Cooking with Light

Well friends, I’ve now bought the lighting equivalents of pots, pans and knives and read a few cookbooks (1, 2, 3), so I’m ready to cook!  Cook with light, that is, using off-camera flash.  Once the basic principles are clear, all it takes is some fresh ingredients, a healthy dose of imagination and not being afraid to experiment.

I might still pick up an item or two along the way, but this is all that’s really need for shooting off-camera flash:

  • DVDs and books to learn from,
  • a TTL flash, TTL remote cord and a LumiQuest Softener if you are in a hurry,
  • or several manual flashes, a set of radio triggers, light strands, flash brackets, colored gels, shoot-through umbrellas and snoots or soft-boxes if you have a bit more time and inclination.

I made the two snoots myself and bought everything else.  Sadly, no store in Germany carries all this stuff simultaneously, so I had to buy bits here and pieces there, mostly on eBay or from various on-line shops.  But now everything is here and it wants to get used.  So get in touch with me and ask me to photograph you!

Two more things concerning gear…  Strobist head-honcho David Hobby recommends all older Nikon Speedlights for off-camera flash starting with the SB-24, but I didn’t like the 24 very much.  It’s the same price, size and weight as an SB-25, but it only goes down to 1/16th power (as opposed to 1/64th) and does not have a wide-angle diffuser (which can be useful for holding gels in place).  So get yourself an SB-25 or SB-26, and you’ll be much happier.

David also never gets tired of telling us that cheap radio triggers are crap, and (sadly) I can confirm that.  Faced with the alternative of getting three PocketWizards for 560 EUR or three Phottix Asters for 56 EUR, of course I went with the Asters.  Well, guess what?  The Asters are probably 90% reliable if you work in a small room or a studio, but outside at distances of 4–5 meters they are virtually useless (firing reliability less than 50%).  Luckily in the last few days Phottix has released a new product called Atlas, and this is a completely different animal.  In fact, for all intents and purposes, it seems to be interchangeable with a PocketWizard.  I bought three Atlas transceivers this week, and I’ll be putting through their paces in the following days and weeks (and hopefully years).  What I noticed while shooting Klaus is that I need equipment that  simply works and lets me concentrate on the light and the motion.