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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2010-03-03

Syl Arena talks strobism from a Speedlite perspective
Jack Howard interviewed Syl about his new website, book and nationwide Speedliter's Intensive Tour.

By Jack Howard, Adorama Camera

Photo by Syl Arena

Photo by Syl Arena

This shoot demonstrates high-speed sync using a dozen 580EXs aligned on a homemade 8' oak rail. They were fired via RadioPopper P1s. Shutter speed was 1/4000.
My most recent guest for the TechTock podcast I host for Adorama Camera was Paso Robles, California-based Syl Arena (
http://www.adorama.com/alc/blogarticle/TechTock-35-Syl-Arena). Syl talks and teaches small-strobe techniques from a Canon Speedlite point of view. Syl has just launched his new Canon Speedlite-centric website, http://www.Speedliting.com and is about to launch a nationwide "Speedliters Intensive" workshop tour. And his book, Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites ($49.99, Peachpit Press) will be hitting the bookshelves this summer.

We talked at length about using Canon's Speedlites during our nearly hour-long session. I've been shooting with Canon Speedlites for a very long time, and I walked away from this interview energized and looking to do more with my small strobes. Arena not only knows his Speedlites exceptionally well, he also has a knack for explaining the concepts in an easy-to-follow manner. Much of the information in this interview is universal, so even if you don't shoot specifically with Canon Speedlites, there's a lot to be learned. Here are a few quotes drawn from the interview to give you a feel for Syl Arena's grasp on this subject matter.

Syl Arena explains point versus diffuse light sources:

"Physics is physics. You just cannot escape the fact that if you have a small light source–and if you think about it, the face of a Speedlite is probably the size of like a half dozen postage stamps--...relative to the size of what you're shooting you're going to have very hard light. You're going to have very defined shadows."

"Think about the sun. It's huge. But the earth is so far from the sun that it looks relatively small to us. So we get, on a sunny day, very direct shadow lines. [We get] very hard edges to those shadows and a high degree of contrast between the brightest brights and the darkest darks... and one of the things to remember about cameras–even the best digital cameras today–still can only record a fraction of what the human eye can see."

Why hotshoes aren't the best place for a Speedlite for most situations:

"The worst place you can put your Speedlite, for most shots , is right on top of the camera. You've got to move that flash off-axis. If you think about it, It's the difference between bright and dark, the difference between highlights and shadows, that really helps inform us about the shape and depth of things in our photographs."

On the nature of light, and where to put a single strobe:

"The interesting thing about light... is that it behaves in incredibly predictable ways. So on the one hand, light can seem incredibly confusing especially when somebody tries to apply math as a way to explain what light does."

"Photographers have long dreaded, feared, [and] been intimidated by the inverse square law. The important thing to know is that if you're shooting with your flash off - camera – which you should – so you can create some nice, dramatic shadows, and if you're putting something between the flash and your subject to make your flash seem larger...a diffusion panel between your speedlite and your subject... a softbox... a shoot-through umbrella, there's lots of different ways to go, then the question becomes: 'Where do you put your speedlite and modifier?'

Photo by Syl Arena

Photo by Syl Arena

This shoot demonstrates high-speed sync using a dozen 580EXs aligned on a homemade 8' oak rail. They were fired via RadioPopper P1s. Shutter speed was 1/4000.
Arena's advice is to put it as close to the edge of frame, as possible, without actually being in the frame as he explains and illustrates in a recent entry on Speedliting.com titled "It's Where You Put Your One Speedlite That Matters."

On being a lifelong student of photography:

"No matter how much time you've spent working with this gear, there's something else to be learned. So don't get discouraged if you feel like you're going nowhere. There's many days where I have shoots that go that way and then I learn something new. I get a new insight and a whole new vista opens up."

There's still some spots open at the Speedliters Intensive workshop at Adorama's Flagship store at 42 West 18th Street, New York City on Sunday March 14, 2010 (info and registration:
http://www.adorama.com/catalog.tpl?op=WS_SylArena_031410) and in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, March 27, (visit http://www.speedliting.com for this and other dates and locations)

Adorama Camera carries the full line of Canon Speedlites, and Nikon too! Contact Jeff Snyder for great deals, on these plus 100's of light shaping tools. Email Jeff: jsnyder@adorama.com, or call him to say hi, 1-800-223-2500 x2435


(Jack Howard, Director of New and Social Media for Adorama Camera, hosts the TechTock Podcast and co-hosts the Ask Adorama podcast
http://www.adorama.com/podcasts, along with writing for the TechTock blog, creating screencasting tutorials and other videos. He is also author of Practical HDRI, High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers (http://www.sportsshooter.com/education/book_profile.html?id=745), and is working on the final touches for the 2nd Edition, due out late spring/early summer 2010.)

Related Links:
Jack's member page

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