I continue to plow forward on the update to the Speedliter’s Handbook — which includes all the necessary insights on how to operate the 600EX-RT Speedlite. I expect that the new edition will be out by mid-summer. (See it here on Amazon.) In the meantime, here is a laundry list of online resources that I have produced that cover the 600EX-RT system and Speedliting in general.
Mastering The 600EX-RT With Syl Arena — a video presentation that I did for Canon Digital Learning Center
The 600EX-RT System — an article/video that I did for the Canon Pro Network in Europe
PixSylated articles — here’s a list of articles that I’ve published on PixSylated
Videos Of My Talks At B&H
Canon Pro Network: General Speedlite Info
Getting The Most From Speedlites (Part 1: Controls & Modes) — another article for the Canon Pro Network
Getting The Most From Speedlites (Part 2: On- and Off-Camera Flash) — another article for the Canon Pro Network
Getting The Most From Speedlites (Part 3: Modifying Flash) — another article for the Canon Pro Network
Getting The Most From Speedlites (Part 4: Advanced Speedlite Strategies) — another article for the Canon Pro Network
Flash Photography – Rocky Mountain School of Photography, June 6-12, 2015
Crafting Dramatic Light With Small Flash – Santa Fe Workshops, July 19-24, 2015
Canon Speedlites Demystified – Maine Media Workshops, August
While updating the information in my chapter on batteries for the new edition of the Speedliter’s Handbook, I came upon a relatively new service advisory from Canon (December 2014) that advises against the use of lithium batteries in virtually all Speedlites. Canon acknowledges that lithium batteries may become extremely hot when used in Speedlites.
This should be considered breaking news for Speedliters. I checked the user manuals for the last five Speedlite introductions and they all say that lithium batteries can be used in the Speedlite.
I said a long while back that lithium batteries are bad for Speedlites. Five years ago, when I wrote about my AA Battery Torture Test in the original Speedliter’s Handbook, I reported three disturbing facts about the performance of lithium batteries during the test.
- When a 580EX Speedlite with lithium batteries was fired at full power every 20-seconds (the standard interval in my AA Battery Torture Test), the average flashes-to-failure was 52 pops. This compares to averages of 165 for alkaline and 235 for low-discharge nickel-metal hydride batteries, like Eneloops.
- When the Speedlite with lithium batteries was fired at full power every 3-minutes, the average flash-to-failure rose to 218. It’s not that the lithiums lacked the electrons. Rather, they just like to hold onto them—which is why they can hold a charge for many years.
- Most importantly—under the standard 20-second test interval, the sets of lithium batteries would be too hot to hold immediately after the test—on the high side of 140ºF/60ºC.
Recommended Batteries For Speedlites
My favorite batteries for Speedlites are Eneloops. They are low-discharge rechargeables. Low-discharge is the key. Regular nickel-metal hydride batteries will lose most of their charge while sitting for a month in your bag. The low-discharge chemistry in Eneloops holds onto most of its charge for up to a year. (Eneloops here on B&H / Amazon)
The key to happiness with rechargeable batteries is the circuity of the charger. You need a charger that treats each cell as an individual. Otherwise, the charger will turn off when the strongest cell is charged—leaving the weak cells undercharged. My favorite charger is the Maha C801D (here on B&H / Amazon).
If you are in the NYC-area, I hope that you will join me at the B&H Event Space on Sunday, March 15 for a free seminar—Crafting Great Light With Canon Speedlites. I will provide a complete update to how my workflow has changed since I started with Canon’s 600EX-RT radio Speedlite system. I’ll also cover how Canon’s new cameras continue to make Speedliting easier. Of course, I will also share loads of insights into how I used Speedlites to create shots like the one just below—lit with a single Speedlite and the Strobos grid kit. Thanks to Canon USA for sponsoring this event. Hope to see you at B&H!
My obsession with color continues. Last night I worked on a photo to open the “Mechanics of Light” chapter in the new Speedliter’s Handbook. My original vision, much along the lines of the photo above, was to demonstrate how separate sources of red, green, and blue light combine to form all of the other colors.
In the photo above, you will see that the secondary colors of light—cyan, magenta, and yellow—appear as shadows. For instance, the magenta shadow on the left is created where the skull blocks the green light coming in from the right side—leaving red and blue to merge into magenta. Conversely, you can see the green light on the right side of the nose where the bone blocked the red and blue light coming from the left side.
As is the case sometimes, the picture I had in my head was better than the photos I was making. As you can see above, I explored the interplay of the light from a number of angles. The screenshot (out of Lightroom) shows about a third of the shots that I made before I decided to take a break. I had an interesting idea in my head, but did not feel that my photos were capturing that vision.
Discovering A New Path For Personal Work
When I came back, I impulsively crumpled a sheet of paper and positioned it where the skull had been. In an instant, I understood how to fill the gap between my vision and the shots I’d made previously—I needed to show the camera more faceted surfaces. More importantly, as I marveled at the tie-dye colors that I’d cast onto the white paper, I knew that I had found a new visual path to explore as a photographer interested in abstract images. [Read about my abstract Color Fields here.]
I remain humbled by the success of my Speedliter’s Handbook. Recently, the Handbook passed 400 reader reviews on Amazon. That is a stratospheric number for a photography book. Heartfelt thanks go out to every reader who took the time to share their thoughts on the book. When the book was launched four years ago, I never expected it to be embraced by so many shooters.
Looking forward…I’ve been hard at work for these past many months on a complete update of the Handbook (as evidenced by my complete lack of posts here on PixSylated since August). The 2nd-edition will be published this spring. Of course, the new edition will go deep into my work with Canon’s radio-enabled 600EX-RT Speedlites. It also contains a complete update to all of my Speedliting workflows. I am also quite excited about all of the new light modifiers that will be featured in the book. You can check out the cover below and read a few details here on Amazon.
Recently I joined Frederick Van Johnson and Dan Ablan on This Week In Photo for another rousing conversation about the world of photography. Among the issues we discuss on TWiP 373 is the question of who owns the copyright for selfie made by a monkey with a stolen camera. [True story–after the pic went viral on the web, the photographer asked Wikipedia to take it down and they refused. Check out the story and see the photo here.] We also discuss how a newspaper made an appalling mistake by using a photograph from Facebook and cheer on comedian Adam Carolla’s fight against a patent troll. As always, the show is also full of random comments and laughs. Watch it / listen to it here.
In this 13 minute video, I talk about three different reasons to modify Speedlites:
- Increase the apparent size to create soft light
- Limit the direction of the light to guide the viewer’s eye
- Change the color of the flash to blend it in with another light source or to make it stand out for creative effect
I also put my favorite Speedlite modifiers into action in a series of headshots of my favorite mensch and fellow Peachpit author Gabriel Biderman— author of Night Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots. To see a kit with the small mods and gels that I used click here. Also, here’s the link to the Impact Quickbox that I used in the video.
Thanks to all my friends at B&H Photo for making this video possible.
While teaching my ‘Crafting Dramatic Light’ workshop in Santa Fe last week, I had the good fortune to return to Eaves Movie Ranch with my class. Built in the 1960s for the filming of ‘The Cheyenne Social Club‘ (starring Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Shirley Jones), Eaves continues to operate as a town-sized set for western movies and TV shows. Earlier this summer, ‘Jane Got A Gun‘—starring Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor—shot at Eaves.
If my photo above of Thomas Wingate, the head honcho at Eaves, looks familiar, it’s because Thomas has been photographed by every visitor to Eaves over many years. One of my favorite Thomas pix is this all-American shot by McNally—who introduced me to Thomas in 2008.
Shooting Speedlites In A Studio Softbox
Although I am known for my work with Speedlites, I shot large strobes for a couple of decades before exploring the world of small flash. While I do not miss the weight of studio lights—especially the power packs—I do miss using the wide range of modifiers that I assembled over the years (most of which are still stored in my garage). For this shoot, I used the LumoPro LP739 Double Flash Bracket to fire a pair of Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites into a Chimera softbox.
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There are two keys to creating golden hour light with a Speedlite or strobe—gel your flash to create golden light and position it to create long, angled shadows. Both are easy to do with off-camera flash.
The first step—creating golden light—actually begins by underexposing the ambient light in the scene. As you can see below in the middle panel of Fig. 3, I pulled three stops of ambient light out by increasing my shutter speed two stops and closing the aperture down one stop. Pulling the ambient down to near black is critical. Essentially you are establishing the tone of the shadows that will fall between the slashes of golden light created by your flash.
My go-to gel for creating golden hour light is the CTO (Color Temperature Orange). CTO comes in several densities–called “cuts.” For this shoot, I gelled with a full-cut of CTO. When I’m trying to blend in fill-flash at sunset with real golden hour light, I’ll start with a half-cut of CTO and then change to a full-cut as the sun drops to the horizon. If you want to warm up your general flash shots just a bit without making it obvious, try a quarter- or eighth-cut CTO.
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Rocky Mountain School of Photography is hosting me this week as the instructor of their summer Flash Photography workshop (info here). We’ve been shooting for the past two days in Missoula’s old Macy’s department store. The space is a photographer’s dream come true: two floors, high ceilings, huge windows, and walls covered with a wide array of colors and textures collected through the decades.
As beautiful as windowlight is, windowlight by itself is not always beauty light. Compare the two photos above. The shot on the left is windowlight alone. The shot on the right is windowlight plus fill flash from a 60″ white umbrella. Can you see how the addition of the fill flash conceals facial shadows and smooths the skin?
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Follow Syl On Twitter
- Top Tools To Organize Your Photo Gear > http://t.co/f4J4D8LLQY via @briansmithphoto, Mar 17
- Hey NYC! Looking forward to meeting a tribe of Canonistas @BH_Event_Space, 1p today > http://t.co/6BaCROzhwS, Mar 15
- Free registration for my Sun, Mar 15 talk @BH_Event_Space Crafting Great Light W/ Canon Speedlites http://t.co/6BaCROQSoq, Mar 11
- Free registration for my Sun, Mar 15 talk @BH_Event_Space > http://t.co/6BaCROQSoq Crafting Great Light W/ Canon Speedlites, Mar 9
- What It’s Like To See In 100 Million Colors > http://t.co/W5BI7UTqXQ, Feb 28
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