Sunday, December 6, 2015

2 Speedlights On 1 Body

Photo #1
Most people justify the purchase of an item before actually paying for it. In my case, I'll buy first and look for a use later. As a result, I have a lot of stuff that's cool on paper, but often not assigned a function for months, maybe years, after the purchase.

Take the Custom Bracket Mini-RC. It's a beautifully made flash bracket that positions the speedlight beside the camera and not above it. While it may not be ideal for direct flash, it works fine for on-camera bounce flash, so long as you use the Black Foamie Thing to prevent direct light from spilling on your subject. It's main tributes are its sturdy construction and flat contour, making it both rugged and easy to carry. In this quickly made photo (Photo #1), you can see the flash placement, and how the Mini-RC gives some clearance for your hand to grip the camera. Sorry, but his is a very right-handed thing. I purposely avoided using the diffusion dome, since it reached just beyond the edge of the lens hood and may have introduced some lens flare.
This is how the bracket would appear if the lens on one's invisible camera was pointing towards your left kidney. The  "dog leg" bend gives you room to properly hold your DSLR in your right hand while the speedlight stays nestled close to the camera axis. Had I added a supplementary battery pack to the bottom of my D600, I could have dropped the flash axis even closer to the lens. I like this model better than my older ones because it has two built-in anti-twist posts, which my older versions don't.

I had a different purpose in mind. Since I had wireless iTTL control even when the main, shoe-mounted light was both a bounced key light, I could mount a "near axis" speedlight to serve as a fill light. Granted, it wasn't ideal, but I reasoned that if the relative power was kept low enough, the potential "double shadow" would not be noticeable.  

Photo #2
In use, the shoe-mounted SB-900 was set to the Commander Mode, and its output (The M Setting) adjusted for 2/3 stops of over exposure. The side-mounted SB-800 was set to at the Commander as Group B (my normal Fill Flash group) to -1 stop of exposure. This was a theoretical difference of 1 2/3 stops, so I was pretty sure I'd get the some sense of the three dimensional I was after. Photo #2 was typical of the indoor, supplemented bounce flash photo I was making.

Photo #3
You can see in this cropped closeup (Photo #3) that there is a distinct catch light on the pupil, something I normally don't get with up-close bounce flash. And while I get the shadow detail I'm after, the fill light is still on-axis and liable to become very VERY annoying if I needed to take multiple shots to get a fleeting expression. Count on it, there's nothing like direct, on axis flash to make oneself a pest.

The system is not without its pitfalls. Whenever bounce flash is used, there is always the problem of color contamination from the walls and ceiling. And while you can correct any tinting in post production, the direct fill light will always be "daylight". Depending of the color of the room, you may get some strange shadow tinting. These classrooms were close enough to "white" to not cause a problem, but I have encountered situations where it has.

The setup worked well for posed shots, where you make one or two quick photos, usually adding the "uno mas" option after the first shot. Again, when people know they're being photographed, the on-axis fill light can give you a bit of extra detail in the shadows.