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Robert O'Toole
05-22-2008, 05:16 PM
This series will illustrate what a balanced macro flash output looks like and how it will effect the background. The goal is how to make your image look as pleasing and as natural as possible without looking obviously flashed.

This first image is one made in bright overcast conditions, handheld, with only natural light and no flash. This image will serve as the standard for the flash images since it is all natural.

The histogram shows a lot of contrast with the whites and the shadow areas are at the extreme ends. The large peak in the center is the green background.

NIKON D300 and APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX
1/125 @ F8 Manual Mode Flash off
All of the images in the series were made at ISO: 800

Notes: I use manual flash for this series but you can get similar results with flash exposure compensation or any number of ways. There is no single correct way to make a good image.

Although this image looks acceptably sharp this would not really be usable for handholding with any type of moving subject such as an insect since the shutter speed is just too low to prevent any small movement from bluring the image.

Robert O'Toole
05-22-2008, 05:17 PM
This image was taken with the flash in auto TTL mode. In TTL the flash is supplying enough light to expose the subject properly at F18. The problem here is that the flash output is so strong and the background is so distant that the background is 2 or more stops underexposed. The result looks very unatural and is obviously flashed, compared to the first image there is nothing natural looking about it. This image really looks like it could have been made in the middle of the night or in someone's basement studio.

Looking at the histogram you can see that the whites are exposed okay but the background tones are all clipped at left edge. This serious underexposure will introduce a lot of noise.

NIKON D300 and APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX and Nikon SB-R200 Flash
1/250 sec @ F18 Manual Mode, TTL flash

Robert O'Toole
05-22-2008, 05:17 PM
This image was made by setting the aperture the same as the first image and placing the SB-R200 flash in manual mode on a 1/8th power setting. The flash will fill in any shadows and since the aperture is the same, the background will look virtually identical to the natural light image. At 1/8 power the flash output is about 1/1000th freezing any movement and making handholding possible.

This histogram shows that all the tones in this image are well controlled and none are clipping.

NIKON D300 and APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX and Nikon SB-R200 Flash
1/320 sec @ F8 Manual Mode, Manual Flash @ 1/8 power

Hopefully these examples will make more people aware of background control and motivate some to go out in the field to try it.

Please post any questions or comments.

Please dont waste bandwidth with "hey I like black backgrounds, I think they look great". This thread doesnt really have anything to do with BG preferences so start a new thread about black backgrounds if you really want to talk about that topic :)

Roman Kurywczak
05-22-2008, 09:45 PM
Hey Robert,
Very nice examples! I hope others come to check this out. This clearly demonstrates the trade -offs we make when we go to the high f-stops.........and clearly represents that there are alternatives to the black BG's............with a little work!
Hope others chime in!

Robert O'Toole
05-22-2008, 09:58 PM
Thanks Roman!

I hope others chime in also....no questions or comments anyone?

Robert

John Cooper
05-23-2008, 04:48 AM
Good examples Robert - something I picked up on shortly after getting serious about photography some 20 years ago. I detested that obvious flash look and dark to black BG's - so much so that I employed natural light for over 95% of images. On the over hand, however, flash can be very useful if not essential on occacions and it was John Shaw's very popular book on Close-ups that I first learned to balance flash with natural light.

This demonstration should be very helpful for the novice photographer.

Robert O'Toole
05-23-2008, 08:54 AM
Thanks John
I agree, flash can really be essential sometimes, and I agree about J Shaw of course. It was a real pleasure to meet John a couple of years ago and even better it was a dream to be able to shoot with him a couple of times in CA and FL. Not only is he a great photographer but he is a really generous, kind and has a good sense of humor also.

Robert

Blake Shadle
05-23-2008, 09:27 AM
Really nice work, Robert. Thanks for taking the time to give a great demo! No questions, just reading and thinking!

Fabs Forns
05-24-2008, 09:50 AM
Great tutorial, Robert, excellent idea to post and share. I'm sure the members appreciate as well as we did :)

Alfred Forns
05-24-2008, 09:59 AM
Thanks Robert !!!! Excellent tutorial and very well presented !!!!!

adcolon
05-25-2008, 04:30 AM
Robert.....a couple of questions.

1. Is this example predicated on the fact that there should be enough light available to "light" the background ? I ask because many of my photos are taken in places with heavy shadows where the shutter speed would usually be too low (less than 1/100 sec) for a moving insect if taken in manual mode and anything less than f/11 is usually too limiting in DOF unless the insect is parallel to the camera, which in my experience is not too often in the field.

2. Is the problem mainly caused by using TTL instead of manual mode in the flash ? I always use TTL, and get black backgrounds, unless the sun is shinning and I use a high ISO and low shutter speed. And, if I am in shadows, it is always a black background unless, if possible without disturbing the insect, which will cause it to dissapear, I place a big leaf very close to the subject sort of as a backgroud dropcloth.

Robert O'Toole
05-25-2008, 12:36 PM
1. Is this example predicated on the fact that there should be enough light available to "light" the background ?
I ask because many of my photos are taken in places with heavy shadows where the shutter speed would usually be too low (less than 1/100 sec) for a moving insect if taken in manual mode

When photography under a forest canopy (real rain forest) light levels can be very low and this can make things difficult.
You can use 1/15th to 1/60th no problem. Subject movement should not be a problem since the flash will stop the action as the flash output is less than 1/1000th of a second. So the slow shutter speed is actually less of a problem with low light. Under conditions of moderate light a slow shutter speed, 1/15-1/60th will give you ghosting from the ambient exposure so high shutter speeds, 1/200-1/500 are required. But under the low light of the forest, ghosting problem is almost never a problem.


anything less than f/11 is usually too limiting in DOF unless the insect is parallel to the camera, which in my experience is not too often in the field.

If I am trying for closeups under low light I usually try to frame subjects at a downwards angle of a 45 deg angle so that the flash will fall on something right behind the subject. In these cases I use F16 and around 1/30th or so and try for tight closeups like head shots or similar. Something like a profile image, unless there is something directly behind the subject, will be very difficult without a second flash to light the forest BG.

The aperture really is what balances the BG tones. I really like to use medium apertures to get a good balance of smooth BGs and DOF. It makes the job much easier. You can use more moderate apertures and get balanced BGs but it is a lot more tricky.




2. Is the problem mainly caused by using TTL instead of manual mode in the flash ? I always use TTL, and get black backgrounds, unless the sun is shinning and I use a high ISO and low shutter speed.

Yes TTL can be problematic because the camera will usually use the flash as the main light with the slow shutter speeds. This will cause the flash output to be too strong. If you set the exposure up in manual mode for the ambient then use TTL, the flash the output should be much more balanced and natural looking. I try to avoid TTL and use manual settings for more consistency. You can set it and almost forget it.




And, if I am in shadows, it is always a black background unless, if possible without disturbing the insect, which will cause it to dissapear, I place a big leaf very close to the subject sort of as a backgroud dropcloth.

The best solution to this would be to use a tripod and set up a slow shutter speed but if this was not possible, you would need to use handholding. With handholding you would have to work at the angles to get some type of BG for the flash to light or to use a second flash for the background.

Hope this imformation is helpful.

Robert

Harold Davis
05-25-2008, 03:59 PM
hey, robert!!! awesome info and thanks for taking the time to share this. my question is, when doing the macro work do you constantly have the flash set at 1/8th power or does it vary to certain degrees depending on how close or far you are from the subject?

thanks again

Robert O'Toole
05-25-2008, 09:30 PM
hey, robert!!! awesome info and thanks for taking the time to share this. my question is, when doing the macro work do you constantly have the flash set at 1/8th power or does it vary to certain degrees depending on how close or far you are from the subject?

thanks again

Good question Harold!

If I add a tube or an teleconvertor I up the power from 1/8 - 1/4 or so in 3rd steps. I rarely if ever need to go to full power.

The little Nikon SB-R200s are amazing. They guide number is only 33 but I never have to use full power and I use a diffuser! To think I used to use a 580EX with a diffuser for macro, what a nightmare. The little SB-R200s are only 4 oz and is wireless!

Robert

Robert O'Toole
05-25-2008, 09:39 PM
I missed the second half of the question, sorry.

Once the flash power SS and F-stop are all set up, you can shoot for hours since the flash output is stronger than soft sunlight ( I dont shoot in full sun) so the sun is really only fill and to light the BG. The aperture might need to be stopped down if the subject is very light, reflective or white.

As you focus closer or farther the ratio stays the same ( I think due to extension and focal length) to a certain point (you cant expect the little close up flash to light a subject 10 feet away). So from 1:1 to 1:2 or 1:3 and exposure stays constant.

Robert

adcolon
05-26-2008, 04:12 AM
Thanks for your answers Robert. I started trying out the manual and after using TTL it takes getting used to in order to get the right amount of light. I find I have to check the histogram or the photo after each shot to make sure the light does not overpower the subject. But I am getting more background and even better colors. TTL gives the photos a yellowish tint, which is not there using manual flash mode. Thanks again.

Juan AragonÚs
05-26-2008, 12:58 PM
Robert thanks a lot for posting this excelent tutorial! I hate flashes but after reading this tread I am beginnig to love :)
Threads like this one make this site really great!

Charles Glatzer
05-26-2008, 08:36 PM
Hello Robert,

I know you know this...

And, Super tutorial.

Each image has varying f/stops and shutter-speeds. I think it would be even better for comparative illustration purposes to maintain the same f/stop for both the ambient only and flash illustrations...thereafter, demonstrating how you can independently lighten or darken the background by varying the shutter-speed.

Respectfully,

Chas

Robert O'Toole
05-26-2008, 08:52 PM
Hey Chas,

Thanks for the idea! Now where were you when I made the example images! :)

I didnt event think about your idea since I usually vary the aperture instead of shutter speed since I have so many problems with ghosting (not as a creative element!) I keep the SS on the high side, 1/250-1/320.

Maybe I will add a SS series later, it is a good idea.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts Chas!!

Robert

Charles Glatzer
05-26-2008, 08:59 PM
Hey Robert,

Flash and f/stop are linked together...change one of these variables and you have to change the other ie; cut down the flash pwr in manual mode and you will have to open the f/stop or bring the flash closer to the subject. Shutter-speed is independent. Think of flash and ambient as two separate entities. Ghosting occurs when the flash and ambient exposures are close. Moreover, high-speed syn ( above 1/250) reduces the flash pwr, making it necessary to increase the flash output or move the unit closer to the subject to maintain the same f/stop.

Best Amigo,

Chas

Robert O'Toole
05-26-2008, 10:36 PM
Hey Robert,

Flash and f/stop are linked together...change one of these variables and you have to change the other ie; cut down the flash pwr in manual mode and you will have to open the f/stop or bring the flash closer to the subject.

Agreed and ISO is another variable in regards to exposure and flash.



Shutter-speed is independent. Think of flash and ambient as two separate entities.

I think of shutter speed as being independent since the flash output and short duration (1/1000 to 1/8000th) usually has the greatest effect on the subject. Shutter speed does have an effect if the the ambient exposure is close enough to the flash exposure to cause ghosting.


Ghosting occurs when the flash and ambient exposures are close.

Yes, I find that in high light levels with medium apertures anything less than 1/200th or so will give you ghosting with macro photography. Sometimes this just shows up as a haze or smearing.


Moreover, high-speed syn ( above 1/250) reduces the flash pwr, making it necessary to increase the flash output or move the unit closer to the subject to maintain the same f/stop.


Yes agree once again. Flash output or reach is reduced in FP/HSS. Reach or output is usually not a problem with Macro flash since you are usually shooting at low power but I see your point if you are moving into FP/HSS speed territory.

Dont forget some DSLRs like the old Canon 1D and the Nikon D70 (there are others) sync up to 1/500. Also there are ways to get strobes to sync up to 1/1000th with normal use and full output (with the proper trigger method).

Thanks,

Robert

Steve Maxson
05-27-2008, 08:53 PM
Hi Robert. Thanks for posting this thread. I struggle with flash. I need to spend some time studying this discussion - and then head outside and try these techniques.

Robert O'Toole
05-28-2008, 08:22 AM
Good to hear Steve, if you need any advice or have any questions, just post/PM/email me anytime.

Robert

Ed Cordes
06-03-2008, 09:35 PM
Robert, excellent tutorial. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more and more about technique here. I will study the thread closely over the next week or so, but so far I have learned a lot.

Grady Weed
06-06-2008, 11:18 AM
I too struggle with flash, how much, etc.....My brain hurts just reading this thread.

Kent Wilson
06-12-2008, 10:28 PM
Thanks Robert. I'm going to have to work on this. ut it'll be fun work!

Jonathan Michael Ashton
06-13-2008, 04:21 AM
Robert I am very interested in this thread. I use a 550 EX Gun and a Stofen Omnibounce. I used to set aperture and shutter speed manually to about 1/60 and f16 for insect photography and let the flash do the rest. when i went digital I started trying to use ambient light as much as possible using flash more as fill in.
Currently I set the 550 ex to High speed sync and at -1 stop, I generally set the camera to ISO 200 and in AV mode to about f11 through to f16 depending upon subject and brightness of day. My latest post in the macro forum is an example. Can you suggest how else I may use the gun to ensure consistently sharp images or improve upon the natural lighting effect. I am not sure if I can set the gun to 1/8th power.
Jon

Robert O'Toole
06-15-2008, 07:58 AM
Hi Jon,

Sounds like you are on the right track. Diffusing the flash is good, I would recommend placing the flash as close to possible to the subject, right near the end of the lens. The closer the flash is to the subject the softer the light and the less power you need.
Also try manual flash, and experiment with different settings. -1 and AV will work okay too but manual will give you fine control over the output to give you the exact amount of light and in effect the image look that you are looking for.

Robert

Jonathan Michael Ashton
06-16-2008, 01:53 AM
Thanks Robert I will have another go today. At first you surpised me when you say put the flash as close as possible to the subject - the inverse square law dictates more fall out, but your method is not primarily of course for lighting it is merely to stop movement. The shutter speed and aperture will of course take care of the ambient light. ..........I will post any success!!
Jon

Jonathan Michael Ashton
06-19-2008, 10:40 AM
Robert I have been doing a little more macro with flash photography. I have had some good results with flash at 1/8 power and the camera in AV mode (Canon 20D & 100mm macro lens).
I have noticed however that many shots come out underexposed if the ambient light is not bright. The other thing I have noticed is that all my shots have a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. This is the sync speed on the camera and yet I set AV fully expecting the shutter speed to be in the region of 1/60 to 1/25 sec - obviously varying with aperture and ambient light.. When I use AV mode and the flash gun on high speed flash at -1 stop I note the shutter speed varies with the ambient light. The problem of course is most noticeable when the background if further away or when in shade
Given that I want natural lighting I am wondering why the manual flash setting is dictating the shutter speed. Perhaps I should set the camera to manual say 1/125 at for example f11 and try the flash again on manual at 1/8 power.
The AV mode with auto flash at -1 was working but I appreciate that you are more likely to get a stadardised burst of flash in manual mode.
Do you or anyone else have any comments please or have you had a similar experience?
Jon

Robert O'Toole
06-19-2008, 09:46 PM
Robert I have been doing a little more macro with flash photography. I have had some good results with flash at 1/8 power and the camera in AV mode (Canon 20D & 100mm macro lens).
I have noticed however that many shots come out underexposed if the ambient light is not bright.

Canon flash use auto fill reduction, sort of like auto flash comp. Try setting CF 14.1 to disable auto fill-in flash reduction. This may help.



The other thing I have noticed is that all my shots have a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. This is the sync speed on the camera and yet I set AV fully expecting the shutter speed to be in the region of 1/60 to 1/25 sec - obviously varying with aperture and ambient light.. When I use AV mode and the flash gun on high speed flash at -1 stop I note the shutter speed varies with the ambient light. The problem of course is most noticeable when the background if further away or when in shade
Given that I want natural lighting I am wondering why the manual flash setting is dictating the shutter speed. Perhaps I should set the camera to manual say 1/125 at for example f11 and try the flash again on manual at 1/8 power.
The AV mode with auto flash at -1 was working but I appreciate that you are more likely to get a stadardised burst of flash in manual mode.
Do you or anyone else have any comments please or have you had a similar experience?


Sounds like the 1/250 SS is a limit and not a setting. The camera body is limiting your SS since it is not in H speed sync mode maybe.
I prefer to use manual mode with flash for more consistent results. Remember with Canon based on ambient levels and SS the camera will go from balanced fill flash to flash as main light.

Hope this helps :)

Robert

Bruce Enns
06-20-2008, 12:28 AM
Jon, If I'm reading your message right, it sounds like you have the C.Fn I - 7 (custom function for flash sync speed in AV mode) set to 1/250th (fixed). (That is the custom function number on my 40D anyway, your 20D may be different)..you'll need to set it to Auto so that the camera will set the shutter speed for your chosen aperture based on a correct exposure.


P.S. Great thread Robert, thanks for posting it and answering questions...I have lots to learn about macro flash and this helps a lot.

Cheers!
Bruce

Jonathan Michael Ashton
06-20-2008, 04:55 AM
Thanks Robert & Bruce, Custon Function 14 is probably for the EOS 1, the 20D doesn't appear to have such a setting. The flash sync in AV mode was set to Auto - honest!
I will try a few shots with every thing . i.e. camera and flash on manual.
Jon

Judy Lynn Malloch
06-25-2008, 08:08 PM
Many thanks Robert for all the info. There is so much to learn and I appreciate your time and efforts .

Maxis Gamez
07-02-2008, 08:24 PM
Very cool Robert!

Rene A
07-03-2008, 12:58 PM
would this help for for macro???

Canon MR-24EX Macro Ring Lite



with a macro 100 2.8 lens???

Jonathan Michael Ashton
07-14-2008, 04:59 PM
would this help for for macro???

Canon MR-24EX Macro Ring Lite



with a macro 100 2.8 lens???

I a not too sure if that ring light is for non digital cameras, and the digital cameras now use a twin flash unit. If you already have a conventional gun I would recommend using that with a diffuser, it gives great natural looking results.
Jon

Anita Rakestraw
08-20-2008, 03:18 PM
Thanks for all the info here! I have recently gone from not knowing anything about using my flash unit except how to turn it on (!!) to finally learning what the settings are/do, how to figure power level, etc. I have huge amounts of learning to do to know how to successfully use flash and this tutorial will be very helpful!

Jason Kinsey
09-10-2008, 11:57 PM
Robert, thanks for this educational post. Are you using multiple SB R200s or a single unit???

Robert O'Toole
09-18-2008, 10:55 AM
Hey Jason,

Thanks!
I use a single diffused SBR200.
I run the single for a few reasons:
-Dont like more than one catchlight.
-I am using the flash in manual on low power as it is so I dont have a need for more power right now.
-Dont need the extra bulk, its hard enough with one flash hanging on branchs and twigs all the time as is.
-I like the single light effect, its your basic 45 Deg high front lighting. more than one light looks really flat, I am not a ring light fan.

Robert

Jay Gould
04-03-2009, 05:15 AM
Robert, your concern about using two flash units creating a flat appearance; do you believe using a twin with diffusers like the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX would cause the flat appearance? The output of each lite is independent and the lights can be removed for repositioning.

Robert O'Toole
04-04-2009, 06:48 PM
How ya goin' Jay



Robert, your concern about using two flash units creating a flat appearance; do you believe using a twin with diffusers like the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX would cause the flat appearance? The output of each lite is independent and the lights can be removed for repositioning.






With a twin light if you use both lights to hit the subject you will have the problem of ugly twin highlights/catch-lights and very flat light.
I would use one light with a diffuser and you could either leave the other off or use it turned down as fill or better yet you could use the second light to fill in around the subject.

With a single SB-R200 (Nikon) I use sunlight or ambient as fill and flash as my main source.

Either way dont use the twin light on Auto unless you want your images to look like they were taken in the middle of the light. With Macro photography less is usually more in regards to lighting.

Robert

Jay Gould
04-04-2009, 07:46 PM
Thanks Robert, in discussing this with pros at workshops, one of the things we have discussed is using one light with a diffuser as the main light and using a second flash as a slave bounced off of a reflector card/ surface. With the twin lights since you can control the power output of each light independently, couldn't use use one pointed at the subject and one pointed towards a card to bounce the light from above, below, behind or from the side? Would that approach eliminate the flatness/catch lights problem?

Robert O'Toole
04-04-2009, 08:25 PM
Thanks Robert, in discussing this with pros at workshops, one of the things we have discussed is using one light with a diffuser as the main light and using a second flash as a slave bounced off of a reflector card/ surface. With the twin lights since you can control the power output of each light independently, couldn't use use one pointed at the subject and one pointed towards a card to bounce the light from above, below, behind or from the side? Would that approach eliminate the flatness/catch lights problem?

Yes that set up could work as you suggest no doubt. Really the best set up would depend on your demands and more importantly what equipment you own.

Over the last 20 years and I went through many different levels of sophisticated macro set ups and you know what? I have come full circle. The set up that I use now that I absolutely love is very very similar to the one that I used over 20 years ago. I use a single wireless 4 ounce Nikon SBR200 with a small diffuser. The set up is simple, light, makes nice soft light and costs about $200.

Hope my advice helps.

Robert

Jay Gould
04-04-2009, 08:55 PM
Yes that set up could work as you suggest no doubt. Really the best set up would depend on your demands and more importantly what equipment you own.

Over the last 20 years and I went through many different levels of sophisticated macro set ups and you know what? I have come full circle. The set up that I use now that I absolutely love is very very similar to the one that I used over 20 years ago. I use a single wireless 4 ounce Nikon SBR200 with a small diffuser. The set up is simple, light, makes nice soft light and costs about $200.

Hope my advice helps.

Robert

Absolutely your advice helps! Thank you.

I haven't bought much to date: 40D, 16-35, 24-105, and the 100-400. Pending purchases are the 70-200 f/4 and the 180 macro; we have already discussed and discussed the issue of bodies.;)

On the macro side I will buying the 180; the light setup is totally open.

At the moment I have the Canon "toy" the 220EX; I am planning on buying the 580EX as it is the only Canon flash that can operate as a Master. the 430EX can operate as a slave but carrying two large flash units doesn't make sense. My understanding is that the 220EX will not operate as a wireless slave to the camera or to the 580EX. Does anyone know of a small wireless unit that will operate from a Canon camera either independently or in Master/Slave with the 580EX?

I certainly am not determined to spend money for the sake of spending money. The Canon Twin is $1300; if I can find a suitable Macro lighting system built around what I will already have - the 580EX - great!

As as aside, I know I am asking lots and lots of questions. I really appreciate everyone's patience. Hopefully in the near future when I am again mobile and recovered from this latest knee surgery I will be able to share "keepers" with you. :D

Ian McHenry
04-04-2009, 09:52 PM
Thanks Robert for great tutorial helped by questions from members.
One of my favourite places for nature pix is in the rainforest so I will be going thro' this advice slowly before my next excursion.
Biggest problem for me is flash reflection of birds eyes when flash is necessary to get feather detail etc.
Cheers: Ian Mc

Stephen Stephen
05-07-2009, 11:52 AM
Hi Robert. Wonderful sticky here. I'll be coming back to it often as I plan to be trying more marco photography this year. Thanks for this excellent advice.

Charles Glatzer
05-29-2009, 10:04 AM
Robert, your concern about using two flash units creating a flat appearance; do you believe using a twin with diffusers like the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX would cause the flat appearance? The output of each lite is independent and the lights can be removed for repositioning.




Jay,

You can ratio the MT-24EX lights independently to achieve any degree of subject modeling you deem appropriate, flat or otherwise. Additionally, you can alter the quality of the strobe light through diffusion, reflectors, etc. You can even gel the strobes to alter color. The biggest problem with the attached lights is the further you get from the subject the more both lights become frontal, losing the ability to control the modeling effect. The RRS bracket allows extension arms to be used to place the strobes further off the lens axis. "Light Illuminates, Shadow Defines"

Personally, I am more concerned about controlling the lighting than multiple catch-lights in the eyes of critters. If desired I can retouch an eye, I cannot re-create the lighting as such in post production.
If you use one flash, with ambient as fill or sunlight as main to model the subject, you lose the ability to separately control the background via shutter-speed without having to compromise DOF.

Best,

Chas

Jay Gould
05-29-2009, 02:48 PM
Hi Chas, looks like you are going through and catching up on older threads. Thanks.

I have decided that for my first venture into macro I am not going to purchase any special lights, and I am going to use the 100 macro plus extension tubes on lenses I am already carrying.

As I previously indicated I am taking Mike's online course and interestingly, Mike never uses a flash. Only natural light with reflectors and diffusers.

I do have one 580 with a standard diffuser and Gary Fong's Lightsphere. Cheers, Jay

Charles Glatzer
05-30-2009, 10:01 PM
Jay,

Light quality has much to do with the size of the source relative to the subject.

I recommend one of the following below for flash macro work. They can easily be used off camera as well.

Photoflex - On Camera XTC II Soft box
LumiQuest - Soft box for shoe mount flash

Best in all your photo endeavors, and safe travels,

Chas




(http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/42239-REG/Photoflex_XT_OCLRG_II_On_Camera_XTC_II_Softbox.htm l)

John Renda
06-01-2009, 11:24 AM
thank you fo a very interesting article

Katherine Enns
06-30-2009, 06:28 PM
Just when I post something white, that should have been shot with a flash, the answer is on the next thread. Like Brady, my brain hurts, but its worth it. Thanks SO much for this tutorial. Now if i can just get Bruce to show me how to turn the power down.

Kat

Craig Markham
07-08-2009, 12:38 PM
Robert, from the readership and questions, it looks like you really struck a nerve with this thread! I've been using flash a lot this spring -- everything from HS sync on flying sapsuckers(!) to botanical macros. The practice and experimentation has helped a lot, and I'd encourage everyone interested to do likewise.

Many think that flash is something you use only when there's "too little" light, or when you're trying to "stop" action. However, I think one of the most important uses is in bright, contrasty situations where existing light would force you to make the choice between blasting out the highlights or completely blocking the shadows, or using multiple exposures for HDR recombination. Flash, properly used, helps control the wide dynamic range of contrasty environments, and can also serve as a tool to highlight a subject with an otherwise distracting BG.

I happened to be doing some field documentation of Penstamon rydbergii the other day, and, using manual exp/ manual flash comp (HS sync turned on) took a couple of frames that I think illustrate your points about the benefits of adjusting your camera and flash levels independently to achieve desired effects. I've put the exposure info on the accompanying photos. I was using a 1D Mk3 with 50mm compact macro and a MR-14EX (macro ring) flash, ISO 400. Flash was on ETTL with -2/3 flash comp for both frames. The flash exposure is essentially the same for both frames (there was a negligible difference in subject distance); the only substantial difference was the shutter speed. The faster shutter reduced the BG light in the right frame, while the flash maintained the same light level for the subject. I like the left frame as a more "contextual" image; I would call the right frame a striking specimen image that brings full attention to the plant.

BTW, I'm loving the results I'm getting with the MR-14EX, except that in extreme close-ups on plants with water droplets, the two curved flash elements show up as little white parentheses ( ) in the droplet reflections -- arrgh!

Jay Gould
07-08-2009, 01:33 PM
BTW, I'm loving the results I'm getting with the MR-14EX, except that in extreme close-ups on plants with water droplets, the two curved flash elements show up as little white parentheses ( ) in the droplet reflections -- arrgh! <!-- / message -->

Hi Craig, what if you bought a very fine diffuse white material and cut a hole in it for the lens, "somehow" attached the material in front of the the MR-14EX without covering the lens? You might have to increase the flash output power to compensate for the material diffusion; however wouldn't that eliminate the "white parentheses"? Depending upon how shear the material, it might provide a lovely diffused light. Cheers, Jay

Craig Markham
07-08-2009, 02:27 PM
Hi Craig, what if you bought a very fine diffuse white material and cut a hole in it for the lens, "somehow" attached the material in front of the the MR-14EX without covering the lens? Cheers, Jay

Hi Jay, and thanks for the thought. I considered that, but the flash elements already have diffusers as a necessary part of the design. Adding another layer of diffuser material would likely be redundant, especially at small macrophoto distances, and only serve to lower the effective output. This is probably one instance(droplets) where off-camera flash set at a non-retroreflective angle would be a better solution. Here's an example of the "( )" phenomenon -- Cute maybe, but not exactly what I wanted! Sort of like having a bunch of little :):)'s all over the image. I should have tried slipping the ring off and holding it off to the side for the shot.
-- Craig

Jay Gould
07-08-2009, 02:54 PM
Craig, is that with the diffusers being utilized? I have been considering either the ring or the twin flashes. I too would not be happy with the dual :):) . Of course, if you removed the ring and put it to one side of above and to one side you will then introduce a shadow on the other side. :D Jay

Craig Markham
07-08-2009, 04:31 PM
Jay, I think we're getting off the thread topic. The face plate of the ring is the diffuser. That's the only mode. If you have further Q's on this please PM me so we don't hijack Robert's techniques thread with an extended equipment discussion.