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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 398
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Remote Wireless Flash Test #2
Wednesday 25 March 2015   —   Category: Equipment
Today’s article is the second in a series in which I discuss what I have been learning about remote wireless flash photography. I have already covered the background of the project and the equipment I am using in the first article, so you will want to read that one before continuing here.

During the first test all of the photographs were taken inside my house. For this second test, I headed out to the back yard. There are a few differences between these two tests which it would be good to note:
  1. In the house all of the lights were off, so all of the illumination in each photo came only from the flash. All of the outdoor shots were taken within an hour of sunrise on two consecutive cloudy days, so there was a bit of soft, ambient light in addition to the photons streaming from the flash.
  2. For each shot during the first test, the flash was position by itself on a solid object, like a table top, or the floor. Therefore, I had both hands available to steady and control the camera. During the second test, I held the flash in my left hand for each shot, which forced me to use the camera one-handed.
  3. Because I was holding the flash the second time around, the camera, the flash and the subject being photographed all had to be in close proximity to each other — my arm is only so long, after all! Because the flash was “on its own” during the first test, I had more options for positioning the flash relative to the subject, and for composing each shot.
My first attempt at this second round of remote wireless flash test shots was on the day after the spring equinox, around 8:00 a.m. — about 45 minutes after sunrise. I had taken only a couple of photos when the first drops of rain began to fall.

The rain started to increase, so I decided to pack it in and call it a day. Even though my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and Panasonic 12-​35​mm lens are both weather sealed, my Olympus FL-600R wireless flash is not. Because I could conduct my tests on another day, there was no point in taking any chances.

Most of the photos in this second round of tests were taken during a 15-minute period the following morning — equally cloudy, but less wet, than the day before — starting about 10 minutes after sunrise. Over the two days I took a total of 51 pictures, 15 of which we will take a look at in this article.

Let’s start with the one decent image from the first, rainy day. As with my other article, many of the photos can be clicked on to see a larger version.
The first thing I learned was that some sub­jects — like this camellia — look a bit “off ” when lit from below — kind of like a spooky Halloween photo.
 
Once I flipped the image vertically in Ado­be Lightroom so that it was upside down, it looked a lot more natural, as if the flower were illuminated from the sun above.
 
The resulting photo was so lovely that I could not resist including a 100%-crop close-up! The white balance was not adjusted in any of these three images, but left at the setting chosen by the camera, which is very close to the Lightroom preset white balance setting called “Daylight.”
 
If you didn’t know any better, you would be excused for thinking the illumination in this daffodil photo is direct sunlight. Because of the relatively-low angle of the light from the flash, when processing the photo in Lightroom, I chose the white balance preset called “Cloudy” to give the image the warm color tinge of early-morning light.
 
Another flower photo — this time lilac blooms — that appears to be lit by strong, direct sunlight. Because I was holding the flash more to the side of the subject than at the top, I chose the Lightroom white balance preset called “Shade” to give the image the warm color tinge of early-morning light.
 
Returning to the camillia bush of the day before, I didn’t make the same mistake of holding the light under the flower, but to the side instead. In order to impart the same warm color tinge of early-morning light, I used the Lightroom “Cloudy” white balance preset.
 
Yet another tricky photo, which looks as if these maple leaves and samaras were hanging in the warm glow of direct morning sunlight. It is hard to believe that it was actually cloudy and gloomy, with not one ray of sun to be seen! Using a flash for illumination puts things in a whole nother light! For this image I used the Lightroom “Shade” white balance preset.
 
These tiny lilac blooms were illuminated mostly with the FL-600R wireless remote flash, which I was holding in my left hand.
 
This nearly-identical shot used 100% nat­u­ral lighting instead of a flash. Both im­ag­es were adjusted in Lightroom with the white balance preset called “Daylight.” Each photo has its own unique feel — which one is “better” is a matter of personal opinion.
 
Both of these daffodil photos were shot using a flash. The primary difference is the location of the flash which I was holding above the flower. Notice the different highlights and shadows created in the petals simply by a small shift in light position. When processing the photos in Lightroom, I used the white balance preset called “Cloudy” to give the image the warm color tinge of early-morning light.
The photo to the left was taken with only natural lighting on a gray, gloomy Oregon morning shortly after sunrise. The image on the right was lit primarily with a flash. Both images were adjusted in Lightroom with the white balance preset called “Cloudy.” The use of flash lighting transformed an otherwise dull, boring shot of cherry blossoms and buds into something worth looking at!
As with the previous set of pictures, the photo to the left was taken with only natural lighting on a gray, gloomy Oregon morning shortly after sunrise. The image on the right was lit primarily with a flash. Both images were adjusted in Lightroom with the white balance preset called “Cloudy.” Each photo of these cherry buds has its own unique feel — which one is “better” is a matter of personal opinion.
Last but certainly not least, we will wrap up with two nearly-identical shots of a crane fly, parked on the outside wall of my house, doing whatever crane flies do with their off-time. In the image to the right, I was holding the flash in roughly the seven o’clock position, while in the image to the left, the flash was at approximately ten o’clock. Each photo has its own unique feel — which one is “better” is, once again, a matter of personal opinion. During the short fifteen minutes I spent taking these test shots, I learned a number of valuable lessons, including:
  1. The distance of the flash to the subject, and the position of the flash relative to the camera and the subject, both have a huge impact on how the photo will turn out. Even minor changes in distance and/or position can make a significant difference.
  2. In light of the previous point, it may be necessary to take a number of different shots of a subject, with the flash in a different position each time, before you get the shot you are looking for.
  3. The Dynamic Duo — my camera and wireless flash
    Hand-holding the flash greatly limits how you can position it relative to the camera and the subject. As I pointed out above, an arm is only so long! If possible, attaching either the flash or the camera, or both, to a tripod (or for the flash, some other kind of stand) will give you more creative control. A remote shutter release, preferably a wireless model, would be very useful in such a set-up.
  4. On the other hand, in certain sit­u­a­tions, hand-holding the flash gives you a mobility, spontaneity and dis­creet­ness which may be more im­por­tant than the creative control mentioned in the previous point.
  5. Flashes emit powerful, direct light which can cause some parts of the subject to be overexposed, while at the same time can create deep shadows in other parts of the photo. These extremes in exposure can often be corrected in image editing software, like Adobe Lightroom and others, but sometimes these problems cannot be fixed once the picture has been taken.
  6. In order to avoid the issues described in the previous point while actually taking pictures, I have ordered two different types of diffusers. Once they arrive and I have a chance to try them out, I will report my experiences in a follow-up article.
  7. Adjusting the white balance of a flash photo in image editing software can significantly alter the look and feel of the image.
  8. Remote wireless flash photography is interesting, challenging, and fun!
All in all this second test was a great success! I’m quite pleased with the resulting images, and I learned a lot in the process, which I will be able to apply on future photographic outings. Because it was such a good experience, and because I still have more to learn, I plan on conducting more remote wireless flash photography tests, and posting the results in future — for example, see Seeking Inspiration at the Japanese Garden.

For more insights into flash photography, and good photography in general, be sure to watch this video I ran across recently. Photographer David Hobby shares some timeless insights:
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 398
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 398
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