Photography News | Issue 53 | photographynews.co.uk
Lighting academy TTL flash is a great feature that can take the stress out of your lighting leaving you free to concentrate your full attention on the subject and composing awesome shots Get more from flash
Words & pictures by AdamDuckworth
Off-camera flash photography has rocketed in popularity, thanks to advances in speedlight technology and the profusion of modifiers. Once you’re hooked on the great results that off-camera flash can bring, you soon end up wanting more – power, control and speed. A speedlight and a softbox just can’t overpower the sun on bright days; the recycle time can feel like an age when you’re burning through AA batteries; and there’s a limit to how much you can modify the light from a speedlight. Proper beauty dishes, for example, just don’t work right on a flashgun with a long, thin flash tube. The answer has been to move up to battery powered portable flash systems, which use full-size studio flash accessories, lithium cells for greater shooting capacity and faster recycling, and, of course, a lot more output. But compared with using a dedicated speedlight, this can feel like a step back in time and technology. Modern flashguns allow you to dial in the required aperture and then use the camera’s TTL technology to sort out the flash exposure. And, in daylight if you want to go over your camera’s maximum flash sync speed to control the aperture for precise depth-of-field, you set what you want and the camera/flash combination works it all out. With the majority of battery pack systems, this isn’t the case. Flash output is controlled manually, and if you want to go over the flash sync speed then you may have to tinker with the flash sync timing for successful high- speed sync. Elinchrom has now come to the rescue with its new ELB 500 TTL system, the most powerful and portable TTL flash unit on the market. In fact it is Elinchrom’s first TTL flash unit and rated at 500Ws it has enough output to overpower the sun inmany shooting situations. What’s more, it delivers 400 full- power flashes on a single charge and has a fast recycling time of just two seconds atmaximum power. At lower settings, it’s even quicker and the battery lasts even longer. Also, while the flash head is smaller than a speedlight, it can accept a range of Quadra light modifiers and take full-size studio accessories via Elinchrom’s Quadra to EL-mount adapter. And with the dedicated Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS or the Phottix Odin II radio transmitter, full TTL and high-speed sync can be dialled in from the camera, just like any off- camera flash set-up. That makes it far simpler and faster to set up in a hurry. You can even take your first shot using TTL to get a correct exposure, then switch to manual where the last-used power settings are maintained. Then you can fine-tune from there, which is a very fast way of getting your exposure nailed quickly without using a flash meter or lots of test shots. This was my first shoot with the ELB 500 TTL, sowas verykeen to see if the kit delivered what the brochure promised.
58mm lens to get the background exposure right and a shallow depth-of-field. The ELB 500 was left on TTL to get its exposure right which it did first time. Fast, simple and no fuss. PICTURE 2 When Rachel reclined on the chair, I moved further back to get her whole body in the frame and wanted to include some of the flare from the window for a lighter feel to the shot. So I upped the ISO to 200 to give a stop more light. The shutter speed was dropped to 1/200sec and aperture closed to f/2.2 to keep the ambient exposure the same. The light was moved further towards the window to give more sidelighting on the model’s face and again the TTL worked perfectly. With more of the warm ambient light registering rather than cooler flash, the shot has a warmer feel to it. PICTURE 3 This shot of Rachel leaning on the white- painted brick wall had the shadows from the windows creating a pool of light on it. This illuminated her legs and up to her waist, but her face was in shadow. The same softbox was used high and just to the right of the shot, so the shadows it produced matched the ‘real’ shadows from the window. Again, the TTL systemnailed the exposure first time but I then switched to manual to ensure consistency in every shot. The ISO
Our shoot with model Rachel was in Northamptonshire’s Studio 58 on a very bright day. With three big south-facing windows letting daylight stream in, it could be a real test of a TTL flash system to get the exposure right. PICTURE 1 The first shots were of Rachel on a leather armchair, backlit by the studio windows. The ELB 500 can power two heads at the same time, and the output is fully
asymmetrical so you can dial in the precise power ratio between them using the buttons on the pack. But the shoot started with just a single head, using the sun through the windows as a natural backlight. The single head was fitted with a large softbox and both layers of diffusion material to make the light as soft as possible. This was placed above head height and off to the left of the camera. A Nikon D810 set to ISO 100 was used, and the settings were 1/250sec at f/2 on a
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