Saturday, March 12, 2011

How many stobes or flashes do I need? Sometimes none!

This picture was also taken in Greg Heislers Workshop at GPP. I will not spill the whole story, but in a tight corner the light stuff you can find in a hardware store, or even a supermarket can be used if nothing else is to hand.

This picture was taken with ONE torchlight. The torchlight gives normally a very defined round beam and a hot spot.  Remember Snoopy? There is a hot spot on the right side of the face, but the light is much more varied and has shadows running through the lighted area. So there is a light modifier involved.

The secret ingredient in this picture is the plastic packing of another little light. The more the plastic is bent and warped the better the effect will be. The good thing is also that you can see the effect as the plastic is twisted and turned because the torch light is permanent lighting.

Camera was the D300s. with the Nikon 85 1.8 lens, aperture was 2.0, shutter speed 1/60.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

GPP 2011 First Workshop

It is the time of the year again, when the migratory birds start to leave the lagoons in Dubai and photographers and photo enthusiasts from all directions fly the other way to land here.

I was lucky (and early) enough to book the workshop with Gregory Heisler. He is a New York based serious big shot. That means while being a very soft spoken person with a lovely dry humor, he is deadly focused once the shooting begins. He is also a titan of his trade. And there is practically no big shot in the US that he hasn't shot in his more than 30 years of experience. You name them they are there. A small glimpse is here.   

In the doing phase of the workshop we had to come up with our own assignment. In my group we settled for a winner of the Dubai Chess Open. My take on it is above. It is lit from left with a Beauty Dish as this is where the sun is coming from. It is not entirely natural, but it looks at least more logical  than having the main light from the opposite direction of the sun. The Filler from right is a large soft box.  Camera was set to 1/200 and f8. Power on the Profoto Strobes was -2 with usual ratio of fill light being half of the main. Post processing in my usual style.

Same settings as above. No post processing.

Here the main light is a bare bulb coming from left.  I was shooting directly from below the soft box. The ambient is taken out with a Singh Ray variable ND filter, to get the dramatic lighting.

Seeing Gregory was a change of experience. Working with the big lights is also sometimes fun.
The GPP workshops in Dubai are highly recommended.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Mini Beauty Dish (Flashpoint) Nikon SB800 Review Part 2

This picture was taken during the November 2010 GPP Workshop with Bert Stephani. It uses one remote Flash from left to intensify the direction of the natural light.

I have to write a small appendix to the last post. I omitted to compare the small beauty dish with a "proper" 40cm dish normally used for studio flash.

f18  flash 1/16 manual

Here it is. The flash bracket and the dish are from Strobies and are a Bowens compatible mount. flash is a SB800. Beautiful light with a nice transition. If you compare it to the small dish  the bright center is about double the size.    The comparison on a wall is OK to see the distribution of light but it is kind of moot for a comparison of real capability. It will need to be tested in a real portrait set up.

f16  flash 1/16 manual

I wanted to see if I can mount a Metz 45 into the Strobies mount. My quick result looked like this. Horrrrrible! Ok I have to clearly come up with a better way of connecting the 45er to the mount. I will let you know when I find something useful.

f16  flash 1/16 manual
For one final comparison the Strobies Octabox. An even bigger blob of nice even light. One point to note is, that the Octabox is quite efficient. I can still dial up the flash 4 more stops. 

Somehow the Mini Dish eats a lot more light (at least one to two stops)

That needs more comparison with a real subject. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Mini Beauty Dish (Flashpoint) Nikon SB800 Review

Recently I read a Forum Discussion about the value of the small Beauty Dishes that can be directly mounted on a hot shoe flash. Opinions of their value were quite divided, with a vocal fraction that came to a "useless" verdict.

A HA!  Time for another strobe-experiment.

For this test I used the Flashpoint (Adorama) Mini Dish and part of its Accessory Kit. The white reflector can be changed against a silver or gold one, and there are three grids with large medium and small grid mesh. The whole set also comes with color filers  which I did not test here as the effect should be obvious.

The Dish comes in two versions. One for smaller flash heads like the SB800 and one for larger flash heads like the SB900. Neither will fit on the Metz 45. One of the big complaint in one other test I read was, that "the Dish (tested) is completely useless because it has a ring of bright light around the center because the Dish and the flash have a very loose fit and there is a lot of light leakage."   If you use the correct version for your flash it will work. If you use the large version on a small flash, you will get a similar result like these testers.  Doehhhh! (Translation for not people who do not speak day to day English: "That result was to be expected as it was bleeding obvious from the beginning.")

So I planted a SB800 on a light stand about 1,50 from a white wall. It was set as remote slave. On the camera I used the internal flash as commander. Set the internal flash to NIL output. and the remote flash to Manual 1/16 output. The camera was also set to manual 1/250 and f 5.6 to start with. I stood about 5m behind the flash.

no flash,

That is the picture with no flash. Ambient light is clearly no factor. The little dot is the ready light from the flash.
flash 24mm setting, 

I do see a nice distribution of light which falls off from center in a nice curve.
Nothing wrong here. Again it helps to select the right size to begin with!
The zoom head of the flash was set to 24mm.

flash 24mm setting, 

The same flash setting  but the aperture closed 2 stops to 11. The picture is underexposed , but one can see the light fall of nicely

flash 24mm setting, 

Same Setting, just a different camera angle to see if there are any hot spots, patterns or rings.

No! All is fine!

flash 50mm setting,  

The zoom of the flash set to 50mm. Not much difference 

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting, 

The zoom of the flash set to 105mm Again not much difference. The flash seems to loos a bit of power and the fall of seems to be a tad softer. 

All in all I would say when not making pictures of white walls it does not matter which way the zoom is set. I would probably leave it at 24mm. 

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting, silver insert,

Here I kept everything equal, and just switched the white reflector for the silver one. Surprisingly the silver reflector just seems to eat up a stop of light and do not much else.

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting, gold insert
The gold reflector gives golden light and eats about 2 stops of light.

1/250, f5.6, flash 105mm setting, gold insert

Opened the aperture to 5.6 and it is about the level of the picture with the white reflector above. So two stops is about right.

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting,white insert,
large grid

That  gives a nice spot of soft light.

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting,white insert, 
medium grid

That  gives a very narrow spot of soft light.

1/250, f11, flash 105mm setting, no insert, 
large grid

Here  I removed the insert completely so the flash shoots direct through the grid.

1/250, f16, flash 105mm setting, no insert, 
large grid

Here I lowered the aperture to 16 nice bright spot, And I am  reasonably happy with the light fall off.

1/250, f16, flash 105mm setting, no insert, 
medium grid

A nice spot effect. The dark area has no lights leaks.

1/250, f16, flash 105mm setting, no dish

This is the kind of light pattern the flash produces without the Dish. The form is quite horizontal.

1/250, f16, flash 50mm setting, no dish

This is the kind of light pattern the flash produces without the Dish with 50mm.

1/250, f16, flash 24mm setting, no dish

That delivers even light for large center spot. 

1/250, f16, flash 14mm setting (additional diffuser) , no dish

Quite even light pattern in the center but still a clear falloff in the corners.

1/250, f16, flash 14mm setting (additional diffuser) , flash head turned up 45 degrees, white card out

This is newspaper photogs favorite. It is actually a nice light pattern with a evenly lit center and falling off left and right. good for the typical three to four people group shot.


The Mini Beauty Dish gives a specific pattern of light output. That is exactly what we expect from a light former, not more not less. With the gold insert and the grids it becomes more versatile and can be used in a number of situations. It can not be easily replaced with the on board means from your flash.

Personally I think It widens my possibilities and I have used it at a number of occasions. I am happy with it. I own both sizes and use the one either fits the SB800 or the SB900.

Is it worth your money? That depends on your wallet and shooting subjects.

I find that with the gold reflector it produces  nice skin tones in people with Asian skin tone.

Father and Daughter

The picture was taken in north facing shade and was very cool without flash.

 P.S. Sorry for the baaaaad layout but the "new and improved" blogger editor sucks not only big time but also the will to live out of me. There is a lot of trial and error involved as the stupid editor shows you thing one way and the blog shows it in another, frankly I have given up for today. I will neaten it another time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A flash meter is a flash meter

This picture has nothing to do with today's post, except that it was taken with a Metz 45 CT1. I think around 1982. I used the Metz Tele Attachment 45-33 while taking the picture with the 50mm lens. That is why the flash illuminates only a part of the picture like a spotlight. The Tele Attachment illuminates an 135mm lens angle for FX format. There will be a separate blog with some experiments for the Tele Attachment. I just used this picture today, because I do not want to post a blog without at least one picture, and a series of pictures regarding today's topics would have been less entertaining.

The user poppy left a comment at the blog Batteries or Rechargeable he or she had an issue with the flash metering. In short the flash was used in full manual half and quarter, but the flash meter showed the same reading. Unfortunately poppy did not write what type of flash meter was used. The assumption from poppy was that flash meters are generally built for studio flash and that they have inconsistencies when used with on camera flashes.

Hmmmm, I thought that should be tried in practice.

I own only one external meter the Gossen Mastersix. You have seen it in the Batteries or Rechargeable blog. Today I took a number of 45ers and the Gossen to see if it meters consistently.

First I tried the 45 CT4 with M 1/2 and 1/4. The meter worked fine. For each setting I fired a number of flashes and the meter showed the same result for each. As expected it also showed f32 for full power f22 for 1/2 and f16 for 1/4. So the meter works?

Well then I used a Metz 45 CT5 with Mecamat 45-30 That allows manual settings from full power to 1/64 as described here. I got fine results up to 1/16 power. Then the Gossen showed me that It could not measure properly by displaying its error code "uuuu" instead of an aperture. I guess that the flash needs a minimum duration to be measured. 1/16 has the duration of 1/8000s that still worked. 1/32 has the duration of 1/16000s and that no longer worked.

After all Gossen is a German make, so something like that should be in the manual?
I looked it up and it amazingly says Flash duration 1/1000s to 2s.

Hmmmmm, 1/1000s is not very generous and would indeed limit flash metering to studio units. It seems to work to 1/10000. Either there in a typo in the manual or the careful German engineers did not want to commit to the full specification and left one zero off to be on the safe side.

Poppy has been on to something.

If you want to buy a new or used flash meter, you should find out how short the flash can be to be measured. I know now that 1/16 for my 45ers and 1/8 for the SB800 and SB900 is the minimum manual power I need to be able to measure it with my flash meter.

That is good to know.

Thanks Poppy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Flash "Kind of" Double Exposure

Most of the time I pre-visualise my pictures. I scout out locations at the time of day I want to shoot and make some test pictures, so I normally pretty much get what I planned. Not so in this case.

The picture was taken on the palm Island on a spot where I could have a nice silhouette of the Atlantis Hotel at sundown. The basic idea was, to shoot a model with an antique car , a Bentley S2.

The plan and most of he pics were something like this.

I wrote before that the sun moves fast fast fast near the Aequator and there is not much time between sunset and darkness. So I had to constantly dial up the time to keep the background from becoming pitch black. After a lot of shooting the Owner departed with his car and I started packing up, when the Model suggested a few more shots without the car. OK.

With the car gone there was space now an she started to pose and jump.
The flash set up was a SB900 on Camera for fill and as a master and three Metz 45er into one large shoot through umbrella. (Three 45er seem to be overkill, but we started out with a lot of ambient light and I needed the power then. Later I continued with two, just switched one off.)

The picture above was actually the last frame shot at that day.

I like it a lot becaus it looks like a wild multiple exposure. It was in fact just one shot.

What happened?

Obviously the Hotel switched on the lights.
The sky was still relatively light. (In the direction of sun down.)
The foreground was already completely dark.
The exposure time had crept up to 2 seconds and I shot hand held.
The foreground is illuminated by the umbrella cumming from left behind me.
As it's ambient light level is very dark the picture looks like a single exposure.
The jump is kind of frozen in this part of the picture.
The sky and the lights from the hotel are bright in relation to the flash exposure (f 14).
That's why it looks like a double exposure in this parts and the jump has movements.

I was totally surprised by the result, but it can be mostly explained.

But look at the "shadow". If you observe closely you will notice that it is no shadow at all. Because it is not actually on the ground where it should be.

Frankly I havn't figured out a good explanation.
There is one more picture for you below. let me know if you can explain the shadow.