Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Flash on a stick

What the hell is he on about now? Is the question that probably flashed through your mind when you saw the heading.

All will be revealed. There are times when you want to position your flash but cannot either secure it or you are in a crowd and it would be difficult to get the flash where you want it. A classic example is a friend of mine who photographs skate boarding. There is no way he can position a tripod or flash stand to get a front lit skater boarder mid jump whilst he photographs just off head on. The solution is a flash head on a stick held by an assistant and triggered either by wireless or by a cable. The preference is obviously wireless and as I have Canon gear I can use a ST-E2 trigger and maintain wireless control of the flash settings or I can bang the flash on manual and use a Skyport.

I used to use a monopod as the 'stick' but found that most are shorter than I actually want and most are heavier than I want. I now use a simple painters extension tube (available at any hardware store). I can extend it to any length I want to a maximum of about 8 feet, it is lightweight, it does not have any catches etc to snag on things and best of all it is cheap. A simple 1/4" bolt on the end gives you a mounting for a standard 'cold' shoe or you can just tape your flash to the end. I have mounted a Manfrotto 1/4" extension on mine which is very secure and gives me a firm base for the 'cold' shoe.

For special effects like creating pools of light on location without having to set up stands and boom arms it is a real time saver. You can also use it at parties/gigs tethered to the camera to just position the light right where you want it. I also use it if I am having a day where lumping a camera with a rotating bracket and flash permanently mounted is uncomfortable or likely to get damaged. With the pole in the crook of your arm you can still shoot with both hands on the camera and you don't need to rotate the flash every time you rotate the camera.

So, maybe not quite as daft as it first sounded.