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Shooting Sarah at Silvertone

Shooting Sarah at Silvertone

When you are at the World famous Silverstone circuit and you’ve got access to the pit lane, it’s just plain rude not to use it as a location. Especially when you’ve got the lovely Sarah and her equally lovely VW Polo as your subject.

The plan here was twofold – firstly I wanted to get some good shots in the can for Sarah and secondly I wanted to find out just how well my new lighting rig coped in a typical car show situation. Fortunately, it passed with flying colours.

To work in this situation, a lighting rig, for me at least, needs to be;

Light enough to carry: No matter how close you can park, it’s always a distance to anywhere you would want to shoot. I’ve got both heads, both packs and all cabling in a Crumpler Company Gigolo 9500 bag. With my light stands, a few modifiers, and some grip equipment in a fishing rod bag, I am able to move the whole lot short distances on my own. Although this time I had help from Chris Wynne and Darren Skidmore.

Quick to set up: You’ve got to move quickly at a car show as you’ve likely borrowed the girls from a trade stand or a car from a Show n Shine area so time is limited.  Another box ticked by the Quadras. The heads are small enough for a Manfrotto Nano 001B stand to support with the pack hanging to add stability and the Elinchrom Deep Octa goes up swiftly. Cheaper eBay softboxes take a while to assemble though.

Power: I don’t always get to choose when a shoot is going to happen and areas in shade aren’t always the best looking locations, so I need some punch to overpower and control the ambient light. For this shoot the solution was to use 3 hot shoe flashes for example. At 400w/s the Quadra packs aren’t the most powerful, but still had plenty to tame the light spilling into the pit lane in this case. Although I’ve yet to try, I am certain 2 bare heads could handle full sun.

Enough talk, onto some images! Firstly to underexpose the pit lane enough to be able to add my own light I had to shoot at around f/18 at my max sync speed. I should probably take this opportunity to mention the Elinchrom Skyport Speed controller syncs withe the receivers in the Quadra packs at my max sync speed of 1/200th without trouble.

All I had to do now was bring in the lights. A simple, bare head setup for just the car and the Deep Octa softbox (in beauty dish mode) added to the camera right flash for the shots with Sarah.

Here are a few more images fr the shoot, feel free to leave a comment.

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Another weekend, another car show and this time it was USC (Ultimate Street Car) at Santa Pod.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have any secluded barns to shoot in this time so it was a case of making the best of a bad lot. And at car shows, it’s a very bad lot – even when your subjects are the Sextons Direct / Ripraw girls!

You’ve got cluttered backgrounds, harsh mid afternoon light and crowds.

First of all, I toured Santa Pod looking for a location without people, cars or fairground rides lurking in the background. Luckily Santa Pod is out in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside and backs onto some open fields and I was able to find this on the edge of the showground.

I chose this partly for the view but also as facing in the this direction the sun was be coming from behind the subjects – about 2 o’clock from this view. This way, the girls weren’t squinting into the bright light and I’d be able to add my own soft, diffused light from camera left.

Which leads nicely onto Problem Number 2 – the harsh sunlight. As it was coming from over the left shoulders of the girls it served as a nice separation light which, if I under exposed the background slightly, would make them really ‘pop’. But that would also leave faces in shadow, so out came the lighting.

Working in manual mode, I set my 5D MkII to sync at it’s max sync speed (1/200th) but in order to get some detail in the bright sky I was having to shoot at f/10 which meant needing to drive the flashes hard. So hard in fact that in order to keep a decent recycle time I had to gang 3 SB-28 at 1/2 power though a single shoot through umbrella. Think Joe McNally‘s speedlight tree on a budget!


With lights and locations sorted, it was time to bring on the car and the girls. This always draws an instant crowd at car shows but due to the location, apart from a few passing cars, the onlookers were behind the camera.

And onto the results. Well worth a bit of location scouting and 5 minutes of set-up I think.

Big thanks to Chris for the loan of the car and of course for the girls for doing their thing in front of my camera.

How To Mount Your Wireless Off-Camera Flash

How To Mount Your Wireless Off-Camera Flash

OK, so you’ve read, and joined the Strobist Flickr group. You’ve gone on eBay and bought your “Cactus Triggers” or “Poverty Wizards”. Now it’s time to put it all together – Just how does tab A slot into tab B? Well here’s what I have settled on.

I currently have the Phottix PT-04TM wireless flash triggers, bought from HKSupplies on eBay. These triggers may not be 100% reliable, but I am getting very few non fires and even fewer miss fires. They are no Pocket Wizard, but they only cost pocket money.

The PT-04TMs are intended to mount onto your cold shoe or umbrella bracket or screw onto the standard thread atop a light stand with the flash mounted on top. The trouble is, this makes the whole assembly very tall and unwieldy and I found the flash would flop forwards and finish up illuminating my light stand very nicely!

So I set out to try and find a way of lowering the overall height to reduce the leverage. Here’s what I came up with:

Obviously there’s the flash. Then there’s the PT-04TM, with the plastic foot removed, velcro’d on top (you do have velcro on your flash head don’t you?)

Attached to the hotshoe on the receiver is a cheap hotshoe to PC sync adapter (designed to let you use a PC sync cord with a camera that has a hotshoe but no PC sync port) bought for a few pounds from eBay. If you have the slightly newer receiver that has a PC sync port on the side, you don’t need this.

Moving down to the bottom of the flash we have a Kaiser 1301 Hotshoe Adapter (designed to let you use a flash that has no PC sync port on a camera that has no hotshoe).

So basically, when the receiver triggers, instead of going straight over a hotshoe to flash connection, it travels over 6″ of wire first. There’s nothing clever happening, it just makes everything more convenient.

The Kaiser 1301 Hotshoe Adapter has another benefit: It has a normal foot so you can use it with all your other umbrella mounts, but it also has a standard 1/4″ screw thread on the bottom for mounting onto any standard light stand, tripod, or in my case, a very small, very cheap Hama 5011 ball head.

It may not be the tidiest setup, but it work for me… at least untill I can get my hands on some of those Pocket Wizard Flex/Minis!

Working the CTO

Working the CTO

Another of my Adventures in Strobism, as originally posted on my Flickr photostream.


Using info about creatively using a CTO gel on your flash by David Hobby aka The Strobist I decided to do a bit of Sunday morning experimentation.

What you have here is the same shot twice. The left is daylight white balanced and the right WB is set to Tungsten.

In the original shot the orange tinged flash (1.5CTO gel, 1/64 power, grid spot, camera right) illuminates the model wind turbine with a tungsten coloured glow. The overcast sky outside looks as it did when the shot was taken.

The image on the right shows the benefit of Mr Hobby’s advice: If you set the camera to Tungsten white balance, the colour temperature of everything in the frame is lowered. The warm orange light is cooled to bring it back to the colour of daylight while the already cooler sky is lowered to a deep blue.

Not the most exciting subject I’ll admit, but its a great effect and I can’t wait to try it properly. By underexposing, and using sufficient CTO, you can create that just after sunset look virtually anytime you like.