Tuesday, July 20, 2010


There's definitely been a lot on my plate lately which would explain my absence from the blog, but I'm doing my best to come up with some juicy posts in the near future.

In the meantime I'd like to talk about keeping it simple (thus the title = Keep It Simple Stupid).  My girlfriend's daughter (which is pretty much my daughter now) is starting to experiment with makeup.  I can't possibly tell you how mixed I am over this.  On the one hand, I think she looks absolutely adorable, and on the other hand, I think she looks absolutely adorable, cough cough.

I know this child is going to cause me a lot of heart break and bring trouble my way as she matures, so I'm getting my knives and handgun out so that I can make sure any little boys with impure thoughts setting foot in my house will be able to see my proud arsenal and my obvious willingness to use it when tempted.  I know this is still down the road a ways, but I like planning ahead.

In any case, since she was all dazzled up I thought this was a good opportunity to snap a few photos of her.  Please understand that this is not a difficult task because Lexi is always ready to have her photo taken.  She's actually quite the model imho.

So being the lighting guy that I am, I quickly tried to think of some nice light to throw on her when I just decided to keep it simple.  In all of these shots (except the one with rainbow---which was a bonus) I used a single Nikon SB-800 in a 43" Westcott Double fold shoot thru umbrella to camera right.  I had the power set to 1/8 on my flash and I set my shutter speed to my fastest, native flash sync speed to 1/250 sec to nuke the unwanted ambient light in the room.  I picked an aperture of f/5.6 just because this seems to be my go-to aperture for portraits indoors.  It gives me plenty of depth of field to hold focus through both eyes, and the larger aperture also allows my flash to work less hard. (I'm certain that's not good grammar, but I ain't no Engrish teacher).  This enables me to shoot as fast as I want and the flash will keep up with me, recycling quickly.

I am constantly experimenting with different types of light and light modifiers but I almost always find myself going back to that shoot thru umbrella.  It creates such a beautiful, soft, wrapping light and its so easy and quick to setup that I have one with me on every single shoot I do.  As a matter of fact, I usually have several.

The shoot thru umbrella won't do everything I want my lights to do, but if I could have only one light modifier with me, that would be the one.

These portraits couldn't be any simpler and I absolutely love the soft light and the highlight-to-shadow transfer area as it falls gracefully across her face.

The last shot of the rainbow was an on-the-fly thing, so I had to use my on-camera flash to fill Lexi in after I balanced my exposure for the rainbow.  There I said it, I actually used on camera flash, my pop-up flash to be precise, set to TTL.

David Hobby would faint. ;)


Friday, July 2, 2010

Orbis Ring Flash

Finally! After many, many months (possibly even a year or so) of research and investigating, I finally purchased myself a ring light, or rather a ring flash modifier that I can use with my existing speedlights.

There are several makes and models to choose from which made the process a little more difficult than I expected, but I made a decision based on my shooting style, what would work with what I already have, and what my pocket book could let go of.

I decided on the Orbis Ring Flash adapter for quite a few reasons. Number one, it will work with my speedlights ...all of them. There are a few other ring flash adapters made for speedlights but some of them will only fit specific models. The Orbis is designed to be a universal fit, and it does indeed fit both sizes of my speedlights.

The next reason I chose the Orbis over the other brands is that I like the quality of the light it puts out. It doesn't seem to be as hard of a light source as some of the others, and its soft enough that I can use it off axis as another type of light modifier.

Yet another reason I picked the Orbis is that its small and light weight. I was considering buying a self contained ring flash unit. However, I know me and if its too much trouble to haul around, I simply won't use it. Plus, with a self contained unit, you would need additional power such as A/C or a battery pack, which is pretty inconvenient in most cases.

The last reason I picked the Orbis is cost. Pure and simple it seemed to me, to be the best bang for the buck that I could afford. It cost me $200 which in my book, is more than fair enough, considering the quality of the product, and what it enables me to do. No other light source I have will give me the look the Orbis does.

Now, on to why I wanted a ring flash. I have to admit, I do love the simple portrait-against-the-wall-with-a-ring-flash look, but it seems way over done imho. That being said, I have shot a ton of shots like that just because I've never been able to get that "full-shadow halo" effect before as you can see in this pic. Its very big in certain circles but its not the only trick I want in my bag.

What I'm more interested in with the Orbis ring flash is the ability to create on axis, fill light. When working with off camera lighting, you can create some really dramatic shadows. However, sometimes you might want those shadows to be a little more "opened up" in the darker recesses of your shot. That's where the Orbis absolutely sings! You can light someone with a hard or soft light off camera at a sharp angle, and then where you get those deep dark shadows, like in this photo, you can fill it in with just a wink of light from the ring flash. Its pretty much an effect that can be tailored to your own tastes, but the point is, using an on axis fill allows you to control those shadows and details as much or as little as you want.

Why not just use and on camera flash or the pop-up flash on your camera for on axis fill you say?  Because its just not the same quality of light, believe me I've tried it.  A mounted, on camera flash will throw off a funny angle when shooting portraits and is also pretty harsh light.  The pop-up flash will do the same somewhat and is not nearly as powerful as a separate flash unit.  So the answer is definitely the Orbis!

Another neat thing about the Orbis is, due to the quality of the light it produces, it makes a really cool off axis light modifier.  In this photo, I used my speedlight in the Orbis, dialed way down to just create a little fill light (camera left) to make more of an open, airy feeling shadow side.  Its almost not even there but just enough to make it noticeable.  Sometimes less is more.  The main light for this shot was a speedlight in a 24" softbox camera right.

So in a nutshell, this is my overall impression and view of the Orbis Ring Flash adapter.  I absolutely love using it and hope to experiment more with it soon.  Hope this helps and if there are any questions about using the Orbis or on axis ring fill, sound off in the comments section and I'll try to answer them the best I can.


The Orbis Ring Flash Adapter

I have to admit, mostly what helped me to make my decision about purchasing the Orbis were many different posts on the Strobist blog.  Below are several posts that might help you in deciding for yourself.

Ray-Flash vs. Orbis vs. Alien Bees ABR800 Part 1

Ray-Flash vs. Orbis vs. Alien Bees ABR800 Part 2

Ring Flash Week Intro and Resources