Strathpuffer 2013 portraits0
neil posted in Photos, bikes, 5Dmk2 on July 22nd, 2012
The first street spot was very near the city center and passersby and festivalgoers joined the crowd. Amusingly the first comment on my flickr photos was unhappy about using this historic derelict paving slab slope for freestyle BMX. Obviously I have a lot to learn about Bristol’s architectural highlights.
Does your Strobist shoot look like this?0
neil posted in Photos, 5Dmk2 on September 11th, 2011
Another photograph I needed to get out of my head. Inspired by a winner at the BP portrait awards and realised with the help of everyone you see in the picture (except James! Who was genuinely asleep…). I have been to a dozen Strobist photoshoots and often wondered if the photoshoot would make a more interesting picture than the ostensible subject. It is also quite strange to be surrounded by large & obscure pieces of lighting equipment, often at quite close quarters, while someone points a merciless piece of digital recording equipment at you. Here I put my camera on a tripod and triggered it from the camera you see in my hands. Some more work could be done to make the light more ‘motivated’ and find excuses for the beauty dish on the changing are and the orange gelled strobe on James. The studio you see belongs to Scott Hunter (http://www.shot2stun.com/) and was extremely well equipped including the beer you see on the floor and a lovely boomed & gridded softbox.
Brighton Hardcourt Bike Polo Tournament0
neil posted in Photos, bikes, Neil on May 12th, 2011
More here: All Pictures
The Swiss Fast Lane (top speed 1/8000th)3
neil posted in Photos, Neil, phototech, 5Dmk2 on January 9th, 2011
This post has been knocking around for awhile in the dark pipework behind this blog and in the dusty parts of my mind. It is unashamedly technical and really only useful for the folks who have access to an Elinchrom Ranger with an S type head, a pocketwizard TTL for Canon and a 5D (mk2). Other equipment will almost certainly work, but I can’t tell you how well!
About a year ago, Alex Ray from The Flash Center came through Edinburgh riding herd on David Hobby. He mentioned that with a certain Elinchrom Ranger head and the new “tweakable” pocketwizard TTL (mini TT1, Flex TT5) transmitter units there was a possibility of synchronising the flash burst and the open shutter far beyond the normal flash synch speed of a camera. This wasn’t the incremental increase found when using speedlights, but the ability to synch at any shutter speed, no matter how fast. Purely by coincidence I had the very equipment to do this already. All that was needed was to play with the HyperSynch delay on the transmitter.
For the stopping of fast objects with artificial light, the norm is to use a strobe with a short duration in a dark area and use the duration of the flash to act like a very fast shutter. This is limiting for a “location” photographer who only has a single cheap, slow, flash head.
The Pocketwizard and Elinchrom trick ensures the shutter will sample some part of the flash output. The shutter is open for less time than the flash is switched on for. At normal speeds, the flash waveform will be shorter than the time the shutter is open for. This means the flash exposure is not affected by the shutter speed at all. At the high speeds involved in this trick the shutter grabs a portion of the flash waveform. This means that the flash will be less powerful than normal and the flash exposure determined by the power of the flash (in two different ways), ISO, aperture and unusually, the shutter speed.
This is a touch unusual as shutter speed does not affect flash exposure in the normal (sub 1/200th) realm of flash photography. However in this case, it determines how much of the flash output is seen by the sensor. It also affects the size of any unexposed or dark bands, where the shutter is open but no flash is present, or where the flash waveform is rising or quenching.
The flash power not only affects the maximum light output of the flash, but also its duration (and thus shape). At full flash power it is possible to get a solid exposure of all but the very lowest part of the frame. At lower powers the flash exposure drops steadily with shutterspeed and the top of the frame sees a dimmer flash output while the lower part of the frame is cut off. It seems that this trick works at its best with the Ranger dumping its maximum output into your subject, your sensor will only see a small portion of this. That said, an Elinchrom Ranger has 1200Ws of power to burn, so with a bare head it is perfectly possible to work with the lights at a distance while outside.
The fact that it works in the presence of ambient light is probably the biggest advantage of this trick for me. Indeed, when working with a single head, it seemed the more ambient light present, the better. Working at very high shutter speeds drastically limits the contribution of the ambient light. In order to include ambient light with a shutter speed of around 1/8000th of a second, at a reasonable aperture, I was normally forced to abuse the high ISO abilities of the 5Dmk2.
The high shutter speeds means a wide aperture is possible in broad daylight. To make the big strobe look like daylight and to dump most of the full power, I tend to use the flash far away without any reflector. Big lights, far away is the opposite of the normal Strobist thinking but I find the results appear more natural at first glance. The light affects the entire scene very evenly, much like a low sun, however it is completely under the control of the photographer. I borrowed a 50mm f/1.2 lens and made some photos with it set wide open.
The ability to freeze fleeting details that are normally invisibly fast can add additional layer of interest to a photograph. I was struck by the ability of the flash to freeze translucent substances such as sheets of water. This worked best with the flash providing a backlight with fill being povided by the ambient. The reverse works equally well but it can be easier to arrange the artifical light behind a subject and it is easier to control the shape of the flash light with modifiers.
The magic delay value set in the Pocketwizard transmitter seemed to be -2500, the maximum allowed by the software. The reciever was a standard plus 2 Pocketwizard. It would be interesting to see what the optimum delay value was if Pocketwizard allowed a larger range to be set. The drawback is that at this delay value the use of normal hot shoe flashes is limited. A dark band at the top of the frame is observed from 1/250th with the exposed portion of the frame being relegated to the center half of the frame by 1/1000th of a second and closing to a tiny slit at higher speeds.
They are well worth a listen: http://www.myspace.com/thehundredmetreclub/
Shooting a band portrait is a new one for me. I am happy doing lit work and I can light groups, however band photos are another realm of art. There are some rules such as No Brick Walls & No Instruments. However the main aim is to allow the band to carry some message through the photo.
I went about this by not directing the shoot at all. Setting the lights into a safe but interesting configuration and waiting for a moment. John, John, Dean and Hugh were comfortable enough chatting amongst themselves. I made sure they didn’t stray out of the lit zone or form a straight line and waited. I made quite a few frames. Waiting for 4 people to have interesting expressions similtaneously with a 7 second recycle time is a long game and light and patience was slowly falling. To get ‘insurance’ I finished off getting the band to look at me and working through some deliberately goofy poses. The idea being they would settle out of the poses and I would get a second of relaxation in which to shoot.
We then moved to a tighter and more posed arrangement in some rockpools. The wind prevented deploying a soft source as planned so I worked though some arrangements until I found a three light cluster to the right could fake a soft source and some on axis fill gave me some shadow control. The light was fading quickly now and a 1/10th second shutter speed let me put some camera shake blur into the image.
Travelling to Rome I was unsure of wether to bring my camera. I’m glad I did. There was a folk festival in a field out by our hotel, people of all ages were dancing and singing. I like the Cartier-Bresson quote: “Wherever enough goes on so that I could approach them on tip-toes and take my photographs without disturbing them”. There was noise, excitement and several other photographers. People were unusually gracious (ushering me to the front of the stage!) and it was easy to turn up and shoot with only a few words of Italian.
These are snapshots, there is no story or underlying reason to make them bar that photography is fun and people look awesome when they dance.
Also it seems Italians know how to light. They remembered to push light out into the crowd so people weren’t dancing in a black pit. This made capturing the atmosphere of the festival a lot easier!