The technique is simple but the result is amazing!

How it was done

  1. Set the camera to 30s exposure and open the shutter
  2. Fire the flash (pre-set the flash power)
  3. Paint the background while the model is holding still

More about it

Posted in Tips and Techniques on January 11th, 2010. No Comments.

The question got asked quite often on the internet lately. Is it possible to mix TTL Flashes with non-TTL manual power flashes or strobes so they sync together? For example, one guy wanted to fire two SB-900s in wireless TTL mode while also triggering an Alien Bee studio strobe at the same time.

The answer is Yes. Since I have only Nikon DSLR and Nikon Speedlight flashes (D200, SB-800, and SB-600), I can only describe what’s possible for people in similar situation. For your particular Camera/Flash brands you will need to decide if this method works for you. Read More…

Posted in Photography Lighting on January 4th, 2010. 2 Comments.

Moon and clouds

Shooting the mysterious Moon is a frequently discussed photography topic. For a Moon in a cloudless sky, the shooting pretty much is a matter of trivial exercise in term of exposure determination. We have some general tips for moon shooting. The following is the Moon shot with 1/640s f/8 and ISO 200.


It becomes challenging when you want to photograph the Moon behind the veil of the clouds. The reason? At night the Moon is so much brighter than the clouds, a proper exposure of the clouds will pretty much gurantee a blown-out Moon, just like the title image of this post, which was shot with 1/3s f/3.5 at ISO 200 -0.7EV. (It may be a good practice if you want to count the exposure differences between the two shots in stops or EV.)

Are there ways to preserve the details of the Moon surface while properly exposing the clouds? Read More…

Posted in Tips and Techniques on January 2nd, 2010. No Comments.

Flash and ambient exposure

In the previous post about front-curtain and rear-curtain sync modes, I used a two-exposure model to describe the final image created by the contribution of both ambient and flash lights. In this post, I will go into details about the shooting parameters that affect both exposures and the most effective techniques of balancing flash and ambient exposure. I will mostly speak in Nikon terms since that’s the only brand of DSLR camera I have access to.

Four parameters

The four camera parameters that affect the final exposure are: ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and flash output amount. If the camera and flash are in full manual mode, all four parameters can be freely adjusted by the photographer. In the chart below, a check mark is used to indicate that the particular camera or flash parameter affects ambient or flash exposure. “–” means it does’t. An important assumption is made here: Flash duration is so short compared to shutter speed that shutter speed does not affect flash exposure. This excludes the FP high speed sync flash mode from our discussion to avoid complications. Read More…

Posted in Photography Lighting on January 1st, 2010. 2 Comments.

Many new digital SLR cameras now come with a feature called Auto ISO, which automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity of the camera based on pre-programed algorithms and user preferences such as maximum allowed ISO and minimum shutter speed.

Is this feature useful?

The typical support argument for the Auto ISO feature goes like this: Camera lenses have the maximum aperture limitation. At a given ISO,  the required shutter speed to achieve proper exposure may be too slow to stop motion or avoid camera shake even when the aperture is at its maximum setting. In this case, the ISO setting of the camera needs to be raised until a usable shutter speed can be obtained. This previously human-involved process can be automated by the Auto ISO feature.

Still need to see some more convincing arguments or have some questions answered about the usefulness of the Auto ISO feature? Professional photographer Steve Simon shared his thoughts on the Auto ISO feature in Nikon DSLR camera in two discussion threads on Flickr:

Posted in Online Resources, Tips and Techniques on December 30th, 2009. No Comments.

In the article titled Understanding Flash Sync Speed, I discussed in details how focal plane shutter works and what maximum sync speed is. What was left out was the two different flash sync modes: front-curtain vs. rear-curtain sync.

In front-curtain sync, the flash fires immediately after the first (front) curtain opens completely; in rear-curtain sync, the flash fires just before the second (rear) curtain starts to close.  To understand the differences they make, let’s use a simple two-image model.

The image sensor continuously capture the image formed by the lens on the sensor surface when the shutter is open. There is one image captured by the camera in each exposure but you can imagine the sensor captures two images: one image formed by ambient light and one image formed by the flash. The two images are then superimposed together. In front-curtain sync, the flash image is captured first followed by the image of the ambient light; while in rear-curtain sync, the flash image is captured after the image sensor captures the ambient image. Read More…

Posted in Photography Lighting, Tips and Techniques on December 28th, 2009. No Comments.

Starblitz Flash, front

It is not the safety of the photographer but the safety of the camera at stake here. Some flashes use very high voltages in the trigger circuit that may be high enough to fry your camera’s circuit board. If you are temped to buy cheap flashes from garage sale or off eBay to expand your strobist arsenal, check this site first to make sure it is safe to use on your camera or other triggering devices’ hotshoe.

If the flash you are interested in is not listed, you can follow the instructions (scroll down until you see How to Check the Trigger Voltage) to measure it yourself. My Starblitz 200 DNX isn’t listed in there. The voltage on the sync terminal is ~11 volts. I put it on my Nikon D200 and it works just fine. According to Nikon D200 manual, the accessory shoe on the camera can support up to 250 volts.

Posted in Online Resources, Photography Lighting on December 24th, 2009. No Comments.

Nikon USA Learn & Explore learning site has posted some really nice video tutorials in which Joe McNally brings you on location and shows you how to control the color in flash photography. The video tutorial has two parts:

In this set of video tutorials, Joe brings you to Good Springs, Neveda, a ghost town. You will learn from Joe as he steps in a historical place called Pioneer Salon and goes through location assessment and the actual shooting process. The success criteria of location photography is that the photos should be able to capture the mood of the environment and invoke feelings in people who sees the photos even though he/she may be millions of miles away. The focus of the tutorial is about achieving such goals by the choice of color and control of color. Read More…

Posted in Photography Lighting, Tips and Techniques on December 20th, 2009. No Comments.
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