Saturday 22 August 2009

How to get the most from your Optical slave- OUTDOORS!

When I was 'breaking out' of photojournalism, what i knew about lighting could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp.

Yes, I had read a few bits and pieces but they did not quite hit the spot, I just did not grasp it

My good friend Dave Beck had just joined the Flash Centre in London and I started to visit him and his colleagues and to be honest that is where my learning began in earnest

Now, photographers in the pre internet days were VERY secretive to say the very least, and to hang out in one of the main hire centers in London to see what was the most hired equipment for what kind of job was an eye opener

We live in an age where knowledgeable retailers are a threatened species, where people shop on line to save a few quid.

Money is saved but who do you call for vital advise when things don't go to plan

I was shooting some time lapse photography with a Pocket Wizard Multi Max in North Yorkshire and I just could not quite work it out. I could have resorted to the manual (heaven forbid!) but I had lost that years ago...

One phone call to Alex Ray at the Flash Centre and he talked me through it for 10 mins until I had sorted the issue.

Try that with your box shifter types......

These guys know some great 'Sweet cheats'

Tricks which help you save your skin when you have really messed up

Some years ago when I was shooting the 'Guinness World Record' series I had travelled down to deepest Devon along with the long suffering Clare (who is now my producer) to photograph Anne Atkin who has the Worlds biggest collection of Gnomes

Now Devon is a long way from the Midlands where I lived at the time, and seems even further away when you have 6 lights to trigger outdoors and have only 1 hard wired sync cable.

Yes folks, I had left all the Pocket Wizards 300 miles away

I was in quite a pickle in deepest Devon

Optical slaves work by detecting the flash from another unit and triggering the unit wirelessly, all well and good but there was so much ambient light they were not detecting the 'trigger' flash

We were lighting such a large area that the shoot was in doubt, not helped by a colony of crows messing on us.....oh the misery....the tears...

So how did I get the shot?

I spoke to Sav at the Flash centre and told him my plight...

'Oh have you tried covering the optical slave receptors with something like cardboard or gaffer tape?'

Here is the optical slave uncovered

And with Sav's gaffer tape modification

By doing this the slave only 'sees' the flash and not the ambient light

Go try it yourself

Now, there is no way I could have got the shot without Sav's help that day

This is not meant to be an 'ad' for the 'Flash Centre'

What I'm advocating is forming relationships with your knowledgeable dealer, no matter who it is, you support them and they will support you


Parkylondon said...

It may not be an ad for The Flash Centre but, being a customer myself, I am in 1--% agreement with the sentiments. Top people.

Parkylondon said...

I'm such a berk. I'm suffering from fat fingers today. I meant to say 100%, that's one hundred per cent...

Unknown said...

Hey parkylondon

I'm with you on that, but its kind of meant to encourage fellow photographers to build relationships of value, not to mention friendships, which take them forward

Have a fab weekend



ThePixelMerch©nt said...

I agree, but still feel like I am walking into someone's office (everyone has their head down) rather than a shop. I am reminded of the bar scene in The Last Seduction. Which is a shame considering they hold such useful stuff - as well as nuggets such as this....

James Hill said...

I'm in total agreement with ThePixelMerch©nt, the last time I went in there no-one got up and asked if they could help me, I went to one desk, and they grunted "I'm hire only" and fobbed me off to another desk, only to be fobbed off again by another person.

I'm sure they have a wealth of knowledge about photography but they have no idea on customer service and professional presentation.

Their shop is in complete disarray, I went in for a pocket-wizard pre-trigger release. It took them 15 minutes to find one in the pile of cables on the ground. Of which they happily charged me £100 and it broke.

I was in Calumet for rental one day and they said yeah we have those cables for £9, so I got one. Took the other back to TFC, they said they'd only replace it for another shitty cable, which since has broken again.

I really feel that the guys at TFC are just egotistical elitists.

Alas, that was not what your article was about. It was about forging relationships with real people not their counterparts online. So let me finish on a couple of positives:

My favourite rental house in London is filmplus, those guys are cool and down-to-earth, organised and well versed. I also must gush praise towards Canon Professional Services in Australia. Their level of customer service is just above and beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Tom Legrady said...

Had a similar experience with bookstores. Heard an interview on the radio about a book of interviews with artists at the Metropolitan Museum, but a guy named Israel. I went from bookstore to bookstore looking for it, it would be a perfect Christmas present for my brother, but no one had heard of it, not at the giant chains, not even at the art books stores.

Then I went to Edwards books here in Toronto. The cashier didn't know, but called over the Art section specialist, who told me it was M.O.M.A., not the Metropolitan, the guys name was Jerusalem, not Israel, and the book was directly behind me at head level.

Of course, after 70 years at the same location, they've now been replaced by a Starbucks.

Robyn L. said...

Thanks for the tip! I would have never have even realized that, such though is the power of the knowledge of other people!

Unknown said...

Amen to that. This community is so incredibly important, and it's great to have someone like you around, who's dare I say, a bit different? :)

Hope all is well bud...see you in Dubai!