Help me set up a macro flash rig
Okay, I have been playing with some manual flash setups for macro photography mainly using some suggestions that Dan Fromm gave me on this forum and some plans and spread sheets that he was kind enough to share with me. I have been playing with the two flashes I currently own and using a flash meter to test. Exposures both on the meter and on a couple of test rolls have been good, so I am ready to finalize the setup for use this summer.
I will use the setup for insect photography in the field and want to (1) avoid harsh shadows and (2) dark backgrounds. So I am thinking of a three flash setup.
(1) Two of these would be used to light the main subject and will be mounted on either side of my lens about 3inches away from the lens axis. I am using a diffuser for each flash. Given that the diffusers lose about a stop of light, I can easily calculate the flash to subject distance if I know the focussing distance of the lens. I have tested this with my SB-28 but need to add another flash for the subject. I am thinking of a SB-27 because it is reasonably cheap and can be used as a TTL slave flash with my SB28 on the rare occasion that I want to shoot humans with my N90s! If you think any other flash would serve my purpose better than the Sb-27, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
(2) For the background, I am thinking of putting my SB-18 flash on a tripod and moving it around independantly of the camera rig. Since unlike the lens to subject distance, the distance from the subject to the background is unpredictable, this seems the best solution. With a GN of 65 or so, and shoothing at an effective aperture of f22, say, I just have to plunk down the tripod about two and a half feet from the background and I am all set for beautifully lit backgrounds whether it is 6 inches or 6 feet behind the insect I am shooting!
Now the trick is to sync all of this stuff. I have the SC-17 and SC-18 TTL cords but for manual flash could just use a Y PC connector to trigger the flashes for setup (1). Ideally setup (2) would be fired wirelessly giving me the maximum flexibility. Wein, Vivitar etc have a number of these accesories which are priced between $20 to $40 but I hae no idea how well they will work. Does an optical slave need to be in the line of sight of the triggering master flash or can it "see" the light at a reasonable distance. This is important because depending of where the background is, #2 can be in front of or behind #1. More cumbersome would be to use a long PC cord and I would like to avoid it if possible.
I am going to be in Chicago in a couple of weeks and was wondering if the Calumet showroom would be a good place to check out these slaves first hand. Their website is pathetic but is the showroom better. Any other shops in Chicago that would be good for off camera flash stuff?
Sorry this is so long. Any comments, thoughts and suggestion on any aspect of my planned flash setup would be appreciated.
You should be aware that if you use a "y" connector you risk zapping any electronics in the camera since the open switch voltages add.
If you're in the west loop area Helix(They're on the corner of Racine & Jackson) and were(are?) open Saturday. At one time they were good but have leaned digital.
Central camera on Wabash is in the loop but I don't know if they're open on Sat.
I believe they both have websites you could check hours on.
Heavily sedated for your protection.
Anupam, unless you need to cut light output there's no need for diffusers. When the flash is close to the subject it is effectively a large, not a point, source.
Yes, if you want to light the background putting a third flash on a tripod is a good idea. Just use GN arithmetic with an adjustment for magnification. You may think you don't need more gear, but to get full flexibility you'll want a manual flash with power level control. The Vivitar 283 with VP-1 is ideal for this. Out of production, very available used. And since you have a flash meter testing to find out what the flash actually does will be inexpensive and easy.
Any old slave trigger will do. Except the ones sold for triggering flashes from some P&S cameras' built-in flash; these little beasties have the photocell's eye at 90 degrees to the flash's axis. I have three, all Konica, and they're pretty useless. I've been using cube-shaped slaves that look like the Kaiser slave that B&H sells. Mine are now 30+ years old, haven't had a problem yet.
Its better to use tiny fixed-output flashes close to the subject than to use somewhat more powerful auto-TTL flashes. Flash output can be adjusted with ND gels. And in this case incident metering gives more consistent results than does metering reflected. Calibrating a flash rig as I've told you how to do is equivalent to metering incident.
Yes, that's true. I'll try without the diffusers as well.
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
I know there is another variable power flash in my future but I want to start out with the SB-18 since I already have it and I'll be spending on the SB-27 anyway. BTW, any thoughts on the choice of the SB-27?
You may think you don't need more gear, but to get full flexibility you'll want a manual flash with power level control. The Vivitar 283 with VP-1 is ideal for this.
So, the slave will be triggered even if it is behind the actual flashes? i.e. it does not need to receive direct light from the main flash setup? Is there any advantage to a hot shoe trigger as oppsed to one that uses PC connections like this Wein peanut slave. I am looking at the Morris and the Kaiser hotshoe options - would the Morris be just as good - I can't tell if it has a 1/4-20 socket.
Any old slave trigger will do.[...] I've been using cube-shaped slaves that look like the Kaiser slave that B&H sells. Mine are now 30+ years old, haven't had a problem yet.
I take John's point about Y connections. In that case what do you suggest for triggering the two main flashes? I could use the SC-17+SC-18 combo but any more elegant solutions? Maybe just triggering the SB-28 with with a PC cord and putting the SB-27 on a wireless slave as well? I am sorry this is about very particular gear concerns but I am not very familiar with this off camera manual flash thing yet and need a little help choosing the hardware.
I realize this, but the Nikon flashes give me the added option of going TTL for non macro shots - I sometimes do bounce flash etc for humans! I'll probably try out coloring gels on the flashes later, but right now I need the whole setup assembled and tested.
Its better to use tiny fixed-output flashes close to the subject than to use somewhat more powerful auto-TTL flashes. Flash output can be adjusted with ND gels.
Luddite that I am, I don't have, have never used or even touched, or even thought about getting an SB-27 so can't comment on it.
Slaves? I've revisited B&H's site, looked harder. The Wein Peanut, Hama and Keiser cubes, Vivitar SL-2, Wein hot shoe, are logically equivalent. The big difference between the Peanut and the hotshoe types is that since the Peanut plugs into the flash's PC cord socket, with it one has to find a way of attaching the flash to the bracketry. Which is why I use hot shoe types with holes in the base threaded 1/4" x 20.
All of these slaves are pretty sensitive. I don't see what you mean by "behind the actual flashes." FWIW, all of my slave triggers face the subject, are triggered by light reflected from it.
While looking around on the B&H site I came across the Morris Midi Slave DC. A little powerful for closeup if the specs are to be believed, but that's what ND (NOT COLORED) gels are for.
Two ways to reduce illumination on the subject when fixed-output flashes are used. ND gel(s) on the flash, increase flash-to-subject distance. Get a Rosco swatchbook (the little one) from B&H. $0.01 plus postage.
In my rigs -- I've made and used 3-flash rigs too -- one flash is fired by cable, the other(s) by slave triggers. Y-cables are bad luck. More connections not to work and always the risk of polarity problems.
You really have to step out of the 35 mm auto-everything mindset. For closeup with flash that mindset adds needless complexity and ways of going wrong.
To encourage you, these days I travel with a little 2 flash rig for my 105 MicroNikkor, another for my 2x3 Graphics, a Vivitar 283 with VP-1 for the Graphics, and a big mutha' SCA 300 flash with module etc. for my 8008S. The little 2 flash rig for the Graphics replaces the 2x283 + VP-1 rig I used to use with them.
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I have steadily been doing as much of my photography manually as I can. You can't blame me for owning an electronic camera or two. In fact if you don't count the F3 my only camera that really has any auto-thingamagic potential is the N90s. A fine camera I might add. But I don't own any autofocus lenses for it to do the gee-whiz stuff and surely you will indulge me if I decide to take out a Nikon flash at a party and dabble in a bit of TTL decadence.
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
Thanks for the tip on the Swatchbook, I'll take a dozen or so!
Blame you? Me? Who bought an FG new and recently replaced it with a used N8008S? Me? Who has an SB-15 and a recently acquired Agfa 643CS with modules etc. and who has even used it in auto-TTL mode 15 feet from the camera? Me? Never!
Originally Posted by Anupam Basu
By the way, the blast hummingbirds effort was a fiasco. Flash wasn't powerful enough, I got too much exposure from ambient.
But by hanging on to your Nikon gear you're saddling yourself with bigger and heavier than you need use.
About the $0.01 swatchbooks, I think they're one per customer. Could be mistaken. I bought mine, and only that, at B&H a couple of years ago while in NYC with my wife. The B&Hs were mightily amused by the tiny bill. No sales tax could be levied. "Cash, charge, check?"
Vivitar 283 witha VP-1 is quite sufficient
Dan Fromm said: "You may think you don't need more gear, but to get full flexibility you'll want a manual flash with power level control. The Vivitar 283 with VP-1 is ideal for this. Out of production, very available used."
It's amazing how Dan's genius closely parallels my own.
I bought a used Vivitar 283, and a VP-1 attachment that allows it to be used off camera. There are plenty of filter hoods that fit into the flash end of the 283, and they will allow you to stack a diffuser filter and a neutral density filter. With an adjustable flash bracket to hold the 283 off to the side, you cn use a reflecting card on the other side for fill light. This rig works equally well with my old Pentax KX and with my newer Pentad *istDS. I will probably try it next on my Retina IIA (since that 1950's vintage camera offers X-synch.
Yes, you already have a flash, but the Vivitar 383 gear is ridiulously inexpensive on the used auction market.
Here's a gear bag zipper from a hand-held DSLR, exposure completely controlled by the Vivitar 283.
Last edited by polaski; 03-12-2007 at 08:30 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Atrocious spelling errors
"A full-time job seriously interferes with photography."
Jeff, you are a dangerous subversive. Really. All right-thinking people know that it better to have a semi-intelligent camera than to be an intelligent photographer.
Lee has one also. I think I got a free one from their website, and later they were kind enough to send me another after misplacing it. So I did receive two, I just don't remember how I initiated the acquisition.
One of the few optical things my wife was impressed with was me randomly choosing a red and blue pair of filter sheets from the Lee swatchbook and taping them to her glasses so she could watch some 3D TV movie with prescription 3-D glasses. I had no idea whether L/R made a difference.
Now, how about colored flash filtering for b/w, the opposite of filtering the lens...does that work with macro subjecture (I know it can't simulate clouds)?