'MiniTT1' Category

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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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:


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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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:

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Sephi Bergerson and the Fire Ninja

Sephi Bergerson and a NinjaPhotographer Sephi Bergerson has posted about her efforts to pay homage to Joe McNally’s cover shot of his book The Hot Shoe Diaries

In her post, Bergerson relays her relates her attempts to recreate McNally’s photo and off-camera flash work. Using a Nikon D700, she incorporated a PocketWizard MiniTT1, a FlexTT5, and an AC3 ZoneController.

Bergerson provides full details of her shot in the post itself. See more of her work on her site and her blog.

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MAC Group Announces $25 PocketWizard® ControlTL® Promotion for Canon & Nikon Users

Mail-in rebate available in the U.S. only for MiniTT1® and FlexTT5® Wireless Flash Triggering System

FlexTT5 and MiniTT1North White Plains, NY – (March 30, 2012) – MAC Group, a leading manufacturer and distributor of professional photographic equipment, announces today a $25 mail-in rebate for U.S. customers who purchase new PocketWizard MiniTT1 and/or FlexTT5 radios for use with Canon or Nikon DSLR camera systems from April 1, 2012 to May 31, 2012. Via mail-in rebate, purchasers will receive $25 for each unit purchased from an Authorized PocketWizard Dealer in the U.S.

“MAC Group, PocketWizard’s USA distributor, is happy to provide Canon and Nikon shooters in the U.S. with a special opportunity to experience the amazing capabilities of PocketWizard ControlTL radios,” said Phil Bradon, MAC Group’s PocketWizard Marketing Manager. “This limited time $25 rebate is available on every MiniTT1 or FlexTT5 for Canon and Nikon purchased. ControlTL is the perfect complement and a must-have accessory to Canon and Nikon digital SLR systems, providing amazing flash and camera triggering capabilities.”

For more information on this rebate visit the PocketWizard site.


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Environmental Portraits of the Multi-talented Richard Pardon

At about the age of eleven, Richard Pardon was given a film camera by his grandfather in Dorset, U.K., who also taught him to develop his own film. Turning professional about a year ago, Pardon has realized a lifelong dream. “For me, it’s more than a job or a career. It’s like a lifestyle or a passion,” he says. He credits no two days being the same as making photography a rewarding career.


©Richard Pardon

Although his grandfather gave him his start with film, Pardon has learned everything about digital photography by teaching himself. With books and DVDs, a trial-and-error approach has helped him not only develop his technical knowledge, but his own photographic style. He credits his autodidacticism with enabling him to work in different areas of photography, including portraiture, automotive, landscape, and stock work. The road hasn’t been easy, but the work is worth it, he feels.


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Damien Lovegrove’s Speedlight Kits

Damien Lovegrove has a great post on his blog, ProPhotoNut entitled “Speedlight kit overview and preparation.” He posts two drool-worthy shots of all his PocketWizard gear, which he’s handily labeled to avoid any unnecessary switching.

©Damien Lovegrove at www.prophotonut.com

A shooter of both Nikon and Canon, Lovegrove discusses his use of the AC3, the FlexTT5 and the MiniTT1 in conjunction with flash gear from the two camera manufacturers. He breaks down the kits into their respective compatibilities, and explains why and how he uses each piece of gear.

A really informative post, with lots of tips other shooters will find useful, this one is not unique to the ProPhotoNut blog. Lovegrove also has some examples of his fine photography. Keep up the great work, Damien!

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PDN’s Favorite Photo Accessories

PDN's Favorite Photo AccessoriesPhoto District News has just published a list of their ten favorite photo accessories. At the top of the list is the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5. Dan Havlik writes, “these tiny devices are still our go-to radio slaves.” The brief write-up describes what you can do with this triggering combo, and we love his sign-off: “Never leave home without ‘em!”

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David Christensen and the Real Moments

Atlanta-based David Christensen had been into photography since he was a teenager, but it was while he worked as chief photographer at a junior college newspaper that he realized this was what he wanted to be. This was further reinforced when he attended a Georgia College Press Association banquet and heard guest speaker Dave LaBelle at the podium. LaBelle was a Pulitzer Prize nominee teaching at Western Kentucky University. This moment was the start of Christensen’s favorite type of photographic image.

HollyPerryW 425

©David Christensen


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Mike Kelley Baiting with Light

New England native Mike Kelley was into photography in a big way, but one day something fortuitous happened. While at the University of Vermont, Kelley ran into Dave Schmidt, who is an employee of LPA, makers of PocketWizard. Schmidt is also a shooter in his own right, and was photographing for a local ski resort. He also happened to have a prototype of the PocketWizard MiniTT1® on top of his camera. Kelley noticed, and the two began a conversation.

Mk 005

©Mike Kelley

“I just kept bugging him and bugging him and eventually he caved and gave me an internship at PocketWizard,” Kelley recalls, laughing. After graduating from the University of Vermont with a double major in Environmental Studies and Studio Art, Kelley moved to Lake Tahoe to try his hand at professional snowboarding. This didn’t transpire, but proved fortuitous in a different way professionally.


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