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Thread: Fill flash, on camera or off camera, your experiences?

  1. #1
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    Default Fill flash, on camera or off camera, your experiences?

    I happened to make a comment on fill flash while commenting on Tony's finch today. Ákos made the comment he uses fill flash all the time. I've experimented using fill flash with the flash mounted directly on my camera with and without a Better Beamer (Canon 50D, 580EX II and 400L f/5.6). I've had the flash set between -2 and -1 usually depending on the conditions and the subject. The catch lights were usually unsightly and often had red eye as well. Needless to say I gave up on fill flash until I can mount the flash off camera. Using the Better Beamer accentuates the problem even more. I found mammals the real problem is red eye - a kangaroo can be facing/looking 90 degrees away from you and their eyes still reflect a lot of light which becomes horrid red eye. My Photoshop skills are ok but still I'd rather not have to fix up ugly catch lights or red eye.

    Ákos, and anyone else using fill flash: is your flash mounted in your camera's hot shoe or on a special flash mount such as with a Wimberley? Have you had any experiences like mine and then managed to mount your flash off camera? If so, what mounting bracket are you using? When I can eventually get a 500L or 600L I'd definitely mount the flash off camera until then I'm stuck with the 400L f/5.6.

  2. #2
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    Definitely want it off camera Harley, better to avoid PS if you can. One name for this is steel eye, a metallic reflection generally below the pupil, seemingly reflecting off the eye's surface.. I use a Wimberley bracket with a Canon off camera shoe cord. The Canon cord is not that well built though, I've seen reports that some of the after market ones such as the one the NSN stores sells are better quality and also cheaper. Note that the bracket won't 100% eliminate the problem, but 80% of your shots will be free of the problem. You can also get an extension for the wimberley bracket which I'd recommend getting.

    Note that with the standard tall foot and a plate on a 500/600 Canon lens and the standard Wimberley bracket the flash is only 20-30mm higher than the hot shoe. A custom foot (4th Gen , RRs etc.) allows you to get it quite a bit higher and the extension piece will help further. Not so much of a problem on a 400mm.
    Chris Ross
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  3. #3
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    I made one many years ago from some aluminium tube, bike handle grip and some Hama 1/4-20 tripod screws. It connected to the camera hot shoe. I'll see if I can find it and upload a pic.

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    I have often wondered about this also, what others are using, is it possible for other members to post some pics of the way they they have their units attatched and what brackets and cords they use?? This would be very usefull as there are no members or others in my area that I have seen use off camera flash systems.
    kind regards Rick
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  5. #5
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    My homemade flash brackets. I can't find the base plate but it was a Hama flash plate like this that each of them attached to.
    http://www.bristolcameras.co.uk/imag...racket-mai.jpg

    The small one is 20cm long. The other one is 30cm long and telescopes to 50cm because it's made from part of an aluminium tent pole. A good idea would be to refine it by combining the two types into a shorter telescoping model.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
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    Harley,
    I have used my 430EX flash on the camera for nearly four years with a beamer. Not great at times due to occasional steel eye effect that Chris describes, but I cannot say in all honesty that it was giving bad results. I was happy with it overall. Now I have a Wimberley F-1 bracket that is mounted on the QR plate (cannot remember the name right now, but it's a low-profile replacement foot for my 500/4L lens) and also, I have the Wimberley M-6 extension post that raises the flash even higher, by about 200-250mm or so. As is now, it still gives red eye when I photograph at night, though not quite as bad.

    I also use the Canon cable, which (touch wood) thus far has been good. I also have a Pearstone version, though that does not seem to synch over 1/250th. So during the day I use the Canon cable when I need over the 1/250th speeds and at night the Pearstone when I can easily shoot hand held at 700mm and shutter speeds down to even 1/30th.

    Not sure how you have set your beamer up Harley, or how the flash is set? I have mine set to E-TTL mode (also in the camera via custom function). your issue seems to be quite odd as far as I can conclude.

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    Hi Harley,
    I must admit that like Akos, i haven't had much issue with long lens and redeye/steel-eye except in rainforest or at night or with animals/birds with big dilated pupils. Basically if you are shooting in darker conditions the pupils will be bigger and therefore more chance of red-eye/steel-eye. Mammals like Kangaroos (or anything else with big eye-shine) will always be more of an issue with flash. In daylight i wouldn't use flash full stop with mammals for this reason. You just need to go spotkighting to realise how much eye-shine most animals have. If you ever use flash on a nightjar at night be prepared for massive glowing orbs where the eyes are!!
    When shooting small birds in fairly bright conditions the pupil is so small that you shouldn't get red-eye regardless of where the flash is mounted.
    With the 500mm lens, mounting the flash on an off-camera bracket really doesn't change the angle of the flash relative to the field of view of the lens that much at all and i don't find any/much difference. If I'm photographing Owls and have the opportunity i will hold the flash off by hand as far as the off camera shoe cord can reach. Even then you may still get red-eye with a frogmouth etc depending on head angle etc. Using the off camera bracket on my Mongoose head isn't anywhere near enough to reduce red-eye in those situations. If i am with someone else i will get them to hold a second flash on a monopod fired wirelessly (Canon 580EX etc) while i hold the first flash off camera.
    I'll see if i can find some photos or draw a diagram if that helps?
    With the Beamer - I would usually have it between -2 or -3 unless i was using it more as a main light (night etc) or with a big subject distance.
    Cheers, Dave

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  8. #8
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    Thanks for the replies, I might do some more testing with what I have plus look around for some other attachments that might work.

    Ideally I'd get a new mount happening when I finally get hold of a bigger lens. Not sure when that might happen though.

  9. #9
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    I use my flash on camera all the time as well, although I must admit that I do not use flash all that often and when I do, I always have the Better Beamer attached. If shooting during the day of course you need to make sure you have "high speed sync" set on the flash and dial back the power a little as you have said. To be honest I have not had severe problems with steel eye except in the rainforest - my limited nocturnal photographs of owls is yet to show any steel eye, although I am sure the more I photograph at night the more chance I have of it appearing
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    Hi Harley, when I use flash I nearly always use a flash bracket, a wimberley bracket on the Gimbal or L bracket, with or without the better beamer, or if I'm chasing butterflies or lizards etc I use a Kirk Enterprises Macro Bracket. I did have some minor issues with red/steel eye using flash without a off camera bracket once, I'd forgot to bring the bracket and mounted the flash in the hotshoe and used it on some kangaroos and every image had red/steel eye.

    I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to flash but I haven't really had too many issues.

  11. #11
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    I have tried it during the day on owls usually with horrible results. Unless you move it way off the lens axis you have problems with red-eye. This may not apply to most other species though
    Last edited by Richard Jackson; 19-02-2012 at 06:32 AM.
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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