-up and macro photography techniques, including macro lenses, close-up lenses, extension tubes with focus rails and a variety of lighting and control techniques including window light, continuous daylight and tungsten light sources, ring flash and off-camera TTL flash using hotshoe Speedlites, choice of backgrounds and special macro shooting tables.

Do bear in mind that it's advisable for anyone attending these workshops to be familiar with the operation of their camera and have an understanding of basic ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings; we'll do what we can to help during the day, but these workshops are not intended to be a grounding in basic photographic technique.

When attending these macro photography workshops, you'll need a DSLR camera, sturdy tripod, macro lens (not a zoom lens with a macro setting) and a remote release.

Rip saw blade
Multiblitz 200 monbloc flash head, modelling light only with frontal reflector for detail in blade

Macro photography will open up a whole new world of photographic opportunity. Once the basics are mastered you can see and enlarge detail in objects, plants, insects, or just about anything, not normally seen by the unaided human eye.

For more information on these macro and other workshops visit either or

Friday, 26 February 2010

How many photographers...

Q: How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: 100 - 1 to do it and 99 to say "Looks OK, but I'd do it like...."

This is why I enjoy photography so much. We're all different with vast experience and knowledge so we learn from each other. We all do things differently and for each of us, the way we do it is the best way, until we learn something better. It's been a quiet day if I haven't learnt something new in photography, about myself, the people I work with or the world around us. No matter how well qualified or experienced you are, you're never too old to learn. You'll never know everything.

I was looking for a shot of a light bulb, but couldn't find one - so a rice cracker will have to do!

Canon EOS 50D, 100 mm f2.8 macro, f8, 1/125 sec, 100 iso. One 550 EX Speedlite at 2 o'clock roughly 45 degrees high with white reflector to fill the foreground shadows.
Speedlite connected via a coiled off-camera ETTL lead.

My thanks to Dave Cross on Twitter for this one:

How many Photogs does it take 2 change a lightbulb? 4, 1 to change the bulb, & 3 to stand around & talk about how good the old bulb was.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lens Protection Filters

I am horrified by the number of photographers I meet on training workshops who fail to protect the front element of their lenses with either a lens hood, clear protection filter, or better still, both.

Steve and I have just been going through some footage* shot on the Canon 5D MkII for a video workshop we'll be running shortly, and came across the following shot which is a good example of why you should always have a clear protection filter over the front element of your precious glass!

What you are seeing is a real-time deposition of sea salt spray on the lens protection filter. Had this been the front element of the lens (Canon 100 - 400 f5.6 IS L Series zoom) I'd now be a few hundred pounds or dollars poorer! A lens protection filter should be looked upon as an investment, not a cost. They may add to the initial cost of your lens, but are much quicker, easier and cheaper to replace than an expensive front element.

This clip is only 8 seconds, imagine the state of the lens without the filter? Not good. In order to maintain quality footage, I was having to clean the protection filter between each take with a well washed (unused) handkerchief. You could also use a microfibre cloth, but a well washed hankie is cheaper.

If you haven't got a protection filter on the front of your lens, put one on the top of "what I'm going to buy for my photo bag next" list.

* Note: Steve's the editor. I shot the footage and was "directing" or interfering with the process depending on how you see it ;-) If you want to see one of Steve's recent projects click here for a short Youtube preview. Yes, Steve edits film and video for a living. Immodesty Blaize is currently doing the rounds of UK cinemas.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

EOS 7D Off Camera Flash Outdoors

There was a pleasant gap in our wonderful English weather over the weekend so I took the opportunity to test the Canon EOS 7D off camera flash control outdoors.

In bright sunlight the effectiveness of the off camera flash control is reduced to around 8 - 10 feet line of sight. And even then, you only have to move slightly for control to be lost. I've found that outdoors the Canon EOS 7D off camera flash control is best early in the day, overcast/cloud, dusk & dark, as you'll see from the following example.

The kit is very straight forward: two Canon 550 EX Speedlites, three Manfrotto 026 tilt and swivel umbrella adaptors, one Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp, heavy duty lighting stand, medium duty lighting stand, three sand bags, electrical or gaffer tape, Rosco Strobist Gels, silver 36" umbrella and a "willing" model.

Why three 026 umbrella adaptors? Simple - a quick way of mounting two Speedlites to shoot into one brolly without buying a special adaptor*. You simply attach two of the umbrella adaptors base to base with a double ended 5/8th inch/16mm spigot; clamp the Super Clamp where the adaptors join and the attach the third umbrella adaptor to the Super Clamp. This allows you to attach the rig to a lighting stand and hold the brolly in place.

I use mini ball and socket heads with hotshoe adaptors to attach the Speedlites. This allows me to direct the Speedlite sensors toward the camera or Speedlite controller. The light from the Speedlites was warmed up by using the 1/2 CTO daylight to tungsten colour correction gel. The uncorrected flash would have looked too cold or blue for these shots.

This shot shows the set-up for the shot below. I kept two sandbags on the base of the stand with the brolly light as there's a greater chance of this imitating a kite should the wind speed increase. For the first shot, one sandbag on each leg of the lighting stand (approx. 30 kg/60lb total) in view of the instability caused by the top heavy weight.

As part of this exercise, I limited myself to two 550 EX Speedlites. For the second shot I separated one from the brolly unit and attached it to a smaller stand, to camera right and behind the model. This time I replaced the 1/2 CTO gel with a much stronger no. 23 orange gel and a black Rosco Photofoil snoot to avoid any flare into the lens. As the light was now fading rapidly, this helped separate the model from the sky and background.

For this whole exercise the canon EOS 7D was set to Av (Aperture Value) and the exposure compensation either -1 or -2 stops. ISO 400 with a 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series lens, white balance daylight. The majority of the shots were shot with the lens at 24 mm (38.4mm on APS -C sensor) or 35 mm (56 mm on APS-C sensor). Both Speedlites were receiving their instructions from the camera's in-built Speedlite controller.

The Speedlite for the shot above was moved to Group B so that I could control the power ratio between the main light to camera left (Group A) and the effect light to camera right (Group B). This shot the ratio between the two lights was 4:1 (A:B).

For anyone wanting to begin experimenting with off camera flash, the EOS 7D is a great unit. Personally, I use either an ST-E2 Speedlite controller or some sort of radio trigger as these options offer more flexibility. Most radio triggers require that you use your flash in manual mode, which is more suited to more experienced photographers. Using the EOS 7D or ST-E2 you can use your camera controls and E-TTL flash which makes creating images (slightly) more simple. Much of the time I use the ST-E2 on an extension lead so that I can aim it more accurately at the Speedlites and maintain E-TTL control.

* This is OK providing you have a vast collection of grip gear!



Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Photo Recession

With an ever increasing number of requests to work for lower prices, or even nothing, Charlie Borland over at Pro Nature Photographer has the ideal response - why should we photographers be working for nothing when everyone else in the supply chain are being paid?

An excellent read!


Thursday, 18 February 2010

Off Camera Flash - Canon EOS 7D

This article may also be downloaded as a PDF file.

I’ve been a avid user of off camera hotshoe and portable flash for a good many years, starting with a Vivitar 285 hotshoe flash and Metz 45 & 60 Series hammerhead flash units, all triggered by either Wein triggers or a mass of cables, multi-way adaptors and light sensitive triggers. Now, about the only time I use a flash on the hotshoe of a camera is at a press or PR call, and even then, I’d rather have the flash on a bracket beside the lens where it makes the camera more stable and the flash less prone to being knocked from the hotshoe and broken.

With the EOS 7D, Canon have introduced a whole range of new features including the ability to fire EX series hotshoe Speedlites remotely away from and off camera. This gives you the advantage of maintaining full E-TTL capability, whilst being able to adjust the flash power/output setting from the menu within the camera. As with the STE-2 Speedlite Transmitter you have 3 channels prevent misfires when working around other photographers.

In order to activate the EOS 7D in-built remote trigger you’ll need to make sure the pop-up flash is up as this is where the light transmitter is housed!

You’ll then need to go to the menu 1st red (left) > Flash Control at the bottom of the screen.

Next screen > Built-in flash func. setting.

Next screen > Wireless func. press SET

Next screen > Wireless func. and select the third item from the top, the lone flash icon. Press SET.
The menu then returns to the previous screen where more options will become available. Each flash you’re working with is assigned a group A, B, or C allowing each Speedlite to be adjusted independently.
Select > Firing group(A:B) which will allow you to select the power ratio up and down between group A or B.
Meet Fred. Like his owner, Fred is a bit frayed around the edges. Here Fred is illuminated with two Canon 550 EX Speedlites (Groups A & B) spaced to either side with a third 580 EX II (snooted and blue gel*) on the background. Do remember that you’ll need to set each Speedlite to SLAVE and ensure that they are all on the same channel and that the Group is set to either A, B, or C. When positioning your Speedlites, do ensure that the red sensor window on the front is pointing toward the camera. This isn’t so important indoors where there may be surfaces which will bounce the control signal. Outdoors pointing the sensor at the camera is essential as distance and ambient light will degrade the signal. I’ve overcome this problem by using an off camera E-TTL lead with the ST-E2 wireless transmitter positioned closer to the flashes.
Canon EOS 7D angles of acceptance and range

In the above shot you can see that Fred is evenly lit. By moving the thumb wheel on the camera back you can adjust the flash output up & down between the groups all without having to touch the Speedlites.
The ratio between the Speedlites is 1:1. This is simple to change. With the A:B fire ratio highlighted, press SET and use the thumbwheel to alter the ratio between the Speedlites. A ratio of 2:1 means that Speedlite A is one stop brighter than Speedlite B. 4:1 two stops brighter. Why Canon can't say +1 or +2 stops etc?

The effect of a 2:1 ratio on Fred. You’ll notice that the left side of the image is now brighter than the right and the shadow from Speedlite B (to the right) has been lightened.

A:B 4:1 ratio. The shadow to the left is lighter and the left of the face appears lighter.

So far the Speedlite for the background (Group C) has been deactivated. By returning to > Built-in flash func. setting > Firing Group, you now have three options (A+B+C), A:B) & (A:B C). With the (A+B+C) option the camera will try and balance the scene using all three flashes.

If you select the third option (A:B C) Speedlite C will be removed from the exposure calculation and adjusted independently for more creative background effects. To adjust Speedlite Group C you’ll need to go to Built-in flash func. setting > Grp. C exp.Comp where you can adjust the output up and down by 3 stops.

A great step forward for OCF (off camera flash) or Strobist style lighting fans. Obviously, this test is under controlled conditions in the confines of my studio. As soon as I’m able, I’ll conduct some tests in a larger interior and outdoors and publish my findings and images.

As with any new technique it’s best to practice, practice, practice, practice some more and record your results as you go along in a notebook or whatever for future reference. And if you’re lucky enough to have a model as even tempered as Fred, you won’t get too many complaints about how long you’re taking from the wife/partner/girlfriend/lover or kid and the usual “can you hurry up as I’m getting bored?”.

* Rosco Strobist Collection No. 375 Cerulean Blue

Camera Settings
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series
  • Lens focal length: 50 mm (80 mm on APS-C Sensor)
  • Aperture: f8
  • Shutter: 1/125th
  • ISO: 100
  • White balance: Daylight (5250K)
  • File recording: RAW/jpeg ( 5184 x 3456 pixels)
This article may also be downloaded as a PDF file.

If you like this article, forward this page to your friends and me and others know how you rate the article by leaving feedback in the comments section.



Copyright © 2010 Ian Pack . Reproduction prohibited without prior written consent of the authors.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Kacey Pole Adapter - Essential Strobist Kit

Sometimes it's weird where inspiration comes from - the kids are on mid-term break from school and she who must be obeyed suggested I move on with some long outstanding painting around the house! Having spent (to my mind) too long applying a white foul smelling substance to wooden vertical surfaces, my mind started to wander to things photographic.

Over the last year we've been using a monopod to position handheld Canon Speedlites for off-camera lighting. This is not the ideal solution as the heavy end is the end that holds the Speedlite, making it hard work for the assistant. Enter the Kacey Pole Adapter. This is a machined aluminium adaptor that allows you to use an inexpensive Harris or similar paint roller extension pole to position your Speedlite.

The adaptor is a standard 16mm(5/8th inch) spigot, with an internal thread 19mm (3/4 inch) with 5 threads per 25mm (1 inch) which on initial inspection could equate to the Harris paint roller extension available from DIY multiples throughout the UK.

I've yet to find anywhere in the UK that supplies the Kacey Pole Adapter, so will need to order some from the US. Flash Zebra supply these for around $19 plus shipping to the UK.

As soon as mine arrive I'll post a report here letting you know if they work or not. In the meantime, if I find a suitable alternative in the UK, I'll let you know.

In addition to the Kacey Pole Adaptor, you'll need some sort of adaptor to take your hotshoe flash or Speedlite and whatever modifier you choose to use. I use the Manfrotto 026 Swivel Umbrella Adaptor which is available from most major UK photographic resellers including Park Cameras.

Monday, 8 February 2010

PhotoPLOD 2010

Can you help?

PhotoPLOD is a challenging sponsored walk along a 40 mile stretch of the South Downs Way in Sussex, on the south coast of England. This year I'll be doing my bit by marshalling on the event. Do your bit and help raise valuable funds to help Action Medical Research carry on their very special work. Sponsor a team, or even better put a team together, but do it now, as you'll have to start some serious training.

You can find out more by clicking here.

If there's anyone from outside the UK interested in participating, you could well be the first team from outside of the UK.

If you're visiting Focus in Imaging, come and see us on the PhotoPLOD stand, which I understand will be close to Calumet. I'll be there at some point on Sunday for a couple of hours. I know what the teams are up against as I walked the whole route in 1988 (I'm showing my age) and regularly walk sections of the PhotoPLOD route for pleasure.

Do it! You won't regret it.


Thursday, 4 February 2010

Joby Gorillacam

From the makers of the Gorillapod, the Joby Gorillacam is my latest favourite iPhone app! It's an improvement on the basic iPhone camera, albeit a bit on the slow side when processing images AND you must leave the app. open until the images are saved.

Gorillacam screenshot - access to the menu is via the icon at the lower left of the screen. The icons to the right show that I've activated Press Anywhere & Grid Overlay.

Joby Gorillacam is a well thought out and featured app. that includes:

4X Digital Zoom
lets you frame your shot exactly how you want it. Customize where your zoom bar is placed for the perfect feel. NEW Anti-shake takes pictures when your phone is steady, helping you get blur-free photos.

Self-timer takes timed photos. Perfect for group shots and self-portraits. Works best with the help of the Gorillamobile for 3G/3GS.

Time-lapse takes multiple photos spaced at an interval. Take photos as fast as 1 second apart, or up to 2 minutes apart.

Unlimited rapid-fire takes up to 1.6 photos per second. Just press and hold the shutter to take as many photos as you want at super high speed.

Auto-save lets you keep shooting while your photos save in the background. No more waiting between shots. Snap away, uninterrupted.

3-Shot burst takes three quick photographs with one tap. Never miss a second of the action. Plus, no more photos ruined when someone blinks!

Press anywhere turns the whole screen into the shutter button. Photograph yourself with ease!

Grid overlay takes your photography to the next level. Create more interesting photographs using the rule of thirds in your composition. Also great for lining up horizons or buildings.

Bubble level takes steady, level shots every time. Works both vertically and horizontally. Great for shots of horizons, landscapes and more.

The best thing about this app - it's FREE to download from iTunes. Highly recommended, especially if you've got the Joby Gorillamobile.

Here's are some example of frames shot with Joby Gorillacam and edited with Best Camera app and Photoshop Mobile.

As Chase Jarvis would say "The best camera is the one that's with you". Had I been fumbling around to drag my DSLR out of the bag I'd have missed these fleeting moments! So there's no excuse for not getting the shot.



Monday, 1 February 2010

David Bailey

In the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 30th January David Bailey was interviewed by Celia Walden - for reasons of copyright I can't reproduce the piece here. So you'll have to be happy with this link:


There will be a selling exhibition of Bailey's work at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London from 7th March to 7th April titled "Pure Sixties, Purte Bailey". Print prices range from £10,000 to £75,000.

I will leave you with a quote from the interview regarding the British attitude to photography as an art. Bailey says, "has a funny attitude to photography. Perhaps they have the illusion that a camera takes a picture, not a photographer". I've always said that it's the person behind the camera that makes a picture. It's a bit like saying a kitchen creates a fine meal!