Flash Point

For about a week something has been niggling away in the deep and labyrinthine recesses that I good-humouredly refer to as my brain:
And I have been somewhat troubled by it.   I’m sure that you know what it is like when something nadgers away at you, but for the life of you, you are unable to pin it down.  That’s how it has been during the last week.
Initially, my instinctive suspicion was that I had forgotten something.
A date:  An appointment:  A delivery or a collection:  A meeting with a client.
But, because my memory more accurately resembles a hollow cylindrical tube than a bucket-like receptacle in which to store things, I write everything, but everything, in a diary, in a calendar, and on my mobile.  With alarms – buzzers – dire warnings, and admonishments.

I have checked all of these.  Scrupulously; and on several occasions.
Absolutely nothing !!  Not a thing.

Then, today, I was talking casually to a client, who had called to enquire about some further work, when he very courteously and kindly commented upon a blog I had written about two weeks ago, concerning Nikon lenses.
He said firstly how much he had enjoyed reading it, in terms of the style of the writing, and secondly how informative and enlightening he had found it in terms of its content.   Now I can say these things without a hint of embarrassment or conceit, because we have already agreed that he shall have a 20% discount off his next order, in light of these very generous comments.  :lol:

And when he had gone, suddenly, the penny dropped.   It was since I had written about the lenses, and later had been reminded of an observation made to me recently, by a good friend, about flash-guns, that I had been so unsettled.

And gradually, the comment about flash-guns made to me by my friend, emerged to the surface, struggling out of the depths of my feeble memory, like a drowning man fighting his way out of a pit of molasses,

The comment:   Oh.  Yes.         I’ll tell you before I forget it again.  :-)
It was,    “Oh, I don’t use the flash very much; in fact not at all if I can avoid it.  I just stick it on the hot-shoe, switch it on. I never even think about the settings. I just take the shot.”
When I asked if the shots always turned out to his liking, he admitted that many did not.
He concluded by saying,     “In fact, most don’t.  I’m generally very disappointed.  But I don’t fiddle around with all of the ‘settings’ & ‘gizmos’ on the back of the flash.  I haven’t a clue what they all do.”
And he rounded off this tale of woe by saying,   “I’m seriously considering disposing of the flash altogether, and just using the built-in one on the camera.  The trounble with that is that I get awful shadows everywhere.”

And it was this final, almost despairing, comment which reminded me what I had written about in the Nikon Lens blog.
I had said something along the lines that many who bought the lenses I was discussing, did so with the assumption that the lens itself would produce better pictures.  And when it did not produce dramatically better images, they consigned the lens to the cupboard, until they decided to sell it.  Yet in their sales pitch, advocating what a super lens it is, without ever having discovered the fact for themselves.

And if you watch sales on eBay of perfectly good, very practical, flash-guns, you will often notice exactly this sort of comment being made.
“Like new.  Has not been used much.  Excellent flash.  Grab yourself a bargain.”

And what many of them are actually saying is,   “I never really got the hang of this thing.  Everyone said how great it is, but I haven’t got a clue what it all means.  So I’m selling it.”   And the underlying admission is, that by confessing that they won’t put themselves about to understand the working and setting of their flash, means that they, similarly, probably don’t understand the workings and setting of their camera either.  Because primarily, all that the settings of the flash are doing is sychronising either the camera with the deficiency of appropriate light, or the camera and itself with the deficiency and the colour balance of the image setting.
Distances are similar.  Compensations are similar.  Light strengths are similar.
Often when you talk to people with this sort of dilemma, you will find that range metering and the +&- compensation, bracketing and flash comp functions on the camera are similarly a mystery to them.  And when it is suggested that for a given hand-held shot, they use shutter priority with the speed set to overcome ‘shake’, and balance the aperture by adjusting the ISO, they look at you as if you have suddenly grown three heads.

Now admittedly, some of the most recent Nikon flash units on the market are, in my opinion, over the top.
Do we really need to have a Menu in a flash, comparable in size and complexity to the Menu on a D3?
I must admit that I have nothing more than several SB600′s and an SB800.  Oh, plus a SB28DX.  And I prefer the SB600 for most applications.
The SB900 was, in my opinion, a bit of a dogs breakfast.  Not the light provision. Just the digitalized LCD screen and it’s programme modes.
I gather that the SB910 is much better, though that Menu puts me off.   And I’ve heard some really wacky stories about the SB700.   The SB400 is fine to fit in your pocket for a day out with a small body and kit lens, but it is restricted rotationally.
And despite their de rigeur status, and associated price tags, none seem to be able to do anything of significance, that my SB600 or my SB800 won’t do.
Where the SB910 & SB700 do leave my flashes behind, is with the gels. :-)
I have to make my own and stick them to the flash head.

So next week, my bewildered friend is going to return.
With his camera.  His flash.  His flash manual.  And we are going to have an afternoon delving into the mysteries of flash photography, including off-camera flash.
It should be fun.
I’m looking forward to it, because I always finish up learning something too.
And, I am loathe to confess, often having to re-learn something that I now have to acknowledge that I had completely forgotten.  :oops:  :roll:

Flash photography, or at least knowledgeable and good flash photography, really does open up all manner of opportunities to improve your image making.  And you don’t need a studio or a host of other expensive equipment to get the best out of your flash and camera.
In fact some of the cheapest tricks are the most effective.   :-)

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