Color Field #5 – 20″ x 24″ one-off casting of light onto Fujicolor Crystal Archive II paper

For nearly two centuries, photography has been the nexus of light, subject, and camera. In the digital era, one can argue that computer should be added to this trinity. Of greater passion to me is the question—what remains of photography when we strip away the subject, camera, and computer? Only light remains—or, more specifically, only color as it emerges from the shadows remains.

Color and shadow have long danced as my muses. I am obsessed equally with color and with shadows—an obsession that has endured the evolution of my work as a photographic artist from darkroom alchemist to digital technologist back to darkroom alchemist.


Color Field #2 – 20″ x 24″ one-off casting of light onto Fujicolor Crystal Archive II paper

In my new Color Field series, I cast off all that is photographically unnecessary—subject, camera, and computer—so that I may be the alchemist who fuses color and shadow directly into a print. Each Color Field is a one-off 20” x 24” original—created by casting light through colored gels directly onto photosensitive paper (specifically Fujicolor Crystal Archive II). Each print is processed individually in traditional RA-4 chemistry in my darkroom at home. Yes, I said “darkroom.”

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Boxing rivals baseball as the national sport of Cuba. In 2013, our group attended the Saturday morning bouts of a children’s boxing club in Havana.

Join me in April for an amazing week meeting and photographing the people of Cuba. Picturing Cuba offers you the rare opportunity to engage with the Cuban people and to discover the country’s cultural diversity and physical beauty with your camera. This will be my second trip to Cuba with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The photos show here are from last year’s trip. (Impatient…click here to jump to the details page at SFPW.)

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The view from my hotel room in 2013: classic American convertibles and modern Chinese taxis outside the Hotel Parque Central.

Cuba offers a travel experience like no other. A tropical paradise with a storied past, where intrigue, romance, and uncertainty are woven into the fabric of everyday life, Cuba is at a turning point in its history. It’s a potent mix of contradictions: socialism, newly approved private enterprise, and some of the richest soils on the planet still being tilled by oxen; relaxed Caribbean island culture and vibrant big-city life; chrome-laden vintage American cars juxtaposed with new Chinese-made taxis and tour buses.

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I’m en route to Sao Paulo for the 2013 Estudio Brasil. On Friday afternoon, I’ll be giving a new presentation Speedlites: A Complete Studio In Your Bag. The event coincides with the release of both Speedliter’s Handbook and Lighting for Digital Photography in Portuguese. This is my first trip across the equator. Excitement abounds.


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In an industry filled with hype and BS, Zack Arias rips down the velvet curtain and talks honesty about being a professional imagemaker in his outstanding Photography Q&A. If you hope to earn a paycheck with your camera, Photography Q&A is a must read.

I was hooked when I read Question 2…”Do you ever feel like a farce or a phony.” This is a bold question addressed to a guy with 50,000+ followers on Twitter and a worldwide audience of blog readers and workshop attendees. Zack’s honest reply “All the time. Every day.” is typical of the powerful content in Photography Q&A.

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The price gap between Canon’s flagship 600EX-RT Speedlite and the venerable 580EX II Speedlite has narrowed to a point where it makes no sense to purchase the 580EX II. If you are going to purchase a Canon Speedlite to use as a master flash, make sure that it is the 600EX-RT. If you are going to purchase your first Speedlite and you have the financial means, the 600EX-RT is also a great choice.

When I first published my 600EX-RT vs. 580EX II comparison eight months ago (here), the 600EX-RT was $100+ more than the 580EX II. Now, the gap has narrowed to $10 and the choice becomes a no-brainer.

Why The 600EX-RT Is Now A No-Brainer

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Santa Fe Photographic Workshops has added a new series of two-day workshops to their summer schedule and shifted their long-format workshops to a Wednesday-Saturday schedule. This means that you can now take a long-format workshop and a two-day intensive workshop just before or after. Heck, you could even pair two intensives before and after a long-format workshop and still have Sunday off to explore Santa Fe. You’d also save a bit on airfare because you now have a Saturday night stay in your trip.

There are several great intensives scheduled for the Monday-Tuesday before my June 26-29, 2013 Crafting Dramatic Light with Small Flashes workshop. (Info about my small flash workshop here.) These include:

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A guest blog for PixSylated by Peter Read Miller, Canon Explorer of Light

McKalya Maroney USA. London 2012 Olympic Games Day 1. Women's Artistic Gymnastics, The Vault. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4, 1/2000", ISO 3200, 400mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

Last summer, while on assignment for Sports Illustrated at the London Olympics, I was one of the lucky handful of photographers who were given a pre-production version of Canon’s EF 200-400mm f4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender to shoot during the games.

Canon 200-400mm lens

I used the lens almost every day and had photos published in both the print and online versions of Sports Illustrated —as well as in SI’s super cool “Live from London” iPad app.

Allyson Felix USA gold. London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: Day 12. Athletics: Women's 200m Final. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4, 1/1250", ISO 4000, 400mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

Given the logistical challenges presented during the London Olympics, the 200-400mm was a godsend. Most days, I averaged one to two hours on busses and trains getting around the Olympics. One day, I did ten busses, plus the train, just to cover four events.

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I’ll head out early Monday morning for the first leg of my five-week Speedliter’s Intensive tour. First up are Austin, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles/Long Beach. Then I’ll make a quick dash home for Mother’s Day. Busy first week.

Also on the line-up are: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, NYC, St Louis, Salt Lake City, SF Bay Area, and Washington DC.

The Intensive is a one-day crash course on my approach to flash photography. To see the details, the calendar, and a promo code that saves $25, click here.


It’s hard to believe…after waiting nine months, but we leave tomorrow for Havana. “We” are two groups of photographers organized by Santa Fe Workshops. I’m the leader for one group. Zack Arias is the commandante for the other group.

This is not a typical workshop. Rather, it’s a people-to-people exchange in which we will spend time with Cubans, learning about their lives and their culture. Along the way, we’ll make many great photographs and spend time with Cuban photographers. It’s going to be a memorable week!

If you’re interested in joining me on a future trip to Cuba, you can read about the current Cuba trip on this PDF. To get on the mailing list for announcements about my next trip, send an email to

I’ve had a crazy schedule of late. Spent last week in Denver with Peter Read Miller at his sports photography workshop. Havana will be a warm reprise from the crazy cold weather that hit Colorado last week.

I hope to post some pix while in Cuba…if I can find access to the internet. Might be harder to find the time, given that we have a full schedule for the week. Adios!


Controlling Canon Speedlites as Slaves

• Part One: 600EX-RT as Radio Slave
Part Two: Fundamentals of Optical Wireless (this part)
• Part Three: Setting Up Speedlites as Optical Slaves (coming)
[Note: In this series, I am writing about the master/slave system built into Canon Speedlites. There is another type of optical slave that is common in studio lighting. It fires the strobe when it senses a flash of bright light, but all changes to power, sync, etc. must be made manually on the unit.]

The Difference Between Canon Radio and Optical Slaves

Canon offers two ways for Speedlites to communicate—radio and optical wireless. Radio has the advantage of working over longer distances and the ability to communicate through opaque surfaces, like walls and softboxes. Radio wireless was introduced about a year ago with the launch of the 600EX-RT Speedlite and ST-E3-RT Transmitter.

Optical wireless must have a line-of-sight connection between the master and slave—although the master’s signal can bounce around objects and corners if the walls/ceiling are a light color. I once put a slave Speedlite in a shower stall knowing that I could bounce the master’s signal off of the bathroom mirror. Optical wireless works up to about 40’/13m. It cannot go through opaque surfaces–but is happy to fly through windows, which allows you to control slaves outside the room. Optical wireless will also go through translucent fabrics—like shoot-through umbrellas to control slave Speedlites nearby.

Canon’s optical wireless system is robust and reliable—even outdoors in noon sun. The key is to know how to set up the slaves so that they can see the master—which I will cover in a bit.

Speedliter, Know Thy Optical Master

The 600- and 500-series EX Speedlites can be optical masters (as can the macro ring and twin lights). The advantages of using a Speedlite as an optical master (over a pop-up flash as master) include:

  • the Speedlite has greater range
  • the Speedlite head can be tilted/panned directly at a slave
  • the Speedlite can be used as an off-camera master (detailed at the end of this article)

[Note 1: The 600EX-RT can operate in radio OR optical wireless. For insights on radio wireless, read Part One of this series.]

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