Category Archives: Strobist

The Flash Bus

When one of my favorite websites announced that he was going to do a local presentation, I jumped at the chance to sign up! Both David Hobby from the Strobist website and Joe McNally would ride a bus around, called The Flash Bus and visit 29 cities.

David was up first. He did a 2 hour presentation and talked to a bunch of slides. He was very informative on how you go about taking pictures with manual camera settings and small flashes.

Then we took a one hour break for lunch. I rushed over to Osmo’s which was a Cajun/Italian food trailer (along with a couple of other trailers) across the street from the Parmer Event center. I was glad I ran over there because the trailers were not prepared for the amount of people.

David Hobby taking pictures of the Flash Bus

After lunch, I took a quick, hand-held picture of the bus which was parked inside of the auditorium. I felt bad about not using my flashes to take a better picture. Especially since David talked about taking his picture here. But there wasn’t that much time and there were a lot of people there.

Joe then gave his two hour talk which consisted of taking a bunch of picture with different flash modifiers and using the camera’s automatic TTL system. I didn’t learn anything at all and hated his talk. He did spend about a half of an hour taking a picture of the bus with a bunch of flashes though. And then David and Joe got up on the stage and answered questions for an hour.

I also bought David’s new DVD set called Lighting in Layers.

Flash mod

flash mod

I went to our local cooking supply store for equipment to make a modification for a photographic flash. It was not as esoteric as you were probably thinking. Just a couple hundred black straws.

flash mod before

You see a flash creates a lot of spread out light. Even when you manually zoom the flash as narrow as it will go (to 105mm).

flash mod after

However, if you put a lot of long straws in between the flash an your subject, those straws act as a limiting element. You switch from a wide rectangle to a small circle. Neat, huh?

Chocolate Chipotle self-saucing pudding

Chocolate self-saucing pudding

Okay, I seem to have no willpower against self-saucing puddings. Next up: chocolate. I used this recipe as a base. But, instead of water, I made some changes. Oh yes, indeed, I did. The recipe follows:

I will admit that I was a little bit worried. The pudding part was extremely liquid — almost to the runny batter stage. But, since I have already gone to the effort of making a batch, I carried on.

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Tichu Strobist

Tichu Strobist

Well, given that I was playing around with some Strobist techniques that I recently learned, I wondered how it would hold up for game photography. So I whipped out my metal Tichu box. And substituted it for the can of peanuts place-holder.

Since I was already lighting the background separately, I played around with adding a background Dragon shadow. And I learned that it is surprisingly difficult to cut and place one properly so it it will it would be easily recognizable.

One thing that I learned about the flash was to use the multi-stroboscopic mode (around 30Hz or so) and press the test button. It looks exactly like a flash light and you can get an idea what the shadow will look like. Don’t hold the button down too long, it tends to overheat the flash bulb.

Food Strobist Test Shot

Food Strobist Setup

After watching the Strobist Lighting Seminar, I decided to apply one of the lessons to see if it could be done with food photography. Since it was a proof of concept, I just grabbed a can of nuts that was just sitting around. I wanted to have two different lighting tasks. Light only the item on display. Light the background separately. My camera gear for this setup is the following:

  • A – Canon EOS 1D Mark III (manual mode: 1/250th second, f/5.0, ISO 200)
  • B – Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
  • C – Pocket Wizard MultiMAX (master)
  • D – Pocket Wizard MultiMAX (slave, channel A)
  • E – Canon Speedlite 580EXII (manual, 1/4th power, 14mm zoom)
  • F – LiteDome Q39
  • G – Pocket Wizard MultiMAX (slave, channel B)
  • H – Canon Speedlite 580EX (manual, 1/8th +0.7 power, 50mm zoom) (Roscolux #4790 90 magenta)
  • I – gobo (which stands for go-between) (a punchcard of all things)
  • J – foam-core board with black foam sheets taped to the visible top
  • K – Sekonic L-758DR light meter
Food Strobist Test Shot

And this is the final result! How cool! It is the first time that I have used two different zones of light, the first time I have used a color gel on a flash, and the first time that I have used a gobo to block the light from hitting something (in this case, the can).

Lit with front strobe

Here is how it looks when it is lit only with the front strobe.

Lit with rear strobe

Here is how it looks when it is lit only with the rear strobe.

Using white foam core

By the way, this is how it looks using a white foam core board. Which turned out to be too bright white and not enough magenta.

A second attempt at bread

cake bread

I had another go at experimenting with bread. And ended up with a loaf that looked like a cake!


I tried taking this picture outside. But the stainless steel bowl was creating a crescent shaped blown out area. So I moved it into the shade. However, the colors were slightly off. There was a bluish tint in the shadows.

clamshell lighting

For the cake bread, I used clamshell lighting. Two light stands pressed as close to the camera and food as possible. At an eight power, I was able to get f/11 at ISO 200. The only weirdness was that one flash was slaved over Canon’s IR. This halved my sync speed from 1/250 to 1/125. I would have thought that I could have at least seen one of the flashes light the picture. Maybe the IR communication parted needed extra time to complete. But the picture was black at 1/250 and lit at 1/125.

Recipe follows:

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Caramel apples redux

Dipping the apple

I made another batch of apples again. More for the excuse of trying a different style of food photography than anything else. This time I set up a tripod for the camera and used the 100mm macro lens. Behind the camera, I set up a light stand and placed a 580EXII on it. I set its light beam to be focused at 105mm. And, to help contain the light, I wrapped a snoot around it as well. It was set into manual mode at 1/16 -0.3 strength. And it was driven by a Pocket Wizard.

The strength of the output of light was determined by trial and error. My target was f/4.0, 1/250sec, ISO100. At this setting, there is no other light in the picture but the flash. Which is a good thing in my kitchen. It has a smorgasbord of choices: the light above the stove is a yellowish incandescent light, the big light in the kitchen is a varying color fluorescent light, and in the eating area, there is a fan with compact fluorescent lights and dark brown reflective blades.

In my other hand was a TC-80N3 remote controller. Fortunately, my hand was centered enough in the frame. But the auto-focus did seem to concentrate on my fingers instead of the apple.

Looking back

I even took a picture looking back with the G-10. The G-10’s picture is passable. It decided on a shaky f/5.6, 1/2sec, ISO 200. At least it has image stabilization in the body. Using the 580 flash on that camera only lights up the pan. Everything else in the scene is pitch black. Flash lighting has thin depth of field it seems.

Extra Caramel

I made extra caramel as usual. I intend to use it to sweeten some more roasted sweet potatoes…