Learning to light

I’ve had a single Canon 430EXII for a few years and mostly use it on camera when at weddings for shots in the crowd, at the reception:

Single on Camera Flash
Single On Camera Flash

Whilst the subjects are having a great time and this can be seen from their expressions, the lighting is so so.  So times it is just important to get the image and capture the moment, and in the case of weddings, that is certainly true.  The bride doesn’t care how a photo is lit as long as the image evokes the awesome feeling of the day.  I normally would have bounced the light off a wall or ceiling but unfortunately, the ceiling was a glass dome that was too high, and we were too far away from the wall.

I decided to buy a second flash (Neewer something something) which was about £30.  Adding in a second light behind the subject helps to cut them out of the background.

I’m still waiting on my Octabox (Softbox) to arrive, but I decided to give the two speed light session a go without the aid of light softening modfiers and in an enclosed space.  The setup was as follows:

Lighting Setup

This is a diagram of my living room (I’m such an artist!).  1: The Neweer Flash set to half power gelled green and pointed at the wall.  The wall is white (or eggshell, or cream…or whatever people call white paint these days) which helps to take on the green colour.  Pointing the flash at the wall also helps to provide a huge back light to cut the subject (in this case me) out of the back ground.

I then had a second Flash at 2: gelled purple and an omnibounce on the top.  Due to a lack of reflector, I was trying to help get enough light under my chin to stop it becoming dark and accentuating my…ahem….less than desirable squidgy chin.

The camera (at 3) was straight on and set to a 10-second timer.

Here is the final result:

Self Portrait
Self Portrait


There are a few thing I learned doing this:

  1. My beard trimming SUCKS, I look like I have a goatee
  2. Using colours that are opposite on the colour wheel really adds to the image
  3. Having a soft box would have key lighting easier
  4. Having a flash meter would have taken a good 10 minutes off the setup!
  5. Don’t go too heavy on the purple in the face
  6. Keep the key light (the one lighting the subject) slightly higher than eye line for more flattering results

I’m not particularly happy with the shadow but as I was using a bare flash, this can’t be helped really.

Lastly, I had set up a white sheet over the window with the idea to soften the light and use it to fill in the shadows.  I’m not convinced this actually worked and would have been better with a reflector.

Does anyone have any advice?  Please leave it in the comment section

[Boom] Headshot

This is just a quick one, that isn’t so much travel related but still camera and photography related.
Last night, my brother-in-law (BIL) wanted a headshot taken.  My instant thought was “Excellent! I can try out the 7D Mk I, portraits was one of the reasons I bought it!”.  Turns out though I’m an idiot and don’t have a card reader, so that wasn’t going to be an option. Canon 6D it was then!
BIL put on a shirt (and trackie dacks…) and we started fiddling with poses and settings. BIL spent his time getting his facial expression right, and I fiddled with the exposure and flash settings.
For these photos, I bounced the flash off the ceiling to soften the light and light the entire scene.  I tried putting in a silver reflector but it kept reflecting in his glasses so I took it out and used a white reflector.
I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.  It helps to have a good looking model.  I took out a flash reflection and did a little colour blending in photoshop which took a total of 5 minutes or so.  All in all a quick headshot with not much setup and some satisfying results.
I also just want to add a little photo here showing that you don’t need a huge studio to take a good headshot.
Headshot background
The background – Simple
A simple chair in front if the wall, door closed and bounce flash on the ceiling is all you need!

Alex’s Current Photgraphic Travel Set Up

I thought it best to begin this journey with my current photographic setup.  As I haven’t started travelling yet I plan to use this post as a base to document what I am starting with so that in the future I can comment on what worked well, what didn’t work, what I have swapped out and what I have kept.


Camera Bodies:

Canon 6D. I used to own the 5Dclassic and I loved that bad boy but unfortunately, the shutter box broke on me so the 6D became the replacement.  Full Frame, 20.2 MP, 11 autofocus points (the only bummer really) and an ISO range of 100-25600 (with usable ISO around 4000 in some circumstances)  You’re not selling any microstock at that high an ISO due to noise but if you’re snapping for fun then the higher ISOs of this body have been great! I carry two spare batteries EP-L6.

I also have a film camera – the Canon EOS 33 (Elan 7).  Ignoring using my mum’s point and shoot growing up, I didn’t start my photographic journey with a film camera.  I’m really enjoying the experience and hopefully it will make me a better photographer.

Lastly Candice owns the Nikon AW1.  This little camera is rugged as all hell.  Waterproof, shockproof and sexy looking!  It is also a lot lighter than a dSLR!

GoPro Hero2 with associated accessories.

Camera Lenses:

Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM:  This bad boy has replaced my 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM.  The 24-70 has great IQ and I don’t regret buying it for a second.  It has become my general walk around lens.

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM:  The first L series lens I bought and I still love it.  It isn’t quite the f/2.8 but it is much lighter and therefore I’m happy to bring it with me wherever I go.

Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM:  Ok so I was a little naughty when I bought this lens.  I used to own the 50mm f/1.8 MkII, which is a great lens.  However, the 1.4 is just nicer than its cheaper brother.  The 1.8 is a great bit of glass but boy is it noisy during focus.

Samyang 14mm f/2.8:  This lens is fully manual. There are no bells and whistles and not even a focus beep to tell you you’re locked on.  The IQ more than makes up its lack of features.


Manfrotto 055CXPro3 with 3 way Pan Head.  This will be interesting to read in a few months/years time as to whether I have kept this tripod.  It is carbon fibre, so it is light but it is bulky.  The pan head only makes it bulkier and I have no comfortable way to attach it to my bag.  Still though, sturdy tripod and it has been a faithful companion for me.


Lowepro Sport 200AW.  The AW standards for all weather, which basically means it comes with a rain coat over the top.  I’ve had this bag a few years and it too has served me well.  If you like taking your camera out as you enjoy adventure sports, then this is the bag for you.  I have taken this bag on the plane many times and most of those have been long haul flights between Australia and the UK. My only gripe is the lack of tripod attaching facility.  Lowepro have brought out a new model and a slightly larger backpack called the 300 AW II.  I’m fairly interested in upgrading as this may give me more space, and preferably a tripod space!


Canon Speedlite 430EXII.  I only have one and most of my work doesn’t require a flash but occasionally I do tinker with it.  For off camera flash work I also own a pair of yongnuo wireless triggers I think they are the 602 model.  Simple and basic, but they do the trick!


At the moment I use the Cokin P filter system with various ND filters and GND filters. I also purchased the circular polariser, a MUST have for landscapes!


I currently use a 2013 Macbook Pro Retina to edit and post.  I just don’t have the money for a large iMac.  However, we are about to embark upon a travelling adventure so it probably isn’t feasible. Oh, and they’re bloody expensive!


You may notice in my photo I have included a compass.  The compass is probably one of the most important bits of kit.  If you want to leave the well worn path, just take a compass reading and when you’re finished you can always return to the path you were on. I also highly recommend a topographical map.

Other important equipment include the Rocket blower and lens pen for cleaning and the Wacom Bamboo Tablet for editing.  I cannot tell you how much easier to use Photoshop or Lightroom with a tablet than a mouse.

Over time I may change some of this setup and I’m keen to find out what works best for travelling. I’ll post a review of any new equipment I get on this blog and try to keep it regularly updated.