Silhouette Flash Lessons

laysan-albatross-pech-sky-silh-w-flash-_y9c1100-sand-island-midway-nwr

This Laysan Albatross image was created at Rusty Bucket on Sand Island, Midway with the Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/5.6 in Av Mode. Flash as main light in Manual mode at 1:1 with the
Canon 580 EX II Speedlight.

Silhouette Flash Lessons

This image was created only a few minutes after the image that I shared with you yesterday here. The sun had slipped below the horizon and the color in the sky had lost its glow and its intensity but the varying shades of orange and peach were still quite lovely. I had brought my flash along but did not have my external battery pack (the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack), my flash cord, the Integrated Flash Arm for my Mongoose, or my Better Beamer. Though ill-equipped, I thought that lighting the (effectively) shadowed side of the bird was worth a try. I knew that with the flash mounted on the camera that severe flash eye/silver eye would be the result but that I could deal with that easily during image optimization.

(Using an external battery pack allows for more consecutive flashes and faster recharging times. A flash cord allows you to mount the flash off-camera on a flash bracket. Using a flash bracket allows you to mount the flash well above the central axis of the lens thus eliminating or reducing problems with red-eye, flash-eye, steel eye, purple eye with birds and green eye with many mammals. With the flash mounted on camera the light from the flash reflects off the subject’s retina causing a variety of problems. Using a Better Beamer concentrates the light from the flash and yields an increase in flash output of about 2 2/3 stops, allows you to work at greater distances with smaller apertures, reduces battery drain, weighs just 2 1/2 ounces, and holds the Fresnel lens in place with no sagging or flopping. It fits in your pocket and set up and removal is quick and easy.)

When you are lighting the shadowed side of the subject you are effectively using Flash As Main Light Techniques; you want to fully illuminate the dark side of the subject. Experience with flash told me that I would need lots of flash as the bird was about 79 feet from me so I immediately went to maximum flash, manual flash at 1:1. The image on the LCD looked pretty bright so I cut back to 1:2 for the second test frame but the histogram was nowhere near the fifth box so I went back to 1:1. To learn about flash as main light, fill flash, and manual flash, see the Flash Simplified section in ABP II (916 pages on CD only).

y9c1100-sand-island-midway-nwr

This JPEG represents the converted RAW file, in effect, the original. Note the horrific flash eye :) Note the grass clean-up done using the techniques described in Digital Basics File (an PDF sent by e-mail).

To eliminate the huge flash eye problem in the original image above I painted a Quick Mask of the pupil, hit Control U (Hue/Saturation) on a layer, reduced the Saturation, moved the Lightness Slider to the left, added a Layer Mask to the QM layer, and painted away the mask to reveal the catch light. For complete details and to learn all of my Digital Eye Doctor techniques, check out our amazing Digital Basics File (an PDF sent by e-mail). Digital Basics also includes my complete digital workflow from capture through image optimization and dozens and dozens of great Photoshop tips.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My workhorse professional digital camera bodies.
Canon 580 EX II Speedlight. This is Canon’s most powerful, top of the line flash.
Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack. Powers the flash. Allows more consecutive flashes and faster recharging times.
Better Beamer. Using a Better Beamer concentrates the light from the flash and yields an increase in flash output of about 2 2/3 stops, allows you to work at greater distances with smaller apertures, reduces battery drain, weighs just 2 1/2 ounces, and holds the Fresnel lens in place with no sagging or flopping. It fits in your pocket and set up and removal is quick and easy.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm. Lightweight yet fully functional. This accessory allows you to mount the flash well above the central axis of the lens thus eliminating or reducing problems with red-eye, flash-eye, steel eye, purple eye with birds and green eye with many mammals.
ProMaster Flash Cord. This flash cord is sturdy and reliable.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gear bag with each order over $50.

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3 comments to Silhouette Flash Lessons

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Ken and Glen :) Just be glad that I do not charge their hourly rates for free instruction!

  • Thanks for giving us more ideas on different approaches to shooting birds – There are a few items I have added to my camera bag for wildlife shooting trip coming up shortly for about 3 months – thanks to your blog – I really can’t afford much more of your suggested camera bag items if I want this venture to start – jk – you absolutedly do terrific work – besides being a great photographer you are a great tacher as well – thanks, keep teaching us.

  • avatar Glen Fox

    Artie, you are a master of many things. You could definitely hand out your shingle as the best digital opthamologist as well as cosmetic surgeon.