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Strobes vs. Speedlights

Lesson 7 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

7. Strobes vs. Speedlights


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Evolution with Lighting


Why Use Artificial Lighting?


Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing


Equipment: Overview of the Gear


Equipment: Selecting the Right Gear


Strobes vs. Speedlights


Lighting 101: Flash Sync Speeds


Lesson Info

Strobes vs. Speedlights

Speedlights are great, I don't have one with me. I have, you know, I don't have the new SP5000 from Nikon, though I've seen it and it looks amazing. I've got several SP900s, 910s, 800s, all the way back to the SP somewhere in the drawer at home. Speedlights are great, the only issue with speedlights for a lot of the stuff I do is that they're not powerful enough in a lot of situations. But, I mean, like this image right here. So I had an assignment shooting this back country ski trip. And I had to carry everything on my back, there was no assistant and I had to be able to ski. So obviously I'm not taking these guys with me. I think I had two camera bodies and three lenses and two speedlights. And so this image, and I brought this tripod on that trip as well, which was huge but came in handy for this shot. This is a long exposure just to explain how this was done, obviously that's at night so that's where a speedlight can really work well because you don't need a lot of light. It's a 30...

second exposure and I had been thinking about this shot for two days before we went out and did it at, we actually did it at 11 o' clock at night to simulate what we were doing the next morning at three o' clock in the morning to go skiing. So I'm on a tripod, you know 20 feet away from them or so. This is a skin track that we put in to go ski up here on this hillside earlier that day, and I had my two friends with me. And said, okay here's the plan. Turn on your headlamps, well first let me back up. First I exposed for the sky. I wanted to make sure I had a good exposure for whatever the sky was, I think it was 30 seconds at f4, something like that. ISO 3200, somewhere in there, I'm guessing. I don't know exactly. But somewhere in there. So I know I have a long time to deal with their headlamps and with the lighting. So I set that up, then I have them ski in with their head lamps, tell them to stop and freeze. And then I run over 20 feet away to get the flash off camera. So if this was here, I'm 20 feet over there, and I cupped my hands around the front of the flash, you know, basically like this. To help control the spill of the light. Because I don't want the flash to light up all this foreground. And this took like ten tries to get it figured out. It wasn't like the first try it looked like this. And I flashed them, just manually popping the power, it's not controlled by the camera. You know you can set your speedlight into manual mode. And then it took a few times to figure out what power setting to be at. And they keep going after I pop the flash. And that's why you see the light keep going down there. So I mean this is why I think adding artificial lighting can help you think about creative things, you know, and I had never done this before. I was just kind of like, let's see if it'll work. And we started getting the pictures and I was so excited, and then they got excited, and I was running around like a crazy person in the deep snow with no skis on trying to make all this happen. But that's a situation where speedlights work awesome. And there's no high sync triggering or anything that's just popping a flash. Here's another instance, and this is a much easier instance, this is using a really slow shutter speed. The flash is in the camera, or the flash is on the camera. I'm using a 14 to 24 lens, I think it was on my D4. Everything's full auto, I mean aperture priority mode, we're in a deep dark forest, and the rider comes by and I'm working with the rider so he can do this over and over. And I just put my focus point off to the right. And as he came by I just shot it at tenth of a second. Probably ISO 100 or 200, somewhere in there, because it was a really dark forest. This is up in Maine. And I saw this on the back of the camera, like wow, that's pretty awesome. Let's do that again four or five more times. So sometimes it's not super crazy difficult modes it's just trying something out. And this one happened to work really well, so. And this is a super easy shot that everybody could do with very minimal gear, just a wide angle lens. You could do this with a Vivitar 283 flash. As long as it'll sync up in a rear curtain sync mode, which we'll talk about, because you'll see a little bit of the blur is behind him. So the flash is stopping his motion, everything else is blurred because I'm panning the camera with the rider as he comes by. And this weird circular motion to the lights is because I'm using the 14 to 24 at and that's just the rectilinear curvature of the lens, I think. People can correct me on that if I'm wrong. So. But as I said, the biggest issue is power. And a lot of things we'll be talking about, and we're getting there don't worry we're getting there. A few speedlights is not gonna cut it for those rock climbing images. You can't light something with a speedlight from you know, more than 10 feet away and it can't be super bright. If you're shooting portraits indoors then speedlights work great because you typically have enough light. In my testing, and this is not an equal, this shouldn't be an equal sign, it's approximation, four speedlights is about the equivalent of this, in terms of power output. And as you see here the weights are not much different, 2300 grams and 2080 grams. I mean we're talking like half a pound or less than half a pound difference in weight. The other nice thing is that, I think there's another slide in here, this head is actually lighter and smaller than a speedlight. So that's pretty nice. A for packing in your backpack, but also attaching your modifiers to. But speedlights, you know, it depends on what you need. Speedlights, there's so many modifiers from Honl and Lumaquest, and a few other brands out there. FourSquare I think makes a softbox which we'll show a picture of next. But there's so many different ways of modifying a speedlight's light that if that is enough light for the situation that you're working in it's a great way to go. And I could have used something like this out there for that ski shoot, that would've been a lot more specific instead of wrapping my hands around there. But that's what I had. And before Honl came along and made all these light modifiers, I used to take like cereal boxes. Literally, take a cereal box, it's gray on the inside or kind of this dark brown, cut it up, and make a snoot out of the cereal box. And I used to carry that around for years. I would make all kind of light modifiers out of cereal boxes for my speedlights back in the day when nobody else was doing this. Just a little do it yourself tidbit there. So the FourSquare is another great option. Honestly, I've used the FourSquare, I like it, but it's a lot of setup. To put four speedlights in there, and I think I was using the pocket wizard TT1s back in the day, the Control TL System to actually trigger them all. I think that RadioPoppers might be a little better option these days. If that's what you have, then use it, that's great, but I think working with this guy is a lot easier to control the spill of the light to attach light modifiers to. And you know, it's not like speedlights or strobes have different light qualities. It's all just light, it's how you modify it. But the modifiers they make for some of these bigger strobes creates really gorgeous lighting and I've gotten kind of spoiled by that I have to say.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Reference Guide
Chapter 2: ABCs of Lighting by Michael Clark
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 1
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 2

Ratings and Reviews

norah levine

This is a course that I could watch repeatedly and be able to learn something new each time. Michael is a truly an expert in his field and is so generous with his knowledge. This course really breaks down the process of adventure photography, but it's more than that. I don't think you need to even be an adventure sports photographer to get tons out of this course. Michael is really good at breaking down some very complicated technology. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

Great course that combines the technical aspects of shooting with light in different situations, with the art of making a great image of athletes. Michael is a great teacher and I'm sure his lessons will continue to help guide over and over again!

Jeph DeLorme

Great class with dozens of tips, ideas and lighting strategies for tough outdoor lighting challenges. Advanced class taught in a way that allows even a beginner to get a handle on lighting tough situations. The location videos provide real life examples that make this class a definite must have for my Creative Live collection. Thank you Michael Clark and Creative Live! Jeph DeLorme

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