Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday: CBTL Tour DVD Now Over 9 Hours Of Additional Tutorials; and Your Questions Please

Good Morning Everybody,

Well yesterday, the bear almost got us. I got back from my early morning appointment about 11:00 a.m. and never stopped till after 7:00 p.m. yesterday evening.

9 Hours We thought we had 99% of everything wrapped - we only needed a few things from two sponsors to complete the tour DVD. That last 1% took 8 hours and two people to complete! But we did it. The CBTL2010 Tour DVD in now jammed packed with OVER 9 HOURS of additional tutorials. That’s over one additional entire day of seminars for free!

Yesterday we added 3 mores hours of Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and Photography, and Lighting to the DVD. Not only that, but I also added 160 pages of additional information from my favorite Peachpit books. Now the Tour DVD alone is worth the price of admission to the program ;~)

Anyway, we always try to bring the absolute most value to those that  attend my programs. I think we have hit it out of the park with this Fall's "Captured By The Light 2010" tour [link].

Now, Your Questions, Please

Skribit For today's post I thought I would do a quick scan of the Skribit suggestions (widget on far right) that have come in over the last several weeks. Yes, I read each and everyone of them and save the questions most pertinent to our DPT readers. The questions range from our DPT readers asking about technique, equipment issues, business building and more.

Many of the questions asked can already be found right here at Search BoxIt may require a little diligence on your part by using the search box at the top left of this blog. But heck, I've posted over 2,400 posts since July, 2007 so what your looking for will probably already have been posted.

The truth of the matter is that I try to answer nearly every question asked via Skribit or comments on the posts themselves. That being said let's get started with today's post.

Strobe Radio Control Units: Secrets To Consistent Results With Your Off-Camera Flash

One question that came up recently from a reader asking about the lack of reliable performance from their radio control flash triggers. Most of you know I'm a BIG fan of off camera flash.

Hit the “Read Me…” link below for the rest of the story.

The Flash Trigger Back Story

Back in my collage days I worked as the yearbook photographer for the local college. Even then I was experimenting with off camera flash techniques to try to obtain a direction of light on the scene. I simply placed the camera on a tripod, set the shutter speed at 1/2 second, and signaled an assistant to fire the flash on my signal. With a 3-count, It was easy for us to sync the flash to the 1/2 second exposure.

Over the years I have owned flash triggers from about every manufacturer with Quantum being my favorite for the pass several years. So, what about the reliability of the flash triggers. Back in the day, that means pre-35mm DSLRs, most of us shot medium format cameras - Hasselblads, Bronicas, and Mamiyas.

The flashes we used were called "head and handle" flashes. My favorite was a Metz 45CT-1. It was powerful and reliable. My off camera flash back, in the day, was a 200 watt second Lumadyne. The radio control units we used attached to the various camera and flash brackets we used with the medium format cameras. That was standard gear for film shooters pre-2000.

Digital Photography Started To Change Things

Well as we all know, bigger flashes and medium format cameras began to lose favor when digital started gaining traction in 2000 with the introduction of the Fuji S-1 Pro. OK, fast forward to today. Now everything is cheaper, faster, and better! The shoe mount flashes have taken over the on-camera lighting chores for the professional wedding photographer. But many of us were still using off-camera flash to add the detail, texture, and dimension to our images. That's when some of the reliability issues started to crop up with attached radio flash triggers.

Radio on flash Instead of attaching the radio transmitter to a flash bracket, I just velcroed my transmitter to the top of the flash head as shown in the image on right. That always worked fine with my Canon 580 EX, but when I upgraded to the 580 EXII, I noticed that occasionally I would experience a misfire. If I repositioned the transmitter further to the rear of the top of the flash that solved the problem most of the time.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to shoot with a complete set of Nikon gear for a few events. Once again I attached the transmitter to the top of the Nikon SB800. This time I had major problems with the radio transmitter's performance. I had to completely remove it from the flash head to assure consistent flash performance with the off-camera flash.

What's The Problem?

RF It turns out that all flashes produce what's called RF or radio frequency that can interfere and "jam" the radio flash transmitters if they are placed too close to the source of the RF, the shoe mount flash in this case. With the transmitter velcroed directly to the top of my on-camera flash, I could be asking for trouble.

In the medium format film days, I always had the radio transmitter attached to a flash bracket several inches away from the RF created by the on-camera flash and never had a problem. Like I’ve said, that changed when I changed to the shoe mount flash units.

This issue seems to have gotten worse with the newer, more powerful shoe mount flash units. I was particularly surprised by the amount of RF interference the Nikon SB800 produced. Remember, the RF "jamming" effect is easily solved my placing the radio transmitter a few inches away from the RF source. I ended up placing the flash trigger in my shirt pocket and the problem went away. A camera bracket should do the trick.

Pocket Wizards discovered the problem early. When their MiniTT1 was introduced about 18 months ago the RF problem quickly became evident because the shoe mount flash units mounted directly on the MiniTT1. Reliability was an issue. 

RF SockThey have since developed a electrostatic shield, think of it as a sock for your flash, that you place around your shoe mount flash. The flash sock effectively blocks the RF from interfering with the Pocket Wizard transmitter.

I'm sure the electrostatic flash sock would work for me, too. I just hate the fact that now I have to dress up my flash before I can take it to a wedding;~)

Anyway, that's the long story as to why you may experience some intermittent flash misfires. The problem probably can be traced back to the RF radiation being emitted from your shoe mount flash. The easy solution, if you are using Quantum transmitters, is to just position the units a few inches away from the flash itself and all should be fine. Or pick up one of the flash socks from Pocket Wizards - that should solve the problem too.

Happy Flashing!


Hey gang, that's going to wrap it up for me today. We've got a few more "irons in the fire" around here that need some attention. How about I plan to see everyone back here Monday, same time, same channel.

Have a great weekend everybody,



  1. David, would using a Quantum Qnexus TTL Wireless Adapter for Qflash 5d-r and Canon or Nikon Flash Systems resolve the problem? Have you had experience using this?

  2. I believe the PW radio interference is only an issue at the receiving end, and then only with the Flex receiver and certain models. I've had excellent results using the Mini TT1 transmitter and older Plus II's as receivers. Using the flash timing offset feature of the Mini TT1, I can easily synch the full frame at 1/500 with a 7D or 1DsIII. I can go as high as 1/1000 sec in the right circumstances. You can see more detailed information in my write-up at