Back from a 2-day trip

October 31, 2009

On Thursday night I suddenly decided to drive up to the coast to get some late migrants…

When I arrived there I met with a friend and we walked along the shore. Unfortunately there were only a few gulls and a couple of Sanderlings. The sun hided behind clouds as well and so we decided to sneak into the nearby forest and look for some cool birds there. I have to say it paid off. ūüôā We found a very cooperative Coalt Tit and he gave us a nice show.

All images were made with the 600 IS + Mark IIn and fill flash.

Hope you like them






Can’t wait to have a camera body that has higher ISO capabilities….With the mark IIn I do not like to go above 400.


Flash settings and Set Up

October 27, 2009

Since the poll quotes quite obvious that there’s demand for a German version of this Blog. I will find a way to post also in German. Just be patient ūüôā

I received many e-mails asking for more detailed set up and settings information. I thought this will be of overall interest and so it’s todays topic.

I will not write about how to mount your flash to your tripod. You will see why in a few days….

What you definitely need for fill flash photography besides a flash, of course, is a Better Beamer. It’s basically a piece of plastic that bundles the light and extends the reach. It also helps to decrease the effect of flashed looking eyes. I linked you a store where you can get it.

Here you see my whole set up. Canon EF 600 L IS on a Wimberley Head II with Flash Brackets, Better Beamer and a camera flash cord.

BE CAREFUL: If you leave the Better Beamer on your flash and direct it into the sun it will burn holes in your flash! Might even set your car under fire….

Pic 6

Now we come to interesting part. Chosing your flash settings….First of all you need to set your flash to¬†Highspped synch. CHECK THIS often. If you¬†accidentally turn it off you might end up with almost white images, because the max sync of most cameras ist 1/250. Usually we want to shoot at higher speeds and therefore need the flash¬†set on¬†“H” (highspeed)¬†on Canon flashes. No idea what it is on Nikon flashes.

The next step ist chosing ETTL so that you can manually over or underexpose. On Canon 1 series bodies you can adjust the flash with your camera. If you wanna do so. Leave ETTL on +/- 0. When you press the lowest of the three buttons on top of the camera you can change the values, like you do with your normal under-/overexposing. (Does this work with Nikon or Canon xxD bodies?) This feauture is very helpful when your are in a blind and cannot reach out.

I don’t know why flash photography is such a big mystery. It’s pretty easy actually.¬†In the beginning you want to set the flash to – 1 2/3. That’s a great standard value and is good 85% of the time. After some time you will eventually become familiar with the flash and after some test shootings you get the right feeling, which values are the right ones for the given moment. Never try to shoot with flash in morning or evening sun. It will kill the whole atmosphere and the images will look awful.

When your image looks too flashy at -1 2/3 then try -2¬† or -2 1/3. If you think it could use more flash then put in on – 1 1/3. Above that you should be careful. -1 is pretty strong and only suitable in some situations. I try to take advantage of the flash, but try to avoid images that look flashed. A perfect picture for me is when nobody sees that it was flashed, but it was ūüôā You have to be careful with dark backgrounds. Due to the low exposure you get flashed looking images very easily, even at -3.

I use fill flash mainly in situations with difficult light like shadow, overcast or harsh sunlight. It balances the images and helps you to maintain details in dark parts. If I have clear evening skies, I never take the flash out.

I will post some images and write the flash settings to them and describe the given situation and why I used this setting.


clear skies, early mroning in light shadow of a tree in my backyard. Here only a tad of fill flash was needed. Thus I chose  Flash -2. Camera +/- 0


Heavy overcast, almost rain. However, a light green background and yellows on the bird you don’t want to blow out…. Flash -1 2/3. Camera¬† +/- 0

JCW_1038-0111 am harsh light. Hence I gave it a bit more power Flash -1 1/3 Camera – 1/3


terrible dark shadow. Almost not worth shooting. I gave every I had….more or less…. Flash¬†-2/3 (quite strong) Camera -1/3 (to save the whites)


same location as the Hawfinch, but later and with sunlight in the background. So I gave  Flash -1 1/3 Camera +/- 0

That’s it for today. Please feel free to comment or e-mail me with further questions. I will write more on set up and batteries soon.

Some more pictures from…

October 22, 2009

my last trip. Still didn’t find time to process more. Universitiy keeps me quite busy. ūüė¶

I am on the pre order list for a 1D mark IV and cannot wait to get my hands on that new body. To me the specs are the ones I always dreamed about. 10 fps, 16 Mpix, 45 Af Points ūüôā







All images taken with a 1Ds mark III

Important Question :)

October 22, 2009



1Ds Mark III – 600 IS

Why you need fill flash

October 13, 2009

Especially here in Germany there’s always a great discussion going on¬†about whether it’s right to use flash for bird photography or not.¬† In many occasions I have been confronted with akward arguments how I could dare to use fill flash for shooting birds.

The best was something like “I can use Shadow/Highlights filter in Photoshop and get the same effect”…….

To me there are two groups. One groups that doesn’t like flash shooting at all and has ethical concerns and the other group, which just says it’s bad to use fill flash, because they don’t know how to use it. I have to disagree with both. Only in rare cases I’ve flushed a bird because of my flash. This happened mostly in situations where the birds were cautious already e.g. when having larger groups of birds at a feeder. Besides that I had very few negative experiences with it. I’d even go so far to say that in most of the mentioned cases the noise of the shutter or the lens movement¬†would have flushed the birds, too. 75 % of the birds just continue whatever they’re doing and another 20% give you a nice pose and a great headturn after the first shot. Generally, I’d say¬†that the greater the bird, the less cautious it will be towards fill flash.

To me using fill flash is a great way of of increasing your chances to capture incredible bird images. Without flash you would often have to pack up your gear and go home, because the conditions do not allow decent images anymore. Those conditions might be shadow, bright sun light or overcast. Further down I will post a few sample images showing the great differences of using fill flash or not in the same situation. 

Using fill flash saved me many images. Especially when shooting ducks I found it a great tool to show the iridescence of a drake’s head or to maintain detail in dark parts of the feathers. When shooting below trees it helps a lot to fight the shadows appearing on the birds.¬† When shooting at my feeder I only select overcast days and use fill flash to get nicely balanced and evenly exposed images. There are hundreds of situations where using fill flash saved my day and that’s also why I write this entry. I hope to be able to at least convince people that it is a necessary and “good” tool.

Below you see some images made with and without fill flash. The difference is very obvious I’d say. The upper image would be not useable and no Photoshop tool could make a decent image out of it. Whereas the lower images show a nicely exposed image. The only difference is that the lower images were made using fill flash. The rest of the settings stayed the same. Those are just Raw cnoversions and noithing else has been applied to them




And here a final version of one of the images.


And some more ¬†images made with flash….




I’d love to hear your thoughts about using flash. did you have similiar experiences? Bad ones? None?

need more info? ūüôā


I will write another article about the techniques and what you need.However, it’s quite simple, after you understand the basics.