Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lighting meetup in January

In January, I held a meetup on lighting.   It wasn't a class or a workshop, but a chance for people to get together, exchange ideas and to test some things in a home studio.  A few models were kind enough to volunteer their time.  Keith and Reneicia (MM# 2622670).

We had people from a  number of different experience levels and had a lot of good conversation.

Here are a few shots from the session:

Lots of great interaction and collaboration.  I recommend everyone to seek out local photography groups and participate in something similar.

Post any comments below that you have about the first two images(the last image is just to give an idea of the space).   Feedback is always welcome.

I'm planning another meetup onMarch 21st, 2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Looking through some old film I had......

I was looking through some old film photos and came across a series of photos I took on 9/11.  I could see the towers burning from my apartment.  However, I grabbed my Nikon N80 camera and headed to the roof a floor above me to join some others from the building.  I only had 5 or 6 shots left on my camera and didn't have any extra film.  The series shows the World Trade Center towers burning. It was a surreal experience for everyone, as tragically, thousands of innocent people died that day.  At the time, taking this picture from my roof, my fear was that 10x more people than what came out in the official count had died (I am thankful I was wrong), most likely attributed to the fact that this occurred relatively early in the morning.   My sympathy goes out to all those that did lose loved ones.

I am not going to write about the days or years after, as many more eloquent that I am have already done so.  Taking this photo and being there to experience the aftermath of that day gave me a tremendous amount of respect for photojournalists (more than I already had for them).  Its something I am not sure I could do day in and day out.

The photo above was scanned using my old Nikon CoolScan IV using VueScan software.  It was nice to see that it still works.  I will need to continue to work with it to learn how to get the most out of it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Yongnuo products to be offered at B&H Photo Video soon

Flashhavoc reported today that B&H was going to start to carry Yongnuo products: Flash Havoc Announcement

If you put "Yongnuo" into the search box on the B&H site, you'll get the following results:

It one of my favorite and trusted retailers, so I'm excited that they will finally be carrying them.  So if you need any TN-622N transceivers or YN-622N-TX controllers, head on over to B&H.

On a side note, I also noticed that B&H has started to carry the Godox 360 manual flash, rebranding it  under the Bolt brand.  This is the same light sold my Cheetahstand as the Cheetahlight CL-360 that I have written about in the past (I still like Chetahstand for their customer service, but having multiple choices is also a good thing).

Happy Shooting!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

HSS with the Cheetahlight CL-360 and Yongnuo YN622Ns

Several people have asked about High Speed Sync (also known as FP for Nikons).  High Speed Sync allows you to set a sync speed (and shutter speed) above your camera's regular maximum sync speed (which usually ranges somewhere between 1/60th sec to 1/250th sec depending on camera model).

The reasons for wanting to set a high sync speed aren't as intuitive as you would think.  Some people think they need a high speed sync to freeze action.  That usually isn't the case.  That is because the short duration of the flash (ranging from 1/1000 to1/10,000 sec) is usually sufficient to freeze action, at least where the flash is the main source of light.

So why would you need a high sync speed?  There are several 'use cases', but probably the most common is the desire to open up your aperture for shallow depth of field when using your flash outdoors during the day.  In those cases, in order to get to f4 or to say an f2.8, you usually have to set your shutter speed well above 1/250th of a second.

You have two choices in that case, use HSS to allow your sync and shutter speed to go above 1/250th sec, OR you could instead use a neutral density filter to bring down the ambient light so your shutter speed will be at your sync speed limit or less.  The issues with using neutral density filters are that it decreases the light your camera gets for focusing, and if using a really powerful neutral density filter, you can introduce a color cast into the image (as most are not 100% neutral).  So instead of carrying around neutral density filters, you can also use HSS to get your shutter speed up so you can use the aperture that you want.

One other use case, is if you are freezing action AND want to mix flash with ambient light.  When doing that, even though the flash freezes the action for the part of the exposure done by the flash, a long shutter speed with the ambient light could introduce some ghosting.  In those cases, you might want to use HSS to get your shutter speed up for freezing the ambient light action.

In this video, I show how to set up HSS on the Cheetahlight CL-360, the Cheetahstand CL-TX Trigger (used for remote power control of the CL-360) and my Yongnuo YN622Ns:

There are several possible set ups, some that work better than the others, and I walk through those in this video.  The CL-TX Trigger (also known as the ft16) does not directly support HSS (most of the image gets darkened by the shutter creeping into the exposure as seen in the image below),

so although you can still use that trigger to remotely control power, a different triggering system needs to be used to support HSS.  That is where the Yongnuo YN622N system (including the YN622N-TX) comes into play.

The YN-622N can recognize when your camera is set to FP mode, and automatically controls the HSS communication to the Flashes it controls.  In this case, the CL-360 has to manually be placed in HSS mode, but once that is done, it understands the communiction coming from the camera and the YN622N to properly control the flash so that you don't see the shutter mechanism in the image.

The CL-360 can also simulate HSS support in its normal mode at full power (1:1).  In this mode, the flash duration is long enough that it stays illuminated for the entire travel of the shutter so you get a properly exposed frame.  The interesting thing is, this method gives just a little more power for your exposure than using the HSS mode in full power.  I show that in the video, but also in the images below:

All three of the images below are shot at 1/8000 of a second and the CL-360 set at full power (1:1).  The first one is shot at f5.6 with the CL-360 set to 'on' on the flash.  The second one has HSS turned 'off' and is still at f5.6.  The third is with HSS  turned 'off with the aperture set to f6.3.

1) Shutter Speed 1/8000; Aperture f5.6; HSS set to 'on'

2) Shutter Speed 1/8000; Aperture f5.6; HSS set to 'off'

3) Shutter Speed 1/8000; Aperture f6.3; HSS set to 'off'

If you have any questions or comments, please post those in the comments section and I will try to respond.  Try HSS with your system and let me know how it works out.  In the meantime, Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Updated pricing on the Cheetahlight CL-360

For those of you who have read or viewed my overview of the Cheetahlight CL-360, sometime over the past month it received a significant price decrease at (something like a savings of $175 over the CL-360 combo I bought in the Spring that came with the battery pack and trigger).

So if you have been holding off on getting one due to the price, you may want to take another look.

Happy Shooting!

PS: I have no affiliation with Cheetahstand other than the fact that I have bought several of their products.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yongnuo YN-622N-TX Firmware Upgrade Example

When I posted my earlier videos on the 622N and 622N-TX, one of the requests from a user on was to post a similar step-by-step video on upgrading the firmware on the 622N-TX. I have finally gotten around to it and posted it below.

Nikon version that is covered in this video:

Although I have not tried it myself, it appears from the manual that the process for the Canon 622C-TX is similar to the process for the 622N-TX, so for you Canon owners, here is the link to the 622C-TX page:

Please post any questions you have below, or in the video comments section, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Happy Shooting!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cheetahstand Cheetahlight CL-360

I recently purchased a Cheetahstand Cheetahlight CL-360.  This is a powerful (300 ws) flash in the form of a speed light, with several differences to a standard speed light:
1) It Powerful. At 300ws it is 4 to 6 times as powerful as most standard speed lights.
2) Its a bare bulb flash, so it has a different light spread than a standard speed light, that has a very directional fresnel lens.
3) It does not have an internal power source.  It does not hold its own batteries, so you have to supply it with an external power source through the external power port.

I've created a video that provides an overview of the CL-360 that you can view below:

Unfortunately I have a light artifact at the top of the screen impacting the grey background.  I'll have to fix that next time, as its distracting.

Anyway, overall I am quite impressed with this flash.  As stated in the video, its a manual flash, it has a flash foot as well as two different sync inputs for external triggers or to attach to your camera (a pc sync port and a 3.5mm port).

It supports 5 different firing modes:

  1. Manual - supports full power (1:1) all the way down to 1/128th power.  That is 8 stops.  You can also set it in 1/3 stop increments in between any of those 8 stop settings.  This works for all the standard sync speeds your camera supports (generally up to 1/250th of a second)
  2. S1 Mode - this is basically a standard optical slave mode.  It fires when it sees the flash of the master flash.
  3. S2 Mode - this builds off of S1, by ignoring the first single flash it sees.  This is normally the TTL pre flash from many manufacturers flashes, so it tries to play nice in environments like Nikon's CLS, allowing you to optically trigger it.
  4. RPT Mode - This allows you to fire off a set number of flashes in one exposure, giving a stroboscopic effect.
  5. High Speed Sync Mode - This mode is used for sync speeds above your camera's standard sync speed, and allows you to sync up to 1/8000 sec.  In this mode, you have reduced power, and the range of the flash reduces to 1:1 to 1:8 (instead of down to 1:128).    You have to have a flash trigger that supports HSS.  The Cheetahlight CL-TX does not directly support HSS.  For Canon, the Cheetahlight Cells 2 trigger supports HSS.  Unfortunately, Cheetahstand does not sell a Nikon version of the Cells 2.  

However, there is hope.  Triggers such as the Yongnuo YN-622N DO support HSS and so if you use it with this flash, you can take advantage of the High Speed Trigger mode.  Here is an image of the flash when using it with the Yongnuo 622N:

Cheetahlight CL-360 with Yongnuo YN-622N
You'll notice that I still have the CL-TX's receiver still attached to the CL-360.  With the setup above, I can still control the power levels of the CL-360 remotely with the CL-TX, and then actually fire the flash with the Yongnuo.   Unfortunately the CL-TX does not support toggling the High Speed Sync mode, so to go in and out of that mode still requires a physical touch on the flash.

I'm impressed that it is compatible with FP/HSS on Nikon Cameras (if using a compatible trigger).  I originally thought that would only be supported on Canon's, so was pleasantly surprised to see it work with my Nikon D300 (I have also tested it with a D600).

Here is shot of the back of the flash control panel without and with High Speed Sync engaged:

You engage it by pressing the 'Mode' and 'Set' buttons at the same time.  The other mode's can be engaged by simply pressing the 'Mode' button.  Power levels are set by using the scroll wheel.  'Buzz' toggles the beep for when the flash is recycled, and the 'MF' toggles the focus assist functionality.

In the video, I show the following image as an example of the extra power that can be achieved by the CL-360 vs. the SB910.

Some extra detail on this.  I would have added another 1/2 to full stop to it to get the exposure I wanted, but unfortunately the SB910 topped out at full power before I could get there, and I didn't want to change my camera settings.  But this does show you the 2 stop difference between the two.  Both of these shots were taken in a 43" Octabox with an internal baffle as well as an external diffuser, and with equal distance from the subject.  The SB910 had the 14mm diffuser flipped down on it to help get as good of a light spread as possible.

Conceptually, I could have removed the internal baffle of the Octabox when using the CL-360 in order to regain the 1/2 to 1 stop that eats up from the flash.  The  reason for that is that the CL-360 is a bare bulb flash so has a better light spread inside of the softbox than a speed light has with its fresnel lens (which is why you need the internal baffle for the speed lights.  However, I kept the internal baffle on for the CL-360 so that it could be an apples to apples comparison.

I also did a comparison of the two flashes in HSS mode:

The way I compared here was a bit different.  Here I used the CL-360 in SuperSync mode using the YongNuo 622N.  The Yongnuo SuperSync mode allows you to use the long duration of a flash at full power to get HSS like functionality out of it.   With that set up, I was able to get over 3 stops over the SB910 (which was firing in its normal FP high speed sync mode).  If I would have used the native High Speed Sync mode of the CL360, I probably would have lost somewhere between a 1/3 of the stop to 2/3 of a stop, so the overall difference between the two flashes would have been closer to 3 stops.

The thing I found interesting about this test was the color variation in the flashes.  I did not expect it to be that great, but the CL-360 is clearly cooler than the SB910 when comparing these two photos.  I have not done any additional testing to confirm the results shown from a white balance perspective, but something I may look at a little closer in future posts.

One thing I forgot to mention about the Cheetahstand Lithium 4500 battery pack is that it comes with that shoulder strap that I had attached to it.  It's a nice little extra.

Overall I am very happy with my purchase.  I wish it came with a hard carrying case like the Xenrgizer RS600P, but that is a minor quibble for such a good flash.

I'm working on additional materials for this page regarding the CL-360, as well as its FP/HSS capabilities on Nikons, and will be posting those updates over the next few days/weeks, so come back to see those.

By the way, for a detailed article on the Cheetahlight CL-180/360, you can visit FlashHavoc

Thank you, and Happy Shooting!