Erik Seo’s Epic Skiing and Riding Pix Explode off the Page

Without trying to sound cliché, the first word that comes to mind when viewing Erik Seo’s action sports photography is ‘explosive’, and that’s not simply because snow and people tend to be flying all over the place in many of his photographs.

Mostly self-taught, Seattle-born Seo (rhymes with –‘say-oh’) began photographing fellow ski-bums while attending Washington State University with a major in landscape architecture and just enough photography classes on the side to get him hooked for life.

Jen Hudak skiing in the trees at Mt. Asahidake, Hokkiado, Japan

© Erik Seo 2015

 

For inspiration and visual direction he read books about lighting and studied the work of others in the field whose work he respected. He also shot a lot and pushed himself to see if he could do it even better. Seo decided to shoot full time about 30-seconds after learning his day job had been terminated. It’s a decision he’s content with.

Winter sports photography is as demanding as location photography gets. Challenges include mountain terrain, extreme cold, snow, ice, rain, slippery surfaces with obstructions – not all of which are immediately apparent –  speed, sun glare, or any combination of the above. Add remote-triggered TTL flash into the mix only makes things that more interesting.

 

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© Erik Seo 2015

 

Seo’s working tools include Canon EOS 1D  and 5D Mark-series camera bodies with a trio of Canon L-series wide zooms, a fast 85mm and the all-but-mandatory 70-200/f2.8L II zoom.

For flash, Seo uses Canon and Nikon Speedlites, Elinchrom Ranger RX AS and Ranger Quadra flash systems, along with Paul C Buff Einstein flash heads in various combinations depending on the scope and parameters of the assignment.

Tom Wallisch

© Erik Seo 2015

 

Regardless of whose lighting systems he ends up using, all communications between his cameras and lights go through his PocketWizard remote triggering system, which, as Erik jokingly says, frees him from having to drag along “about 834,234,324-feet of sync cords”.

Erik’s remote triggering system includes FlexTT5 and Plus III Transceivers. He also makes use of PocketWizard PowerST4 Receivers, which enable remote control of Elinchrom RX-series flash systems with PocketWizard ControlTL technologies. Also included in Erik Seo’s PocketWizard triggering kit are AC3 ZoneControllers, which enable three zones of off-camera flash control.

Getting through these challenges requires equal measures of speed, stamina, lightning reflexes, and enough common sense to know when to pull back. (According to Erik it also requires always having a supply of plastic bags and waterproof tape on hand to better ensure moisture doesn’t get into places it doesn’t belong.) It also helps to have camera gear that won’t let you down when things start to rock and roll.

 

© Erik Seo 2015

© Erik Seo 2015

 

The combination of bright, high-altitude sunlight and blowing snow can easily push contrast ranges off the charts making fill-flash all but mandatory for revealing detail in otherwise blackened shadows.

To freeze the action Seo often requires shutter speeds shorter than the 1/200th and 1/250th-second top sync speeds of his Canon camera bodies. Using PocketWizard’s exclusive HyperSync® feature, Seo has the option of selecting shutter speeds as short as 1/8000th-second, which is far more effective at freezing fast-moving subjects compared to the native top sync speeds of most DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

 

Tim McChesney jumping the Death Valley gap in Salt Lake City, Ut

© Erik Seo 2015

 

“PocketWizard radio’s allow me to craft the light the way I’d like, at any time of day. HyperSync allows me more flexibility in overpowering daylight and punching light into the harsh shadows of my outdoor scenes.”

Erik also makes use of the flexible Quad-Zone Triggering feature of his PocketWizard Transceivers, which allow him to quickly switch between flash systems while adjusting power settings on the fly.

 

Clayton Vila transferring from one wallride to the opposite side

© Erik Seo 2015

 

More than just a flash trigger, Erik also uses his PocketWizard system for triggering cameras remotely. “I use PocketWizard radios to control my lighting, but also (use them) to wirelessly fire a second or third camera connected to PocketWizard motor drive cables. It’s always good to have another camera blasting away at 10fps when you only get one pop of flash power per attempt… You never know if you will get more than one opportunity to photograph the action so the more cameras you can have covering the action, the better. Some of my best photos including my cover shot of one of Powder Magazine’s Photo Annual have been captured through remotely-fired cameras.”

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Shot from helicopter at a distance of about 2000′ from remote flash. © Erik Seo 2015

 

Seo can also testify to the range and accuracy of his PocketWizard flash triggering system. “Last winter I did a photo shoot for Aspen Skiing Company out of a helicopter from a distance of about 2,000 feet from the subject and we were able to successfully HypersSync with my Elinchrom Ranger’s and Paul Buff Einstein flash units.  Both Seo and his client went home happy that day.

“Thanks to people at PocketWizard for creating the tools I need to shape the light to my liking.”

To see more of Erik Seo’s work, check out his website.

To learn more about the benefits of getting your flash off your camera and triggering it remotely, please visit www.pocketwizard.com/freeyourflash

All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and © Erik Seo all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

 

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Look, Up In The Sky: It’s A Drone… FREEZE (it)!

I was recently assigned to shoot a cover and feature on the hottest quadcopter on the market, the new DJI Inspire 1. This has been designed from the ground up by DJI to be a ready-to-fly system with a 4K camera and the ability for two operators; one controlling the drone and one controlling the camera, all for FAR less than anything else on the market on this level. They took what they learned from the Phantom platform, their incredibly successful and virtually ubiquitous quadcopter, and built it into this incredible new drone.

Check out Director of Photography, Philip Bloom’s description of the Inspire 1. There’s some incredible samples of the type of footage that you can get from this drone that’s easily on-par with drones that cost well into the 5-figures.

Betty Nero, Creative Director at Air Age Media, assigned me this great shoot. Air Age publishes the industry-standard magazines about all things radio controlled, from planes to cars to boats to drones. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with these guys for many years as a freelancer, shooting not only amazing R/C vehicles, but the people who are the best in the world at making them do what they do. And often pushing the very limits of what their manufacturers designed them to do.

IMG_5511sBetty asked me to shoot the Inspire 1 at a model airplane field near me. The Inspire 1 is the absolute hottest drone on the planet right now, and she asked me to create something “high tech” for the cover. That was all I had to go on. I’d not been to that field in years, and with the scheduling of everything, it was going to have to be shot at 10 AM. That’s hardly a time for stellar light. But I’m a professional, and I’m charged with making something spectacular within the parameters I have.

The location wasn’t amazing, though it was green, a rarity in Southern California during the winter. And there was a full downpour until an hour before the shoot. Actually, that was a plus, wetting the ground and making for a cooler look. There was no budget for a water truck, but Mother Nature was looking out for us.
When the rain cleared, the sun came out and the clouds vanished. Even better, shooting a black and white drone against a cloudy sky might be tough to create the proper contrast. A lot of creative decisions to make on the fly. No pun intended.

I had one of the best pilots in the business, Sergio Marachilian, owner of Piroflip RC in Van Nuys, CA to fly this grand machine. His co-pilot, operating the FPV controller and the 4K DJI camera was none other than Robert Rodriguez, President of the Society of Aerial Cinematography. And third, we had Willis Chung from DJI making sure it all worked. They have an app for both iPhone and Android that actually plugs into the device and uses it as the monitor. This is pretty amazing, in that you can put an iPad on the controller and it actually connects via the Lightning connector to make it into the monitor. I understand it working the other way, but this worked perfectly. With overlays to control things like resolution, start/stop, modes and so much more.

We shot the setup from removing the Inspire 1 from the case to getting it ready to fly. Then for the cover, I picked a spot on one of the pads to get started.

IMG_5507sSeeing the guys shadows when backlit gave me the idea to let them go dark, as well as the sky, but let the sun show up in the image. I wanted to light the Inspire 1 well and allow it to be strong in the foreground. I set up a Lumedyne 067x pack and head into a medium softbox. I needed Hypersync to allow me to get the darker sky and shadows, so I triggered it with a Mini TT1, shoe-mounted on my Nikon D800. I had a Flex TT5 attached to the Lumedyne head to fire it. I’ve carefully programmed the Pocketwizard units to work with my various lighting kits, it’s easy using the PocketWizard utility.

To use Hypersync effectively, I had the Lumedyne pack set up to 400 w/s. Even with this, since I’m going into a softbox, it had to be very close, JUST out-of-frame. To add a little difficulty to that, I was shooting with a fisheye lens (16mm Nikkor), so my field of view was extremely wide. I was shooting vertically. Everything in the image looks further away than it actually is. The Inspire 1 was nearly buzzing my hair. Those blades are spinning EXTREMELY fast, the drone is pretty heavy. If it would have touched me, it could have been literally a bloody mess! This is where you have to trust your operator completely. Between Sergio’s experience and the great electronics in the Inspire 1, I could get it exactly where I wanted it. The sun gleaming through the carbon fiber arms was so perfect.

Hypersync allows me to have full control of lighting and freezing action. I can get it to sync at up to 1/8000th of a second. In this case, I didn’t want to fully freeze the blades, then it would just look like they dropped a product shot into that image. I needed SOME movement. I kept the ISO at 100 and shot at 1/1250th of a second. What looks like flex in the rotor blades is actually from the blades moving while the shutter curtains are chasing each other across the focal plane. Between the fact that the Inspire 1 is inches from my camera and spinning THAT fast to hold it in a hover, there’s a perfect amount of blur to let you know it’s flying!

With the right shutter speed and some creative lighting, we came up with a cover shot that both speaks to the great technology of the Inspire 1 and also catches your eye on the newsstand.

IMG_7743

That issue of Rotor Drone Magazine (rotordronemag.com) hits the newsstands on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day). Check it out, it’s full of great stuff!

Photo credits:
Behind-the-scenes photographs courtesy of and © Willis Chung and Robert Rodriguez
Cover photograph ©Tony Donaldson/tdphoto.com
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MiniTT1 & FlexTT5 now TTL compatible with Nikon D750 & SB500 as well as the Canon 7D Mark II

Crop of D750_7D MK II

Photo taken outside our office during one of many snowstorms we’ve had in Vermont this winter. Photo © Heather Simons

Latest TTL firmware update further expands extensive list of compatible cameras

So. Burlington, VTFebruary 20, 2015 – LPA Design, manufacturers of PocketWizard Photo Products, the world leader in wireless control of cameras, flash lighting and flash power control with Sekonic light meters, announces today a new update to its ControlTL firmware for both Nikon and Canon versions of its MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radios. Firmware version 3.800 for Nikon includes compatibility with the recently released D750. Additionally, firmware version 6.800 for Canon now provides TTL compatibility with the Canon 7D Mk II. Any current owner of the ControlTL system can easily install this version via USB and update for free using the PocketWizard Utility. PocketWizard Utility version 1.54 or later is required before installing this update.

“This firmware release makes us compatible with most current Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras. Once we receive our pre-ordered Canon 5DS and 5DS R, our Engineers are geared up to get a firmware update out for these cameras as fast as possible,” said Heather Ambrose, Marketing Director at LPA Design, the company that manufacturers PocketWizard Photo Products.

For more information on how to update PocketWizard products via USB connection and to view current release notes for Nikon firmware update version 3.8 and Canon firmware version 6.8 visit: http://www.pocketwizard.com/support/downloads/

For a complete compatibility list, please visit:
http://wiki.pocketwizard.com/index.php?title=Canon_Compatibility

http://wiki.pocketwizard.com/index.php?title=Nikon_Compatibility

About PocketWizard

Incorporating the latest radio technology, PocketWizard radio triggers exceed the demands of the professional and serious amateur photographer with durability, ease of use, advanced capabilities and legendary reliability.  PocketWizard products, including the PlusX, Plus® III, Plus® II, MiniTT1® and FlexTT5® are made by LPA Design, based in South Burlington, Vermont and sold by distributors around the world including the MAC Group in the USA.

 

 

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On-Camera Flash versus Off-Camera Flash: Part 1

This is part 1 in a series of posts created to show the many benefits of freeing your flash and getting it off your camera.  Although this information may be very basic for some, we have found that there are many photographers who have yet to discover the benefits of getting their flash off their camera.  You will see through a series of very basic images, how an image can come to life by simply taking your flash off your camera and putting it where you want it to be.  I’ve provided a simple overview of the series and then more details on each of the photo.  All photos were taken in Aperture Priority mode using one or two Nikon Speedlights set to TTL.  A MiniTT1 for Nikon with AC3 ZoneController was used on a Nikon D800 camera and FlexTT5s were used to trigger the Speedlights.

Oncamera vs offcamera example two gavin
The first series of images were taken by Heather Simons, our Technical Support Specialist, outside of our office in South Burlington, VT. Our model, Gavin, is the son of our Administrative Assistant and provided us with many creative poses and constant entertainment.  We really had a great time working with him on the images for this post.

DSC_7046 edit_600x400_72dpi

1/500 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160

 

This first image was taken with the flash directly on the camera with the camera positioned directly in front of the subject.  There is uniform lighting across the subject which tends to make the photo look somewhat flat and non-dimensional.

 

DSC_7071 edit_400x600_72

1/320 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160

 

For this second image, the flash was taken off the camera and placed to the right of the subject.  Getting the flash off the camera and placing it at a different angle provides some nice shadows on the left side of Gavin’s face.  This lighting effect just happened to work out perfectly with his expression.  Gavin is quite the ham!

 

DSC_7056 edit_400x600_72

1/250 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160



And for this final image, we added a Speedlight to the left of Gavin in addition to using the Speedlight on his right.  Adding the second speed light provided additional lighting to help balance the light, which worked well with his pose.  When compared to the first image, the light is softer and there are softer shadows which create more depth to the photo.

Oncamera vs offcamera example one gavin

 

The second series of images were taken inside our studio and were a collective effort between Heather Simons and myself.  Again, all photos were taken in Aperture Priority mode using one or two Nikon Speedlights set to TTL.  A MiniTT1 for Nikon with AC3 ZoneController was used on a Nikon D800 and FlexTT5s were used to trigger the Speedlights.

DSC_6898 edit_HSorig_600x400_72dpi_

1/60 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160

 

The first image was taken using an on-camera flash and the direct light is quite apparent.  There are harsh shadows (notice the one on the back wall!!) and the image appears fairly one dimensional and flat.

 

DSC_7033 edit-600x400_72dpi

1/60 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160

For the second image, we placed a Speedlight to the right of Gavin and you can see a shadow on the left side of his face which gives it dimension.  Again, Gavin nailed the pose for the lighting.  We just love the effect we achieved by simply moving one Speedlight off camera.

 

DSC_6940 edit_600x400_72dpi

1/60 sec; f/3.2; ISO 160

And for the final image we kept the Speedlight to Gavins’ right and added one to the left.  This provided great lighting on both sides of his face which worked well for this pose. The image has some dimensionality to it and is dramatically different from the first photo.  This was done simply by moving the flash off the camera, placing it to the side of the subject and adding a second flash to fill in the light.

One thing to note with all of this is that Heather Simons and myself are far from Professional photographers.  In fact, I would say we are quite amateur at best.  We simply were having fun in the studio with a great model that kept us entertained while we created content for our Blog. This entire shoot took about 45 minutes.  The point I am making with this is that it’s really quite easy to free your flash from your camera and put the light where you want it.  All you need is a few PocketWizard wireless triggers and the creative possibilities are endless!

Until the next post,

Heather Ambrose
PocketWizard Marketeer

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Jaime de Diego Freezes His Subjects in Their Tracks

Born in Stuttgart Germany, but raised since knee-high in Madrid Spain, Jaime de Diego is fluent in Spanish but admittedly awful in German. None-the-less, in the span of the past dozen years Jaime has managed to turn his teen-years passion for motor sports and photography into a career as a sports photographer with a weak spot for motorcycles. Never quite one for sitting about, Jaime grew up mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing and hiking. Throw photography into the mix and you have the makings of a natural-born sports shooter.

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© Jaime de Diego

Having paid his dues running here, there, and everywhere photographing running, biking, and motorcycle championship races, Jaime has slowly built a client list of equipment manufacturers that actually pay him to photograph their products for brochures and advertising needs. Early on, Jaime came to terms with the fact if he wanted to play with the big boys, i.e., satisfy the needs of his clients, he would have to step up his game.

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© Jaime de Diego

de Diego first realized he needed wireless triggers while shooting his first assignment for Runners World Spain. Part of the job involved photographing a runner on a dark road at night. Though he got the shots he was after, he vowed to never again light a night scene, static or running down a road using an on-camera flash and the headlights of his car.

Nowadays Jaime shoots in the studio and on location with Canon EOS 1DX cameras, and depending on the particulars of the assignment, Elinchrom and/or Quantum flash systems outfitted with Lastolite light modifiers. Regardless of the particulars, his lights are triggered wirelessly using PocketWizard radios.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.30.21 PM

© Jaime de Diego

Capturing dazzling, in-your-face photographs of runners, bikers, and other fast-moving subjects is not always easy. Even when down-shifting into tight turns, motorcycles move fast and create a dust-up as they blow by your camera and regardless of how bright the skies may be, you need flash if you want to truly stop the action.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.30.39 PM

© Jaime de Diego

When shooting fast-action sports and studio assignments within the sync speed parameters of his camera system Jaime relies on his PocketWizard Plus III and PlusX flash triggers. For shots that require flash sync speeds faster than the 1/250th-second sync speed cap of his DSLRs, Jaime taps into the HyperSync® feature of his FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 radio transceivers s in order to ramp the camera’s top sync speed upwards of 1/8000th-second. Once set to HyperSync, Jaime can stop anything that passes his camera lens as well as shoot at the widest lens apertures. Combined with fill-flash, he can also darken blue skies to near black when needed in order to make his subject seemingly pop from the background.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.30.11 PM

© Jaime de Diego

Even when shooting stylized portraits and products in the studio, Jaime de Diego incorporates PocketWizard radio triggers into his workflow simply because they are dependable, predictable and simple to use.

The following is a Behind the Scenes video of one of Jaime’s recent shoots using the Plus III Transceiver.

To date, most of Jaime de Diego’s clients are made up of the Spain-based affiliates of larger international corporations such as Adidas Spain, Nike Spain, Under Armour Spain, BMW, and Repsol. Jaime de Diego’s primary goal these days goal is to move into the international arena. Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s little reason why he shouldn’t accomplish that goal.

(Note – When last seen Jaime was busy brushing up on his German, English, French, Japanese, …)

To see more of Jaime de Diego’s work, check out his website or like him on Facebook.

To learn more about the benefits of getting your flash off your camera and triggering it remotely, please visit www.pocketwizard.com/freeyourflash

All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and © Jaime de Diego all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

 

 

 

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Dealing with things out of your control…Mountain bike photo shoot via Keith Pytlinski

Our friend (and PocketWizard shooter…) Keith Pytlinski sent us a note about one of his most recent blog posts featuring some extraordinary TTL remote flash work. Check it out!

With a free Friday night and an itch to shoot and ride, I sent out a couple texts looking for riders to come along. Daylight savings was in effect and I assumed we would have 3 hours or so after work if we got busy right away. As the time to shoot and ride crept closer the clouds increased. I had counted on it being sunny and as often happens…plans change. There are many things photographers can be in control of…we cannot do anything about the weather. In this case you deal with a smaller window of time to shoot.

In this case that smaller window of time led to some limitations on locations to choose from…we would shoot and then rush to our next spot….I could not have done that with out being mobile and having one of the riders become the human light stand while the other rode his bike. With the clouds increasing and sun setting…I was continually changing settings on the fly….I often get asked if I feel limited or challenged shooting flash since I have to stick to 1/250th sync speed. No….ever since switching to the newer PocketWizards it’s never been an issue. HyperSync has been a game changer in the way I shoot allowing me to pretty much shoot and fire my strobes at any shutter speed. Again having someone hold the strobe and have them move when I do allows for super quick location changes. So far these images have been some of my most popular on social media and one ran as a two page spread in a mountain bike magazine. So much for planning!

Technical info:
Canon 7D with Tokina 12-24 f/4 and Sigma 70-200 f/2.8
Strobe info:
Strobe-Single Boling 600 watt strobe
Fired via PocketWizardsMiniTT1 and FlexTT5

climb

human-lightstand

mountain-bike-action-photography-5

mountain-bike-action-photography-6

mountain-bike-action-photography-8

Syndicated with permission. All images and copy © Keith Pytlinski – please respect photographers’ rights and do not reproduce any of this content with written permission.

Originally posted at http://m5photography.com/5/2014/08/making-the-most-of-changing-weather/

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Webinar: An Introduction to Using Off-Camera Fill-Flash to Produce Amazing Portraits

PocketWizard_Webinar_Oct16

Learning to control an off-camera flash can be intimidating. But have no fear! We’ll show you how easy it is to produce natural-looking results when adding flash to ambient light.

This valuable, professional technique will make you an instant hit with your clients and give you an edge over the competition. And, it will help you to produce beautiful outdoor portraits virtually anytime and anywhere.

Join host Joe Brady as he shows you a step-by-step method to add just the right amount of light to create natural shape and highlights for location portrait photography. A light meter and a pair of PocketWizard radio triggers make it easy. No more pointing the flash up at the clouds, no more blown-out highlights or missing shadow data – just natural, beautiful results.

Equipment List
PocketWizard Plus X and Plus III Radio Triggers
PocketWizard HSFM3 hot shoe sync cables
Sekonic L-478DR Light Meter
Sony a7r with 70-200mm and 24-70mm f4 lenses
Sony HVL-F60M Flash
Canon 580 EX II Flash
Translucent White Reflector
Silver – Silver/Gold reflector

Date: Thursday, October 16th
Time: 1pm EDT
Title: An Introduction to Using Off-Camera Fill-Flash to Produce Amazing Portraits
Host: Joe Brady
View the archive

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Upgrading Firmware at the Speed of We-Need-it-Yesterday

New cameras are exciting, especially when they incorporate new technologies that improve camera performance or the user’s creative capabilities. What’s not so exciting is when you take your new camera out on assignment only to find out it won’t perform as accurately and/or consistently as well as your previous camera model. In all likelihood it’s firmware related – causing communication problems between the new camera and your flash triggering system. The language might be the same, but the new dialect causes confusion.

When the PocketWizard product engineers at LPA Design catch wind of new cameras, they prime the coffee machine and, using the earliest available production cameras from Nikon and Canon, begin testing every facet of the camera to determine how well it works or doesn’t work with PocketWizard products before releasing firmware upgrades. During these test trials the engineering team determines what needs to be tweaked or in some cases, completely re-engineered to better ensure PocketWizard triggering devices perform as expected.

A recent case in point is Nikon’s introduction of their newest DSLR, the D810, which replaces Nikon’s popular D800 and D800E. PocketWizard’s engineering team performed exhaustive tests with the new camera to assess and remedy any compatibility issues with the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio transceivers. Considering the complexity of the upgrade process, it’s pretty impressive when you hear LPA’s engineering team was able to hammer out the bugs and release a reliable firmware upgrade in two weeks’ time.

Nikon's new D810 with a fully-compatible PocketWizard FlexTT5

Nikon’s new D810 with a fully-compatible PocketWizard FlexTT5

 

A conversation with Patrick Clow, LPA Design’s Technical Support Manager, explains the complexity and attention to detail that goes into testing compatibility issues between new camera models and PocketWizard radios before releasing firmware upgrades. Between Canon and Nikon, PocketWizard’s engineering team must establish complete compatibility between PocketWizard’s product line and about 60 cameras and 20 flashes. And this figure doesn’t include Sekonic light meters and the various studio flash systems PocketWizard radio triggers are compatible with.

As Patrick describes the process – “There are lots of factors in testing: each shutter speed, every aperture, image stabilization, lens choices, camera battery levels, flash choices, rear curtain sync, MASTER devices and modes, zones, shooting modes, flash durations, and lots more.  When you start to multiply all of the factors together, you quickly get into the millions of possible combinations – you couldn’t test them all in several lifetimes.”

“For the numbers geeks out there, we use a pairwise system to generate grids of test setups. They are still gargantuan, so we edit those grids based on our experience, knowing what changes we made in the firmware, and targeted (towards) the cameras we want to test. In its simplest form, each camera gets a bare minimum of 10 hours of testing assuming nothing pops up.  If it does, we often end up testing it all over again.  The latest firmware had 15 new cameras in it, several requiring multiple rounds of testing as we reverse engineered unique behaviors.  We also re-tested previously compatible cameras to ensure continued stability.  It was a really big project.”

In many ways, firmware upgrades involve thinking the process through backwards. “Our compatibility and features are built entirely on reverse engineering someone else’s totally custom, non-standardized and evolving communication interface and then applying precision timing to that hard-won knowledge. Microseconds matter to us. We do things differently from virtually everyone else in the industry and that’s why we can pull off technologies like HyperSync®, or controlling the power level of studio flashes like the AlienBees with a Nikon or Canon Speedlight.”

New cameras inevitably come with unknowns and according to Patrick, Nikon’s new D810 didn’t disappoint LPA’s Engineering team. “The latest cameras had some interesting things going on under the hood.  TTL for the D810 and D4S, for example, acts differently than previous Nikons at a specific focus distance so we had to figure out how to work through that anomaly.  We did it, and we even modified our own firmware so that if Nikon changes that behavior with a future camera firmware upgrade, or releases another camera with the same behavior, we should still be good to go.” Canon’s newest DSLRs came with their own set of issues.  “Even within the same generation or family of cameras, (Canon cameras) can have strangely different behaviors.  In the past we’ve spent considerable effort figuring out these behaviors and making special cases to manage them.”

“With this last round of firmware we went beyond that – we retooled a major piece of our system to be more flexible.  It should allow us to roll with the punches much more easily and add new cameras to the ControlTL system  more quickly. PocketWizard firmware update version 3.700 for Nikon includes full compatibility with Nikon’s D810 as well as Nikon’s D610, the D4S, Df, D7100, D5300, D5200, and D3300. PocketWizard firmware update version 6.700 for Canon has also been released, bringing full TTL compatibility to Canon’s EOS 70D, 1D X, 6D, T5i/700D, T5/1200D, T4i/650D, and SL1/100D. With these two new releases, all currently manufactured DSLRs from both Nikon and Canon perform with full TTL capability when using the ControlTL feature on PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 Transceivers.

Canon EOS 7D with PocketWizard Flex TT5

Canon EOS 70D with PocketWizard FlexTT5

 

In closing our conversation, Patrick made a point of mentioning his support team at LPA and the time and dedication they pour into their respective responsibilities.  “Thousands of hours, several drums of coffee, and a few dozen buckets of peanut butter pretzels have gone into this milestone.   “I just want to give a shout out to the engineers and testers that made it happen: Tim, Steve, Mark, Gary, Andrea, Ryan, Sarah, Zack, Ian, Heather, and Seth (and Steve, Chris and Ashley).  We have a great support team with Lorei, Heather, Nick, Hannah, Deb, and all the great folk at MAC Group!  Thank you!”

For more information on how to update PocketWizard products via USB connection and to view current release notes for Nikon firmware update version 3.7 and Canon firmware version 6.7 visit: http://www.pocketwizard.com/support/downloads/

The PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 are now fully compatible with the following recently released Canon and Nikon DSLRs:
Canon – EOS 70D, 1D X*, 6D*, T5i / 700D, T4i* / 650D, T5 / 1200D, SL1 / 100D
Nikon – D810, D610, D4S, Df, D7100, D5300, D5200, and D3300
* Now with TTL compatibility.

For a complete compatibility list, please visit:
http://wiki.pocketwizard.com/index.php?title=Canon_Compatibility
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Tandem Lighting Setups Using SpeedCycler On A Recent SI Photo Shoot

Alexis Cuarezma is a portrait photographer with a specialty in photographing sports figures. Considering the fact he’s named after Alexis Arguello, a three-time world champion boxer from his native Nicaragua, and studied art, graphic design, and photography at California State University at East Bay, this shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Barely a decade into his career, Alexis Cuarezma is an alumnus of the Eddie Adams Workshop (Barnstorm XXIV), and counts the LA Times, the NY Times, Sports Illustrated, HBO, Ring Magazine, SEEN, Boxing News, Fighting Fit, and other publications among his current client roster.

Cuarezma has always been fascinated with light, and as a photographer, he aims to control it to the best of his abilities in the studio as well as on location. While he appreciates the qualities of available light, the images Alexis Cuarezma captures for his clients require more than a click of his heels and a Hail Mary shout-out – they have to be lit.

Alexis Cuarezma honed his photographic skills early on by photographing his kid brother and his little league teammates. In short time he began shooting boxers at their respective gyms, which lighting-wise are as dismal as it gets. In Alexis’ case, this was in his favor – he preferred to light the ring his own way.

Cuarezma’s dramatic lighting techniques ultimately came to the attention of Brad Smith, Director of Photography at Sports Illustrated, who he met at the Eddie Adams Workshop. It was through Brad that one of Alexis’s biggest dreams came true – an assignment from Sports Illustrated.

The ‘good news, bad news’ part of the story is that while Smith loved Alexis’s lighting style, the shot he needed of Stanford University’s Shayne Skov (since drafted as a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers!) was going to be silhouetted and had to be shot against a medium-gray background. Brad’s instructions were basically “You’re going to have to get a grey seamless. You know how to light well, keep it simple and have fun.” For Cuarezma the fun part of it would have been to shoot it his own way. And that’s where PocketWizard radio triggers came into play.

Alexis happened to be on the market for new radio transmitters. The ones he had been using were not reliable when he needed them most, and even when they did work, they were limited in what they could do. The features and user reviews of the PocketWizard MultiMAX caught his attention, most notably its SpeedCycler feature.

SpeedCycler makes it possible to shoot studio flash flat-out at up to 10 frames-per-second by syncing with multiple flash units that can be triggered in a rapid, alternating sequence.  This enables him to capture high-power strobe-lit action sequences far faster than he’d be able to shoot with a single light source.

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On the left is the lighting setup I drew out to figure out how many PocketWizard radios I would need and where to place them. On the right is how the drawing looked like in real life

 

But Cuarezma had a different take on the SpeedCycler feature. Rather than using the SpeedCycler feature to trigger identical lighting setups, Cuarezma’s idea was to light and capture the shot according to Smith’s direction – gray background and all, immediately followed by a second exposure that would trigger a second set of lights set up the way he saw the shot in his mind’s eye.

Cuarezma knew his time with Skov would be limited, and if he wanted to please his client – which he did, and please his own creative itch, which he also wanted to do, he would have to go beyond the framework of a conventional portrait shoot.

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Cuarezma’s Canon 1D Mk IV can capture up to 10 frames-per-second, or one exposure every 100 milliseconds. Theoretically, by incorporating a PocketWizard MultiMAX radio trigger and four PocketWizard Plus III’s into the equation, he could capture two separate exposures in 200 milliseconds – one exposure lit as per his instructions against the gray background immediately followed by a second exposure lit in a lighting style Alexis Cuarezma can proudly call his own.

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Two of the many ”ping-pong- lighting sequences Alexis Cuarezma shot in two frame-per-second bursts, each triggering it’s own lighting set-up. The bottom left shot is the one that ran across a double-page spread in Sports Illustrated. And yes, it’s not against a plain gray background – it’s the shot Alexis lit his own way.

 

After a series of false starts and a firmware update for his Plus III Transceivers, Alexis was set to go, and the accompanying images say it all.

As for the payoff, Sports IIlustrated was delighted with the results of Cuarezma’s first time out on assignment, and they ultimately ran one of his ‘renegade’ images across two pages. And in this business it really doesn’t get better than that.

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The image as it appeared in Sports Illustrated.

 

See how Alexis Cuarezma lit his Sports Illustrated spread using two entirely different lighting setups and PocketWizard’s SpeedCycler feature here.

To see more of Alexis Cuarezma’s work, check out his website.

All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and © Alexis Cuarezma all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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Paul Souders + PocketWizard radios + Grizzlies = Awesome

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© Paul Souders

Paul Souders’ grandmother wasn’t a woman of means per se, but she did manage to squirrel away enough scratch every year to fly off to someplace she’d never been before. Watching her slide shows was Paul Souders’ introduction to, and some may say addiction to, travel photography. Fast-forward to ‘adulthood’ and upteen journeys to places previously unknown to him – camera at side – has become Paul’s Souders’ ticket to ride.

A few years back while taking stock of all of the pictures he’d taken on previous journeys, Souders came to realize his awesome 600mm close-ups of bears, lions, and wildebeests were as awesome as everybody else’s awesome 600mm photographs of bears, lions, and wildebeests. Considering how much time, effort, and money (personal money no less!) went into his work, he started reassessing his approach to photography, and how to redefine the word ‘awesome’ on an upcoming trip to Kenya.

His solution was to have his subjects fill the frame, but not from a comfortable distance as previously seen through a lens the size of a baseball bat, but in-your-face-close with a wide-angle lens. But he still had to figure out a way to photograph what he saw in his mind’s eye without getting eaten.

 

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© Paul Souders

His solution was the PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers* he frequently used for triggering remote Speedlites wirelessly when shooting editorial assignments. He knew PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers could also trigger cameras, but seldom took advantage of this function. Visualizing lion cubs or bears sticking their noses inches from the front element of his camera lens while taking semi-playful swipes at it was exactly what he was after. Right then and there he added his PocketWizard Plus II radio triggers, a few small tabletop tripods, and additional sets of lithium-ion AA batteries to his packing list.
(*Note: The PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver has been replaced by the Plus III.)

Paul Souders’ new vision entailed positioning cameras with wide-angle lenses at ground level along watering holes, nesting areas, and feeding grounds. A big believer in keeping things simple, Souders was careful to keep his camera as innocuous looking as a camera with an ultra-wide angle lens and radio transceiver mounted on it can be.

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© Paul Souders

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© Paul Souders

When shooting on the plains, Souders’ typically scouts out promising camera positions, sets up his cameras – each with a PocketWizard Plus II set to its own channel, and retreats to a safe, non-confrontational distance away. Once out of the way, he sets up a second camera with a long telephoto for capturing the action from a more traditional point-of-view.

On a more recent trip to the Canadian Arctic to photograph bears catching salmon making their way upstream to spawn, Souders’ sealed his camera and lens into a waterproof housing mounted on a heavy-duty studio tripod submerged just below the waterline in order to capture the grace of these great beasts as they dive after schools of fish below the surface of the water.

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© Paul Souders

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© Paul Souders

The type of photography Paul Souders’ specializes in requires patience, perseverance, and the ability to endure punishing environments, not to mention the realities of being a potential snack for a host of predators.

Another reality is the toll these projects take on his cameras, which are often poked, pawed, mauled, sometimes trampled, and inevitably smattered with mud and/or dirt. On a recent trip to Alaska “one and a half out of seven cameras’ were functioning by the time he came home. And don’t ask him how many cameras and lenses met their demise after being crushed, chewed to bits, or knocked overboard. (Trust me… the numbers are painful – SR).

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© Paul Souders

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© Paul Souders

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© Paul Souders

 

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© Paul Souders

© Paul Souders

© Paul Souders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The payoff for his efforts are pictures he never would have dreamed possible before he incorporated PocketWizard radio triggers into his workflow. Thanks to his PocketWizard triggering system, he now has the ability to capture penguins leapfrogging over his camera with inches to spare as they rocket out of the water onto land, or to see exactly how long and sharp a bear’s claws could be from uncomfortably-close distances and perspectives.

When Paul Souders originally purchased his first PocketWizard transceivers, they were merely a means of moving his Speedlites off his camera and out of the way. Little did he know they would some day radically change the way he views the world and photographs it.

To see more of Paul Souders’ work, check out his website.

All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and © Paul Souders all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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