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Messages - Chris Burch

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61
Lighting / Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« on: February 21, 2013, 06:41:58 PM »
Going to throw you a curve ball and tell you to go with both with a slight modification.  I've have a set strobes for years and they certainly have their place depending on the type of shooting you're doing.  I usually only use them at home in a studio setup but have taken them on location for portrait shoots and use them for station setups like step-and-repeat.  In these cases the benefits you mentioned are all very applicable, but you overlooked the presence of modeling lights, which are really nice to have in certain situations.  I currently have 3 Paul Buff Einsteins with a variety of modifiers.  You're definitely on the right track with the Buff gear as far as bang for buck and quality.  They are also a lot more portable than you might think.  I have a single hard suit-case (maybe 25" tall) that hold 3 Einsteins, 3 Vagabond minis, 3 extra batteries, 2 types reflectors sets and various accessories.  All I need to go with it is a bag with stands and umbrellas or other modifiers, which you would need with the speedlights anyway.

All of that said, I still decided to expand my speedlight capability last year to have 4 remotes plus an on-camera speedlight for event shooting and on-location portraits.  The portability is huge for me, but the speedlights also offer a wider range of uses.  You can substitute the speedlights for most strobe lighting applications if you can deal with the loss of power and lack of modeling lights.  However, you'll find a lot more uses for the speedlights because of their size and the fact that you're more likely to have them with you.  If you're shooting interiors, the speedlights can be hidden throughout indoor spaces to add light.  If you're shooting portraits, you can use speedlights alone or in combination with strobes or even ambient lighting.  You can do a lot of creative outdoor with with a fully portable and lightweight solution.  My favorite application, however, is using speedlights to provide supplemental room lighting for large event spaces.  I can deploy up to 4 speedlights around a room to beef up or replace ambient lighting.  These produce very pleasing layers of lighting that set the images apart from a single on-camera flash.   Don't underestimate the power of speedlights either.  Here is a shot of a huge 3-story hall lit up with 4 speedlights:


I wouldn't want to part with either solution, so the next question is how to make all of it affordable.  The AlienBee route is already about as affordable as it gets, so I suggest you get 2 ABs and a set of stands and modifiers (at least get umbrellas, which are quite affordable).  Fortunately, you don't need to stick with the expensive Canon solution to build out a robust and reliable speedlight solution.  I already had 3 580EXIIs with the 600EX-RT came out.  I bought a 600 hoping to get improved eTTL performance (was marginally better) and then was left with the decision to buy up to 4 more for remote lights at a huge premium or come up with a way to make my existing 580s work.  After a lot of research I invested in a set of Phottix Stratos II triggers ($90 for a trans/recv pair or $55 for recv only).  With those triggers it doesn't matter what speedlights I am using, so I can go for a cheap option like a YungNuo YN-560II (same power as a 580 or 600 but only costs $73/ea).  My current setup is a single 600 on my camera for front lighting, with a set of 3 580s and 1 YN-560 for remote lighting.  The YN speedlight performs flawlessly and you can't tell it apart from the 580s.  You do give up some functionality like remote eTTL (which I have yet to find a situation where I would actually use it) and you are adding extra gear with batteries for the triggers.  The Stratos do "pass-through eTTL", so the on-camera flash still get all of the eTTL functionality, just none of the remotes can communicate like that.  On the upside, the Stratos triggers have a 500ft range which is way better than the 600's 100ft range.  For the photos in the link about, I would have been beyond the range of the 600s.  The 600 wireless solution is actually more complicated by the way.  You'll have to page through settings and make sure everything is communicating and it sometimes needs to be reset.  With basic triggers like the Stratos, you just plug in, pick a channel and you're done -- more gear, but fewer options to worry about.  You should keep in mind that with the AlienBee solution, you're going to need triggers anyway -- the Stratos work great for strobes, too.  It sounds like you already have a set of speedlights, in which case, I would only question your motivation to use a wireless eTTL solution, especially considering the cost. 

My advice would be to get an AlienBee solution and maintain a speedlight solution with low-cost options and remotes triggers.  That by far gives you the most options and pro-level capability.

62
EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: Emergency wedding, of sorts.
« on: January 26, 2013, 05:20:12 PM »
As long as the bride and groom have a VERY clear understanding of your experience and have the appropriate expectations, then just go for it.  I shot my first wedding in 1999 with really mediocre gear (film back then, too) and I managed to pull it off with expectedly mediocre results, but it wasn't a disaster.  You have to start somewhere.  Ideally you would have some work as an assistant under your belt, but that obviously isn't going to happen in a week. 

You REALLY REALLY REALLY need to pick up a flash.  I've never been to a reception yet that was suitable for only natural light.  Rent one if you don't want to buy it.  Get a 430ex or better -- check Craigslist first to see if you can  pick up a used one.  You can easily set the camera on program and use eTTL flash, but if you want to step it up a notch or 2, use manual low-light settings that are a few stops underexposed and let the flash fill in the correct exposure.  For the 6D, try these settings for the reception (assuming it's in a dimly room)...1/100s, f/5.6, 1600ISO.  If it's very dark you can bump the ISO up to 3200.  High ISO settings will keep the output of your flash lower so your recycle times will be a lot faster.  Practice a lot at home.  If you have time and access to a bar or club, get permission to go there one evening and shoot some photos -- just offer to give them to the owner/management.  This will give you some practice with the gear and with interacting with a crowd. 

Try to shoot the wedding ceremony with natural light if possible.  The 70-200 f/2.8 is ideal for this because you don't want to be standing in middle of everything to get the shots.  For ambient shots, keep the shutter speed at 1/80 or above.  That will cut out most motion blur from slow moving subjects.  This is probably a the perfect opportunity to use auto ISO.  Set your shutter to something like 1/100s with f/4.

Get to the venues early and figure out the best settings.  Save those as the custom presets (C1-C3).  For instance, C3 is your setting with flash...C2 is your setting for ambient.  You can even disable the flash through the camera for your C2 setting so you have one less thing to worry about when switching between ambient and flash settings and will minimize mistakes.

You'll need to make yourself interact with your subjects -- this is a skill all of its own.  Get some purely candid shots, but don't be afraid to ask people to pose for a quick shot.   This may even include you talking to the B&G ahead of time to have them pause for some shots.  For instance, they can stop when they frist get to the aisle before walking down so you have time to take one shot.  Using AISERVO for motion shots like that is ideal, but I wouldn't bother trying to be that ambitious.  The Keep It Simple mentality is definitely the only way to go for you. 

63
EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: 1DX Focusing Screen
« on: January 25, 2013, 03:31:23 PM »
I did the same thing to my 5D3 when I got it (was dirty straight from the factory).  I ended up using the sensor clearer solution on it and it left horrible streaks across the screen.  That one isn't user replacement so I had to send it in and Canon replaced it for free through CPS.  On the 1DX for a few bucks more it would be a lot faster to just buy a new screen and replace it.

64
I just bought the CamRanger (www.camranger.com) and it will allow you to do both if you have an iPad or iPhone -- might even work with a laptop, too, but I still have to figure that out.  You'll be able to focus by touching anywhere on the live view image and can start/stop video or snap photos.  There are probably cheaper options but this one is quite elegant and feature rich.

65
Lenses / Re: Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II
« on: January 24, 2013, 12:12:03 PM »
Occassionally while processing my photos I'll get all gitty about when I come across an exceptionally sharp and crisp image.  That only used to happen with my 70-200 f/2.8 and of course the 85 f/1.2, but that's to be expected.  Now that I have the v2 of the 70-200, it happens even more.  I've never once had that feeling with my most used lens, the 24-70 f/2.8 until I invested in the new version.  As far as I'm concerned...worth every damn cent.  Here's a shot from an inaugural ball of the incomparable Audra McDonald.  Shot at 1/125 f5.6 ISO2500 with a tiny bit of sharpening in LR.  I included a 100% crop of the face.  The best part is that I have about 300 shots of performances that night, all of which were this sharp.

66
Software & Accessories / Re: Black Rapid and dropped camera?
« on: January 10, 2013, 02:15:53 AM »
One other thing I would add...

The BR screw mount can come somewhat loose without the camera falling off.  If the kirk plate comes loose at all, the camera will slide right out of it.  This worries me a lot. 

That said, I think I am still going to try it.  I already have the Op-tech straps on my cameras anyway so I can do the backup method mentioned in the video.  There is definitely an added convenience with using the clamps.

67
Software & Accessories / Re: Black Rapid and dropped camera?
« on: January 07, 2013, 05:51:22 PM »
The only problem I've had with the BR system is occasionally having the camera come out of the carabiner, but admittedly I didn't screw the lock down on it in those instances. 

Adding the Kirk1 clamp seems like a reasonable idea, but it just seems to be adding another point of possible failure.  I would think the BR screw in post with the rubber ring would stay tighter than a clamp.  Has no one ever had the clamp work its way loose?

68
EOS Bodies / Re: 6D vs 5Diii vs 5Dii - Speedlite AF Focus Beam Assist Tests
« on: December 30, 2012, 11:10:46 PM »
Has anyone sent their 5DIII into CPS for repair based on the slow focus lock?  Clearly some people don't have the problem (or they just haven't noticed), so it's a case of build quality.  If enough people start doing it, perhaps Canon will be forced to at least acknowledge the problem.

69
EOS Bodies / Re: 6D vs 5Diii vs 5Dii - Speedlite AF Focus Beam Assist Tests
« on: December 23, 2012, 10:22:43 PM »
It's the amount of time it takes to lock focus when using the AF beam in low light.  Pretty much everyone agrees the focus is spot on when it locks, but it takes considerably longer than it did with the 5DII.

70
And because I'm honestly afraid that you still might not get it, the whole line of discussion around cling wrap, starting from where the sardine sandwiches didn't turn green, is satire.

Yuk it up, these are the jokes.  ;)

I'm quite concerned that people thought you were actually serious. 

71
EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: 1D X AF in Low Light action
« on: December 13, 2012, 06:00:18 PM »
I don't shoot a lot of sports, but I would guess that your choice of lens is most of the problem.  Lenses focus at their widest aperture, which means you have a very thin depth of field upon which to lock focus.  With moving target, the tiniest of movements will make shots drift away from sharp focus.  I know my 85 f/1.2 is VERY finicky and slow about locking focus.  That handicap, combined with your low f-stop means you had potentially missed focus lock and a razor thin margin of error once you fired the shot.  In your situation, I would have lowered the shutter speed in favor of a higher f-stop.  That would give you a little more latitude when the focus wasn't spot on.  You also have a ton of choices for AI Servo on the 1DX and you may not have been using the ideal settings for that type of action.  I have shot some indoor tennis matches with my 1DX and a 70-200 f/2.8II -- I would imagine that to be even dimmer than your gym (miserable light to play in much less shoot).  I was able to keep 1/250 and about f4 for most of the shots.  The racquets and balls were frozen, but there was little motion blur with the people.   Granted, I only had a single moving subject to lock onto, but the focus tracking stayed spot on.  Since I was shooting tennis, I used the AF mode with the little tennis icon and kept it's default settings.

72
EOS Bodies / Re: 6D vs 5Diii vs 5Dii - Speedlite AF Focus Beam Assist Tests
« on: December 12, 2012, 05:45:05 PM »
I don't have a 1D series camera currently, but in the past I always had the feeling that the 1D series had a bit of extra lag when using flash compared to any of the xxD series.  I believe this wasn't the case with the original 1D, but started with the 1DII or 1DIIN.  It may be that the 5D3 has inherited this from the 1D series, along with the AF system generally, perhaps trading speed for accuracy.

Sadly my 1DX suffers from the same lag as the 5D3.  I've been using both quite a lot in the past few months and the delay to lock focus is painful when you have people posed and waiting for the shot to happen.

73
It's very easy to find hot pixels by shooting anything in total darkness.  You can add a second check by doing the same thing on a white surface -- I wouldn't blow out the image though.

For video, "hot pixels" are what you want to avoid because they show up rather distinctly on videos, especially in a dark environment.  The very first video I shot on my 5D3 showed a red hot pixel in the lower half of the screen, and I only had the camera for about a week at that point.  Fortunately, you can fix it rather easily...

1) Remove the lens and place the cap on the camera
2) In the menu functions find the Sensor Cleaning menu
3) Select "Clean Manually"
4) Let it sit for 30 seconds and then switch the camera off
5) When you power back on all pixels should be remapped

This apparently works on my of the newer Canon DSLRs, but I can definitely vouch for it successfully fixing a hot pixel on my 5D3.

74
Thanks, that makes sense - exactly what diffuser do you have: http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/

One question though: I'd like to have a nicer flash reflection in the eyes than the rectangular "bare" flash, esp. on macro shots - how does the demb-type diffuser do here (If it is available in Europe at all)? Thats seems to be one advantage of the Lightsphere - it's round.

I use the Big Flip-it.  I tried the Pro kit with the little diffuser and didn't find it to be useful, so I just stick with the Flip-it by itself.  I have a friend using the Mega and I am going to do some comparisons at some point soon, but I don't think it softens the light much more. 

For catch lights, the Flip-it gives you a larger source that is close to square.  When you're using a source that small, I don't think you'll be able to discern the difference in any of the on-camera modifiers.  Even with large softboxes, catch lights are quite tiny.

A while back Joe Demb contacted me after I was talking up the Flip-it and he actually posted my endorsement on his site and had me build a gallery of images shot with the Big Flip-it, so you'll see lots of examples from event shoots and even some portraits. 

http://chrisburch.com/Portfolio/DembFlip-it/

75
I'm an event shooter, so I use flash all of the time in situations you are talking about.  My criteria for a modifier is as follows (kind of in priority order):

  • HIGHLY portable.  Needs to be able to move around everywhere I go without slowing me down or getting in the way, plus it must be rapidly adjustable.
  • Effective. For me that means it softens the direct light, provides diffuse lighting to boost background lighting, and it must provide light to the full frame of the image (no obvious fall-off at the bottom of the frame).
  • Can't look ridiculous.  To me the Lightsphere is pushing the envelope...if I am going to walk around with large tupperware on my flash it damn well better be worth it.  This isn't a pride thing...I need to look professional, so pie plates, and portable bounce walls just won't do.
  • Flexible.  I may not always want direct light...may want to bounce from only above or behind me.  I don't want a modifier that requires me to disassemble things every time I need to get creative.

I have a plethora of flash modifiers collecting dust and the one I have consistently stuck with for the past 4 years or so is the Demb Flip-it.  It allows me to adjust the ratio of ceiling bounce to foward light, effectively increases the relative size of the lights source by 4x over the bare flash, provides very wide-spread lighting coverage with no fall-off, and it's very portable.  I even use it outside because of the size increase and because it eliminates the light fall-off that bare flash can give you.

For comparing the Sto-Fen to Lightsphere, they are essentially doing the exact same thing.  Both are designed to throw light everywhere, and if you're indoors that can lead to reflections that soften shadows.  The Lightsphere will give you a larger relative light source and probably does a better job with the light distribution, but not by a lot.  Both are totally useless outdoors by the way.  The exception to that is having the lightsphere with a dome on top pointing straight forward -- that only gives you a little larger relative light source.  I do occasionally use the Sto-Fen if I am in a tight crowd or if I am shooting into an umbrella/softbox to get a wider spread of light.  To me, the Sto-Fen is close enough to the Lightsphere that the extra size and tupperware looks just aren't worth it. 

Neuro's setup is no doubt better than any of the about as far as quality of light, but I would never consider mounting the to my on-camera flash.  I own one and don't even feel confident mounting to a flash on a stand because it's heavy and forward on the flash.  One rapid turn and I can't imagine it flying off into a crowd of people.  If you've made that work for you, I'm impressed, but I wouldn't be so brave.

The people who are talking about external lights on stands with umbrellas and such don't shoot events.  Great if you want to make a portrait station, but worst idea ever if you plan to be portable.  I actually do use that setup when I am shooting on location portraits (like posed wedding shots and such), but once I am shooting candids, everything has to be on camera.

Since someone brought up flash cords, I'll give a big endorsement to third party brands if only because they can be so much cheaper.  For instance, B&H makes a brand called Vello and you can get their off-camera cords for about $15 (pretty much identical build quality as far as I can tell).  The Canon version is about $70.  That means you can get almost 5 Vello cables for the price of the Canon version.  If the Canon cords lasted forever, I would say stick with the name brand.  The problem is they don't...at all...mine last about a year.  Maybe the Canon cable will last longer than the Vello, but it certainly won't last longer than 5 of the Vellos.  Plus the Vello brand comes in a 1.5ft model, which is perfect for a flash bracket.

Since I'm plugging gear...ProMediaGear brackets are awesome!

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