Friday, June 24, 2011

Wireless Flash saves RBL – Again

“This photo makes me want to buy life insurance or something” - Friedman Archives Facebook Fan

Also in this issue:
  • Stories from the Field Workshop
  • Wireless Flash Video and Spanish A33 / A55 book now available!
  • Updates to existing ebooks
  • Photo Blogs of note

Wireless Flash saves RBL – Again

Field Workshops can always be a challenge, especially since you can’t always guarantee good weather (and these things have to be planned many months in advance).  So here we were at a most wonderful place for photographers – an old tractor museum in Lethbridge, Alberta which provided no shortage of very old and visually interesting opportunities for a photographer.  The participants’ challenge: to use the rules of composition to make a compelling image that would make a disinterested 3rd party who wasn’t there say, “Wow!”.

Tough job when you have RBL (Really Bad Light).  Often when that happens you can either augment the bad light with a little dramatic wireless flash or look a little harder for a good subject – one that is a little smaller, a little closer; one that doesn’t require that the sky be in the shot. 

For the above shot I chose the first option.  I decided that the ancient threshing machine (used to separate the grain from the stalks and husks) by itself was not a compelling enough subject, and so I started talking to one of the museum’s curators, Herman Siemens, who actually used this machine in his youth.  He agreed to have his picture taken in front of the machine to give it a human interest.

First I shot it straight using only existing light:

Then I had one of the participants hold my wireless flash just out of frame on the left, locked exposure on the sky (to make the sky come out 18% grey and make the rest of the image render darkly), and took this one shot.  Drama!  All on program mode; all with TTL Flash metering:

Hitting the 'playback' button while outside still left me with some uncertainty – it looked a little dark, and the histogram display told me only that there was detail in the shadows, but I wasn’t sure if the background on the whole was too underexposed.  So I covered my bases and set the exposure compensation (which affected only the amount of ambient light entering the camera; not the amount of flash coming from the wireless) to +0.7 and shot again:

Looked better in the field, so I stopped.  When I got back to my computer I decided the first wireless flash shot was actually the best and so that’s the one I showed during the Show & Tell portion at the end of the day.  Voila! 

What makes the Field Workshops so Special?

During the Boston Field Workshop in May I heard a story from one participant who attended a similar event hosted by a large regional photo club.  “It was awful!” he said, explaining, “Everyone there just lined up their tripods and took their shots.  Nobody talked to one another.  There was no camaraderie or support at all!”  He shared this story as a prelude to his remark that my seminars and field workshops are completely the opposite of that experience.  For some reason, only friendly people are drawn to my seminars. :-)  And I create the kind of supportive environment that encourages people to share their best ideas and challenge others to better them creatively.  By the time the day was over in Boston, everyone was exchanging email addresses and inviting one another over for an informal shooting weekend.  “If you’re ever in Connecticut, look me up and we’ll go out shooting!”

What is it that I do to produce such a polar-opposite environment for the Friedman Archives participants?  Well, I can’t exactly say, but I can tell you that it’s consistent and I continue to get email from people years after they took my courses saying how much they enjoyed it and how it still has an impact on the way they photograph today.  These are people who tried other photo seminars but were left wanting.  Makes me feel like Oprah.  I’m glad I can provide that kind of environment, one that eschews brand snobbery and replaces it with the joy of being creative, regardless of the kind of camera you have (even if you have a point-and-shoot, as a few Boston participants had!). 

Below are some examples of shots taken by participants in Boston and in Lethbridge.  (Click on any image to view a larger version.)

One thing everyone seemed to agree upon is that they all had a fun time, free of complaining by unsupportive family members.  Everyone was there to explore, support each other, and use whatever cameras they had to make compelling images.

The seminar schedule for the rest of the year appears below.  Notice that Nashville has been added to the schedule on October 1-2.  If you live in the area, come join the fun!  (And if you don’t live in the area, don’t let that stop you – I’ve had people come from five states away to attend my seminars.  One person even flew in from Australia (although to be truthful he was a pilot and he just adjusted his schedule so he would be in town anyway.  But that tidbit ruins a perfectly good story.) 
Nova Scotia, Canada Seminar: July 23-24, 2011 in Pubnico

Field workshop: July 30-31st, 2011 in Yarmouth
Learn More and Sign up!
Ottawa, Canada September 3-5, 2011 (Two days lecture + one day field workshop) Learn More and Sign up!
Nashville, TN October 1-2, 2011 Learn More and Sign up!
Copenhagen April, 2012 Click here to register interest
London September, 2012 Click here to register interest

New Products Finally Available

As promised last month, a user-friendly version of my Wireless Flash talk in Malaysia is now available!  Check out this 5-minute preview:

This 50-minute presentation is being offered as both an instantly-downloadable video file (only USD $9.95), or as a physical DVD that is mailed to your door (just $15.95 plus shipping).  Learn more and download your copy now at!

Also the Sony A33 / A55 ebook is now available in Spanish:

Updates to Existing Ebooks

As most of you have probably heard by now, Sony has released a firmware update for its NEX cameras and for the A33 and A55 cameras which add some new features.  They have also announced two new editions of those cameras: the NEX C3, and the Alpha 35 camera.

To everyone who has written to me asking if I will be updating my books to cover the new functionality of the new firmware, the answer is YES and you’ll all be getting free copies of the new .pdf file once they’re finished.  If you've purchased either of those ebooks, you'll be automatically notified when the new editions are released.  (Also, any NEX 3 or 5 owners who'd like to help me expedite the process, please contact me at

Photo Blogs of Note

In the olden days some people would start off their work day reading the morning paper.  Nowadays it seems we all go to the internet and read the morning aggregated news feeds instead.

What’s on my newsreader feed?  Here are some photo-related blogs that I feel are so worthwhile that they deserve your attention:
  • Steve McCurry’s Blog ( – Mention Steve McCurry’s name and most people immediately think of the photographer who took National Geographic’s most famous cover – that of the Afghan girl with the intense green eyes.  Steve has been a photojournalist all of his life and every week or so he’ll post a mini-plethora of his famous images, all grouped according to a theme, from the past 40 years.  He has a most remarkable eye for light, shadow, and existing-light composition.  An inspiring gift.
  • The Uncornered Market ( – Ever wish you could just roam around the world, spend a few weeks in a place and then move on, building and sharing your stock photo archive with your fans along the way?  Let me introduce you to Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott: “Two American kids, turned mid-career professionals, turned travel junkies. More than four years and 65 countries later, we're still traveling around the world…and still married.”  Their most recent blog posts documented their climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro; but that’s only the most recent in a fascinating and well-documented string of adventures.  If you like to live vicariously through others, this is the blog to follow!
  • Lightroom Killer Tips with Matt Kloskowski ( and Adobe Photoshop Killer Tips ( - Part of Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Education empire, these pair of websites help you learn the obscure gems of using Lightroom and Photoshop in small, pellet-like factiods that are easy to absorb over a long period of time.  (A nicer way to traverse the learning curve than plowing through the manual!)
  • PhotoClub Alpha ( and click on “Photoclubalpha free content – latest articles” near the bottom of the page) – David Kilpatrick’s online version of his famous Photoworld magazine.  He posts about as often as me, but when he does you know you’ll be reading a piece with great insight and perspective about Sony’s latest camera models.
  • Strobist ( – If you’ve read my books you’ll know how strong a proponent I am of this website.  David Hobby is a photojournalist-turned-blogger and he is out to educate the world about the amazing effects you can do with wireless flash.  I am a big fan and find his blog to be a great source of inspiration.  Unlike many other high-end flash websites (like the profoto blog below), what David does is usually well within reach of anyone with just a wireless flash (or two).
  • Profoto Blog – ( - This company sells high-end strobe / lighting equipment for the esoteric photographer.  And although I vastly prefer the simplicity and affordability of the handheld wireless flashes, I’m often impressed with what the photographers with big lights and big budgets can produce.  This blog shows off what the company’s high-profile customers are doing with their equipment.  Think of these examples as wireless flash on steroids. You can’t help but be impressed by their results!
  • The Friedman Archives Blog  ( – Now what’s that Friedman character up to this time?
  • What the Duck ( – Finally, a daily cartoon about photographers who also happen to be ducks! :-)
Have your own favorites not listed here?  There are probably a gazillion others.  Feel free to share them all in the ‘comments’ section below (or on the blog page if you’re seeing this in a newsreader).

The Lethbridge Seminar Attendees.  (You should be here!)
Until next time...
Yours truly, Gary Friedman

================ Learn how to take "Wow!"-type images the NASA way!


  1. Gary, thanks for your interesting and informative blog posts. I always learn something! I'm just not sure what a stringed instrument has to do with your RBL photo - "Viola!"

  2. I just upgraded my Sony A100 camera to a Sony A560 camera. Wow! I take lots of landscaping photos as well as weather photos. Would the wireless flash come in to good use for this type of photos? Also. With 4th of July coming up. I want to try taking some fireworks photos with my new A560 camera. I use a Tamron AF18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di II lens with this camera. Any suggestions on what setting on my camera I can use? Thanks.

  3. @ssong: Wireless flash can work wonders if you underexpose the background a little and use the flash on whatever you're using as your subject.

    Do you have my ebook on the A560? In the appendix are tips on getting great shots in difficult light... including settings for fireworks. -GF

  4. I have a a580. just bought the F43AM flash... I noticed that on the a580 there are several White Balance options for use - "auto" and "flash". Should I be using the "flash WB" with the external flash. i did notice a slightly warmer tendancy with the "Flash WB" over the "Auto".


  5. @Kevin, it comes down to personal taste. One has a more yellowish cast than the other (although Auto white balance can be inconsistent at times). There's no wrong setting; just the one that pleases you most. -GF

  6. Additional Questions on Flash/Remote Flash - namely around how the a580 behaves with WB - if "Cloudy" is selected to indicate the overcast nature of the day and taking a photo of a group with the intent to use fill flash as you described in the article... I'm thinking the TTL should be measuring distance/exposure for an accurate picture of the subject while maintaining the color of the sky/background... but the tint of the picture is off - I guess I'm looking for predictability of the photo's outcome when using the flash. Does the camera only use the setting described or does it try to overcome the setting and default to "Auto" - the instructions are ambiguous.

    Also - I've notice that when I have the camera to my eye and AEL lock on the desired metering spot it holds all well and good until i drop the camera from my face/chest so that the eye meter no longer registers that "I'm shooting". When I raise the camera again for another shot, the AEL is now gone and the "*" is not showing that it's metering for the desired spot previously selected. Any suggestions for really "locking" it down so that I consistently use the same metered settings? this is really frustrating for me while shooting indoor volleyball – indoor you can’t use a flash – except for post game shots.
    - Kevin

  7. If you're using a flash and have the camera set to AWB, the camera almost always sets the white balance to Daylight or Flash setting. (If you don't want to take any chances, I recommending setting the white balance to one of these two - whichever one produces the most pleasing tone for you.

    Regarding AEL - once you lock in your exposure for a volleyball game you should never need to change it again for the duration of the game. Therefore, set your camera's ISO to something other than AUTO, spot meter for your subject and take an AEL reading, take note of the f/stop and shutter speed combination, and then set your camera to MANUAL exposure mode and dial in that f/stop and shutter speed. (Don't forget to leave manual exposure mode after the game's over! :-) )

    Hope this helps.

  8. Hi Gary -

    I just upgrades to the a33, from an a230.
    I tried the wireless flash function using my trusty KM 5600 but it did not work. Works fine on my 230 and 7D. Does your book cover this?

  9. The book talks about how to use wireless flash, but not about your specific problem. Your flash should work just fine. Email me privately for more. -GF