Hard Light Adventures In Sypeland & A Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus

Hard Light Adventures In Sypeland & A Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus

Fran and I have been taking a portable lighting kit on various walks recently and using a modified lighting-stand that I had hacked using a Manfrotto Tripod and part of an old light-stand and although we have had some success with the hacked light-stand, I have concluded that as I intend to do more remote location lighting, I should purchase a light-stand designed for the job.

This weekend we decided to venture to the far end of Nidderdale and explore the magnificent Sypeland Crags which are located on Fountains Earth Moor between Sypeland Beck and Lul Beck. We hiked up from Lofthouse via Thrope Farm, it’s a steep incline, just shy of 400 meters and taking photography kit certainly increases the heart rate, so I thought it would be a good test for the recently acquired Manfrotto Nano Pole Plus, together with one Godox AD200 and the extension head.

As C Stand would be impossible to carry on a seven-mile hike, I have opted for the Nano Stand Plus, it can take more weight than the original Nano stand and it’s just a tad higher. The adjustable leg on the Nano Stand, allows vertical alignment on uneven ground, so for locations like Sypeland its’ ideal and makes such a difference. By the time we had walked past Jenny Twigg, the wind had really picked up and the sky was fast becoming stormy, so if the light-stand worked, we would be able to take some dramatic images, well that was the plan.

On reflection, the Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus did very well in the wind, so it will obviously be able to cope with less demanding conditions and locations. We were lucky to have the time to walk along the crag face and try a few ideas, before the storm finally rolled in with a heavy down poor of rain which ended the photography.  The kit worked well for this type of shoot and Nano Stand Plus is far better suited to these kinds of environments than my hacked light-stand and is in my opinion worth the cost

We are planning on doing more remote lighting projects over the next few months, trying out ideas and will try using the Godox AD360 next time, I think the extra half a stop of light will come in handy when I need more distance.

Lighting Kit used:

Godox AD200 with EC-20 Head, with five-inch reflector (bare bulb)

Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus. Godox TT600 flash. Godox trigger

Which Is More Effective For Marketing As A Photographer?

Which Is More Effective For Marketing As A Photographer?

Which Is More Effective For Marketing As A Photographer? I decided to write this blog for two reasons. The first was to question my perceptions in relation to which is the most effective way to display my photography online and the second was to examine if I could make any improvements to make my marketing more effective. I am certainly no expert on marketing, I am meaerly sharing my thoughts and conclusions, bust most importantly I discovered an incredible WordPress plugin that may help you? As a photographer is a website still the best way to “sell” yourself to potential clients, or are the Social Media platforms more effective? Personally, I think having an online presence is the easiest way to display your photographic content and I think it’s expected in today’s technological age. Moreover, an online presence certainly provide a greater potential in relation to reach. In relation to a Social Media presence, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube all have their own templates into which you can place and display your content. However, it is worth paying close attention to their terms and conditions, they can and do regularly change their T&C’s, but I guess that’s the price you pay as their services seem to be free. You may have noticed recently advertisements encouraging you to pay to reach your target market audiences? How effective paying for this service is I don’t know, but the general social media feeds, incur no financial outlay and can be an effective way to market your work with a huge potential in terms of reach. An alternative to purely relying on social media is having your own website to display your work. Today it’s certainly a lot easier and affordable than it was five years ago to have a website, there are numerous options available for every budget and requirement you may have that provide far more control of how your content is displayed. So, is which is better, a web site or social media? Personally, I concluded that they all have elements to play in relation to what I am trying to achieve, I am still looking for a silver bullet, but I think anyone trying market their services and products themselves will always face the same challenges. I have bookmarked websites both well-known and less well known, but recently I started thinking about how did I find the less well-known websites in relation to the Google Search bar? If you really want to understand how the Google Search Bar works. Here is a link: https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/google1.htm The simple answer is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which is a whole complex area in itself, but a useful to use when trying to learn how to optimize a website is GTMetrix.com I recently learned that GTMetrix can display a poor ranking if there are too many redirects for a URL to the landing page and after Googling how I could fix the redirects issue, although I was able to understand the problem, the solution in relation to changing some code still left me in the dark. The good news for people with no or limited coding skills is that there is a plugin that will identify and solve the redirect issue for you. The Avoider plugin, examines the redirects and then issues a suggestion for a solution. By simply clicking on it, the plugin makes the necessary settings in the .htaccess file – including backup of the existing file and the plugin itself is only 4kb in size. An Example of a redirect issue: If a visitor enters http://domainname.com in the browser, the visitor is redirected to httpS://domainname.com and finally lands on httpS://www.domainname.com. This double redirection is punished by numerous search engines and will affect your web page speed Prior to addressing the redirect issue of my website using Avoider plugin, using GTMetrix my Page Speed Score performance ranked at B 82% & my YSlow at B 86%. Since using the Avoider plugin and running GTMetrix to measure my websites performance, my Page Speed Score performance has now ranked at A 96% & my YSlow at A 93%. That’s certainly a big improvement and should also improve my SEO ratings. If you have website and have not already done so, it’s worth using GTMetrix to see how your site is performing and if you encounter any redirect issues and are not strong on coding, the Avoider plugin is worth a look. Avoider plugin link here: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-avoider/ GTMetrix plugin link: https://gtmetrix.com
MagBounce & Green Lanes

MagBounce & Green Lanes

The Coronavirus is having an effect on everyone and everything so lots of people are finding themselves with more time on their hands, which could be a good or bad thing depending on one’s financial circumstances. Before the Covid19 crisis, distance and travel were not an issue, it is perhaps only now that we are missing the ability to where and when we desire. I personally am trying to keep my photographic brain active even if we are confined to our local area, although this has led to Fran & I discovering some beautiful local Green Lanes and making the most of our one form of exercise a day. I don’t always take a camera with me on these little escapes from the house, but I decided to revisit one of Green Lane we have discovered and take a flash, a Magbounce and a very small and portable light stand on the walk and take a few images whilst out walking keeping kit lighting kit as portable and light as possible. As my main focus of photography work is equestrian and lifestyle photography, I mainly use C Stands for my lighting, so keeping kit light and ultra-portable is not so important. I think the last wedding we photographed was about three years ago and used to bounce flash and or use a reflector. We had a wedding booked for July, but since the lockdown, this has now been cancelled. However, I had planned on using some very portable lighting kit during the wedding (Magbounce & Magsphere) as wedding are fast paced small and light becomes a priority. I have had some Magmod kit for a few years now and to be honest it rarely gets used, but I have never owned or used the Magbounce, so decided to give it a try prior to the wedding we did have booked before it was cancelled. I purchased the Magbounce just before the Coronavirus pandemic, as my intention was to spend the spring and early summer playing around with it and see what was possible with it, yes you can bounce light off of walls and ceilings, but I was curious as to what the Magbounce could do where there were no wall or ceilings, it was the portability that really appealed to me. As far a testing out the Magbounce out fully, it’s still early days, but for a really small portable lighting mod, so far, it’s growing on me. Will the Magbounce replace the lighting mods I use for equine and lifestyle off camera flash? No, it won’t, but I do intend on trying out some new ideas and for locations where there are no walls or ceilings and I want ultra-portability, this little lighting mod does have a lot of potential.
Horse Portraits: Creating The Dark & Dramatic

Horse Portraits: Creating The Dark & Dramatic

Horse Portraits: Creating The Dark & Dramatic

My favourite time to take Horse Portraits is in the Autumn, I just think that the natural hues and tones are at their best, but I also think that creating dark & dramatic horse portraits can also be very rewarding visually.

As I use flash for all of my equine portrait photography, I have decided to write a blog about the equipment I use and share some of the reasons why I choose different equipment in relation to the equine images I enjoy creating.

I will start with a barn or large stable, as these are both locations that often work very well in relation to lighting. The ambient lighting in these environments is usually darker than outside, so the advantage you have is that flashes don’t have to work as hard in terms of competing with ambient light, it’s also far easier to kill the ambient light as it is already low and just light the areas you want to light with flash mainly the horse and owner

An example of a three-light setup in a barn. Two Godox AD200’s via AD-B1 in medium Octabox camera left. One boomed Godox AD200 with round head.

Depending on the time of day and location it is possible to kill the ambient light outside and create dark and dramatic horse portraits, but the two issues that are often challenging are having enough flash power and controlling the cameras sync speed. The image below was taken in the winter on a very grey day and the background behind the girl and horse were a tall hedge row of conifers, so I was able to start with a natural dark background, but I did have to use the equipment I had at full power. When I took this image, I had a Godox 360 and two Godox AD200’s, certainly not enough power for a full-length dark horse portrait, but enough power to create this image.

Although many flashes now have HSS High Speed Sync (shoot with flash above your cameras sync speed) you lose a lot of power and the flash have to work really hard, so although you may be able to shoot at 1/500th instead of 1/200th the amount of light loss may be too great to provide the amount of light you require for the image you are trying to create.
You can use ND (neutral density filter) to reduce the ambient light, so that you can stay within your cameras sync speed, but you will lose flash power in relation the amount of stops of light the ND filter is reducing the ambient light by. HSS & ND use both have their places depending on your needs and conditions.

Hard Or Soft Light For Dark & Dramatic Horse Portraits?

If your amount of flash power is limited and you are struggling to kill the ambient light, you will benefit from using hard light and this is where reflectors and how you use them can really help, you will be surprised at how using different types of reflector can make your light more efficient.

Soft light has become the mainstay of most flash lit images these days, but if you are trying to kill the ambient using soft light, you are going to need a lot of power if the ambient light is challenging to control. Personally, I think both soft light and hard light can create stunning images, it’s really about your intention and the equipment you have or don’t have that can make the decision for you.

Once Coronavirus is no longer with us, I plan on making a video during my next Horse Portrait Shoot, showing the lighting modifier’s I use and the position in which I place the lights, so let’s hope I get the opportunity soon.

Why Woodlands Are So Special For Horse Portrait Photography

Why Woodlands Are So Special For Horse Portrait Photography

Why are Woodlands so Special For Horse Portrait Photography?

The natural ancient woodlands we see today have been shaped by human history for hundreds of years. However, today the only truly wild woodlands that remain are inaccessible pockets in steep ravines, on cliffs or on some wooded islands.

Only 1.2 % of semi-natural ancient woodland is accessible in the UK, which makes our woodlands very special places and a resource that we should take care of. Woodlands provide unique and aesthetic backdrops for horse portrait photography and depending on the seasons, they offer translucent greens, yellows, oranges and browns adding a rich splash of colour and texture to any photograph.

Over the last four years I have visited numerous woodlands looking at
there unique qualities and potential for horse portraits. Of the woodland areas I use, each have their own character and some provide great hacking opportunities. if you are considering a horse portrait and would like guidance on some of the most beautiful and photogenic woodland locations in Yorkshire, drop me an email and I will send you a guide and of maps of the locations I use.

Red Squirrels & Off Camera Flash Workshop

Red Squirrels & Off Camera Flash Workshop

After presenting and promoting off camera flash at a few camera clubs, I was contacted to ask if I did any, one to one training, or off camera flash workshops.

Although I use flash for my horse portraits, running a workshop with a horse as the main subject would be difficult logistically, so I started thinking about what would be a little different subject wise for an off-camera workshop.

I have photographed Red Squirrels with flash numerous times, so I thought they would make an interesting subject, so I started working on a few ideas and some promotional ideas for the website.

I had met Andrea very briefly at Halifax Photographic Society whilst presenting the Lighting The Way Workshop (Off Camera Flash) but unfortunaly I was unable to get Andrea’s Canon 4000D to fire with the Godox Triggers I had, or with any other third part triggers at the club, so when Andrea contacted me about the Red Squirrel Workshop, my first thoughts were, why did the triggers not work on her Canon camera, but other people’s Canons?

I soon learned that the triggering issues with some newer Canon cameras is the discussion on various forums and I found out that Godox had released a new firmware to overcome the centre pin issues, so I was confident that the problem was sorted, but as I did not own a Canon 4000D, I would have to wait to see if Andrea got back to me to make a booking.

Andrea contacted me again about a week later and made a booking for herself and her daughter Em. As a backup plan I took my camera along, so Andrea would at least be able to learn how to use off camera flash in the event of the trigger not working with the Canon 4000D and Andrea was happy with this.

Arriving high up next to the stacked logs and wandering sheep, we left the cars and started walking down to the woods, Andrea and Em started telling me about their interest in photography and nature and that Em had won a few photography competitions. I also learned that they had never been to this location before, so it was there first time.

I helped both of them setup their cameras up into manual mode, showed them how to change the, ISO, WB and then gave them both a trigger and explained how to use them.

My original idea was to provide them each with one light which would be on different channels and ID’s and then introduce a second light as they progressed. However, it soon became apparent that they were both really enjoying photographing the squirrels and so my planned intentions, were becoming undone.

I asked if they would like me to set both lights and triggers to match each other, that way they could still take advantage of the flash, but photograph the squirrels as they moved from one stump to the other, Em was a little more trigger happy than her mum, but they shared the lighting well and as the lights were at 16th power, they were recharging very quickly anyway. From the images I saw on the back of the cameras, I think they took some good images and they learned how to turn the power of the light up and down in relation to the ambient light, so they did learn the basics.

I decided to write this reflective blog to remind myself, that learning anything should be flexible in order to make it enjoyable. On reflection did Andrea and Em learn how to use off camera flash the way I had planned? Did they enjoy the experience and learn something new?

I think the important reflective point, is they were able to photograph Red Squirrels using flash and they enjoyed it. Reflecting on learning is an important part, but sometimes we need to reflect on the all aspects not just the main core that was intended.

Red Squirrel Taken with No Flash during the Workshop

Here Are Some Red Squirrel Images Using Off Camera Flash Of My Own Taken Last Year.

Godox Firmare Updates Downloadshttp://www.godox.com/EN/Download.html

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