Fun with Colours: flashes, gels, mirrors.

The things some people do in their bedrooms in private! In preparation for tomorrow’s hands-on flash course I outfitted some flashes with coloured gels tonight. 

I used Honlphoto gels, seen bottom right here in a double wrap:


I had three flashes mounted on a stand that uses one radio trigger (like a Pocketwizard) to fire all three flashes (thus saving two radio triggers). I have discussed this three-way mount here before. I also used grids (also Honlphoto) to get three separate light circles.

As said, where all three flashes mix, you get white. After you get the ratios right, that is: the gels take light (also discussed here in a recent post) and you may need to turn one or two of them up to compensate.

Once you are done, you get white. You see it here in the centre:


And here:


TIP: To get the ratio right, you look at the RGB histogram. The peaks for red, blue and green need to be at the same distance from the edges.

Looking at the flashes you see the three colours I chose:


Red, Green and Blue. Surprise, surprise!

You see, when these colours mix, that once you get the ratios right, you get white overall. But when only two of them mix you get “in between” colours, which include cyan, yellow, and magenta:


So now you know why you see RGB and CYMK (where “K” means “Black”) as two alternate ways to mix several basic colours!

I also had unrelated flash fun, of course. f/32:


And my spinning top:


On a concave mirror, that is:


The moral of this post?

You should have fun with your photography, and explore, and try out different things. How many of you have gels, and how many of you have used these to mix light in different ways? That’s how you learn about light. So for those of you not coming to tomorrow’s course: go have fun, And sign up for the one after the next one: tomorrow and next week are full up, but 6 November still has a few spots open.

Any way you do it: learn about light, and have fun.

PS for Honl modifiers, which I strongly recommend, go to this link and use discount code “Willems” at checkout to get an additional 10% off.

Document your life while you can.

The death, in my arms, of my three year old Bengal cat Shiva last week reminds me again how ephemeral life is. Here he is, poor Shiva, taking his final journey to the vet an hour or two after his death for a postmortem:


I am happy that I have many more pictures of Shiva. Thousands. The maybe five or six pictures of dead Shiva are nothing compared to the many hundreds of live Shiva.

After the vet visit, I decided to do something more fun and take some photos of my car:


(85mm, 200 ISO, 1/200 sec, f/11 – that’s the “Sunny Sixteen” rule)

And here’s my foreverspin spinning top in action (bounced flash at half power; meaning an effective virtual shutter speed of roughly 1/2000 sec):



The point: document your life, as I do, even though photography is my job as well.

I can picture anything. Do you want the same skills? Easy. Learn, And it’s really simple today. Start here: get the free downloads from the bottom of this page: – those are free chapters from some of my e-books that are useful by themselves. Learn those.

Then learn more of the technical and artistic skills you need. Get the rest of the e-books. Or come to my frequent workshops: see the listing here. Or get individual, bespoke training, which many of my clients find is the best way to quickly learn. However you do it: learn, while you can, and have a documented life. It can be over all too soon, but more importantly: every day is one to share, to treasure, to come back to. Photography is how.


Taking A Cat Snap

As seen in the previous post: Mau, just now:


So what are the salient technical points of this photo?

  1. I have two flashes aiming toward the camera and toward Mau Mau from the back, providing back- and rim lighting.
  2. Back- and rim lighting provide “3-D” modelling and drama, and light the whiskers well.
  3. But the white bedsheets (and I!) reflect enough back so there is some forward lighting also.
  4. Camera: manual mode, 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, and f/22:
  5. So that is the “darkest” possible ISO, the “darkest” possible shutter speed (“sync speed”), and the “darkest” possible aperture this lens offers; alll this to completely kill the bright ambient light (and at this close distance the flashes are super bright, so that’s not a problem).
  6. I used a Yongnuo YN622C-TX wireless controller on the camera, and a YN622C connected to each one of the flashes.
  7. These flashes have to be 430EX MkII or 580EX or 600EX, or equivalent: the old 430EX with the switch does not work here. Much as I like the switch, this is a situation where electronically setting the wireless mode is a must have.
  8. Although this setup supports TTL, I used manual power setting for the flashes, 1/16 power worked fine in this case (trial and error). Manual power setting is the way to go, if you have any control over the environment.
  9. You should lose any filters you may have on the lens: they will often increase flare to an unacceptable level. They certainly will not make the picture better.
  10. The lit eye is in sharp focus; of course at f/22 there is quite a lot in focus. Eye and whiskers are essential.

As you see, beyond the obvious, rather a lot of thinking can go into a simple picture. And few of these are “the only way to do it”. That is why photography is such a cool artistic endeavour.

So if few of those are “must do this way” points, why list them?

Because it is more important that you think about all these things than what you think about them. In other words, an analytical approach to photography helps you create repeatable art, where a photo works a certain way because you want it to, rather than “by accident”.


Lightroom Bug with Sierra

If you have upgraded your Mac to Sierra, the new OS, Lightroom may show a bit of a bug in the Import module.

When trying to import, you see this dialog:


A few things are missing there, aren’t they? “File Renaming” and in particular, the essential “Destination” dialog is missing.

The solution? For now, until the bug is fixed, just right-click on one of the two that do show, File Handling or Apply During Import:


…and then click on the two missing dialogs, “File Renaming” and “Destination” to activate them, so a tick mark appears next to them too.

You now see all four again, and you can set your destination as always:


So although this little bug is annoying, it is easy to bypass.

Now to celebrate, here is Mau Mau, surrounded by (and lit by) two flashes:


Taken at 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, and f/22, with the flashes set to 1/16 power, using a Yongnuo YN622C-TX on the camera and a YN622C connected to each one of the the flashes.


Mistakes are how we learn…

….and I can make them too. Today is an example.

I just bought a used Canon ST-E3-RT wireless flash control transmitter. A great piece of engineering. And also a good piece of business, for Canon. And also a mistake, for me.
20161011-1dx_1235-1200 20161011-1dx_1236-1200 20161011-1dx_1237-1200

Because as I told the seller, “This one does radio as well as IR, IIRC”.

If I had only looked that up instead of relying on my recollection! Because no, it does not do light/infrared control. It only does radio control. Meaning I can control 600EX flashes, but not the six 580EX and 430EX flashes that I own. My only 600EX is faulty and needs an expensive repair or replacement.

So I have a controller that is a marvellous piece of engineering, but it only controls 600EX flashes that I do not own. Review some time when I do own 600EX flashes!

And careful when you rely on recollection. “IIRC” (if I recall correctly) implies that you might be wrong. Which I was.

Why is this flash, as I put it, a great business move? Because it forces photographers like me to buy only new 600EX flashes, and yo discard their 430EX and 580EX flashes. Which would be fine if it was one flash… but I have six of them!

Moral of the story? Check things before you trust your recollection; every time you say “IIRC”, realize you could be wrong.

(PS: Anyone looking for an ST-E3-RT? :-) )