Light – Part 5 of 6

What to buy

Well what do we need to consider?

  • Budget
  • Mount type
  • Colour consistent
  • Exposure accurate
  • Flash duration
  • Support
  • Power
  • Mains or Battery
  • TTL Support
  • High Speed Sync

Budget: well in many ways this is linked to the other points so we will skip this for now but, more money means more features, more support etc. Budget, midrange and high end all have their pros and cons.

Mount type: many systems have the Bowens S mount, the other common ones are the Elinchrom EL and the Profoto. Soft attachments like soft boxes can generally. be adapted or you can get third party adapter rings to fix your Profoto soft box on to say an Elinchrom flash head. It gets more difficult with hard accessories like beauty dishes. Think long and hard about where you want to go too.

Colour Consistent: This is one of those things linked to budget. The midrange and higher end flashes tend to drift no more then 300k in use. If your only taking a few pictures not too much of an issue, if your taking a lot of pictures with a lower end flash unit, keep taking a custom white balance as you go along. Taking a white balance reading and shooting for a couple of hours and then in post production noticing your colours are off after an hour in the session can cause issues when your editing and will slow down your work flow. Be aware or buy better lights.

Exposure accurate: There are two aspects to this. Consistent amount of power while you work, which is essential, and consistent when you turn up the power turn the power down, this is less important but can cause a bit of frustration if your wanting to go down one stop, set the flash one stop less and its only half a stop down in power. It slows you down a little, but is not really and issue if you meter well after each change, remember as well some of the cheaper lights may change colour temperature if you change power output, so white balance reading after a power change may be required.

Flash duration: Do you shoot sport, want to freeze water droplets, the flash duration is what freezes the action. For general use most flash is fast enough. For some specialised use then you can get special flash heads with very short duration to freeze action.

Support: Cheap and even some midrange flash units do not have good manufacture support, the units are considered consumables, if they die after three years then buy a new unit. Some high end flash companies support their old heads that are now over thirty years old and will cost-effectively repair and turn it around quickly. They have dealers locally that can lend you loan units and give quick turn around.

Power: Generally in small studio’s you do not need a lot of power, 250ws or 500ws (watt/seconds) is enough. The issue with cheaper flash units is often too much power, some high end 1000ws units will turn down 1ws, cheaper 250ws will only turn down to 30-50ws. This makes them less flexible. You may need to buy a 250ws and a 500/1000ws head as well to give you options. Also look at some reviews on YouTube. Some higher end flashes that are rated at 250ws when tested could nearly reach output of cheaper 500ws lights due to the more efficient head design and better reflectors.

Mains or Battery: This is linked to power. On location, wedding receptions, event photography then battery is the way to go, in the studio then go for mains. Depending on the amount of power I have needed on location I have either used small speed lights or my more powerful Elinchrom Quadra units. With newer technology and better batteries you can make the case for using battery in the studio. There are some units. now that are battery powered but can run on mains as well.

TTL Support: Studio flash scares a lot of photographers, in fact flash period scares people. TTL flash is generally what you get with small speed lights, but more and more studio flashes are supporting TTL. TTL – Through the Lens metering means your camera and lights work together to try and make the correct exposure. As long as the scene is not too dramatic it generally works well.

High Speed Sync: If you are mixing daylight and flash then you often find your flash sync speed in your camera becomes a limiting factor. This is why high end medium format cameras for fashion photographers can sync up to 1/2000 and some 1/4000 or 1/8000 of a second. To over come the the limits of typical cameras slow sync speed the camera and light manufactures came up with HSS. The flash blasts lots of little flashes in the hope that some of the flashes correspond with the high shutter speed in use. It uses up a lot of power but can really help if you need it. If your looking at HSS then mains power or very powerful battery lights is the way to go.

Light – Part 4 of 6

Nikon D800, Nikkor 105mm

Studio mains powered flash

This is where for most people it gets scared. How do you meter, using mutilple modifiers, just where do you start.

Well I would suggest watching a few YouTube videos as a start, then book a good local studio.

If you live in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, then I would suggest you book Worksop Photographic Studio. The above shot was taken there.

Book the studio for a couple of hours and the house model and get a lesson on lighting. Many studios offer courses and you will learn a lot.

The key thing is to learn how to meter, and about soft and hard light, and specular and defused light.

The bigger the light source in relation to the model the software the light. Things like soft boxes give you more defused light then something like a beauty dish which being more direct and specular light source.

New laptop – Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch

Well I finally pulled the trigger on a new Laptop. Adobe’s latest upgrades basically meant I could no longer use Lightroom or Photoshop.

The intention was to buy a cheap low end machine but with 16 Gb of ram but then Apple announced the new 16 inch. So yes, I am currently typing this on the new Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch model. I went with 1 Tb of SSD and 32 Gb of ram which should make it a good photography laptop.

Walking the Greyhound

Leica M10

This year has seen be do little personal photography, so recently I have been getting into the habit of taking a camera with me on my local walks. Even if its just a local dog walk.

I have to admit that Ted as was Timmy, is very photogenic.

Leica SL2 – Coming soon

The original Leica SL was derided on its release. Now we have a number of manufactures who have released full frame 35 mirrorless bodies with fast AF lens.

The issue people had with the SL was they thought it too large and the lens too large. Now its being seen in a new light and has become very popular. With the new alternatives also large, people have realised you cannot break the laws of physics with lens optics.

If you want something smaller Sony have DX cropped bodies and lens and now Nikon have released the Z50 also with the DX cropped factor.

If you really want small then MicroFourThirds is still the best compromise; or take my route and use a Leica M system, if you can put up with manual focus and a range finder.

The new SL2 has been leaked and is rumoured to have 47 MP. That puts it up against the new Sony and the Nikon D850.

Noctilux – The lust over fast lens

Leica M8 Sample – Train

With Nikon releasing the new Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct, I am seeing a lot of interest in fast glass again and reduced depth of field.

One of the biggest complaints people make of small format sensors formats is that there is too much depth of field, something I have discussed in the past.

Leica M4 Film

When one thinks of fast glass the old classic Canon f/1 comes to mind but the one that is always top of the list is the Leica range of Noct lens.

The complaint with fast glass is the cost, though we cannot really complain, its a niche product and one that is difficult to produce. The new Nikon is over £8000, which puts it in a similar price range.

The big thing about these lens is the unique look they give to your shots, and many who have used the Leica Noctilux actually prefer the look over the older one.

Micro FourThirds – The Olympus Pen-F

Pen F – Art Filters

I have never owned a Micro Four Thirds camera, but the Olympus Pen series have always come close to making me purchase one.

The best Pen was the Pen F and I had a good play with one a few years ago at a Photography show when it was first released. I was surprised and somewhat saddened to hear its now been discontinued.

It was a great little camera. Over priced but a good camera never the less.

With Panasonic adopting the L mount to go full frame, Sony pushing full frame and Nikon and Canon getting in on the full frame mirrorless scene, many feel that Micro Four Thirds is a dead end. I disagree and feel that it has a place, as does the cropped DX format and medium format. They all bring something to the party and have pros and cons.

Leica M10 Firmware v2.7.5.0

The new firmware for my Leica M10 was released this month, I have been monitoring the forums over the last few weeks and I am not hearing any issues so last weekend I finally updated.

Leica M10 stitch.

Companies like Leica and Fuji have been very good at keeping up with firmware updates even older cameras which gives one confidence.

Setting a Challenge – Red

With digital cameras the colour red can be an issue. When you think of a Bayer, the four square matrix is made of you a green filtered pixel, a red filtered pixel, a blue filtered pixel and then one more green that is used to capture the luminance, information. That is why a 4 MP camera can be thought of as a 1 MP camera as only one pixel in four has the luminance information.

The red pixel though has an issue. The red filter is much darker, and lets in less light and thus is prone to underexpose. When shooting a scene with a lot of red the camera in software and the photographer tend to counter this with over exposure and often end up blowing the red channel. It looks fine on the little screen on the back of the camera but when you come to edit it there is no real detail in the red channel.

Photography for me is not my primary job, its mainly a hobby but I undertake professional commissions through the year. In order to keep things fresh I like to set a challenge every now and again.

As you can see from the lack of posts this year, my personal photography work has been pretty much at a standstill. So it was time for a challenge to get the creative juices flowing. What better then a challenge in Red!

I decided to work in a controlled environment so the location was my favourite local studio in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. I also picked one of my favourite amateur models who happens to have dramatic dyed red hair. Add to that a red background and lots of red fabric a bit of flash also pointing at the camera to try and produce a bit of artistic flare and I was on course for a shooting nightmare.