Welcome to do :: or :: diso, a monthly sports photography ezine. do :: or :: diso will address issues particular to sports photography in a format that is to the point and easy to understand.
This article marks do :: or :: diso’s first foray into the hallowed topic of camera accessories – this time, wireless radio transmitters. This month, we discuss three accessories – Pocket Wizards, the Four Square by Lightware Direct , and a ground plate made by fplate.net.
Radio transmitters can broaden your horizons if you give them a chance:
off camera flash wirelessly triggered | Nikon D600 | ISO 200 | 24-70mm lens at 24mm | f / 10 | 1/1250 second
off camera flash wirelessly triggered | Nikon D800 | ISO 400 | 24-70mm lens at 35mm | f / 5.0 | 1/1600 second
wireless triggered remote camera | Nikon D800 | ISO 5000 | 24-70mm lens at 52mm | f / 3.2 | 1/640 second
Wireless Radio Transmitters
In a nutshell: Radio transmitters send a radio signal from one transmitter to the other. You need two — one attached to the sending device – usually the camera or your hand, and one attached to the receiving device – usually a flash or a remote camera. The sending device gives the Pocket Wizard a message (such as “Hey Dude! Trigger a remote camera or flash pronto!”); the Pocket Wizard converts that message into a radio signal and transmits the message instantaneously to the remote Pocket Wizard that then delivers the message to the remote device (here, “Hey Dude! FLASH!” or “Hey Dude! trigger the shutter!”). The remote device then complies and presto, the remote flash flashes, or the remote camera takes an image. Magic. Pocket Wizards are powered by 2 AA batteries. Yes, they are expensive. But, they work magic, and magic can cost money. Look for discounts on used ones at KEH.com and consider buying prior models.
Brands: There are many radio transmitter brands for sale on eBay and Amazon. Wireless devices must deliver two things – reliability and reliability. As a result, many pros turn to Pocket Wizards, although Radio Poppers are quite reliable and have a loyal following.
Why use them:
- for remote lighting: Flashes mimic the sun. If you have the flash on your camera, it is as if you are wearing a miner’s headlamp like a bright cyclops attached to your forehead blaring light onto your subject — well, maybe not quite that bad but you get the idea. It is typically harsh, omni directional, and unflattering light. The great painters lit their subjects with diffused light from angles and never head on. They were into something good (to borrow from Herman’s Hermits). To light your subject, get the light off the camera. To do so, nothing works like a wireless radio trigger. For sportraits, radio triggers are the way to get your flashes off your camera.
- for remote photography: For the mere mortals, like me, no other way exists to trigger a camera remotely.
The Equipment I Use:
Flex TT5 and Plus III
Plus III on Nikon D4 with remote triggering cable on a ground plate.
Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s: Flexes not only trigger an off-camera flash, but the unit when coupled with a small controller – an AC3 – can control the light output of the flash from the camera either using the flashes in manual mode (you set the light output from the AC3) or in TTL mode (the camera determines and sets the light output).
- three important Flex things: (1) follow the directions – they are very important. Of paramount importance, power on the Flex and its attached device from top to bottom — so first turn on the transceiver that sits on the hot shoe, and the camera second; on the unit attached to the bottom of the speedlight, first turn on the speedlight and then the transceiver and wait for the flash to fire its own calibrating test shot; (2) use the antenna – meaning flip it out of its holder so it is extended out from the unit; and (3) battery power is very important. When the AAs start to run down, the units will likely start to fail. I use Eneloop rechargeables and they are reputed to deliver a steady amount of power so the failure of the transceiver is delayed until much later in the charge capacity.
- Flexes also work for remote camera triggering but . . . : Flexes will also trigger a remote camera but the range is nowhere near that of the Plus III. I have had Flex success up to the length of a basketball court but not much more than that.
- HyperSync: Most cameras and flashes can sync at no more than 1/250th second. Any faster speed yields black bands on the image. YouTube is filled with videos explaining why. Flexes also add a HyperSync feature – the ability to fire a flash and sync it remotely at substantially higher than 1/250th second – upwards of 1/8000 second. It is a shockingly wonderful feature that allows a sportrait at well above 1/250 second to freeze action.
Pocket Wizard Plus III: These are pretty much the high-end, state of the art modern day radio triggers for maximum range – maybe up to 1600 feet. They trigger; they do not adjust the light output and they do not do TTL. They are the successor to the Pocket Wizard Plus II, and are a higher end version of the Plus X, both lower cost options (the Plus II can be found used on eBay and KEH).
Four Square: It is a very cool soft box light modifier that holds up to 4 flashes (with brackets) to really put out light and stop the action. I use it on a painting pole so an assistant can hold it up high. It is a 30″ square soft box that puts out a fine blanket of light on an athlete in motion to freeze the action for a sportrait. Dave Black uses it. David Tejada uses it. ‘Nuff said.
fplate: it holds the remote camera. Nothing fancy – just stability (another brand that is popular are somewhat larger plates made by OverXposed.com ).
Why Use This Stuff:
Fun, better images, fun.
Sportraits: Taking a portrait of an athlete in motion is great fun. It allows the photographer to plan, stage, and perfect the shot. With Flexes, make the image, do not just record a shot. What could be more fun than spending a few hours with an athlete creating an image rather than just taking a picture? Here are some examples of sportraits using Flex TT5s and speedlights triggered remotely. HyperSync allows the fast shutter speed. In each example, Nikon’s SB900 Speedlights in a Four Square are used. Adding light allows the photographer to control the amount of ambient light in the background and then add enough light from the speedlights to light the athlete:
wireless triggered off camera flash | Nikon D800 | ISO 1500 | 24-70mm lens at 24mm | f / 5.6 | 1/2000 second
wireless triggered off camera flash | Nikon D800 | ISO 1250 | 24-70mm lens at 70mm | f / 7.1 | 1/500 second
wireless triggered off camera flash | Nikon D800 | ISO 100 | 24-70mm lens at 32mm | f / 4.5 | 1/1000 second
Remote Camera shots: Use a simple setup. The camera sits on a small tripod ball head mounted on a ground plate (fplate for me) for balance and stability. The small ball head aids in quick adjustments.
In addition to this month’s cover shot (Nikon D4 | ISO 2500 | 24-70mm lens at 28mm | f / 13 | 1/500 second), here are some remote image examples:
wireless triggered remote camera | Nikon D800 | ISO 4000 | 24-70mm lens at 38mm | f / 2.8 | 1/1000 second
wireless triggered off camera flash | Nikon D800 | ISO 3200 | 24-70mm lens at 48mm | f / 2.8 | 1/1000 second
Atop the remote camera sits a wireless radio transceiver connected to the camera by a cable (a 10 pin connection on a Nikon D4 – Pocket Wizard model N10-ACC-1) that simply triggers the camera’s shutter remotely. The triggering transceiver is far away in your hand.
There are three basic steps to set up the remote camera, but admittedly, this part is more than a little tricky. Since no human touches or operates the remote camera, focus and exposure are challenges.
- focus: for focus, first create a larger depth of field by stopping down as much as you can get away with – try for at least f / 9 or higher. Second, pre-focus where you think the action will be and then set the focus to manual. I then tape down the barrel of the lens with gaffer tape (a photographer’s version of duct tape that does not leave a sticky residue) so the lens barrel does not move as I set the plate with camera down into position. Third, go wide to capture a mood for the shot – an expansive field of vision.
- exposure: for exposure, experiment, experiment, experiment! You still need a fast shutter speed to freeze action; you have already committed to a smaller aperture, so use ISO to adjust for the proper exposure.
- trigger: then trigger away when the action passes through the pre focused field you have created by squeezing the triggering button on the transceiver in your hand. Even with all of this planning, on the remote set up, be ready for lots of shots that are not in focus, or are only nearly in focus. Take lots of images and then mine the pool of images for the ones that meet your goals.
The magic of remote shooting is the placement of the remote camera where a human could not be, such as behind a soccer net virtually flat to the ground.
That placement not only gets a unique shot, but the effect with a wider lens is an almost panoramic view of the action with the arena or stadium in the background and can add a sense of emotion and moment.
wireless triggered remote camera | Nikon D4 | ISO 2500 | 24-70mm lens at 28mm | f / 13 | 1/500 second
There is also the signature SI shot from the rafters over a basketball hoop as the big guys sky for a rebound (my rafter experience comes this next season).
How to shoot muscles. Get pumped at do :: or :: diso.