Lighting, Flashes, Flash Busses

Flash Bus

The Lord of the Speedlights (left) and Zack Arias, separated at birth?

It seems like these days if you’re a photographer and you’re not either blogging about lighting, writing a book about lighting, making lighting DVD’s or giving lighting workshops, then chances are you’re probably not very cool or important. Perhaps just an amateur fooling around with cameras in your spare time, hoping to become like the pros when you grow up one day. Everywhere I look there’s either someone writing a book on lighting, giving workshops or selling books and DVD’s on lighting. At some point even a Flash Bus got into the mix. When I first heard the term “Flash Bus” I thought it had something to do with “Bang Bus.” But then I got on the website and found out that it was actually worse than I thought: it was about lighting workshops being done by The lord of the Speedlights and Joe McNally. Both of them, together.

Joe Mc Nally (left) and a random Sock Puppet, separated at birth?

Now, you may not immediately understand why I think this isn’t such a good idea if you’ve never heard of them before, but these guys are absolutely nuts. I’m still surprised they somehow got approval for this project. These two guys together, traveling cross country on a bus to 29 cities in 6 weeks? That’s just asking for trouble. Who knows what kind of weird stuff is going to happen with those two together in a bus for 6 weeks. I’m telling you, if you see this bus in town, do NOT go near it. Trust me on this, stay far away. Especially if the bus is shaking and you see bright flashes of (colored) light coming through the windows. Just notify the authorities and let them handle it. You may want to head on over to the Flash Bus website, not necessarily to register for the workshop in your city, but to start checking when you need to get the hell out of your city before these guys arrive and things start to get bad. Don’t risk becoming their hostage for a day and being forced to work as a voice activated lightstand, or heaven  forbid, their model.

The Flash Bus

BE ON THE LOOKOUT: The bus has just departed from a secret location east of the Mississippi en route to Seattle, Washington.

Seattle appears to be their first destination so you folks from Seattle who’re reading this, time is of the essence. They’re probably already nearby so it’s best to stay in your homes, barricade the doors and make sure you have enough food for the next 5 days.

The Flash Bus

Close-up shot of the Flash Bus

The picture of the Flash Bus above appears to be the first picture of the bus taken in the wild. It was emailed to me by a photographer who put a lot at risk to get this amazing shot. For obvious reasons the photographer requested to remain anonymous. If you look at the picture you can see The Lord of the Speedlights and McNally in the bus  and their driver who goes by the name “Cool Breeze.” The name made sense to me when I saw the picture. According to the photographer he managed to snap this picture just seconds before they saw him and drove right into him. He dove off to the side and just barely managed to get away.

The Lord of the Speedlights and Joe McNally both also have new DVD’s out on lighting: Lighting in Layers and The Language of Light. They have what I think is a more stylized approach to off-camera lighting. In most cases you’ll look at one of their pictures and you’ll know it was made using one or more of their own lights. And in the case of Joe McNally, probably a crapload of lights (McNally’s rumored to own enough Nikon SB-900′s to light the Empire State Building). But it’s also possible to use flashes and make your pictures look like they were shot using available light.

Neil van Niekerk

Neil van Niekerk in deep concentration, thinking of even more ways to get beautiful women in front of his camera.

And that’s where Neil van Niekerk comes in. I know you may have heard that you shouldn’t use your flash on-camera very often because it makes your pictures look like crap, but Neil van Niekerk has some  excellent techniques that’ll blow you away when you see the kind of results you can get: pictures taken with on-camera flash that look so natural people will think they were taken in available light. That, and he’s somehow able to get a lot of beautiful women to pose for him. Most of the information is available on his blog (about the lighting techniques, not the women), and in his book on on-camera flash: On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography. And just a few days ago, almost synchronous with the Flash Bus, Neil’s second book became available which is about off-camera flash: Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Photographers. I bought both books hoping to find information about how I could get beautiful women to pose for me, just like van Niekerk. But sadly I have to report that this information is not included. Perhaps he’ll focus on that in his third book. Meanwhile I’ll have to keep stalking young women on Facebook.

But what is most important to me as the technical advisor here at Canon USA when I look at all of this, is that all of these photographers are using Nikon gear primarily. Sure, you’ll find them occasionally briefly mentioning Canon speedlites and cameras here and there, but when they do I can’t help but feel as if they’re doing it just because they feel sorry for Canon users and don’t want them to feel left out. If you just look at what they themselves shoot with primarily, it’s all Nikon gear. And there’s a reason for that. We fucking suck when it comes to lighting and Nikon is way ahead of us. I don’t know what is taking those fucking morons in Tokyo so long but they had better come out with something new pronto. We need a new professional flash to replace the 580 EX II and we fucking need it fast. And it had better fucking come with RF based wireless flash functionality or as the Lord Jesus Christ is my witness, I’m going to go fucking berserk on their ass. Not too long ago I wrote about our ancient ST-E2 wireless flash trigger and  mentioned how even the Chinese were way ahead of Canon Inc. with innovations in that area.

Canon ST-E2 Ass-Rape VS Cactus V4

Canon ST-E2 Ass-Rape VS Cactus V4

Back then I compared the ST-E2 with the Cactus V4. Well guess what, the Cactus V5 is already out. In the time it took the Chinese to develop the Cactus V2, V4 and V5, Canon Inc. has been unable to release an update to the fucking ST-E2 that can stand next to the rest of today’s technology without being laughed at. The ST-E2 uses a 2CR5 battery for Christ’s sake, talk about old! And they still want $230 for it, when you can get a Cactus V5 set with 2 transceivers for a mere $60. And the Cactus V5 will offer you many interesting possibilities, like a 100m working range (compared to the sorry-ass 10m of the ST-E2 with line of sight) and 100% reliability.

I don’t know what the fuck is taking those bastards in Japan so long, but if they finally release an update it had better fucking blow everything away. I’m talking RF based wireless flash triggers, a new pro speedlite with built-in RF wireless flash capabilities, full TTL and High Speed Sync support, Master/Slave functionality, 100m working range, and best of all, remote control of the speedlites from the back of the camera. I want all my fucking speedlites to show up on my camera LCD just like wireless access points show up on my computer, and I want to fucking add them to my own private network of flashes under my control, each with their own custom ID (so I know which is which). And then I want to be able to fucking select each one of them and be able to change their goddamn settings right on my fucking camera even if I’m 100 meters away! THAT is what I would consider true innovation. Not the fucking horseshit we’ve been seeing in the last few years.

God damn! I started writing this post laughing my ass off and now I’m pissed again. This always happens. As soon as I get reminded of those fucking morons in Tokyo my blood just starts to boil automatically. I’m going to get me a cup of coffee now before I end up in intensive care again.

33 thoughts on “Lighting, Flashes, Flash Busses

  1. Chuck,

    Right fucking on! Just today, I was shooting some industrial processing plant with PocketWizards 100 feet away, and every shot I took, I had to climb down a set of ladders, go to the flash, adjust it’s output, climb back up the ladders, take another shot, decide that the flash was still a half stop too bright, and repeat the whole fucking process again.

    Just like you, I want to turn on my fucking camera and have every flash I own show up, just like wireless networks show up on my fucking phone.

    And I want to be able to control every fucking setting on that flash from my camera. Switch from E-TTL to Manual, go from 1/1 to 1/128 power, zoom from 24mm to 105mm. Everything. In this day and age, when I can fire my goddamn camera from an iPhone – for fuck’s sake – I should be able to have FULL remote control of my flashes. Period.

    Remote control, motherfuckers. Can you do it?

    • I know exactly what you’re talking about man. It’s a fucking shame that in this day and age you have to jump through hoops to work with this equipment the way you want to, when all the technology to make our lives so much easier can be implemented. They’re just too lazy to be bothered.

      • Of course, if Canon does implement all this, the flash will cost twice as much as an iPad.

      • If the Cactus V5 can cost $30 a unit, adding basic RF to the 580 EX II for example would not have to make it a lot more expensive. At most just $30 more expensive (but I think Canon could add it without increasing the price). For the other functionality it would cost more in the end, maybe $100 per unit. Still the update to the 580 EX II would probably cost no more than $700. For this kind of functionality, I think it would be worth it.

      • So, you guys are after the wireless system built into Olympus cameras, then? Can remotely control all settings on my flash except zoom, I believe.

    • Go grab the AC3 zone controller. Made my life alot more simple. Adjust those output levels manually, in 3 zones. Just dont get too excited if you need anything lower than 1/128th, in that case, go adjust it on the flash.

  2. Ass-Rape? I haven’t heard that one since Nikon dumped their GPS GP-1 unit on the market. Good to see Canon keeping up.

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  4. Amen on the rant on the ST-E2 and Canon’s woeful performance in the speedlite arena. What on earth are Canon waiting for? Hold up the DIGIC 5 and develop some kick-ass Speedlite technology for a change!

  5. Hilarious, even the 7D wireless trigger from the pop-up misfires about 2 out of 10 times.

    While camera tech has moved forward exponentially for Canon, the flash system is something I could have encountered in a bad 80s movie!

  6. Your post was right on the money. Love your style. Had me rolling on the floor.
    What a way to promote two great photographers and the tour AND the lack of help from Japan.

  7. > The ST-E2 uses a 2CR5 battery for Christ’s sake

    The 2CR5 battery – now that brings back memories. I remember having to save up every time I needed to replace one of those. But the 80′s were a good time…

  8. Thank god! someone who sees the stupidity in all of this pocket flash “Follow the leader like a NEWBIE Blind man” As well as someone who says it like it needs to be said! Amen! Can we say mass marketing individuals like these that sell “PRODUCT” endorsements not “Common Sense” for the most part should be called out. “Joe Catholic McNally” I love your work but your teaching principles are seriously “JADED” to say the least due to trying to sell books and dvd’s and merchandize to turn a profit which all would be fine if it was more “HONEST”…. But hey guys what can we say most of the “Blind Newbie Sheeps” that follow these guys are just that the “NEWBIES” or weekend warriors merely proving there is a sucker born every minute… To spend 400 bucks to buy a flash or worse even yet many flashes??? for the price of a studio strobe that puts out 10x the power and versatility. But before some newbie dumbass says “I can put it in my camera bag” sure you can put a 580 in your bag but your extremely limited as to what you can do with it and short of having to backpack into a amazon jungle cave and need to travel lite then you dont need to use a pocket flash. USe a real light for the same dollar value and it will also be far more useful and versatile. Sure you could use 5 or 8 canon 580′s but your not like Joe Catholic Mc Donnald that gets sponsored by canon to sell their products and endorse them. Joe also used them alot why? because he did travel to the amazon and in the jungle and was forced to travel lite. Not eveyrone has the forced dilemma. But hey we are talking about a bunch of newbies all in “AHHH” “OOOOH!!……” Because they are new to the art and dont really no better and thanks to the internet are like blind sheep and want to fit in so they “Monkey See Monkey DOO” LoL. Fake Chuck by god keep it up! love it someone with the guts to say it like it is! You cus like a Marine Sergeant and hold no punches maybe why the Japanese Heads get pissed with you. But please stick to your guns Gunny… God bless yah and while your at it point out the “Proprietary” designs Canon is always placing on their designs so you are forced to buy new gear or buy only “Their” products to make something work. Canon Executives head my warning I am seriously thinking to switching back to “Nikon” which I originally owned in my film days and loved far more due to their “Sturdier” construction

  9. Wow, this website is real. I came across some goofy petition on the 5D, and clicked this link. I’d love to know what it is that you do, because I’d love to have a job that has all the free time you seem to have. Of course I wouldn’t waste it being a whiner, but hey, it seems to be working for you!

    • Yeah man shit happened in Japan. I figured I’d stop bashing them for a moment so they can concentrate on getting things back up and running…

  10. Hi FC.

    It seems that 28mpx 5d is coming out despite all things that have been said and done. Rumors are around for 6 months.

    Any comments?

  11. But will the new 5d have a decent Auto focus system ?
    It didn’t realise there was a demand for 28mp OOF images !

    For my work my 1ds3 is still the perfect tool.
    it’s just a pity it maxes out at ISO3200….. although I’m getting pretty good at shooting wide open with my 85L.

  12. Hey you fucking fuck. Don’t you fucking think we could fucking do without those fucking fucks? I’m fucking sick of fucking have to read so fucking many fucks, for fuck sake. FUCK!

  13. Have a read at this Blog, I would agree fully,Canon need to get their finger out when it comes to flash, many friends of mine have jumped ship and moved to Nikon. I won’t be, I love my Canon 5d mk2, I find it much simpler to use.

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  15. Pingback: Introducing the Canon 600EX-RT Flash | Fake Chuck Westfall

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