Tuesday, October 5, 2010

PocketWizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 review part 3

These reviews are getting to be a habit!

Tomorrow I have a shoot at the International Mall in Tampa.  The Janie and Jack store gives away a free 8x10 to customers once a year and this year I'm the guy taking the pictures.

As I always do whenever I'm taking my studio gear on location, I first set everything up in my living room.  I have a studio in my house but I'm so paranoid that I move my gear to my living room and set up.  Then, I take pictures of my kids.  Finally, after everything checks out the way I want it to, I break the equipment down and stack it by the front door.  It's a little obsessive/compulsive I know... but it guarantee's that I have everything I need with me since it's unlikely that I will leave something behind in the middle of the living room (something I could easily do in my cluttered studio.)

Tonight I had a revelation (a little late but a revelation just the same).  Why take my studio lights at all?  I have the power and equipment in my event case to take the pictures at Janie and Jack.  It's close-ups of children... two lights and a 5x7 backdrop... why carry the big strobes and softbox at all?

So, I set everything up again and just used my event gear.  Since I was testing it all out anyway, I decided to try it with my new PocketWizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5.  I was curious to see what the ETTL would do in a studio setting.

My main light was on the PW Flex TT5 with a shoot-thru umbrella.  My background light was an optical slave.

I decided to shoot a series at various f-stops to see how the remotes handle the changes.  Immediatly I was disappointed.

(Disclaimer:  these pictures are un-retouched, straight from the camera.  They aren't supposed to be dazzling.  :)

This is at 1/250 and f11

This is at 1/250 and f8.0

As you can see, the ETTL didn't seem to pick up the change in aperture.  In fact, it looks like it was shot with manual strobes.  Needless to say I was a little miffed at this.  It was consistently acting like a manual flash trigger.  Everytime I changed the aperture, the image changed.  Then, after about 20 pictures, I had a revelation:

The backlight.

I was shooting very close with white vinyl behind the subject and a white umbrella in front of her.  The ETTL can modify the main light but has no control over the backlight.  What if the backlight is bouncing off the vinyl... then off the umbrella....putting a constant light source on my subjects face which is affected by the aperture?  (with me so far?)

Only one way to find out: Turn off the backlight.

1/250 at 5.6

1/250 at f11

Then, just for giggles and grins I changed the shutter speed and the aperture both for the last shot:

1/100 at f6.3

So, what did I learn from this little experiment?  Background flash is not ambient light (obvious, I know).  When shooting with these remotes and ETTL, the camera reads and adapts to changing ambient light but when using a background flash, the camera has no way of factoring that light into the equation.  Not only does this mean that you have to be on your toes with the manual settings on the backlight, it also means that bounced light can throw a monkey wrench into your entire shoot.

I don't know that I will use the ETTL settings tomorrow.  Studio settings are custom made for manual flash.  Set it once and forget it.  Still, it was nice setting up without a light meter or any adjustment to the flash power at all.

I'm a wedding photographer in Tampa Bay.  See my work at http://www.boorayperry.com/.