Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Off-camera flash on a budget

I am constantly getting asked about how to put together a speedlight (small flash) based light setup on a budget. You can get a solid two light set up for under $240 (single light for near $150). It may lack some of the bells and whistles, but it will be a reliable setup.

Before we get to my recommendations, here are a few caveats:

1. All of the items I mention are buying new. You can find some good deals on used gear on ebay or craigslist.

2. In an effort to save time, and simplify the purchasing process, all products come from two places: the Meking eBay store, and B & H Photo.

3. These are not necessarily products I use, but they are products I am familiar with. I have, over time, added to, and sold off various components of my small flash setup. For example, I started off with Cactus wireless triggers, then I found a deal on PocketWizard Plus II transceivers, and more recently settled on the JrX Studio from Radiopopper. I will probably switch again.

4. I don't use my small flash set up for every shoot I do.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yongnuo YN-465 Speedlite

I really like how the dial works.

A lot of friends ask me for advice when it comes to camera gear. I have been looking for some reasonably priced speedlights that I can recommend. After spending a small fortune on a body and lens, it is hard to fork out the $$ for stuff like flashes, memory cards, etc.

I did a little reading about Yongnuo speedlites. I thought I would give one a shot. I ordered the YN-465 from ebay for $65. This was the most affordable flash that claimed TTL AND manual controls. Note: I order the Nikon version of this flash.

While I more often use my flashes in manual mode, it is great to be able to throw a flash on top of my camera and forget about settings, by putting it into Automatic/TTL mode. 

I had high hopes for the Yongnuo YN465. My biggest concern was: does it really work in TTL mode?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nikon SB-28 Flash (speedlight) Foot Shoe repair

Got a deal on a Nikon SB-28 speedlight. I bought some photography junk, and this was in the bag. The flash works fine, but the foot was broken. The original user glued it back together. I didn't trust my new flash to another person's sketchy glue job. I decided to replace the Nikon sb-28 foot. 

The foot cost about $3.00 from nikon plus another few dollars for shipping. I see replacement parts on ebay all the time. But I really like to order from Nikon: it is usually cheaper, and I know I am getting Nikon quality parts. (I also asked about an LCD for a Coolpix point and shoot, and they quoted me $45, and ebay has the same part for $25 - go figure).

When calling, be ready to tell them what color the metal ground connectors are on the side of your foot. Apparently there are two different kinds of feet for different SB-28 designs. I wrote down the serial number from my flash, and called during lunch at work. The serial number wouldn't do it, I had to know the color of the metal on sides of the foot (silver vs. bronze?). For information on the phone numbers and address, check the comments in my SB-600 post. I called the same place.

The shoe arrived yesterday, and today I swapped out the old for the new. If you have a small phillips screwdriver you can probably do it in 15 minutes. Here it is:

(Click to read the steps and see the pictures after the jump).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Coco Ring Flash Adapter: Ray Flash knock-off.

I wanted a ring flash. I like David Hobby's recent use of the Orbis Ring Flash as a fill flash. However, I am not a full time photographer, and don't have unlimited funds, so I decided to check out the Coco Ring Flash Adapter (sorry Hobby. I hate shopping at Wal-Mart too, but I can't afford not to).

Here is my unscientific review of the Coco Ring Flash.

Get more pictures and the whole review after the jump...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A guy, his family, and a Honda Odyssey

Friday was the deadline to enter a photograph in a local art show/competition. I found a couple of photos that I had taken during the last year that I would probably enter. But, I wanted to use the festival to challenge me to set up a shot I hadn't taken before. I have a bunch of ideas of images I want to shoot. This was the first of those photos to go from abstract idea to actual photo.

My aunt who is studying photography took some awesome portraits of her family and friends. She did a great job of capturing people in their elements. She turned me on to some images taken by Tina Barney. I am not necessarily a fan of all of Barney's images, but I like what she is trying to do with her photos. I hope my aunt posts her shots because they are on a whole other level. I tried to channel a little Tina Barney and A. Livingstone in the creation of my image.

I wanted to photograph people in their element; take a shot that told a story. I am not sure that I did that, but I think the photo is at least fun to look at.

I am going to save the set up and technical elements about the photograph for a later blog post. I took a few shots of the set up, and will post those too. Except for a little desaturation, this is pretty close to how the image came out of the camera.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nikon D70 DSLR Flash Fix

I picked up a couple of Nikon D70 bodies on craigslist this week. I got them home and found out the built-in flash wouldn’t fire. I was pretty frustrated by the situation. The D70 can remotely fire a Nikon flash with CLS, but not if the flash doesn’t work. The seller who sold me the cameras didn’t know that the flashes didn’t work. Really, I have no reason not to believe her.

After surfing the web, I found that there is a group of D70 users who have had their built-in flashes go out. I read over at about a guy named Tony Evans who fixed his flash. As a result, I don’t take credit for discovering this fix, but I tried to document my fix.

Sold my macro lens. These are the best picts I’ve got.

1: Remove the screws that hold on the cover of the built in flash (pic 1). Note that the screws actually screw in/out at an angle (pic 1 b).

See the rest after the jump.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

DIY Radiopoppers RPcube

While I love the Nikon CLS system, I find that it can be problematic at times. The flashes aren't always able to "see" each other. I decided to go with radio triggers. I started with gadget infinity triggers; then I graduated to pocketwizards. However, when Radiopoppers announced their JrX line of triggers and receivers and the potential to adjust the level of flash output, I decided to give them a try. Unfortunately, the JrXs require the not yet released "RP Cube" to adjust the flash output. With how long it takes Radiopoppers to release their products, I chose not to hold by breath.

I decided to build my own RP Cube.

I ordered a couple of Nikon AS-900 cords from BH Photo. The cost around $10 each. I chose these cords because I have an SB-800, SB-600, and an older Vivitar flash that supports (maybe) Nikon TTL (an older version). As a result, I cut it, and used the hot shoe for the SB-600, and the female three prong side for the SB-800.

It is pretty cool to wirelessly control the power of my strobes. Another reason I went with the radiopoppers is that the ability to control my alienbees is built into the JrXs without modification. Here are some non-scientfic shots of me wirelessly adjusting the flash in my kitchen. Note that there are two flashes in the picture. However, the SB-800 is turned off and is not firing. These images include just the SB-600 firing from the DIY RPcube hot shoe.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Downtown Phoenix at Night

This is downtown Phoenix at on Friday night. This is Phoenix City Hall. This shot was taken close to midnight. Pirates had just downed the Diamondbacks. Regardless, there were fireworks above the ballpark. Have a few more shots from that evening over at my smugmug HDR gallery.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Read Hot Shoe Diaries and other cool books online

UPDATE: Scott Kelby's latest book: The Digital Photography Book, Vol. 3 is up at Safari Online. Hey it just came out - that was fast.

Okay, so only four people "read" my blog. My wife, my aunt, and... I read it. Okay, so only three people "read" my blog. Maybe it will catch on before 2039.

Read more after the jump...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wedding Shoot

Summer has gotten busy! My cousin was married last week. She asked me to help take wedding photos. I really enjoyed it. I worked my butt off. We got some great shots. More photos can be viewed from my smugmug galleries (link on the upper right hand area of this blog page). I am still in the process of reviewing and uploading reception shots. Image shot at 1/20 s, f/2.5, ISO 500, Nikon D90 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens (I borrowed the lens from my friend Matt). I had two Nikon SB-600s mounted to a monopod, and shot through an umbrella. I was firing the strobes using commander mode on the D90. However, I was manually controlling the flash power, and don't remember the exact flash setting.