Andrew Macpherson

On Site

Tethering (Continued)

by on Apr.26, 2012, under Equipment, Off the wall, On Site

This article is intended to build on Scot Baston’s excellent Tip Squirrel article, not to rehearse ground already covered there. I want to cover a few alternatives, and touch on why they might be useful, and look in detail at a slightly less obvious application of tethering.

The first thing to point out about tethering in general is that it does not necessarily involve a cable, with the new Nikon D4 operating on a WIFI tether through its built-in web server and full control at the one extreme, and at the other the wireless capture possible through the Canon battery Grp or the Eye-Fi memory card. For most purposes however the wired tether remains the only really practicable option, and is usually significantly faster than any WiFi options

A regenerating USB cable is required for mobility

So the first thing one needs is a USB cable, swiftly followed by a USB regenerating extension cable, such as the one shown which I bought from eBay 3 years ago. One needs the regenerating extender because without that the maximum length one can use is 15′ (5m). Next useful and slightly non-standard bit of kit in the low profile USB cable one wants to fit in under one’s ‘L’ bracket it’s described as “USB A male to up angled mini B male” (or vice versa) the up angled mini B takes the cable in at right angles through the gap in my bracket rather than interfering with the portrait mounting ‘L’ plate.  Quick Tip: fold your long cable rather than coiling it up.  That way you avoid introducing a twist to it and will not have to unkink it.  Hook and lop cable ties are very useful for keeping things tidy.

Velcro Cable ties the cheaper alternative

Many people will have seen Frank Doorhof or Scott Kelby demonstrating the wonderful “Tether Tools” kit for holding the laptop and the cable snags to stop the USB plug being wrenched from & damaging one’s camera, and some discussion on preventing the USB cable coming apart. I think that one would be wise leaving the cable to be pulled apart, as that avoids trips and things being pulled over. It is desirable to have cable snags at computer and camera to protect those vulnerable ports, but have a relatively loose couple in the middle, that will pull apart when someone falls over it. This will have the disadvantage that you will have to set up the communications again, but that is a small price for not pulling over your tripod and camera, and dragging the laptop off it’s work surface.

Allow the cable to come apart if someone trips on it

The USB cable isn’t everything of course, one needs some software to drive the connexion. Canon cameras come with an extensive remote control suite, whereas for Nikon it’s an additional package such as the seriously expensive Capture NX2. Lightroom has a built in remote capability which addresses this to a certain extent but the control available is frankly poor, the trigger function is there, but that’s all, there is no access to even the simple exposure controls beyond displaying what is currently set. Where the Lightroon tethering really wins is for use by a Photographer who is using the camera hands-on, and does not need to make semi-remote adjustments. Like all tethering software the system responds to manual triggering and copies the image back to the laptop from the camera whenever the shutter is pressed.

Where more control is needed I’ve found On One’s Software’s DSLR Camera Remote HD for the iPad to be the most useful complete remote triggering package, as it addresses lots of the issues left open by other packages, and at reasonable cost. There is also a slightly cut down version for the iPhone, mostly what is missing is the video.  It integrates very well with Lightroom’s Watch Folder auto-import feature, but will work equally well just importing to a selected folder, again it responds to manual shutter activation, and all photos get copied to the computer.  The rest of this article will be about using DSLR Camera Remote. (continue reading…)

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Pixel Wired Off-Camera Extender

by on Jan.23, 2012, under Equipment, On Site

Pixel VM-801 and 3 x VS-801

Rear switch on the VM-801

I’m becoming quite a fan of Pixel’s after-market accessories. Today I’ld like to tell you about the PF-801 hotshoe extender (1xVM-801 and 1xVS-801). The VM-801 camera end sits in the hotshoe, and has 3 RJ-45 ports. RJ-45 is the standard cable for connecting up computer networks, available in many pre-formed lengths, or those with the tools can make up whatever length they need. For this application one wants “straight” network cables as opposed to cross-overs.

Continuity test

Checking the extender

The 3 ports are labeled A, B & C— these labels have nothing to do with the Canon Wireless Flash groups, but simply give you a reference as to which port is which, and relates to the rear switch.

On my unit the first thing I did was get out a continuity tester to check what was going on. The central spot on all the remotes is connected through to the hotshoe, via a switch for each port, which acts to enable or isolate the corresponding flash. The rear switch directs the other 4 hotshoe contacts through either the A or C ports, thus allowing the flash on that port to be controlled by the camera, when set to B I get a screen saying the flash is incompatible with the Camera.

Effectively we have 3 ports that we can trigger simultaneously. Port A can be used to provide full featured extension of the Hot shoe, including driving a Flash in “Master” mode to control wireless remotes over Infra Red and use full E-TTL functionality, you can also use it in High-Speed Sync mode. Port B is simply a trigger, such as you might use an optical slave for. Port C has the same functionality as port A, but one can only use one of the 2 at a time in full camera controlled mode, and the other port will just act as a trigger.

Full control of EX-II capable flash

An alternative way of working is to switch between the A&C ports to adjust the power setting of the flashes in manual mode without needing to leave the camera position and have a very short cable and Skyport radio transmitter letting one mix Speedlights and Studio Strobes attached through port B.

This kit came in under £40, to which one has to add a few RJ-45 cables, which I had to hand anyway.

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YN565 E-TTL Flash Speedlite fails with Canon ST-E2

by on Oct.04, 2011, under Equipment, Off the wall, On Site

At £102, tax paid,this looks like a real bargain, and for some people it may be.

The Speedlite works in hotshoe mode perfectly, has no flash master mode, but makes up for that with 3 Slave modes. ETTL (Canon and Nikon), plus S1 and S2 (S2 is supposed to ignore pre-flash).

It’s billed as working with the ST-E2 which is what Canon call their Speedlite trigger.  It turns out that Yongnuo make their own ST-E2, and any attempt to use it with my Canon transmitter results in a premature flash (it does recognise which channel is in use though) It also ignores the test firing signal from the ST-E2, but does operate with DoF preview (button to the left below the lens on Canon).

My Speedlite 580 is out of commission (with Canon for £104 fixed price repair) so I did not test it using that as Master, but as the whole point was to have 2 powerful speedlites for off camera use, it would be unsatisfactory even if that worked.

The EBay trader who sold it to me  accepted the return, but was unable to furnish me with a unit that would work with the Canon transmitter, so refunded my payment.  I’m left £3.50 lighter (return postage), so I hope this will help anyone else looking to use this unit who might also be misled by the description.

Anyone got any other suggestions for a lower cost unit? (Already got EX430)

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Camera Club Fundraiser

by on Jul.09, 2011, under Camera Club, Equipment, On Site, Workflow

Three weekends ago, just before I went off for an op, we had a stand at Hatfield Heath Festival to try to raise awareness of the club, and raise some cash for the projector fund.  I havn’t quite got round to writing about it, having been slightly distracted, so it’s time to make amends

Hatfield Heath Public Photoshoot, © 2011 Paul Lambert

Photo given to sitter as 6×4 print

The Saturday session was in direct competition with Bishop’s Stortford Carnival, where we also had a stand, so each event had one of the two print stands, usually used for print competitions

We had a selection of member’s prints for sale, both ones that had been in competition, and some framed or mounted specially for this event.  Mainly though the exercise was to engage potential members, and enthuse them to come along for a trial club evening, and I think we were moderately successful in that.

We were also offering free “Hollywood Look” 4×6 portrait, retouched with “Portrait Professional”  (continue reading…)

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That sense of Déjà Vu

by on Feb.19, 2011, under On Site, Retouching, Workflow

When I went to Scott Kelby’s excellent Photoshop for Digital Photographers course last year, one of his stories was of spending a day photographing a Bride, and only realising later when he sat down to edit the photographs that she had a considerable mark on her shoulder.

On Friday I was photographing a client, and feeling fairly on top of getting a reasonable Head and Shoulders portrait, even down to making sure I had whites showing either side of their irises, and not just having a black spot in the corner of the eye. (continue reading…)

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Why use shoot-through umbrellas?

by on Feb.16, 2011, under Camera Club, Equipment, On Site

Yesterday evening was one of those interesting sessions at the camera club, with lots going on.

Kevin, the chairman, was continuing his occasional talks on Photoshop Elements for beginners,  Dave Woods was doing some HDR demos, with photoshop, Photomatix and HDR Efex (and possibly others), and we had 2 ‘studio’ sessions.

Bill was doing a macro session, and had 2 tabletop setups: a tent and a square area with backdrop and white walls, while I was trying out 3 portrait techniques with interested parties.

For my setup I had:

Setting up the autopoles and paper is extremely fast, but assembling the softboxes is slow, even though they have one spreader pocket closed with velcro to make the job easier, the octabank really needs 2 adjacent spreaders set that way, as getting the ends of the final 2-3 spreaders into the flash head ring is murder when everything is under tension from the already placed spokes. (continue reading…)

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