A working photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Wall and cable

One of those details you look at every day without seeing. In the blue light of early morning shade, the side of my neighbor’s house  next to the spot in my driveway where I park my car.


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Mr Gasket, October 20, 2011


After a few months break from carrying a camera with me everywhere I’d go, , during the past week I’ve started to do that again.  A friend / client and I were meeting for lunch at a fancy burger joint and I had arrived a little early early e was a few minutes late.


Unless you include the bounce panel as a light source – which technically we should – this photo was made using a single light source. You might  could say that it took  90 minutes (from beginning of the set up to finishing the processing)  or you  could say that it took 33 years to make this photo. Both of those descriptions are equally true.

Rollei twin lens reflex camera

Rollei Twin Lens Reflex Camera ©Ellis Vener

When my Uncle Louis was stationed in Germany in the early or mid 1950’s my Dad sent him some money  and asked him to buy a Rollei twin lens reflex camera and send it back to the states for him. It was, I believe, one of the nicest things Dad ever bought for himself and I have cherished it ever since he unofficially passed it on to me sometime in the early 1980s after he saw I was getting established on my own two feet as a photographer. When he was mustering out of the Army in 1945 Dad had thought about being a professional photographer himself  but chose to be an engineer instead. The camera still works but it doesn’t see very much use these days. My father died in late August 2002.

Tech stuff:
Camera and processing:

Shot at f/10 and 1/250th @ ISO 125 with a Nikon 40mm ƒ/2.8G Micro Nikkor DX on a D7000 body, this is an example of “focus stacking” using 10 very carefully manually focused photos. Raw processing: Lightroom 3.5. Focus stacking software: Helicon Focus. B&W conversion, resizing, and output sharpening (Photokit Sharpener 2) in Photoshop CS5.

Lighting: A Paul C. Buff, inc Einstein 640 monolight @ 40 watt-seconds in a Chimera Super Pro small strip light softbox feathered slightly towards the background diffused though a FlexFill single layer silk, with a Fomecore panel to camera left for bounce fill light.

Yes it does. It even works well when you use shutter speeds shorter than your camera normally allows you to work with flash. Caveat:   the higher the shutter speed the less amount of light from the flash you’ll have to work with. This happens for a combination of two simple reasons

– Cameras with focal plane shutter regulate exposure time by varying the width of the gap between the front and rear shutter curtains so the shorter the shutter speed the less time any area in the frame is actually exposed to light. The shortest standard shutter speed that most flashes can expose the entire frame at, the “X-sync” speed, is the shortest shutter speed the gap between the first and rear curtains is opened across the entire frame. With modern vertically traveling focal plane shutters this is normally in the 1/200 to 1/250th range.

However With a Nikon or Canon camera with what is known as either FP Sync (Nikon) or HSS (Canon) and a compatible TTL (through the lens) metered and controlled flash the flash and camera can be set for the flash to send out a pulsing continuous stream of low power flashes that are coordinated with the size and progress of the gap across the frame.  A very shorthand way of understanding how FP and HSS works is that the smart flash becomes into a virtual continuous light source. Just as with any other continuous light source the shorter shutter speed the less light reaches the sensor (or film: Nikon at least has incorporated a FP flash mode with their film cameras at least as far back as the F4 camera and SB 24 Speedlight)

But what about with higher-powered non -Nikon or non-Canon flashes can hi9gher sync speeds be used? It depends. The primary ingredient here is how the synchronization signal is transmitted to the flash. I’ve been using the wireless PocketWizard ControlTL system for Canon cameras since its introduction and the Nikon variant since before its official release with both Nikon and Canon “smart flashes”. I don’t want to go into how it works  (see for that) and the issues that have been reported with the Canon 580 EX II Speedlite (see

I have also been using it reliably with higher energy monolights and pack and head flash systems too but the electro mechanical characteristics of the specific make and model of the flash limits the range of shutter speeds you can use before you start to have black out bands at either the top or bottom of the frame. Basically the longer the flash duration at any given energy setting the greater the range.  PocketWizard even makes adapter modules and transceivers for certain models of monolights and pack + head systems.

This brings usback to the question posed in this post’s title. It is actually two questions:

Can a Quantum Trio flash be triggered using the PocketWizard ControlTL wireless system?  Yes it can.  I’ve done it with a Quantum Trio and a Trio Basic.

Can a Quantum Trio flash be triggered at higher than normal sync speeds using the PocketWizard ControlTL wireless system and if so what is the shutter speed range available?  Yes it can. If you don’t mind working at higher ISO settings and wide open or with the flash very close to the subject, at least with the Canon models of the Trio /Trio Basic and   ControlTL system up to 1/8000th of a second with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III body*.  Because I prefer to work at ISO’s below 200 and apertures smaller than wide open I find my practical limit outdoors is about to limit the upper end of the shutter speed   to the 1/1200 to 1/2000th range.

*  I have read reports where when using the ControlTL remotes with Canon EOS 5D Mark II bodies   the flash sync shutter speed range is limited, but as I have no experience with a 5D Mk. II I can’t say one way or another.

Below is an example of a portrait I shot last month with this rig. Click o nthe thumbnail to see a larger version and make the captions more readable.  You might also  be wondering why  the flash mounted is on a big Gitzo camera tripod instead of a light stand. It’s  because I didn’t bring a C-Stand and sand bags with me and it was a little windy.

If you like cartoon candy cane colors HDR or tone mapped imagery certainly can easily produce that for you but you don’t have to settle for that. I use HDR techniques quite often on architectural and product shots but strive for a more realistic appearance. My goal is to increase the amount of highlight and shadow detail without increasing the contrast between colors.

As with all HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery the process starts with a series of bracketed exposures. You need to have your camera set to either manual control or aperture priority as you want the ƒ-stop to remain constant between exposures. Ideally you should also switch off autofocus as well just to make sure your camera doesn’t do anything unexpected while you make the exposures. It also helps to have the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod as well.

Ideally you start with a wide enough bracket so the darkest frame captures as much detail as possible in the highlights and you increase exposure in one-stop increments until you are not clipping exposure in the deepest shadows.

For this photograph that required five frames. The darkest frame was shot at 1/100 @ ƒ/8:

And the brightest at 1/6 @ ƒ/8:

Now here’s a trick about making the exposures: don’t necessary limit your self to bracketing around where your camera’s meter is telling you the best exposure is, For this series that was the second brightest (ƒ/8 @ 1/13):

But if I had only shot a bracket around that exposure I would have lost many of the highlight details in the walls, pews and chandeliers. So start and end your bracketing a stop or two beyond where the camera’s histogram is telling you should, so way you have the luxury of choosing the frames you want to work with later.

I use Lightroom 3.x for most of my raw processing but when working towards an HDR composite I make as few adjustments as possible  – I don’t touch any of the basic develop controls (Exposure, Recovery, Fill, Blacks, Clarity, Brightness and Contrast). I will use the sharpening tool but in Lightroom or ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) this is a mild capture sharpener and the Noise reduction settings as needed. I’ll also check for chromatic aberrations and correct for those if they are occurring, and I’ll try different camera calibration settings to see what basically looks best. Whatever settings I settle on I’ll apply to all of the images I am going to use for the HDR /tone mapping blending composite.

There are several HDR processing programs like Nik HDR Efex Pro which has oodles of controls and presets:

images processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro

Adobe “Merge to HDR Pro” script (path: File >Automate > Merge to HDR Pro) in Photoshop CS5 is pretty good and has a much simpler control set:

My favorite more realistic, natural feeling work is however is the Enfuse plug-in for Lightroom. It comes from Timothy Armes and is available from

exposure blending with Enfuse

In truth Enfuse is not an HDR process: it blends exposures. They explain Exposure blending this way:

“Exposure blending essentially involves examining a group of photos with varying exposures and creating a final photo, pixel by pixel, by choosing the best exposed pixel from all of the photos.”

HDR on the other hand: “…uses 32 bits per pixel, and these bits are used to store a floating-point value.  …the result is that an HDR image allows for each pixel to contain practically any exposure value, so if the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of an image is 20 stops, this will be faithfully preserved in the HDR’s file format.”

I added two  post processing adjustments to get the final photo you see above. First I adjusted the color balance using the Curves adjustment tool  set for middle gray and Color layer blending mode;  and then with a second Adjustments layer, this time set to Brightness made the midtones just a little brighter.

I look forward to your feedback.

I spotted this as I walked in to volunteer at the Atlanta Community Food Bank this morning. Shot with one of my favorite “walk around” camera and lens combinations: A Canon EOS-1D Mk. IV and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.

No matter the camera maker, photographers often overlook ƒ/1.4 and ƒ/1.8 50mm lenses. They are not as “sexy” as the ƒ/1.0 &ƒ/1.2 variants but generally are sharper, smaller, lighter, faster focusing and cost a lot less. They are also smaller, lighter, faster focusing and cheaper than the ƒ/2.8 zooms that cover this range as well. Like all fixed focal length primes they require you to “zoom with your body” in a way that zooms do not. This limitation forces me to think a little more about composing and framing and that is not at all a bad thing.

I happen to really like them and use them often for portraits and making panoramic composites.

On a 1.3x camera like the 1D Mk. IV the effective focal length of a 50mm lens is 65mm; on an APS-C like a Nikon D7000 it is effectively a 75mm. By “effective” I refer strictly to angle of view, as the depth of field remains that of a 50mm lens.

Car parts in self-serve salvage yard ©2011 Ellis Vener

Car parts in self-serve salvage yard