Disney is great and all, but NASA still has the best show in Florida.

_OHL9651-WebsiteA couple of weeks ago, we all set off to Orlando, Florida – to “do the parks”.   It’s a festival of queuing:  queue-fest 2016.   Queue technology is in full swing with “fast passes” and apps with queue times that will optimise your queuing.    The queuing is punctuated with 2 minutes of being thrown about or on a tour of some animated display.  It’s not my thing – but we were there for the kids – and they had a whale of a time – which is all that matters.

On Sunday though we drove out to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Centre.   When we flew into Orlando over the east coast of Florida you could clearly see the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on the flat landscape below.  Not surprising as it’s the biggest single storey building in the world.   This is where they assembled the Saturn V rockets for the Apollo programme and prepped space-shuttles for launch.  We took the tour out to the Saturn V centre (and more on that later) and our driver, Steve just happens to mention that there’s a launch on the following Thursday probably around 8:37am, and we might all like to come back for that.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , , , , , |

Lencarta Safari II Tail-Sync

A while ago, I tested my old Coreflash CF-D300 flashes with the YN622N-TX “SuperSync” (tail sync) mode and you can see the results here.   They worked well, however in order to use these on location I have to cart around a Godox LP800X battery and inverter to give me a 240 volt power supply.   The Safari’s power supply and battery is optimised for the job at hand, and is therefore much smaller – despite giving roughly the same amount of full power flashes.

I tested it out in much the same way.  The camera settings for this test are 1/2000th of a second, f/4.0 at ISO 64.  1/2000th of a second gives useful freezing power for any ambient light – say if you’re photographing a model on a beach with waves crashing on the rocks, or with fabric blowing about.  It probably won’t freeze it completely, but you will avoid those awful shadows around a moving subject where they blocked the ambient light from, say, the sky, for a part of the exposure.  Aperture and ISO:  you can of course trade these and shoot ISO 250 at f/8.  The Safari is on half power.

Here’s the results with the dialled in delay number.  Numerically, its the reverse of what it should be  (a larger delay between the light firing and the shutter firing, should result  in the rear curtain being lower in the frame, as it travels bottom to top of frame on my Nikon D810).  It’s 3.0 -X <some unit>.

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That black bar you can see is the rear or second curtain.  In normal operation and first curtain sync, the flash fires when the first curtain reaches the the fully open position (top of frame).  The shutter “speed” we set on our cameras is the time between the first curtain and the second curtain passing the same point.  So at a shutter speed of 1/2000th of second, its pretty far up the frame when the first curtain reaches the top and the flash is triggered.  Tail sync works by delaying the whole shutter operation , so the flash output is already in full swing by the time the first curtain hits the top.  With the right amount of delay, the flash is already burning before the second curtain starts it’s journey.

This does mean, of course, that its getting dimmer as the curtains get to the top of the frame.  The rate at which this fall-off occurs is a function of the flash duration.  Shorter flash durations:  steeper fall-off.  The Safari II, although a conventional voltage regulated flash, is actually quite fast.   This is great for beating back the sun within normal flash sync speeds as it gets all of its light out in a short time.  However, for tail sync, this is not so good.

However, as long as you are aware of this, you can work with it.  For example, if you are shooting a model on a beach, the flash will only affect things within range.  It has no effect on the sky anyway, so put the sky in a part of the frame that doesn’t get any flash.   For my Nikon, that simply means shooting with the camera upside down.  Now the black bar is at the top.  Alternatively, you can aim the flash at the top of the frame, so the fall of from the light pattern, compensates for the fall off of light over time (and the frame).

Posted in Equipment, Lighting

One Light

You can do so much with just one light.  One £30 YN460-II for example.  There really is no excuse for not having at least one flash 🙂

Robert Harrington gave a great presentation at the B&H theatre on getting many looks out of one light – and you can watch it here.  I thought this would make a great live demo for the camera club I belong to and worked out 10 or so looks to present within a 2 hour slot.   I ran through them in a practice session with some fellow photographers and we got it done in 1:45.  It was going to take longer on the night as I’d be waffling on about the light as we went – and hopefully, there would be questions!

Here’s my pick of the looks we did on the night with model Paris Spencer, who always does a great job on these shoots.  For all of these shots, the camera is in manual exposure at 1/160th at F/8 and ISO 64 to 640.  The flash is in manual, and when off the camera, is triggered by using the pop-up in commander mode.   The popup does not fire during the exposure, it’s just used to send data and commands to the remote SB900.

We started with the flash on the camera – left, and the first shot is direct flash.  When should you use this?  Well, probably never unless it’s a bit of fill but as a main light, it sucks.  I wanted to show just how bad flash lighting could be, so we took the mugshot, on the left.  Paris looks like she just got arrested…


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Posted in Equipment, How Its made, Lighting, Model Shoots, Workshops

The Missing Piece of the Lightblaster kit.

IMG_1879-WebsiteI love the Lightblaster, but as a Nikon shooter I don’t have any Canon EOS mount lenses lying about.  Lightblaster will sell you an EOS to F-mount adapter, but quite frankly (do I owe Frank D a fee  every time I use that phrase now? 😛 ) that thing is dangerous:  it has no release lever and you have to practically prise it off your lens.

You could try trawling eBay for old Canon lenses, but here’s the thing:  Canon changed their lens mount in the 1980’s to get AF working properly way before Nikon,  and well anybody tbh – that’s why every sports shooter IMG_1881-Websiteon the planet still shoots Canon today, but the consequence is that there are no old Canon EOS lenses  (ie old enough to be bought at junk prices).

Plus, you really need a wide aperture lens to use with the Lightblaster – or you’ll just lose most of the light.

These Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lenses are £35 – or around $50.  and they have AF!  I have no idea what the image quality is like, and I never will as I don’t own any EOS bodies, but for £35 I’m happy for it to hang off the Lightblaster, and it weighs nothing.

Go check out Lightblaster:-

In the USA:  http://www.light-blaster.com/
In the EU at Frank Doorhof’s shop:  http://www.frankdoorhof.com/store/images/lightblaster-2.html
..and in the UK at Inspired PhotoGear http://inspiredphotog.com/light-blaster/

Posted in Equipment, Lighting, Model Shoots

Low Lying Fog


I love fog.  Use it all the time.  Sometimes though, I just want it on the floor.   Theatres and movie sets have used liquid nitrogen (“dry ice”) for this for a long time.  You can also make regular fog lie on the floor by cooling it down so it becomes denser than the surrounding air.  There are a number of commercial options for doing this ranging from the £90 American DJ “Mr Kool” all the way up to liquid nitrogen foggers.   There are even more DIY solutions involving lots of plumbing, and plastic bins – all of which are huge 🙂

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Posted in Equipment, How Its made

Smoke part 2: smoking bulbs

_OHL3876-Edit-WebsiteHaving sorted the general lighting and approach to shooting some smoke, here’s the next phase in my smoke project – tungsten bulbs.   The tungsten filaments in these bulbs can glow white hot and not just burn up because the bulb is filled with an inert gas, such as Argon, Krypton or Xenon.  The so-called “noble gases”do not interact with incandescent material, and so the filament can carry on glowing at near melting point for thousands of hours.  If you turn it on in regular air however….

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Posted in Equipment, How Its made, Lighting



There are some photo ideas that have been done so much that I will probably never do them, unless I think I can build on them to produce something a little bit different.   This one has been on my photographic to-do list for some time, and I’m not done with it just yet, however I thought I’d share the journey so far.

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Posted in Equipment, How Its made, Lighting


_DSC2534-Edit-Purple-PortEmilia Gaza contacted me recently to ask if I’d be interested in shooting some dance/burlesque with her.  Her portfolio notes over on PurplePort are filled with such enthusiasm and passion for dance and to create images of it I immediately said yes! Continue reading »

Posted in Equipment, How Its made, Lighting, Model Shoots

Aperture Controls Flash

I started to write this one up as the next “photography myths” post and had planned some demo shots, however Neil Van Niekerk explained it all brilliantly on his blog here: Tangents back in 2009.   Go there now and read it!  Neil’s blog is full of great articles on using flash, and a whole boatload of other photographic technique.   Here’s the summary I wrote to introduce my post:-


The next “myth and misdirection” you will come across as a photographer learning how to use flash, especially with natural/ambient light is this phrase:-

“Shutter speed controls ambient, aperture controls flash”

Whilst you can’t deny that both of those statements are true, since when did ambient/natural light become immune to the effects of your aperture size just because you start using flash?

For manual controlled flash power within normal x-sync range of shutter speeds:-

  • Shutter speed controls ambient light
  • Aperture controls flash and ambient light
  • ISO controls flash and ambient light
  • The flash power adjustment buttons on your light, control…. flash!

For TTL automatic flash exposure systems (camera on manual, flash on TTL ) the flash exposure is constant, as long as it is within the bounds of the flash gun to supply enough light, and the camera and subject remain reasonably still in relation to each other.  Close down the aperture?  The flash puts out more light so the flash exposure is the same.  Raise the ISO?  The flashgun reduces the power so the flash exposure remains the same.  Move the light?  The flashgun adjusts and the flash exposure remains constant.  The ambient light doesn’t react to these changes in shutter speed and aperture though, so ambient light exposure continues to change as before.  Stop down the aperture?  The ambient light exposure reduces – flash exposure stays the same.



Posted in How Its made, Lighting, Photography Myths

“Longer lenses compress the scene”

Seriously.  Stop saying this.   It’s no wonder newcomers to photography get confused when so much of the “received wisdom” they hear is just not true.  Alongside “aperture controls flash, shutter speed controls ambient” this is one of the most ubiquitous fallacies still being trotted out from a variety of sources.  The converse is also untrue:  wide angle lenses do not distort (at least not because of the focal length, they may of course have defects in their design and manufacture).

“But” I hear you say “if I take a picture of someone with a wide angle, their features look all distorted, they have a big nose and their entire head looks like a football!  If I use a telephoto lens, they look much more natural.”

Well, before I tell you what’s really going on, here’s two images of my friend Gary, who bravely volunteered to have his ruggedly handsome features pulled around for the sake of science:-
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200mm 35mm

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Posted in How Its made, Photography Myths Tagged , , , , |