Sunday, August 11, 2019

How to use multiple speedlights to take your photography to the next level - Part II

In last week's blog post, I talked about using multiple flash units to take your photography to the next level. As promised, in this second part of that post, I wanted to let you all know how I then took my use of multiple speedlights even further.

Sometime around 2014, I was setting up for some corporate headshots at my home studio, when I decided that my Canon 600EX-RT speedlites would be a lot easier to setup than my big strobes, and give me plenty of light for the job. At this point, I now owned four of the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes (and a ST-E3-RT transmitter), so I could have a main light, a key light, a hair light and another flash pointed at the backdrop. The only thing is, I needed to set up each light in manual mode so that the light output would be different for each flash location. It was the first time I had taken the remote flashes and switched them to manual mode. After reading the manual and some trial and error, I figured out the lighting ratio that worked well for me. I loved that I could control the power to any of the remote speedlites from the transmitter on my camera.

Using the transmitter on my camera, I would set the flash on the backdrop to achieve the background color I desired. If I was using a white backdrop, I could adjust the power of the flash to get a very white background, but I could also lower the flash power to get a grey background. Using a black backdrop, I could add flash to the black background to determine how dark the background would actually be. Increasing the flash power, I could go from pure black to a dark grey.

I would also control the lights on either side of my subject's face to light them appropriately. My goal is to have one side of their face lit stronger than the other (which adds dimension to their face). Since everyone's complexion is different, I adjust the main light to match the skin tones of my subject.

As I mentioned, I also used a Canon 600EX-RT flash on a tall light stand to add some hairlight on my subjects. This light works great for people with a full head of hair, but does not work with people like myself who are, shall we say, follicly challenged.   A hair light on a bald person just adds a giant hot spot on their head. This is not a good thing. So...whenever I had a bald subject, I would run over to turn off that flash. I figured that there had to be a better way to do this. And, you know what, there is!

One of my friends at Canon asked me if I was using "Group Mode".  My reply was "What is Group mode?" Well my friends, Group Mode is yet another game changer for me.


Simply put, Group Mode lets me take full control of each of the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites from the transmitter on my camera (or another 600EX-RT on camera). With this mode, I can set some of the speedlites in manual mode, some in TTL mode, and even power them on and off from my camera. No more running to the remote flash to physically turn it off.


The group mode has really helped me when I photograph events, allowing me to have my on-camera flash in TTL mode (diffused with the MagMod MagSphere) while having my remotes (that are in the corners of the room) in manual mode. I usually power the remote flashes down to 1/32 and 1/64 so that they add light, but not too much. Depending on where I am standing in the room, I can easily increase the power to one or both of the remote flashes, or even turn them off if I am pointing directly at them.






Using Group Mode offers me another advantage. Now that I have 6 of the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites, I can set two remotes on each light stand, using the new MagMod MagShoe and MagRing. You might wonder why would I would want to have two flashes on each stand, and it is not to have double the amount of power. I set up two flashes on each stand so that I don't have to stop and change batteries during an event. I shoot the first half of the event on Flash B and Flash C, and then halfway through the party when I feel that the Powerex AA batteries might be running low, I turn those off and turn on Flash D and Flash E. Now I am shooting the rest of the event with cool speedlites and fresh batteries.

It does take some getting used to, especially when running around and shooting a party for a client. But with a little bit of practice, the group mode will become your best friend as well.

I hope that this inspires you to try out some new tricks with your flashes and takes your photography to the next level.


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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How to use multiple speedlights to take your photography to the next level - Part I

People often ask me about new camera equipment and the what advances in technology have had the biggest impact on me. When asked this question, most people are expecting me to answer back in reference to the newest camera bodies or lenses. But as I have told many people, I feel that one of the biggest "game changers" is in the speedlights (or commonly called flash units). Yes, those battery powered flashes that we put on top of our cameras.


The older Canon 580EX II Flash
Before I get into the details, let me step back for a second and tell you about my first experience using an external flash with my cameras. My first real foray into the world of Canon Speedlites (as Canon spells that) started with the Canon 580EX flash, and the learning curve was steep. I felt then, and still feel today, that learning how to control the flash units (especially when combining more than one) is harder than learning the ins and outs of the camera itself. When I first started, I would put the 580EX directly on my camera, keep it in TTL mode and hope for the best. Then after learning about flash diffusers, I experimented with many different brands to determine which worked best for me. But even then, it was just the one flash mounted on my camera in TTL mode.

The first thing I learned was how to adjust the power of the flash, often powering the flash down a bit, which served me well when taking portraits. Later I played with was the remote control of one flash to another. With the Canon 580EX flash, the only way to trigger more than one flash (without using other devices) was through an optical protocol. This only worked in small areas, in direct line of sight from one flash to the other, and was not reliable enough to use when shooting any job for clients. This proved to be so unreliable that I never really tried it again.




In 2012, Canon announced the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT and everything changed.

What was the big advancement in these flashes? With the introduction of the 600EX-RT, Canon added the "R" (receive) and the "T" (transmit) which means that they added wireless radio control. This allowed these speedlites to communicate with each other using a wireless signal which meant that these new flashes worked reliably in distances of 100 feet or more and they did not have to be line-of-sight. This wireless technology has increased the quality of my photography dramatically. This is especially true for my event and portrait photography, with the ability to use multiple flashes in sync with each other.

I started with just two of these 600EX-RT speedlites, often using them for my event photography. I would have one flash in "master mode" diffused with a MagSphere on my camera and another in "slave mode" in the corner of a room for more directional lighting. This created much more dynamic lighting for my party photos.

Here is a photo I took back in 2011 with only one flash diffused on the camera.


You can see that the light is all coming from the one flash on my camera. It is a simple, one dimensional look, with flat light on my subject.

And below is a photo with a diffused flash on camera (in master mode) and one remote light (in slave mode) shooting right into this young man's face.


In this photo you can see light coming from my left and lighting the side of the young man in the chair.


And in this photo, you can really see the directional light coming from my right side and perfectly lighting this young man's face. The diffused flash (using the MagMod MagSphere) on my camera is illuminating the crowd slightly, but the majority of the light is coming from the remote flash.

As I became more comfortable with this setup, I purchased another Speedlite 600EX-RT and shot with two remotes in different corners of the party venue. At that time, I was still using ETTL mode for all the speedlites. This meant that all of the flashes would fire at the same power as my master flash. And if I changed the power settings of my master flash, the remotes would adjust the same way. I am still using multiple remote flashes for events, but now I have found an even better way to control them. But that is coming up on the next blog post.


Here is a photo with me using two remote speedlights and one diffused on the camera.You can see both remote speedlites on Manfrotto 12 foot light stands behind the kids.

In the second part of this blog post, I am going to tell you how I learned some new tricks and took even more control of the lighting using the same Canon 600EX-RT flash units.

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

All my favorite photos from the Costa Rica trip in one blog post!

It has been a couple of days since returning from the rain forest of Costa Rica, and I have had a little bit of time to look back at all the photos and take it all in. It is so much fun to be a photographer and teacher, and to see the excitement in everyones faces as we hunted for the great shots and celebrated amazing sitings.

For all of you wondering what equipment I took to Costa Rica, here is my list:

* Canon 1D X Mark II
* Canon 5D Mark IV
* Canon 24-105mm II lens
* Canon 100-400mm II lens
* Canon 100mm macro lens
* Gitzo travel tripod
* Acratech ball head
* Black Rapid strap
* Thinktank rolling backpack
* Pro Grade Digital memory cards and readers
* 15" MacBook Pro
* Tiffen HT UV filters in front of my lenses

As opposed to previous Costa Rica trips where I blogged the photos broken up by the day, this time I have decided to do one blog post with all of my favorite photos from the trip. This gives you an idea of what we saw in the 9 days we were in the rain forest. I hope you enjoy viewing the photos as much as I did taking them!


On our first day, we took a walk around the resort and saw these Tiger heron chicks being tended by their mother. We went back on our last day and were amazed at how much the chicks had changed in one week.


While still walking about the property, we were lucky to have some Howler monkeys low in the branches to welcome us.


On our second day, we drove through the rain forest looking for interesting photo opportunities. This was a great one, with four owls all huddled together in this tree!


We also saw some Spider monkeys swinging through the trees above us.


This was our lunch stop on our second day in the rain forest. Not too shabby huh?


Even though we see many Scarlet macaw throughout the resort and on our drives, I am always looking for them to be down low in the trees and with their wings open. This one was nice enough to pose for us.


This Yellow-throated toucan was hanging out in the trees above our swimming pool and just begging for a portrait.


As we do on every one of my photo tours to Costa Rica, we visited a place where we could photograph the Red-eyed tree frogs and other cool reptiles in a more controlled environment. All the frog photos were taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV and the Canon 100mm macro lens.


I just never get tired of photographing these little wonders.


Look at how amazing those eyes are!


This time we had some larger frogs to photograph as well.


..,and a lizard.


We also had two other species of poisonous dart frogs, including this dark one who was sporting a nice orange racing stripe.


At one point, I decided to try and get this frog in action. I cranked up my ISO to 6400 and set my aperture to f/8 to get a shutter speed of 1/1600 second. I waited for the frog to jump and hit the shutter release. It took me many tries before I got the apex of the jump the way I wanted.


This is a Yellow eyelash viper. It is a poisonous snake, and we wanted to keep our distance, so we all used our long lenses to photograph this amazing creature. I shot this and the other snake photos with the Canon 1D X Mark II with the Canon 100-400mm lens.


Just to reiterate, these photos were taken in a controlled environment, with a naturalist by each snake and keeping them in a nice photographic place, but also safe for all of us.


Check out the amazing colors in this Eyelash viper.


These butterflies were a little less intimidating than the snakes, but equally fun to photograph around the property.


This is a Squirrel monkey grabbing a snack in a tree.


I saw this Great Curassow walking amongst the trees, got down low and shot this profile of him.


While visiting our favorite animal sanctuary (accessible only by boat), we all had a chance to photograph this Ocelot.


I had two favorite photos of this awesome cat.


We even had a chance to get up close and personal with this Two-toed sloth. I used the long zoom lens to isolate just the face and toes of the sloth.


On the boat ride back to Crocodile Bay, we saw some dolphins and some flying fish. I saw this flying fish cruising across the water and quickly fired some shots to see if I could get it in focus. I was excited when I downloaded the images and caught this one in perfect focus, and with the trail of water behind it.


Whenever we had free time at the resort, you could see individuals from our group walking the grounds to get nice shots like this.


This is one of my favorite photos from this trip, and it was taken about 20 feet from the swimming pool. One of my tour attendees was really into photographing birds and showed me images of this hummingbird with it's back wings spread out. I just had to capture this for myself. It took patience as I held the big camera and lens steady for a really long time, waiting for this moment. My back hurt afterwards, but it was worth it. I got the back wings spread out and the amazing color of the bird's throat!


I also managed to get a nice shot of the same hummingbird in flight, with it's back wings out.


Here are a couple of Scarlet macaw that were hanging out on the property.


Believe it or not, I took this photo of a lizard at the pool. It was up on a ledge by the hot tub, allowing me to shoot up on it and get greenery behind it.


On the second to last night, I asked our guides if they could find some more critters for us to photograph on the property. They went out and came back with a couple more reptiles for us to photograph. I brought some small LED lights with me, so that we could light the little subjects appropriately, and it yielded some really nice photos for everyone.


We were able to get really close to the frogs with our macro lenses.


Actually, so close that this little guy hopped onto my camera. Click on the image above (or click HERE) to watch the video.


It was our last full day in the rain forest and we were all preparing to load into the vehicles, heading out to a boat cruise on one of the local rivers. But before loading up, our guide spotted an Anteater in a nearby tree. I had only seen one other anteater in the region and was excited about the opportunity to see one once again. We all moved around the tree to see if we could get clear shots. At one point, I saw my subject in perfect back-light and framed by the leaves in the foreground. Got him!


The anteater was nice enough to roam around the tree, giving all of our guests ample opportunities to get a clean shot. This just made my day!


On our river cruise, we stopped to watch these White-faced monkeys as they dropped down into the water to cool off and for a drink. I was able to catch this shot with a nice reflection of the monkey's face in the water.


Most of us flew out from the local airport on Thursday at 9am. Some of us got up early to walk the grounds one last time. We walked to the spot where we normally find a couple of crocodiles in the water. As I approached that spot, I stopped short as I saw this big guy hanging out on the shore. We got a couple photos of him, before he got scared and backed into the water.

As you can see, the photo opportunities from this last trip were plentiful, with a wide variety of wildlife and landscapes. This is probably why National Geographic calls this location "the most biologically intense place on earth".

If you would like to get photos like these for yourself, join me for one of my upcoming trips to the Osa Peninsula. I take everyone from beginners to professional photographers. You can find information on those trips HERE.


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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Photos captured by my photo tour attendees in Costa Rica

A couple of days ago I got this idea to post my tour attendee's photos on the blog. They were sharing some of their favorite photos and I was so impressed that I wanted to share them all with you.

Keep in mind that there is not one professional photographer on this trip. These are all photo enthusiasts who are looking to learn and come home with great photos.

Our group after shooting for 3 hours in the rain forest - Photo credit to Dennis, our awesome guide

And with that, here are some of their images from the first couple of days here in Costa Rica. None of these images were taken by me.





The image above and below were taken by our beginner photographer. How about that?! She and her dad (and many others) are shooting with borrowed gear from Canon Professional Services. Here is a big shout out to CPS for their free loaners!



Great composition in this shot.


A favorite subject for many of my guests.



We have a couple of birders in the group, who are making the most of their time down here. This beautiful shot was taken by one of our Nikon shooters, but I won't hold that against her. :)





We have had great weather and continue to get more awesome photos. From what I have seen in the last two days, they have far surpassed even these photos. I am so proud of all of them!

__________________________________________________________________________
Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________