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  1. #1

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    Flash Lighting????

    My Vivitar 285 has a half power and quarter power setting... Would setting the power output at 1/4 be the same as 2 stops less light??

    My flash photography, as of now, sux.... Completely harsh, blown highlights. I should probably read a book, but I just assume get a clue from one of you guys and test shoot.

    I use a diffuser shield and I shoot with a flash bracket, I think I may just be using too much juice.. Any suggestions or God forbid, have any good book recommendations??

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Yes, 1/2 is one stop less than full power, and 1/4 is two stops less.

    One book that many people like is Light--Science and Magic by Hunter and Fuqua. It is mainly about studio lighting, but you can learn a lot that applies to portable lighting as well.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #3

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    Doesn't the 285 have some sort of auto mode? The manual modes can be used with the guide number or a flash meter.

  4. #4
    Helen B's Avatar
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    Are you using B&W or colour film? This affects what you can and can't use for bouncing.

    What sort of 'diffuser shield' are you using?

    In general I look around for things to bounce the flash off before using an on-flash bounce card or my 'flash glove' as I call it (different flexible reflectors that fit over my left hand made from Rosco materials). Potential bounce surfaces are literally all around - above, to the side, behind.

    Best,
    Helen

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helen B
    Are you using B&W or colour film? This affects what you can and can't use for bouncing.

    What sort of 'diffuser shield' are you using?

    In general I look around for things to bounce the flash off before using an on-flash bounce card or my 'flash glove' as I call it (different flexible reflectors that fit over my left hand made from Rosco materials). Potential bounce surfaces are literally all around - above, to the side, behind.

    Best,
    Helen
    Almost always B&W. Sometimes outside, where a lot of my shots looks bad, some were inside (wedding stuff, reception) open areas.. So, not a lot to bounce off of... I us one of those deflectors that velcros on, with the flash pointed upwards. I am thinking of just buying one of the plastic sleeves...

  6. #6
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Outside in the daytime, you might just use the flash for fill. Determine the ambient exposure at the X-sync speed of your camera, then adjust the ASA setting on the flash so that in auto, the calculator tells you to set the lens for one to two stops wider than the ambient exposure, but leave the lens set for the ambient exposure. Instant auto (non-TTL) fill flash.

    Outside at night or indoors, you might use a longer shutter speed than the X-sync speed to get some ambient light and avoid excessively dark backgrounds. For instance, if the sync speed is 1/60 sec., you might set the camera at 1/30 or 1/15 to bring up the background, which is out of flash range. The illumination of the subject will stay about the same.

    My favorite on-camera diffuser is a 12x16" softbox with the flash on a Stroboframe Pro-RL bracket set as high as it goes and angled slightly downward. It's not something you want outdoors in the wind, and it looks imposing, but with the subject within a range of about 6 feet, it's a very soft effect. I have a Photoflex, but if I were buying one now, I'd get a Chimera. When I bought mine, Chimera didn't make one in that size yet.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  7. #7
    DKT
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    david's got the idea...think of it this way. the strobe handles the foreground exposure (f-stop), while the shutter speed handles the background.Since you're using b/w mainly, this is easier since you won't be dealing with different lightsources and color shifts. This isn't that hard to control with color, but it's just a pain when you shoot events and are moving from one scene to the next.

    what you need to do is either blow out the existing light with your strobe, or use it in conjunction with the ambient. In this case, the strobe becomes a fill light instead of the main light. One to two stops under the ambient is about right--1 1/2 usually is the aim.

    Another trick is to just shoot tighter--so you have less to light. Try to set up your shots so you can use whatever ambient sources there are to your advantage. Shoot faster films in lower light, so the flash won't have to work so hard and vice versa outside in brighter areas.

    I used 283s for years to shoot events and editorial stuff. For the the fill ratios--if I was working outside, I often used the dial like David described, but for b/w, I learned how to wing it by eyeballing the strobe as I dialed down the varipower. This is probably a bad habit, but it works good enough....When I shot events at work, we used FMs and had to use two cameras, one b/w, one chrome. I had a little cheat sheet written on the back of a home-made foamcore bounce card that we worked up in our studio for distances we commonly shot receptions at, and for ceiling heights as well. I just used a rubber band to hold it to the strobe. real high tech...we shot in the same areas all the time, so it helped quite a bit, but after a while you can get the hang of it and it's pretty easy to shoot on manual.

    I learned to shoot with the strobe in my left hand and the camera in my right and I still shoot this way, using SC17 cords on speedlights. I have a small canvas loop held to the cord by a 1/4 20 screw, and I hang this off my wrist with the strobe attached. When I used a 283 like this, I focused with my hand and then whipped the flash out to the side and above to get the shot. You get the hang of it--but if you have something like a small westcott softbox or a lumiquest on the strobe, you can often mimic a softbox by getting the strobe right on top of your subject. You can hold that in your left hand, and cross it over to the right side of the camera, and cradle the camera on your left arm. Or you can point it at a wall behind you or off to the side. For the vivitars--get the sensor that mounts to your hotshoe with the cord running off to the flash. If you have to shoot direct, then you can at least get some modeling this way. Anything is better than on camera though. If you get the strobe out in front of the camera, it screws the exposure up though...keep it behind you and you're okay. If it's in front, best to shoot manual or have a meter on you....common sense really. if it's in front of you--watch out for flare as well.

    books: Bob Krist's "Lighting for Location", Susan McCartney's books on lighting for travel photography and location work. Steve Sint's wedding book. Jon Falk's "Adventures in Location Lighting" (his seminars, if you ever get a chance to see him, are great). Ken Kobre's "Photojournalism, A Professional Approach"-- the early editions will have a lot of lighting technique using 283s.

    btw--if you get that remote sensor, you can use some of those softboxes and the like for the small strobes, that sometimes cover up the sensors on the flashes. plus, you get the sensor there on the camera where it needs to be. some people put a little baffle or hood on the sensor as well, to cut down it's angle of view so it won't get fooled by the strobe. jon falk uses a little film can cut in half...a snoot for the sensor.

    one of the best exercises though, is to shoot a guide number test for your setup and then once you know what it can put out at a given distance and film speed, you're set. It's what you can always fall back on in a pinch.

  8. #8
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bighead
    I use a diffuser shield and I shoot with a flash bracket, I think I may just be using too much juice..
    "Diffuser shield"? Just what type of diffuser shield is in question here?

    From `way back...

    One of the most effective ways to "soften" a direct flash is to place a thickness (or two - start with one..) of ordinary handkerchief across the flash tube. Look at the 283 - there will be a hole of some sort where the thyristor is exposed to light. This affects the light limiting circuitry - when the thyristor "sees" enough light, it turns the flash tube off. Leave that hole free from handkerchief, and the automatic flash exposure will work as planned.

    The second most effective simple way to modify flash lighting is to get the flash unit OFF the camera. I'm fairly sure that there are a number of extension cords for the Vivitar that will allow you to do that. High, Left or Right, can have a significant effect on the finished photograph.

    Next is ... Multiple flashes from additional flash units - Wein "Peanut" Slaves are useful here... then "studio" flash units ... I prefer Dynalites, and umbrellas/ soft boxes ...
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  9. #9
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bighead
    Almost always B&W. Sometimes outside, where a lot of my shots looks bad, some were inside (wedding stuff, reception) open areas.. So, not a lot to bounce off of... I us one of those deflectors that velcros on, with the flash pointed upwards. I am thinking of just buying one of the plastic sleeves...
    If you are getting blown highlights inside while using this setup, it tells me that you are either not using the auto exposure function on the flash, or the sensor is not pointing in the right direction, or the angle of view for the sensor is much wider than the item/group you are photographing.

    I would strongly reccommend you use the auto-exposure functions on flashes like these, because they really do assist. They are not perfect, but unless you are working in very controlled situations (like a studio) they are much more likely to be able to adjust quickly and accurately to changing circumstances and conditions then you will be, especially in an environment like a wedding. There are certain situations which tend to fool them, but as you gain experience with them, you will be able to adjust for those circumstances.

    You can use the flash manually, either by using the scale on the back (or is it the side for the 285?) or the guide number, but this requires that you have accurate camera to subject distances available for each shot, and even then the results will not necessarily be perfect, as those calculations are based at least partially on there being other surfaces nearby (such as ceilings) which reflect light back on the subject.

    A common example in my experience of a shot that causes problems with flash exposure is that shot of the newlywed couple enjoying their first dance, all by themselves on the dance floor, with the lights dim, and the ceiling high.

    The reason this shot (and others like it) are difficult is that the subjects of main interest only fill a small portion of the scene, and there is little or nothing at the same plane to reflect the flash back to the auto-exposure sensor. In order to deal with this situation, you need to compensate by either decreasing the light output of the flash, or using a smaller aperature on the camera.

    If you are using the flash in automatic mode, and want to decrease the light output, you can fool it by increasing the ISO/DIN setting on the flash (note, this only works for non-dedicated flashes that don't get the film sensitivity information from the camera). I prefer to not do it this way, because the likelihood that I will forget to reset the ISO/DIN setting when I go on to the next shot is just too great.

    Alternatively, you can set the aperature on the camera to a smaller opening (larger f stop number) than that setting recommended by the auto setting on the flash. You still have to remember to reset this when you go on to the next shot, but somehow that is easier to remember.

    The amount of adjustment depends on the amount of the scene taken up by the item/people of interest, as well as the general reflectance of what is around them. If you are using a flash with automatic sensor, you need to reference your calculation to the field of view of the sensor, rather than the field of view of your lens. If you have a flash with a "zoom" head, changing the zoom setting may also adjust the sensor field of view, so you should be sure to to set it to the (35mm equivalent) focal length of your lens, or longer, even if you are bouncing the light.

    Knowing the right amount of adjustment comes with experience, but you probably won't go far wrong if you start with a rough calculation like:

    - the subject fills 1/2 of the field of view, so I should stop down one stop;
    - the subject fills 1/4 of the field of view, so I should stop down two stops;
    - the subject fills 1/8 of the field of view, so I should - actually, in this case you should probably go back to manual guide numbers, pre-focus for a particular distance and set the f stop accordingly (plus an extra 1/2 stop), and wait until they are the right distance away before you shoot

    I would heartily suggest you do some experiments with this, using slide film for narrow exposure latitude, so that you can get a feel for what works.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck.

  10. #10

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    If you're blowing highlights you're overexposing.

    So, when you use your flash, how do you choose the aperture to use? What power setting is the flash set to? Auto, full, 1/2, 1/4?

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