Remote Flash and the X-T1

After much waiting, my pre-ordered Fuji X-T1 arrived at my door. I’m still in the process of playing with it, and so far I can say, its great. No real learning curve, love the image quality from it. My only complaints are similar to others found online, but specifically,  I don’t like the d-pad buttons. They are a bit too recessed and not very tactile like the X-Pro1. But its a small complaint and certainly does sway my opinion of it.

But I digress from the topic at hand.

The X-T1 does not come with an on-camera, pop-up flash. Generally speaking for me, not a big deal. I tend to avoid on-camera flash at almost all costs. But it does have its uses from time-to-time. Fuji was thinking  ahead and included a mini flash that attaches to the camera’s hotshoe for those “fill flash” needs (no bounce though). The little flash does the standard fill, rear curtain, red-eye type things, and a commander mode. The commander mode enables one to control other flashes with this setting.  This makes it more useable to me.

I went searching to find some more information on the commander mode and there seems to be very little, and to what extent it can be used. So I set to task to try some things out. I also have an Elinchrome Skyport wireless trigger set. Being a new camera, I needed to find out if it worked with it or not.

Lets start with the mini flash. I was trying to trigger my Nikon SB900 with it. There is a great little hidden feature on the SB900 that switches the thing to be an optical slave – when it sees a burst of light, it fires – its called an SU-4 mode. Sadly, my SB600 doesn’t have that mode. For a great description, see The Strobist’s blog entry.

Testing with remote triggers.

I set the mini flash to Commander mode and gave it a try. In a word (or two), it worked. It means manually setting the SB900 (or whatever strobe you have) manually, but in a pinch it worked. However, the mini flash also went full power and blew out the subject. Again, since there is no documentation I can find on this mode, I couldn’t find anything to disable the full on flash, other than possibly digging through menu items to dial down the EV values. Note that with my Nikon camera, there is such an option so that the only thing the on-camera flash will do is fire the burst to light the speed light and not light up the subject. But this is also through Nikon’s very cool Creative Lighting System (CLS), in which the same camera can control the flash (and a bunch of them at different settings) from one spot. But based on my quick testing, the Fuji mini-flash ain’t gonna cut it. More research and testing is required. If anyone knows more, drop me a line.

So I went to option B, which is the Elinchrome set. This is a nifty little wireless set that includes the transceiver for the hot shoe and a receiver that plugs into a speed light, strobe or whatever. It’s less expensive than a Pocket Wizard (for those on a budget), not as robust as the PW, and coupled with Elinchrome lights, it has more control like the Nikon CLS. It works great for my purposes.

Happily, it works just fine with the X-T1, as I was expecting (but one never knows). As you can see by the photo, this was made with the X-T1 and a Nikon SB900. My subject was very patient. I still need to manually adjust the settings on the SB900, but that’s okay, I prefer it that way. I could also use it with my studio lighting system.

Of Strobes and a Flower

D700_DSC_2868A couple weeks ago, in a desire to instil a bit of spring into the house after yet another week of frigid temperatures, I bought a bunch of tulips. As cut flowers do, they opened up, and I saw an opportunity as the petals opened up to get some interesting photos. I began to get an idea of how I’d like to do this.

My intent was a tulip bright against a black background, as you can see from the photo on the left. The execution was really quite simple and went fairly quickly. Here is the run-down:

I set up a black fabric background using some old curtains someone gave to me (one never knows when old black curtains can be useful, so I said I’d take them). Now, I could have blacked out the background, which in the room I did this has beige walls, using the basic inverse square law of light, but the room is rather small, and I wanted to help the effect along. I positioned the tulip on a small table in front of the curtain.

My main light is a Nikon SB900 flash pointed down at the tulip, power set to 1/5 and zoomed in to 200mm to make a nice tight source of light that wouldn’t spill onto the blackdrop much. After a few test shots, the shadow that appeared behind the bulb on the stem was not pleasing. So I dug out a Nikon SB600 and placed it just below the flower pointing it towards the back to fill that shadow. It was zoomed to 50mm and the power dialed back to 1/20 to again minimize the spill.  Here you can see the overall set up.

Photo Shoot setup

A blackdrop, two strobes and a tulip.

Using an 85mm lens, I set my camera to ISO 250, shutter 1/250s and aperture to f16. The SBs were triggered using Nikon CLS. This resulted in the image like the one below. Minor adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom to cut out the blacks some more, and a little adjustment to contrast and a tweak of saturation. Overall, not much post was done.


A slight change for the photo at the top of this post in that I moved the SB600 around to behind the tulip. I like the shadow disconnect in the stem.

For fun, I put on a full CTO gel on the SB900 to see what came out (leaving the SB600 still bare). It had a neat effect. I like it.


A selection from this shoot will go into my iStock portfolio and the ones you see here into my Smugmug gallery for purchase.