Sunday, July 31, 2016

Auxiliary Power For My Metz 44 AF 2 Part 1

Click here to read the entire DPREVIEW.COM  review
In an earlier post, I heralded th`e arrival of the new Fuji EFX-500 flash, shown at left, an OEM flash with enough power and features to warrant a very hard look. To the good, it can take an external accessory battery pack and has wireless TTL exposure options. To the bad, it has a substantial price tag, comparable to the top of the line Nikon speedlights.  However, I still wondered if an older (sealed lead acid battery) Quantum QB1 battery pack could be adapted to work with the Metz 44AF-2 I had just purchased.

My obligatory disclaimer includes both the “you break it, you bought it” warning, and a confession that I already had two working QB 1 battery packs and a bunch of Vivitar 283 power cables for them. This meant that I already had a rechargeable power source and a cable to deliver the power to the Metz.

Click here to read the original Shutterbug article.
 Original Source Information: When the Vivitar 283 was King, there were dozens of do-it-yourselfers trying to find ways to boost the number of full-power flashes available to the photographer.  This particular post (right) uses a BUSS 20 amp Time Delay Fuse as an AA battery stand-in. Since it's dimensions are nearly identical to an AA battery, two can be inserted into the chambers of the Vivitar's removable battery cluster and provide the the necessary leads for the external battery.If you follow the link, you can see that new fuses are not particularly cheap, and they're not particular easy to find locally.

Ebay To The Rescue:After a bit of searching, I found and bought ten of these precious fuses for $8.00 plus $4.00 shipping. This saved me a great deal of money when compared to the price of a "new" one. Admittedly, they had an "aged copper patina" which I'll remove with some 0000 steel wool. After that, I checked each one to be sure that they could still conduct current and hadn't already been "blown". At first, I tried juggling a single AA battery, a fuse, and the two leads of a volt meter, trying to get all the contact points to touch. I solved the problem by placing the batteries on a table, sandwiched between two paperback books to keep them in alignment.

Here you see me holding my newly acquired treasure. I have no idea where theses fuses came from, but I suspect they were salvaged from some remodel or update. They're obviously used, and old. but they all checked out. I paid for ten fuses, but got eleven. Sweet.

Just for fun, I measured the fuses with a dial caliper, and found that their diameters were within 2/1000" of the nominal diameter of a typical AA battery. Their length, however, exceeded a battery's by 24/1000", which is probably not excessive, since the batteries are under spring tension from flash contacts anyway. I'm sure there will be at least that much play.

My next challenge will be getting a secure, soldered juncture between the fuses and a Quantum Battery 1/ Vivitar 283 power cable. I'll need to use a hacksaw for this operation, since I want to keep as much of the shielded wire available for soldering.

Stay tuned, folks!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tom Jung - Flash Trendsetter!

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The San Francisco Chronicle July 11, 2016
This photo was taken by Liz Hafalia,  a staff photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle, to illustrate the increasing popularity of Pokemon Go, an on-line game that's getting very popular. I'm not into gaming, but apparently these young people are, and as this photo illustrates, they can play sitting, or walking.

When I first saw this photo, I was was struck by how much the results reflected the approach I've been taking when photographing subjects in bright sunlight. If you look at the gamer walking to the right, you can see how little detail the shadows would have if a flash was not present. It appears to have been feathered (turned away) to prevent the leftmost (nearest) subject from being burnt to a crisp. All in all, a very nice piece of work!

If there a moral to this story, it's that sometimes a flash is the only way you can produce a usable image. Having a flash to add detail to the shadows means you don't have to compromise your exposure. The sky is exposed to give an appealing blue, while the flash gives light back to the underexposed shadows.

I made this photo about four years ago with a Nikon D70 and a shoe-mounted SB-800. I admit that working with cameras in the 24 megapixel range has spoiled me to these six megapixel images made with a camera that is for all intents and purposes is too low in resolution to take on a real assignment. But when coupled with that single speedlight, it make images like this much more reproducible in the newsprint world where I normally work.

So keep a good flash with you at all times. I has saved the day for me more than once!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Foster City Fourth

The Fourth of July was a non-assignment, which is to say I just decided to photograph an event to see what would come up. The Fourth is a big deal on the Peninsula, with parades and family events schedule in most of the large cities. The last Fourth of July photo I submitted was taken at the Redwood City parade, which is possibly the largest one in San Mateo County. A long lens and a fire engine full of smiles made the front page, and just like a fisherman going after bluegills, I wanted to try my luck again. Foster City's party was smaller, but is was closer, and I had things to do later in the day.

When looking for subjects, I try to incorporate as many contextual elements as I can find. Being the Fourth, this large flag caught my eye. It turns out that it was mounted in the back of a World War II era jeep, which turned out to be a magnet to these two boys wanting to get the feel of driving a real car without any of the hazards.

Commence Firing! This collection of twelve shots was taken during a four-minute period of time.Most of the shots reflect some part of my overall strategy of refining my shots when time permits. I didn't take an excessive amount of time on the project, but there are some clear benchmarks that I can remember. Viewing the images from left to right, top to bottom:

#1 confirmed that the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings would produce the darkened blue sky I wanted.
#2 reminded me to photograph the "driver" when his arm wasn't blocking his face.
#3 shows that the drooping flag was not very interesting.
#4 shows the benefits of a little brother getting into the back seat, but without the flag, it still falls short.
#5 reminded me that TTL isn't perfect, especially with the Fuji.
#7 showed me that if I could get the timing right, a gust of wind would open the flag to make an interesting backdrop. And in this case, cutting off the edge of the flag was a distraction.
#8 another TTL letdown, and the flag wasn't fully opened.
#9 - 11 is me shooting when my driver's arm was lower and there was a bit of wind.
#12 shows all the stars in alignment. The flag is at full width, the flash is behaving, and Little Brother was at least looking forward.

About Faces: I don't believe it's essential that the photographer and the subjects make eye contact. I tell my students that the difference between a posed photo and a candid is where your subjects are looking. Here, they're at least facing the same direction, which gives the image some purpose. Incidentally, this shot wasn't posed in any way, as they pretty much ignored me throughout the session.

Epilogue: With the photo safely in the queue, I can view it with a more critical eye. The lighting ratio appears to have reached the mythical 1:1, meaning that the shadows and the highlights are exposed to an equal extent, an impossibility when you consider the additive nature of light. If you examine the driver carefully, you can barely see the shadow line on his face (it follows the his left cheek line). I'll be the first to say that this photo isn't high art, but the visual elements I was trying to capture are all there.

I Coulda Been A Contender! This photo taken at the Redwood City parade was featured on the front page of the July 5 edition. Due to a file delivery error, my photo didn't arrive soon enough to be considered. Instead, it found its way into the queue,and might possibly be printed one week later in the community section.

Here Today: The image appeared on Page 2 of the July 7 edition. This spot is normally reserved for a "shot of the day" from Reuters, I guess one could say that my photo was the best photograph in the world on July 6 when the edition officially went to press.Heh heh..

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For - Fuji X500 Flash

Click here to read the entire review
The new Fuji EF X-500 flash is apparently a reality, as B&H Photo is taking pre-orders. It turns out that Fuji announced the unit in January of 2016, but not being a complete Fuji-SuperFan, I didn't know about it. Details are still a little sketchy, but if will apparently offer High Speed  Synchronization and an EF-BP1 optional supplementary battery pack which will add the power of 8 additional AA batteries to the 4 housed in the flash body.

I think I'm going to wait a while on this one (no reflexive pre-order for me) and see what other photographers think. The price is what I would expect ($450.00 for the flash and $200 for the battery pack). While the price is certainly in line with what I would have paid for a comparable Nikon speedlight. Just the same, I've found the Fuji TTL a little inconsistent, and I'm willing to wait a while.

I have some options. I could continue to use a Nikon SB-80 in the manual mode, as it's fast and convenient, as I already have 3 plus a bunch of compatible Nikon SD-8 packs. My other option is more theoretical: I could modify a Vivitar 283 / Quantum Battery cable (I have several)  to work in my Quantum battery packs and my new Braun flash. This is theoretical, of course, but it could be tested with a minimum of effort. If I proceed with this project, I'll document it here.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Keep Looking For Something New!

Some times you know that you have the "money shot", the one that tells the story you wanted to tell, is properly exposed, properly composed, as close to perfection as the situation would allow. Other times, you keep shooting, waiting for your own muse to appear and inspire you to continue shooting.

I was working with a staff writer who usually make her own photos. This would have made my presence redundant, were it not for the fact I had promised the City Librarian Ben Ocon that I'd be there.  

(If You Look In The Viewfinder and)...See Something You Have Seen Before, Don't Click The Shutter. This quintessential quote from  Alexey Brodovitch  reminds the photographer to constantly look for new approaches to telling a your story through your photographs.  From the appearance of this first shot, you might think that I ignored the Russian art director's advice. I made this shot for two reasons. First, it helps me to relax, knowing that I have one usable but trite image on my SD card. A shot like this could be used in a pinch, but I didn't intend to submit it. Secondly, I wanted to see the effect of a bounced flash shot when combined with a dark backlit ceiling.

Here this newly naturalized citizen stands with Jackie Speier (D. San Mateo). Since the article included a quote, a photo of her with the Congresswoman would work well. Again, I've seen this shot many times before, and probably taken a few myself. But I now had a second (technically) usable shot on the card. In theory, I could now go home.

I hung around instead, waiting for a photo with a more compelling back story. Shortly after the applause was over, friends and family milled about, taking photos and offering congratulations. Here, my subject is unwrapping her "citizen pin" so her daughter could wear it. After chimping this shot, I decided there was no story here. I also didn't like the dark background, so I doubled the exposure time and left the aperture alone. I'm using a paper plate bounced flash for these shots, so the constant aperture was a definite plus.

This second confirmation shot gave me the background detail I wanted, but the pin is too small to be seen. I could have changed lenses and moved closer for a tight portrait, but I liked how the background helped make the photo more festive.

These two shots were starting to lose focus, so I asked, "Can you show Mommy how proud you are of her?" Her daughter was happy to accommodate, and I got this very natural kiss on her cheek. As I always do, I told them that I was going to make a second shot, probably adding, "I just having so much fun!"

It wasn't until I chimped the images that I noticed the three people taking a selfie in the background. The people at camera left were also preparing to make a photograph. And in the middle, a proud little girl with her mommy. I consider myself extremely lucky to have caught the selfie action in the back, as their spontaneity just adds to the excitement of the photo.

I've never seen a photo quite like this one, Mr.Brodovitch, so I did make the exposure. Now, it's time to go home!