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Old 22nd of January 2009 (Thu)   #1
ThomasOwenM
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Default intrigued by the idea of using strobes

There's a local venue that has very uneven lighting. It's a great place to photograph drummers, oddly enough because the light is very good toward the back centered; plus you the stage is three quarters round, lending to excellent angles.

Toward the front of the stage, stage right (from the performer's POV) has excellent light, while center is mediocre, and stage left is terrible. At my last shoot there, I got terrific drummer shots, as you would expect, and excellent shots of the guitar player who was stage right. My shots of the lead singer (center) were just kind of okay, and those of the bass player were the worst. You can guess where he was standing. At ISO 3200, f/1.4, and shutter speed 1/60, he was still too dark to get a good exposure. All I could do was underexpose, then photoshop fix later or use flash. The best shots of him were at ISO 1600 with the 430 EX flash scaled back to minimum and bounced off the ceiling as much as possible. Then I vignetted it and adjusted the lighting in post production. They were as good as could be expected, but weren't as nice as the drummer and guitar player shots.

There's one thing I've never tried, though: Using strobes. I don't even remember the proper name for the device, but it plugs into your hot shoe and radios the strobe flashes that you can put wherever you want. Sounds like a terrific idea for those times you're forced to flash. The local venue would likely allow me to show up before the show and hang my strobes from the lighting grid. I can see how this approach could work really well. The light would no longer be coming from my camera and would therefore appear more like lighting that's part of the show.

I'm wondering if anyone here has ever tried this approach. What gear did you use? How much control do you have over your strobes? For example, if you hang up three of them, can you choose to fire all three or just whichever ones you want to? Can you adjust the flash level like you can on an external flash unit like the 430EX?

Actually, now that I think about it, I have photographed with strobes. They just weren't one controlled by my camera. The Kansas band Pomeroy had their own strobe system. It wasn't designed for photography; it was a lighting effect. One was hung offstage at far stage left (from the performer's POV) and it spun around and panned a bunch of light across the stage from time to time. Another was hung behind the audience, stage right. I timed my shots to these strobes, and many of them turned out really well. My Pomeroy shots were far superior to any shots I took of bands who played before them and didn't use the strobe system.

In any event, if anyone here has used camera-triggered strobe flashes effectively, I'm interested to hear what strategies were effective and what gear you would recommend for the Canon EOS DSLRs that most people here use. (I use a 20D.)
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Old 22nd of January 2009 (Thu)   #2
DwightMcCann
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

I have a little experience. There are are least two ways to approach this: using E-TTL by using an ST-E2 on your camera ($220 - See http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...G&A=details&Q=), which can control a couple of sets of lights, do ratios, high speed sync, etc. The advantage is the lights will be controlled by what the camera sees for each exposure and probably the first thing I would try ... but then I already own all the equipment I will mention. The second approach is to use PocketWizards: one on the camera and one on each strobe. These are $185 a piece (see http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ver_Radio.html). With this option you would have to test the lighting and manually set the power level on each strobe. Further, if the strobes don't have a sync connnector (I think only the 580EX II's have one) you will also need a hotshoe adapter (holds strobe with hotshoe and has sync connector on the side) some like this http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...hoe_to_PC.html.

My final suggestion would be to consider gels to give the light a bit more color, probably something to warm the light to match what is provided by the venue. You can get Rosco samplers for one cent or less, like this http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...u=45184&is=REG and pull out the color you want and tape it over the flash head.

Hopefully this will give you a place to start investigating further ... remember, experience is the best teacher so use whatever you've got and just try it. Make sure everyone knows you are just experimenting and may need to give several options a test before you find something that works well.
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Old 22nd of January 2009 (Thu)   #3
ThomasOwenM
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

Thanks for the info, man. That helps me a lot. Would you say I'd have to go with the PocketWizard if I want to put the strobe back behind the audience?
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Old 22nd of January 2009 (Thu)   #4
DwightMcCann
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

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Originally Posted by ThomasOwenM View Post
Thanks for the info, man. That helps me a lot. Would you say I'd have to go with the PocketWizard if I want to put the strobe back behind the audience?
Pocket Wizards have a much farther range than the ST-E2 and will reach behind you as well as in front while the ST-E2 is more limited in range but significantly more flexible. But as I have no idea what your venue looks and how big it is I have no clue and probably even if you told me I couldn't figure it out ... you could take that question over to lighting/flash forum. I'm not sure if I was the band I would want strong flash coming out of the audience but I also know these thing vary a lot and in my "old" days I flashed bands unmercifully.

Anyway, again, with the PWs you will need hotshoe adapters and have to set everything manually.

Edit: What you do, if you work something out, no matter how good or bad the outcome, bring pictures back to the PA sharing forum and show us what happens ... lots of guys will want to know even if they are too shy to ask!
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Old 23rd of January 2009 (Fri)   #5
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

An alternative to Pocket Wizards are the CyberSync system from Alienbees. I just ordered a receiver for my 430EX and am going to try in a local club for an upcoming band shoot myself. You will need a hot shoe adapter for the 430EX, available from flashzebra.com, it's $11.00. Cybersync's are half the price of pocket wizards and very effective. Can't wait to see your pics.
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Old 23rd of January 2009 (Fri)   #6
DwightMcCann
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

Which reminds me ... if you need the range of the PWs but E-TTL or some other function only available with the ST-E2, for a mere $250 per piece, you can add RadioPoppers to ST-E2 and flashes: see http://shop.radiopopper.com/.

Disclaimer: I do not have RadioPoppers, yet!
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Old 23rd of January 2009 (Fri)   #7
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

Quote:
Originally Posted by DwightMcCann View Post
Which reminds me ... if you need the range of the PWs but E-TTL or some other function only available with the ST-E2, for a mere $250 per piece, you can add RadioPoppers to ST-E2 and flashes: see http://shop.radiopopper.com/.

Disclaimer: I do not have RadioPoppers, yet!
I like the yet!

When Radio Poppers are available in Aus I am hoping to get some.
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Old 24th of January 2009 (Sat)   #8
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

The problem I see happening is setting up your strobes and not having them on the correct power setting. With the ever changing lighting from second to second, and the fact that you really dont get a chance to test out the light beforehand (unless you have an "in" with the venue). Also, most performances wont allow flashes to begin with so you are at a disadvantage there.

I as well am intereted so if you do it, post some examples.
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Old 27th of January 2009 (Tue)   #9
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Default Re: intrigued by the idea of using strobes

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Originally Posted by johnms88 View Post
The problem I see happening is setting up your strobes and not having them on the correct power setting. With the ever changing lighting from second to second, and the fact that you really dont get a chance to test out the light beforehand (unless you have an "in" with the venue). Also, most performances wont allow flashes to begin with so you are at a disadvantage there.

I as well am intereted so if you do it, post some examples.

Definitely the use of strobes needs to be cleared with the band first, then the venue second. As far as settings, keeping a constant aperture (say f/2.8 if using a zoom) will ensure consistent exposure with a manual flash, then alter shutter speed to compensate for ambient variation.

Suggest you have a look at ishootshows.com. Tony is an expert in this field, but I believe he used the Nikon wireless commander system which I believe offers more on the fly adjustments than manual strobes, or even the Canon system.
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