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Using flash with a super telephoto
Ben Shyman, Photographer
New York | NY | | Posted: 10:22 AM on 09.05.12
->> I searched the message boards and couldn't find any info on this. I'm sure people have done it, especially when lighting is suboptimal, but I'm more interested in experimenting with a bit of fill-flash with a 400 2.8 lens during peak sunshine....just to fill some dark shadows a touch and perhaps allow colors to pop a little more than usual. Figure most subjects would be about 20-30 yards away. I'm shooting a half ironman this weekend and thought that by mid-day when the light was more harsh than during the swim (early morning), a bit of fill flash could be helpful for capturing athletes on the bike and/or run. Obviously this is easy with short glass at close distance for portraits, etc., but I've never really tried it with a super tele. Maybe it's just a dumb idea to begin with. Not sure. I'm trying to broaden my horizons and learn/try something new. Many years ago when I attended Photography at the Summit Workshop one of the teachers talked about doing this with great success but I don't really recall how.

I plan to experiment a little before the weekend but I was hoping for some suggestions and ideas as a starting point. What techniques and settings do people use. I'm shooting with a 400 2.8 USM IS, 550EX flash and 1D Mk II body. I'd also like to shoot wide open or at f/4 to maintain that nice bokeh.

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Curtis Clegg, Photographer
Sycamore | IL | USA | Posted: 10:57 AM on 09.05.12
->> Start with a Better Beamer, or similar product:
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Peter Huoppi, Photographer
New London | CT | USA | Posted: 3:36 PM on 09.05.12
->> If you want to shoot wide open, you're going to run into the issue of your shutter speed being too fast for flash synch.

Do you have Pocket Wizards or some other remote trigger? I once shot a marathon with a 300 and a single off camera flash just off the course at around the distance you are describing.
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David Scott, Photographer
Portland | OR | US | Posted: 3:48 PM on 09.05.12
->> I do as Peter does. I have an assistant with a flash/PW combo off course or I mount the combo somewhere off course. Great results.
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James Durbin, Photographer
Midland | Texas | USA | Posted: 6:40 PM on 09.05.12
->> I used to use a hot shoe mounted flash coupled with a JackRabbit battery pack while shooting high school football with a 300 in dark southern Illinois high school football fields. I too was using 550's. If you have been using the 550 for a long time you know that they are terrible at ETTL so I would actually shoot with them in manual mode and got pretty good at dialing the flash down on the fly if a play moved in my direction quickly. That combo did the job and the JackRabbit kept the recycle time workably fast. Working in daylight you may have better results with the ETTL ability of the 550, but shooting at f/4 in sunlight may give you a hard time trying to sync.
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Steve Violette, Photographer
Gulf Breeze | FL | USA | Posted: 9:27 AM on 09.06.12
->> The way to do this is with the PW TT5's. With the Speedlites they will sync at any shutter speed and you can shoot wide open. All you have to do is put the flash in ETTL and fire away wide open and the flash will sync. Make sure you have updated firmware and fresh batteries. I have done this for triathlons as well - sprint type and also kids triathlons using a 300 f/2.8 and 1/5000th shutter speed - all synced up with the TT5's

Good luck

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Bob Leverone, Photographer
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 10:32 AM on 09.06.12
->> So Ben, maybe this is something you could use?

When I first came to the South to work for this mid-size suburban newspaper a long, long time ago, there was a guy on the staff that always seemed to be building some rig to make his photography better. Well, one of my first Friday night football games, I see this "old-timer" (he will remain nameless), come onto the same poorly lit high school field I was shooting. Pissed me off a little at first, thinking they were making sure something was printable from my game.

From across the field I saw him tinkering with a bag full of stuff just before kick-off. As the ball was set up on the tee, he stands up with a 300 f/2.8 on a monopod, a Norman 400B battery pack on his shoulder and a construction hardhat with a four-foot copper pole secured atop the helmet. On top of the pole was a Norman flashhead and reflector with two wires-one for the battery and the other for the synch wrapping their way down to the camera and the battery. To top the entire ensemble off, there was a stylish chinstrap crafted from a discarded football helmet that kept it all secured. Dude went from about 5'8" to easily eight feet tall.

We ran a dollar pool in the lab every football Friday that closed at 4pm where you could buy a square securing exactly what quarter this contraption turned into a lightening rod for the electrical storms that are famous here in the Fall.

It's still one of my favorite stories of a long career. I remember some photos of this sideline ensemble at work lying around the lab when I left and I kick myself for not grabbing a print on my way out the door.
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Gray Quetti, Photographer
Jacksonville | Fl | USA | Posted: 11:18 AM on 09.06.12
->> What Steve said about the TT5's. I use two flashes off camera for the swimmers and for the runners at the finish line. The high speed synch works great with those units. If you have the controller on the TT1 you can adjust all the flashes from the camera. I would suggest using battery packs for each flash.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 12:14 PM on 09.06.12
->> I have this "friend" who showed me a technique by which you light the subject using an on camera fongdong and point your flash at the sky. She swears by it. YMMV.
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Jack Howard, Photographer, Photo Editor
Central Jersey | NJ | USA | Posted: 12:25 PM on 09.06.12
->> You're better off using HTML5 these days.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 2:02 PM on 09.06.12
->> Ben,

What Peter and David said - don't forget the battery pack. If you lack these tools, then here's plan B:

You want out of the box thinking?

IF, and it's a big IF, you're shooting at the same spot (say as they come around a curve), why not just see if a large (72") reflector might work? If you are working alone, just mount it in a stationary spot where the sun can reflect and you're good to go. If you position it low and horizontally and tilt it up a bit, you'll have a somewhat wide zone if you set it back a few feet. If it's a reversible one, consider the gold side.....

If you have an assistant, have them pivot as the riders go by.

You will have to adjust it as the sun moves, it's simple and cheap... and no more crazy than the guy with the Norman light mounted on the construction helmet. (Aside to Bob: How big was the pool - and - heaven forbid, did anyone ever come close to collecting??????)

Might be worth going out and scouting locations. Then hope it doesn't rain.

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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 6:21 PM on 09.06.12
->> I use the TT5 set up with SB900's in AutoFP (high speed sync) mode a lot. Mostly they work pretty close to flawless. I'd get as close to the subject as you can with the remote. If the sun is pretty strong, you might have to consider overheating and have a workaround ready. I know my SB900's can go about 10 shots under these circumstances before they start overheating. The external battery will help, or use two or more flashes so they are not working on full power (although with multiple units firing in Auto FP mode, the TTL stuff can get confused). A cool (no pun intended) option with the TT5's is the Speed Cycler mode where you could fire up to three units in sequence. I've noticed Auto FP TTL doesn't get as confused this way.
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Bob Leverone, Photographer
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 2:04 AM on 09.07.12
->> Michael-with all the ribbing he took, this contraption didn't last long so the pool didn't get too high. Actually, it was all in fun. We even attached a ground to the whole set-up, but he didn't like plugging and unplugging himself into the turf every time he wanted to move up and down the sidelines.

I just can't get the image of this guy and the Norman football rig out of my head. Those were the days.
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Ben Shyman, Photographer
New York | NY | | Posted: 9:15 AM on 09.07.12
->> The thoughtful and creative ideas presented here have given me much to think about. Thank you everyone. I don't have access to much of the equipment discussed (especially on short notice) but I will continue to investigate.

Bob, your story made me laugh so hard. Great stuff.

Michael, the reflector is a great idea however with riders on the bike approaching 25 mph I don't think the course director would allow it. It could be perceived a dangerous distraction. It could work on the run however.

I own pocket wizards and will give it a try. I also have three Speedlights which can be programed in Trigger/Slave mode. So I could mount one in the camera hot shoe and use another to two mounted off-camera to a stationary object like a fence, sign-post, etc. I could get fairly creative with those. I'm not certain of the range on those however.

It's a beautiful sunny day here in NYC today, perfect for getting out and doing a little experimentation.

Thanks so much everyone.
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Ben Shyman, Photographer
New York | NY | | Posted: 9:21 AM on 09.07.12
->> I found this. A great read.
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Thread Title: Using flash with a super telephoto
Thread Started By: Ben Shyman
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