What an amazing show! EBMfest 2011 was certainly one to remember. The atmosphere was incredible, the audience was full of energy and the bands were out of this world. The lineup consisted of Prospero, Fractured, Decoded Feedback, Ayria and Funker Vogt.
The Mod Club in Toronto was lucky to have these awesome artist perform on Sunday October 16, 2011.
Each row from top to bottom: Ayria, Decoded Feedback, Fractured, Funker Vogt and Prospero.
Last night was the first time I relied soley on the Pocket Wizard TT5/TT1 wireless flash trigger system to control two flashes. I will outline my experience with the PWs, and other shooting notes from the event.
EBMfest was awesome. The performers were incredible and the venue was perfect (as always) for putting on this event. Thank you Sophia for organizing this festival.
The general flash setup:
On either side of the stage at the Mod Club in Toronto, there are banks of speakers stacked up. I clamped a TT5 with a flash on the handle of one of the speakers on each side of the stage. Looking at the stage, the left TT5 was set to group A, and the right TT5 was set to group B. The left TT5 has a Nissin Di622 mark II on it, and the right TT5 has a Canon 420ex.
On the camera I had a TT1 and an AC3 controller. The camera also had my AutoFocus assist light mounted in parallel with the TT1.
The stage is maybe 20-25 feet across. Prior to leaving for the show, I had set both TT5 units to increased preflash power (since I didn’t remember how large the stage actually was) and didn’t want the preflash to not be powerful enough. In retrospect, I didn’t need to do that. The stage was not that large and often it seemed that the pre-flash was more powerful then the actual flash.
Initially the camera was set to use the AF-ON button to take care of the focus (Custom Fn IV set to 3: AElock/Metering +AF start) but later I changed the custom function to 0: Metering + AF start.
I had decided prior to arrival at the venue on a different way to shoot. Normally I would focus with the center (most sensitive) AF point, and re-compose (and with the use of the AF-ON botton this works great most of the time). However at very shallow DOF (f2-f1.4) this method can produce slightly out of focus results since the recomposition changes the focal plane. Also with such shallow DOF, if the subject moves even an inch or two, you’re out of focus.
Exposure was not usually a problem since I shot manual all the time and really didn’t meter. And since I would recompose, the camera metering was never on the artist’s face.
With the wireless triggers running on Auto (meaning the camera is doing metering with the pre-flash) I would need to meter on the artist face to get the flash power correct. So I decided to not re-compose at all. Keep the artist face on the center focus point (which is where the metering takes place als0) and crop later. This worked well until I started to run out of fingers. 🙂
Thumb on AF-ON, then move it to * for FE-lock, then back to AF-ON to maintain focus. If the subject moved considerably, move thumb to *, then back to AF-ON… That’s when I decided to abandon the AF-ON button and link the focus with the half press of the shutter. Now I could do both maintain focus as well as get FE lock simultaneously. This actually worked better then I had expected. Thought since the Focus start was set to half shutter trigger, I had to keep the subject on the center focus point at all times. Not a big deal.
Experience with the wireless triggers:
During the first performer (Prospero) I had a difficult time triggering the flashes. I don’t know what caused it. It seemed like a range problem, since as I walked closer to one side of the stage, only that side would trigger. There seemed to be many dead spots. One thing to note is that the antenna on the right side of the stage was raised up, while the antenna on the left side was left down in the closed/stowed position.
At the end of Prospero’s set, I went up and turned off the right flash, and TT5, and turned them back on. Flash first, then TT5. Also stowed away the antenna. After that the system seemed to trigger the flashes much more reliably. There were still dead spots where one or even both flashes would not get triggered. My distance from the flashes was never more the 50ft-70ft. The AC3 was set to Auto for both flashes.
One thing I noticed was that if I hit the * (AE/FE lock) button, the flashes would pre-fire, and I would get a FElock. When the image was shutter button was fully pressed, the lighting was better then if I would just push the shutter fully (without first doing an FE lock). Without an EF lock first, most of the time it looked like one (or both) of the flashes would be much brighter then the other. But this was not consistent. There were some images that were properly exposed with just a full push of the shutter (and no pre FE lock). Strage.
By the end of the night, I think I had decided to go fully manual on the flashes. I seemed to get more consistent lighting results that way.
There were a few times later in the evening when the TT1 LED would flash red repeatedly for a few seconds (and not trigger the flashes at all). I then turned off my AF Assist tool, and the TT1 would trigger with no problems, thought my focusing ability in near darkness was hampered. After turning on an off my AF assist tool a few times, with the same results (LED flashing red for a second or two) I left the AF tool off for a few minutes. I then turned it back on after 5 min, and the TT1 had no problem triggering again… strange.
AF assist tool:
The TT1 and my AF assist tool don’t seem to like playing together very much. They are both running in parallel on the camera hotshoe. For one, the presence of the TT1 keeps the AF assist light on all the time. Second, I would think some of the problems I had with the TT1 not functioning from time to time could have been caused by the AF assist tool.
Since I’ve started to abandon the AF-ON button (at least for concert/club flash photography) I will look at triggering the AF tool from the Remote Control Terminal on the side of the camera instead of the hotshoe. This should allow the TT1 to function without interference.
Half press of the shutter enables the camera AF, so I can couple the 1/2 press of the shutter to enable the laser light to come on, and turn off when the shutter is not pushed 1/2 way.