Thursday, May 24, 2007
Flash On Location
“A lot of photographers will shoot available light because they don't believe they can trust portable strobes, especially when using multiple units,” says Bob Davis, an editorial, commercial and wedding photographer (www.bobdavisphoto.com). Davis uses the Canon Creative Lighting system for more than just a source of illumination. Using gels, reflectors and the manual zoom function of the flash, he achieves dynamic lighting effects.
“Some photographers look at wireless TTL flash and overthink it and make it more complicated than it is,” says Davis.
The TTL metering system combined with the immediate feedback of the camera's LCD has helped photographers like Davis to be confident that they're getting a well-exposed image. Though advanced TTL systems have been available for years in many film-based SLRs, there still was a level of uncertainty until the film returned from the lab. When used correctly, a handheld flash meter and a methodical workflow seemed to offer more security than the promise of advanced technology. Now with the ability to review images moments after capture, you can be assured that you got the shot.
Explains Davis, “I use the histogram a lot because the LCD is just an indicator that I've captured the image, but the image alone isn't enough to confirm that I've got the best exposure. I'll check the histogram, and if I have enough information from left to right, where the graph is close to touching both sides, I know that I have a great exposure.”
Davis finds that while these flash units may not provide the power output of a strobe pack, they offer more than enough illumination for much of his editorial and wedding work.
“In the type and style of work that I do, I don't need ƒ/11, ƒ/16 and ƒ/22,” he says. “So, with that being said, I use the power of the ISO.”
Davis explains that, on average, he uses an aperture of ƒ/5.6 to ƒ/8 for most of his shooting situations, well within the power and range of his compact flashes, which include several Canon 580EX Speedlites. If he finds that he needs to increase the effective range of his flash, he'll boost the ISO sensitivity of his camera.
Says Davis, “The new digital line of cameras allows you to shoot at ISOs as high as ISO 800 and produce a very clean, beautiful file.”
Multiple Flash Setups
For Davis, the greatest benefit of his flash system is the wireless technology that allows him to control the output of multiple flashes without stepping from behind the camera. Even without the flash tethered to the camera and without having to walk up to each individual flash unit, he's able to increase or decrease the output of any slave flash in his setup using the master flash on his camera.
“I started using the Canon Speedlite system because a lot of my assignments were on location and I needed to travel light,” Davis says. “So I set up three of them and control them all from the camera. Once I've set up my strobes on light stands, I'm able to create lighting ratios without having to move the individual flashes or having to adjust the power output on a pack. Instead, I can easily increase or decrease the output of any group of flashes.”
Unlike radio-controlled strobes that can only be turned on and off, the Canon, Metz, Nikon and Quantum wireless systems continue to deliver TTL metering functionality, plus the ability to control individual or groups of flashes.
By separating individual or multiple flash into groups, you can achieve lighting ratios on the fly. For moments when time is limited, the ability to adjust the output of multiple flashes within seconds is indispensable.
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