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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

••◊ Shot in the dark

I attended the (pre-)strobist meeting this last Sunday with extremely limited success. My attempts at low light photography with hotshoe strobes are still a work in progress. I did manage to get one, meaning exactly one, good shot that evening. The rest were either ruined by my mis-management of time or experimentation. But hey, that's what strobist meetings are for; learning and experimentation that I couldn't do during a paid gig. The photo below was lit with two side firing bare flashes and a fill reflector near the floor at camera left.

I wanted to get some edgier, non-portrait stuff so I asked the model to put on her iPod on start dancing. I used the same light setup as before, but moved the flashes slightly to the rear to give her a harsher look. The first two shots were fine, but after that...

Ugh...blur! ...and of course you really don't notice this on a camera's 3" LCD until you get the pictures home and download them. I had set the focus to manual after adjusting it manually and the first two pictures came out sharp. So what happenned? Beats me.

In an effort to actually get these situations to work for me I did a little research today. It turns out that my 580EX II speedlights have a modeling flash capability built in. Hah ha! A solution. There are two ways to control it, via the depth of field preview button (which is hard to find in the dark) and the test fire button on the 580EX II flash. The red pilot light is a lot easier to see in the dark, so I turned the modeling flash on for both buttons. Note that by default the modeling flash is only turned on for the depth of field preview. Here's how to turn it on for both buttons.

  1. Turn on the flash in the non-master/slave mode.
  2. Press the C.Fn button until the custom function menu appears
  3. Use the scroll wheel to go to custom function #2 (Fn 02)
  4. Press the "PUSH" button at the center of the scroll wheel and use the scroll wheel to change the custom function value to "2" (both buttons)
  5. Press the "PUSH" button to accept the value.
  6. Press the "MODE" button to return to normal operation

Now what's even better about this is that if you fire the modeling flash you can also use auto-focus, however the metering cannot be evaluated. You'll still be chimping to get the light level correct, but that should almost be a one shot deal most of the time. Now that I have this down, it's time to delve into better (i.e. quicker) techniques for light metering.

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