I learned a few more things about using my flash, and use of my camera.
It doesn’t seem to bother me so much that the shooting conditions are not ideal. It’s part of the game, and knowing what to do, I’m enjoying myself more and more.
As in previous photo sessions at Club Neutral, bouncing the flash off the floor provided adequate light. I was shooting at ISO 3200 and f/4.0 to f/5.6. I may have been able to shoot at ISO 1600, but the flash has to work much harder, and batteries get depleted quicker but more importantly I didn’t want to risk not having enough light to properly expose the shot.
Speaking of enough light, I increased the flash exposure compensation by 1/3 stop to make sure I get enough light so the shots get ‘exposed to the right’. In practice this worked quite well. Looking through the shots, majority were exposed properly. The exceptions were the photos where the flash didn’t fire due to depleted batteries. I should consider some external battery pack for more continuous power, or rather that doesn’t fade.
In general the success rate of the shots was the best yet of all the events I’ve been to so far. Pretty much all the shots were in sharp focus, likely due to the larger DoF since I was shooting at f/4.0 and f/5.6 and the exposure was very good too. In fact most shots were too bright. I had to take the exposure down by at least 1 stop for most photos just to make sure no highlights were blown. Shooting RAW gives a great advantage here, as I can save images that are overexposed by 1.5 to 2 stops. I love RAW! 🙂
On another note, the fog machine did not help me. The fog and flash do not mix well. All the fog gets illuminated by the light of the strobe and it makes the dark black background a washed out gray color. What this translates to in the end image is reduced dynamic range and reduced contrast. To compensate I have to compress the ‘grays’ to a black (or at least darken them in curves) and increase the contrast substantially.
Focusing is still an issue as it takes the camera a second or two to gain focus (even with the AF assist beam firing) but with the smaller aperture, I get a lot more breathing room for the focus. The subject can move an inch or two and not get out of focus.
I tried out the YongNuo E-TTL Remote Cord with no success. The plan was to hand hold the flash in one hand (as far as possible from the camera while keeping it pointing to the subject) to get some side lighting on the subject. The one thing that totally killed this approach for me was that aiming the AF assist light directly on the subject was not feasible; at lease not while holding the flash with my left arm fully extended. So after one or two shots I put the flash back on the camera. At least this way the AF assist beam is ALWAYS pointing where the camera is pointing.
Camera settings wise, like all previous nights I shot in fully manual mode. With the exception of some ambient lighting shots where the aperture was set wide open to f1.4 or f1.8, I shot at f4.0 or f5.6 when using the flash. Shutter speed was set to about 1/50 for the ambient shots (since there was not a lot of light). When bouncing the flash, setting the shutter speed only controls how much ambient light gets into the shot. I prefer to minimize the amount of background ambient light, so I set the shutter to about 1/200. The ISO was set to 3200 to make sure the flash could provide enough light. One thing I forgot to do was to zoom the flash out. It stayed at the default 50mm zoom. By going to 105mm, I get more light power projected forward (for bounce) with less light spillage sideways. Need to do remember to do this (zoom flash to max setting) next time.