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High Speed Sync using PocketWizards

On a Photo Expedition with Moose Peterson  in Yellowstone a few years back, he shared a learning tool that he used to hone his skills.  He used a Teddy Bear as a test subject.  It never gets tired, gets sick, whines or has to leave early!  I’ve carried the poor guy on many hiking trips with me, but he’s never complained!  Today, I listened to Professional Photographer, Mark Wallace in a live stream from PocketWizard give a seminar on using High Speed Sync with the Mini TT1 and Flex TT5.  Pocket Wizards allows you to get the flash off of your camera to cast more pleasing light on your subject.  In a month, I’ll be taking pictures of little league baseball and softball players throughout the day in bright sunshine.  Typically I like to put the sun behind them and then use a flash to balance out the light.  With my old PocketWizards, I would have to take a lot of practice shots to get the amount of light on the subject correct.  The old PocketWizard would not use Nikon’s TTL system (through the lens reading of the light).  You would have to either adjust the amount of light from the flash manually on the flash, or simply move the flash closer or farther away from the subject.  As the sun moved through the sky throughout the day, I would have to repeat this process many times (and again when a cloud passed in front of the sun!).

Watching the online seminar, I learned a couple of key things.  One, there’s a definite order to turning all the gear.  You turn it on in ‘Top Down‘ fashion. Starting with the off camera flash turn it on, then the Flex TT5 under it.  Next, turn on the Mini TT1 on top the camera and last, the camera itself.  The other thing I learned was that I didn’t need to put my camera into the High Speed Sync mode.  I simply placed the camera in the fastest shutter speed it would sync at (1/250 for my Nikon D3s) and the PocketWizards would control the rest!  Sweet!

Above is the AC3 on top of the Mini TT1 and on the right a Nikon Speedlight SB-800 on top of the Flex TT5. I used this setup with a Nikon D3s and a AF DC-Nikkor 135mm F 1:2 D lens.  I started the shoot with the following settings; ISO 200, Aperture 2.0 in Aperture Priority.  None of the pictures in this post are post processed (other than converting them from RAW to JPEG).

No Flash

Here’s the first shot with the above settings but no flash.  You can immediately see the problem with this setup.  The subject is too dark.

Here’s the first shoot using the PocketWizards.  In this shot, the shutter speed ended up being 1/2500 sec.  Normally, I would have to set my camera up for high speed sync to get this photo.  But, the Pocketwizards did this for me on there own!  I decided to try darkening the background (ambient light) by a full stop to try for a more dramatic effect.

But instead of more contrast, the adjustment I made seem to stop the whole picture down one stop.  So, I made another adjustment.  Using the AC3, I upped the flash power by 1 stop.

As you can see, much more contrast was achieved!  I’m pretty excited about this system.  It will give me much more control, with less ‘foot-work’ .  This will be important when shooting a double digit number of little league teams on a Saturday.

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