Last Saturday a group of nine brave souls met at the local library to talk about adding flash to life. The weather was miserably cold, the wind was high, blowing snow reduced visibility to nil at times and created drifts across the road, all of which contributed to dangerous driving conditions and I did not even mention the windchill which was pushing temperatures down to minus 40º C. Yet.... all but one registered participant arrived. The two with the longest drives were only late by about five minutes. And WHY, you might ask were these hardy northerners late? Well, of course they had to stop at Tim Horton's for Coffee.
The early part of the morning session was devoted to understanding the history of flash photography and how speed lights work. We then covered topics that explored TTL, iTTL, ETTL II and ETTL II. The effects of front and rear curtain synchronization were presented and diagrammed as well as uses and effects on the scene with high and slow shutter synchronization.
The next part of the presentation covered the flash unit itself, reviewed all of the components and helped people to understand what each of them did. Many modern speed lights have a variety of modes that can be set either on the flash unit itself of on the camera. Each of these was presented and discussed, examples were provided so that participants would know when to consider using these options.
Because speed lights do not have a shutter, aperture or ISO settings, they vary their contribution to an exposure by the duration of light that they emit. This duration of light is calculated in EV's, which is also a term used in non-flash photography but not well understood because it is rarely used. A presentation on how to use EV as a determination of exposure was made so that people could understand what their flash was doing. This of course led to a discussion Exposure Compensation and how a flash unit does that. Most of the speed lights in the room were able to vary their light output over a seven stop range.
As any one who has used a flash is aware, the light created by the unit a harsh and direct, often creating hotspots and deep shadows. As a result, light modifiers are often used to soften or change the light so that it more closely approximates what we see in normal life. The presentation had a number of modifiers available, and students were provided with a hand out that outlined the great variety of what is available in the market, from home made units to high end high cost systems.
The final part of the presentation was on the wireless functions that are built into many of the modern speed lights. Because there were three Metz lights available in the room, we were able to demonstrate how each unit could be modified from the camera position. We were able to turn specific units on or off, and modify their light output. We also discussed other wireless options, including the Pocket Wizard which has TTL function and other less costly wireless options which are not TTL. In total three speed light manufactures were discussed, Metz, Canon and Nikon. While there are differences between these three makes of speed light, the variates led to some interesting discussion.
The final part of the day was devoted to a number of experiments. Participants got an opportunity to try out their own equipment. To see the effects of direct, bounded and filtered light. A number of Gary Fong modifiers were available for people to experiment with.
All in all the day was successful and I think participants learned a great deal about hoe flash systems function and how they can use the options on their speed light to take creative images.
I thank all of you who braved the weather, especially those who came from significant distances through blowing snow and drift fingers that did their best to put you into the ditch. You were a lot of fun to be with, andI hope that you enjoyed yourself as much as I enjoyed presenting this material.