Bridge Lake Workshop Wireless Off-Camera Flash              

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Last Sunday saw me making the scenic two-hour drive north to join the Bridge Lake Photography Group. I have been following that creative and talented group of photographers, (www.bridgelakephotogroup.com) since a long time friend, Derek Chambers, got in touch with me about a year ago. On Sunday I led a full day workshop for them about using off-camera speedlights indoors and out-of-doors.

There is so much that I want to tell photographers when they first attempt to use flash as a tool to create better photos instead of the flash being an uncontrollable device photographers perch on the top of the camera when it’s too dark in a room to take a photo.

In my opening presentation I had to hold myself back as I sometimes realize I am talking too fast. But I get excited and I really want to move from lecturing in front of students, and go to the studio setup where the learners, not me, are center stage. That’s where my fun, and, assuredly, the participants’ fun begin.

I always enjoy the enlivened interaction that occurs when a student of flash photography takes that first shot with one of the flash set ups. Usually, no one ever wants to be first. Everything is strange. The flash that usually is attached to their camera is now attached to a softbox or an umbrella. I always have to prod and coax the students to begin, but I can hardly wait for the first “oohs and aahs” that happen when they see the results of their first photos.

My job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead. That is left to the participants, and watching them learn is the fun part for me. After everyone crowds around that first volunteer’s camera and sees the picture it is all I can do to hold them back.

Our ever-patient model was overwhelmed as she tried to pose for everyone at the same time. She pleaded, “Where do I look?”   I laughed and loudly said to that excited scrum of photographers, “If you want her to look at you yell, ’Me! Me! Me!’”

We spent the morning shooting in the inside studio. For that session I had the flashes set to manual mode so their output would always have the same power. That is the easiest way. If more light is wanted on the subject move the flash forward. Less? Move the flash away.

After lunch we moved outside and I set up one flash with a shoot-through umbrella, however, this time the flash was set to TTL mode. When using flash in an indoor studio one synchronizes the camera’s shutterspeed to the studio flash, and uses the aperture to determine the exposure of the light reflecting off a subject. Progressing, however, to an out-of-doors situation with TTL a photographer must balance the natural, ambient light with the off-camera flash; and using flash effectively is more about creating and controlling shadows than about filling them.

We walked out into the bright day and our model had barely reached a location in the meadow before 15 excited photographers got down to business. By then they weren’t at all shy about getting shoulder to shoulder in the process of experimenting, exploring, and learning about outdoor lighting.

I just received an email from Chambers saying, “You’ve definitely added a whole new dimension to our photographic adventures. Thanks a lot.” Gosh, a whole new dimension to their photographic adventures. That is one of the best “thank you’s” I have ever received.

8 responses to “Bridge Lake Workshop Wireless Off-Camera Flash              

  1. I will definitely second Derek’s comment. It was a fun day and I really learned a lot. My experience with flash has been with macro (manual) and bird photography with a Better Beamer attached so this was fairly new ground for me. Thanks again John for making it easy to grasp ……. It all made sense. I’m going to persue this further.

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    • Thanks Larry, Actually I photograph plants and gardens exactly the same way and using the same lighting equipment as I do with people.
      My experience with bird photography has been limited, but I do have a Better Beamer that I bought many years ago that I really should put to use some time.
      I look forward to seeing you again and hope your trip Vancouver Island will be lots of fun. seeya

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  2. Looks like a fun day and meeting, though some of those lenses look more suited to capturing a beetle a mile away than portraits of people 6ft from them 😊 I like the shot of the very smiley lady at the end.

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    • Thanks fragg, I did have a great time. And you are correct, most of those photographers are more experienced with wildlife photography than portraiture.
      However, I did mention to some of them that the longer the lens the more flattering the effect, so the 400mm and 600mm would have be great.
      I had to put that last picture in, they were really enjoying themselves. Thank you again…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It looks like it was a great day. I love reading your posts and blogs John. You continue to be so enthusiastic and inspire the same. Look forwards to another workshop with you. Winter outdoor portraits?? Yes Wow! about the long lenses up there.

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