'HyperSync' Category

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.


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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What’s up Pussycat? Özkan Özmen goes on a Portrait Safari

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Özkan Özmen at work

Özkan Özmen is a portrait photographer based in Frankfurt Germany with a penchant for photographing subjects that can bite your head off. No, we’re not talking about models and celebrities with attitude here. We’re talking lions, tigers, and rhinos. As Dorothy famously said to the tin man… “Oh MY!”

According to Özkan, he’s always been into things that crawl, chirp, growl, and purr, and it wasn’t long after he began taking shooting studio portraits for a living that he decided to put together a compact lighting kit and try his luck outside of the comforts and convenience of his studio. Özkan Ozmen’s personal project ultimately took him on a multi-continent journey in which he’s captured wonderful portraits of the sort of wildlife most of us only see in zoo and safari parks, though seldom as in-your-face.

Özkan understood the logistics – not to mention danger involved in trying to capture tight portraits of wild animals using lights. Still and all, rather than being technically boxed in by the harsh ambient lighting conditions common to shooting in the extreme locales he planned on visiting, his goal was to light his subjects and select-focus at wider lens apertures similar to the way he would when shooting portraits in his studio.

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What’s that for, PocketWizard?

This month’s feature is basically a road map for HyperSync®.  Why a “road map?”  Because HyperSync, a tool that could be used for all kinds of genius photography, seems to attract wheels. Motorcyles and BMXBicycles. And more motorcycles. Last month I called it BikerSync®. Mark Wallace, a motorcycle guy himself, wheeled down the road less taken and rallied a grand tour Webinar on HyperSync.

Shooting Portraits with HyperSync.

Here is some information we sent out to viewers before the Webinar. The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began, but the trip is a little smoother if you have the key to your magic decoder ring.


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Ben Von Wong Lights an Octopus

©Ben Von Wong

©Ben Von Wong

HyperSync® enthusiast Ben Von Wong keeps getting drawn to rocks and water. In his most recent shoot, no fire was involved this time, but his model had to contend with wildlife. An octopus. Deceased. On her face.

Jen Brook also had to endure lying on cold boulders and wearing clothing in some frigid-looking water. Fortunately, Ben made quick work of the shoot, and shot at speeds only possible with HyperSync technology. Using PocketWizard gear to shoot at speeds of 1/1000th, Ben called on FlexTT5 transceivers, the AC3 ZoneController, and the AC9 AlienBees Adapter.


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HyperSync Wedding Portraits by Eric Uys

Sure, you can use PocketWizard’s HyperSync® technology to freeze exciting high-speed sports action, but did you know you can also use it to create stunning portraits outdoors no matter what the natural lighting conditions are?

Here’s some examples of what photographer Eric Uys regularly pulls off using HyperSync for portrait sessions, including some behind-the-scenes shots by his assistant, Tarryn Ward. 

In his own words, Uys gives us his thoughts on how he uses HyperSync to create work clients keep returning to him for.

©Eric Uys

©Eric Uys


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Garth Milan Overcomes Bright Midday Sun with HyperSync

©Garth Milan

©Garth Milan

For years we’ve been drawn to what photographer Garth Milan continues to do. Sponsored by Red Bull, among other corporations, Milan is a master at freezing the action of extreme sports of all kinds. We recently caught up with him again, and he was kind enough to explain how he overpowered the Southern California sun and stopped motion at the same time. Here is his account of his most recent shoot.

This particular shoot with Red Bull athlete Curtis Keene posed two fairly large problems. One was the bright Santa Monica midday sun, and the other was the fact the trails we shot on were miles away from the nearest parking spot, which meant we had to hike up the normally “downhill” trails with any and all gear needed for the shoot.

All that being said, my assistant and I started our blister-inducing hike up with a camera body and several lenses, along with an Elinchrom Ranger, equipped with the PowerST4 to enable my PocketWizard to HyperSync® at any and all speeds. After one of the most intense hikes of my life (considering how much gear we had), we arrived at our destination to find, just as I thought, the lighting was less than ideal for shooting with the natural, ambient light.


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Pete Webb’s HyperSync Test

Pete Webb creates some gorgeous photographs. He has just discovered the world of HyperSync®, and it’s opened up a new avenue of the types of images he can execute. Webb informs he now has the ability to create photos he “could only have dreamed of” previously. His informative story follows.

Pocket Wizard HyperSync

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000th. ©Pete Webb

Last week I received the email reminder to download the new firmware update for my PocketWizard radio triggers. I was pretty excited about this, as plug and play HyperSync was something I desperately wanted to use and desperately wanted to work.

First thing to do was plug my triggers into the PocketWizard Utility and update. With the new firmware updated, a quick look at the HyperSync tab told me there was nothing to select, so I carried on and went straight out in the field to use them. (I think the main tab to be aware of is if you are using speedlites and want to use HyperSync, then you need to turn off “High Speed Sync” HSS, so check the HyperSync-only box. If you leave it unchecked then you can set where HyperSync takes over from HSS).

I was told using HyperSync with my Elinchrom Ranger RX with ‘S’ heads and my FlexTT5 Transceivers that everything should be fairly plug-and-play, as it indeed proved to be. I called up Morvelo, one of my cycling clients who sent me one of his team riders dressed in all the latest gear and on a nice expensive bike, and headed to one my favorite little locations at the top of one of Sussex’s best bike climbs.


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What Can HyperSync Do for You?

Sebastian Kienle               Donald Miralle                   na                           1/500                       f/4.5

Sebastian Kienle as photographed by Donald Miralle, 1/500th, f/4.5. ©Donald Miralle.

HyperSync® is one of the most revolutionary features for flash photography since the flash bulb. It’s also the least known or understood concept in flash photography despite it being four years since it was first introduced.

Simply put, HyperSync is a feature in our ControlTL® radios that lets you use shutter speeds above the normal x-sync limitations when using studio flash. It is very dependent on the camera and flash models being used but with the right combination of gear you can use shutter speeds all the way to 1/8000th of a second with studio flash!

How is this possible? The ControlTL radios with this feature (MiniTT1, FlexTT5, PowerST4, PowerMC2) are able to advance the timing of the flash triggering so at speeds above x-sync you’re still getting light from the flash to expose the sensor. Normally, if you tried to go above your camera’s x-sync speed with a flash, you would get “clipping” or a black bar across your image. That part of the sensor missed being exposed by the flash because it was exposed prior to the flash firing.


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Serene HyperSync Engagement Shoot

© Olli Krause

© Olli Krause


HyperSync is great for freezing super fast action but it can also be used to help create a totally different style of photography. If you like the look of the super smooth, creamy backgrounds that you can get shooting at a wide aperture AND want to photograph outside in the sun, then this trick is for you!

You can use HyperSync to ratchet up your shutter speed, allowing you to keep your aperture wide open, even while using flash in bright sunlight.


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