Thursday, 28 April 2011

Youngnuo RF603 Wireless Flash Trigger

During my off-camera flash workshops I am frequently asked about the wireles radio triggers I use with my Speedlites. Strangely enough I don't use the ubiquitous Pocket Wizards as they do not always work in our studio. The allocated UK radio frequency of 433 Mhz is over populated by any number of unlicensed short distance remote devices including garage door openers, car security, alarm systems and medical data telemetry.

This why I opted initially for the Youngnuo RF-602 tranmitter/receiver units and shortly the new RF-603 transceiver units which transmit in the higher band of 2.4Ghz or that of WiFi computer networks.

I have used the RF-602 for the last couple of years inside and out. With the Canon 50D they will sync up to 1/250th second and in theory up to 1/250th second with my 5D MkII; except my 5D MkII will at best only sync flash at 1/160th second before the shutter curtain creeps into shot!

OK, they do not do e-TTL shooting, but when I use e-TTL I tend to use a 30' coiled cable as I find this more reliable than the Canon ST-E2 flash controller.

I'm hoping that when I receive the RF-603 transceiver units they will work with the existing RF-602 transmitter. Frankly, if they do not it's no loss when I'm paying about £30.00 for the two units.

The RF-603 has a number of improvements over the RF-602 including flash sync up to 1/320th second and inclusion of both PC and 2.5 mm sub-mini jack. Looking at the specification you can also use these as camera remote triggers with the right lead.

Watch thi space and I'll file a report on the Yongnuo RF-603 as soon as I'm able.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Digital Infrared IR Photography

This is a guest post from Guy Dawkins, a very talented photographer with a fascinating day job!

The sun is out so now is the time for a post about a technique which demands good sunlight to create some stunning images.

Pond view: 20mm 2.8 nikkor into the sun
Clear sky in the autumn comes very dark and clouds or dust bright reflective
Foliage usually white or pale blue
Lens flare reminiscent of uncoated optics may add interest as not all lens coatings suppress IR flare
No post process

In other words, making what could be an ordinary everyday scene into an extraordinary image - thank you, Guy.

On one of my photography workshops last Autumn/Fall I met Guy and was intrigued by his use of infrared photography using a specially converted camera body.

D200 IR 720 nm conversion by Advanced Camera Systems in Norfolk  ( I also use D50 IR 720 conversion which is good but lacks bracketing etc...). Rather less cheap than just a filter, but full sensor resolution and hand holdable shutter speeds where required. Great way to re-develop and re-use a retired DSLR body, and works very well onto a 6MP APS-C or DX sensor with great actuance at lower res.

Think of it as the contrasty edge of monochrome, or "oligochrome" - palette of only four, black, sepia, turquoise and white depending on chosen target for white balance with high contrast depending on light warmth - sun, filament bulbs and temperature of the material "lit" so sun on cold gives a lot of signal.  There's a lot of fascinating environmental learning to get exposure parameters to than yeild both low and high key images.

Birch copse: 16-85 at 16mm  sidelit just before sunset
Away from the sun minimal flare
Adams-esque approach
Stark contrast between lit and shades improves the textural feel
No post-process

Pseudo colour sepia and turquoise generated by interaction between JPEG parameters, anti-aliasing filter and photosites on the sensor especially in the near infrared (720nm), not seen at 900nm or by using RAW particularly good for textures in sky, stone and wood - skin comes up waxy white which can be quite eerie but good for goth and geisha, most clothing also white or turquoise with a veil like appearance some like this alternate reality not normally seen by humans, some don't, some portrait images look slightly deathly which may startle or shock some viewers.

Some lenses work well for IR (Nikon 20mm f2.8, 16-85mm, 18-70mm, 50mm f1.4, 60mm f2.8 micro   85mm f1.8, Sigma 10mm fisheye for DX)  primes best for sharpness as usual  
and some lenses don't (especially Sigma 10-20 and Tamron 17-50 in my bag) - flare and hotspots of central overexposure and poor contrast you need to experiment, much depends on optical design, use of acrylic elements, coatings.

In IR one tends to see more lens flare as most coatings are designed for visible light, though Zeiss make some IR specific opticals, but even pricier than their usual amazing glassware.

All the usual comments about previsualisation, composition and "get it right in camera" apply as ever but the type of result is so different that some subjects previously dismissed can reveal new content of interest to then venture into a different world of contrast and texture.

Thank you Guy for a wonderful insight into the (once) invisible world of infrared photography.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Orbis Ring Flash for On Axis Fill

On axis fill with the Orbis™ Ring Flash

One of the most popular flash modifiers at my Off-Camera Flash Workshop has the be the Orbis™Ring Flash. Not only can you use it around the lens, on axis to create the classic ring flash look and as an on axis fill light, you can take it away from the camera and use is a very portable soft light that also fits a wide variety of hot shoe flash & Speedlites.

Here is one example from a recent workshop held at Park Cameras in Burgess Hill, England.

This first example was set up to show hard side lighting from a Canon 550 EX Speedlite snooted with Rosco PhotoFoil. I used the 550 EX as the manual flash power only steps in full stops, a bit like manual the Lumopro LP 160.

Hard light from the side with Rosco PhotoFoil snooted Canon 550 EX Speedlite - hardly flattering!

Adding a fill light or reflector will fill in the shadows to increase detail while locally reducing contrast. As this was a workshop I wanted to illustrate how different power setting on the Speedlite modified with the Orbis™ Ring Flash would affect the shadow detail and overall image quality.

Roughly 2 stops under the exposure for the Orbis™but as this was a workshop the participants needed to see the options.

Around 1 stop under the Orbis™exposure and maybe a bit bright for some. So one bright spark suggested 1 1/2 stops would be about right. Agreed, but the flash only steps in full stops - see, there was a reason for using a flash that steps in full stops, enter the Rosco Strobist Collection #3415 N.15 also known as 1/2 stop ND.

ND filters are neutral grey gel lighting or glass/acrylic camera lens filters that reduce light intensity, but do not soften or shift the colour of the light.

The N.15 gel was held in place by a Gel Clip whose strap also secured the Photofoil in place.

And this is the final result - shadow detail whilst maintaining contrast and modelling. To read mover on this subject David Hobby has written a detailed post introducing on axis fill.

Do remember that you can use other light modifiers as an on axis fill, including beauty dishes and translucent brollies.

In the following example I used a white translucent shoot-through umbrella as my fill source, whilst not strictly on axis, it was just above eye level to the front of the model.

Here's the main or key light which was a Canon Speedlite with a honeycomb grid and Rosco #302 Pale Bastard Amber held in place by a Gel Clip warming up the winter European skin tone. When working with snoots or honeycomb grids your aim needs to be pretty accurate as the shot above shows. 

Top front almost on axis fill from a white translucent shoot-through umbrella, without the key light.

The final combined result. Contrast reduced with shadow detail and a warm skin tone.



Friday, 15 April 2011

Lighting an Interview with 2x Rosco Litepads

I recently needed to interview Rev. Dr. Gerald Monro, the Chaplain at The Brighthelm Centre where we will base the 2011 Fotothon Quest. Brighthelm do really great work with the needy and homeless in Brighton so need as much support as they can get.

 Short video clip showing the effect of two Rosco Litepads.

Here is a short clip from the video I shot with my Canon 5D MkII and lit with two Rosco Litepads. I chose the Litepads as I knew that I needed to be self-contained with no trailing cables. Each 12" x 6" Litepad was powered by an independent 12v battery pack containing 8 x AA alkaline batteries. I could have used one battery pack with a 2-way splitter and extension cable but then that meant a trailing lead and the possibility of pulling over one light should I move the other. Also, it has the advantage of not splitting the power output from the battery pack between to lights reducing the output.

Behind the scenes, the interview setup with 2 x Rosco Litepads
Click on image to view larger

Key to Lighting Design:
  1. Rosco Litepad HO LED 12" x 6" LED light. Daylight WB/colour temperature of 6000K.
  2. Rosco 8 x AA 12v battery pack. Approximately 2 amp output.
  3. Manfrotto MN026 Lite Tite Swivel and Umbrella Adaptor - into this goes the supplied mini pin adaptor which is industry standard 16mm or 5/8" to 1/4" 20 TPS thread, which is attached to the Litepad T bracket. All supported on Manfrotto 5001B Nano lighting stands which fold up to about 18"overall.
Now to some of you this may appear to be a load of gear, especially when you include the camera. lenses, tripod, fluid head and sound recording kit (more on that another time, this blog is about light) but the whole shebang fitted into a Lowepro Vertex 200 AW backpack with room to spare, no kidding.

If you are one of the merry band of convergent photographers whole shoot stills and video, then these Rosco Litepads are the way forward - light in weight, about 3/8" thin, native 12vdc so will run from AA batteries, car battery or mains electricity with the supplied step-down transformer.

And, because they are low power to start with they emit very little heat so will not cook the talent - the way they are designed means that no direct LEDs show meaning you do not blind the talent.

Litpads are soft by design so do not need frost or spun to diffuse them. They are soft and flattering out of the box. DoPs and lighting camera people may find them on the soft side, but fear not, Rosco have introduced a fresnel type lens for the new Litepad Axiom range. More on this soon.

Here are the links to find out more:

Litepad kits
New Axiom range

Litepad kits
New Axiom range

Stills photographers don't be scared of continuous light, after all you work with daylight. Look at the Litepad range as another tool in your lighting tool box. These are a flattering soft in-close light. Take a look at what you can do on location with a 24" x 24" Litepad here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Hayley by Moonlight Grid Cloth

My thanks to everyone who attended the free taster sessions at Park Cameras on Saturday 2nd April 2011. I for certainly enjoyed the day as did a great many of the participants from the positive comments I received.

Wide shot showing BTS (Behind The Scenes) of Hayley by Moonlight Grid Cloth.

I'd like to share with you one image I created during the Off-camera Flash & Strobist Style Lighting Workshop taster session - "Hayley by Moonlight Grid Cloth". This image is lit with two Canon Speedlites and a 3 inch Rosco circular Litepad.

Lighting Design for Hayley by Moonlight Grid Cloth:
  1. Studio wall, painted an off-white kind of shade.
  2. Canon 550 EX Speedlite, Gel Clip, Rosco #3403 N.6 (2 stop ND) from Strobist Collection, Rosco #3152 Urban Vapor cut from 20" x 24" sheet, Rosco PhotoFoil for light shaping. 1/64th power.
  3. Roll Rosco #3090 Moonlight Grid Cloth hanging from roll supported from arm on lighting stand. 
  4. Canon 550 EX zoomed to 105 mm, 1/32nd power, roughly 3 feet/1 metre from Hayley.
  5. Hayley in hood top.
  6. Practical light, Rosco Litepad 3" circular with power cable run down Hayley's sleeve to 8 x AA cell power pack tucked into waistband. 2 x cuts Rosco #3202 CTB to light chest area of hood.
  7. Me, about 20 feet away slightly lower than Hayley's eye level.
Camera settings for this shot:
  1. ISO 320, f5.6, 1/60th sec, WB daylight.
  2. Canon 50D, 100- 400mm f4.5/5.6 L IS
The whole idea behind this shot was to demonstrate that you can create mood by previsualisng an idea and working through the lighting systematically. I wanted to create a low key style moonlight effect indoors using the minimum amount of kit.

I started with the main moonlight by shooting a Speedlite through a single layer of Rosco #3090 Moonlight Grid Cloth with the flash on a low power setting so that it didn't dominate the scene. It took couple of tries with the power setting until this looked right on the camera LCD screen. I didn't bother with the histogram as I knew it would be way over to the right, or dark end of the histogram with little or nothing on the right or highlight side of the display.

I then moved onto the street light effect in the background. As placed the Speedlite pretty close to the wall I knew that I would not have to worry about too much power output. I layered a Rosco #3403 N.6 (2 stop ND) gel with piece of Rosco #3152 Urban Vapor, gel used in the film TV & theatre businesses to create the colour of sodium vapour street lights. The get the shape of the streetlight I cut a piece of PhotoFoil to modify the beam from the Speedlite. Even though the Speedlite was set 1/64th power, by the time you factor in the light loss from the gels the effective output was around 1/512th power!

The final touch was the Rosco Litepad used to simulate Hayley holding an iPhone and the light illuminating her face. The Litepads are 6000K or daylight which was far too white for the scene. I needed to blue this light so I cut up a sheet of Rosco #3202 CTB (Color Temperature Blue) and ended up using two layer to get the look I previsualused. The Litepad was fitted with an inline dimmer set to 'F' - Full power.

Hayley by Moonlight Grid Cloth - the final frame.

The wall in the background was thrown out of focus by the use of the long lens and wide(ish) f-stop. The image above has not been retouched and only minor corrections in ACR before making the JPEG file from the RAW camera original.