Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In the end of May I went to Calgary, Alberta to shoot the Red Bull X-Fighters event. These are some shots from the event and the pre-event promo shoot with Canadian Jeff Fehr and Robbie Maddison.

I had all sorts of ideas about using flash to light things up during the event but after a few light tests I realized that with the lighting at the venue and the fact that there were almost 10 different jumps it would be almost impossible to do well. I could have lit one jump really well and just shot it with a dedicated camera but I also would have had to light the background to match and it wouldn't really have been worth the effort without a lot of big lights...

So all natural light thanks to the Nikon D3 and D700

Check out the rest of the photos on Flickr (photo is link)

IH_090527_X-FightersPreview_008, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fox Racing Photoshoot in New Jersey

Back in May of this year I traveled to New Jersey to shoot the Fox Bike 2010 Dealer Workbook. I had wanted to write a post about it then but decided I would wait until the workbook was actually done. A few days ago I received it in the mail.
The theme of the catalog was dark, or night, and the direction for the shoot was that all the images were supposed to look like light flash lit shots at night. Logistically there were a few problems to overcome with this idea. It would have been easiest to achieve this look at night, simply lighting up what we wanted, however we would have had to bring a generator and lights everywhere so that the athletes could see what they were riding. While renting a generator and lights is not a huge cost, carrying it for miles into remote sections of trail is a rather strenuous ordeal, and one that we didn't want to have to undertake.
The other normal option would have been to rent some large 1200 or 2400 watt second packs and underexpose the ambient light by several stops to achieve the dark look. However because of the lighting I wanted to achieve we would have needed 3 packs and 4 or 5 heads, and we would have needed very fast packs to freeze the action at close to full power. This would have been expensive and also required us to carry a lot of heavy gear miles into the trails.
So instead I used Nikon SB800's at full power and a couple of Quantum T2D's at full power and raised the shutter speed up to 1/1000th to effectively lose 2 stops of ambient light and freeze the action at the same time.

There was also a lot of thought that went into locations and shooting direction to keep ambient light in the background down to a minimum, and just by paying super close attention to backgrounds we managed to get a few shots with black backgrounds even at 1/250th during the day.

This shot of Kirt Voreis was used as the cover of the workbook, to see more shots including examples of how they were used in the catalog click on it and follow the link to my Flickr set.

Fox Racing Photoshoot in New Jersey, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jeff Fehr in Calgary

I just finished shooting a Red Bull X-Fighters preview event in downtown Calgary with Canadian FMX rider Jeff Fehr. It was a bright day and I only brought a bunch of SB800's so I used what is quickly becoming my current go to technique for action in daylight and shot at 1/1000th f7.1 to bring down the sky and still keep some light on Jeff and the ground. For those of you new to my blog you can read about me technique here. Check out the rest of the photos on Flickr by clicking on the image or going here.

Jeff Fehr in Calgary, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fluidride Pro GRT

Last weekend I was at the Fluidride Cup #2 and Pro GRT race #1 in Port Angeles Washington. I hung out with Kevin and Gabe from Evil Bikes and took a bunch of photos of practice and qualifying. Unfortunately I had to leave before the final to catch a ferry to Victoria so no photos of that. Next on my schedule is an FMX Shoot in Calgary next week as a prequel to the Red Bull X-Fighters event at the end of the month. Oh, and I can't forget about tomorrow's SRAM sponsored Fresh Air Jam at Jordy Lunn's mom's house in Victoria. I checked out the course yesterday and the event should be awesome!

Fluidride Pro GRT, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fox Racing Photoshoot

I just did a photoshoot with Kirt Voreis for Fox Racing. I can't really show you any shots from the shoot but here is a shot of Kirt's mechanic Travis railing the 50 through a corner as I test the lights.

Travis Lucas, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Sea Otter Downhill

So I haven't posted in a while, been pretty crazy with being a dad. I've been working on refining the high speed "hypersync" with my pocket wizard multimax's, and it's been working fairly well. I can't wait for them to come out with the Nikon version of the Flex TT5 though, firing with the camera in one hand and a pocket wizard in the other is a little tiring. I find a good solution at the Sea Otter downhill though. I started shooting normally at 1/250th sync and I was really not happy with the amount of blur I was getting so I switched to the high speed and started shooting at 1/1000th. Then I realized that every shot was pretty much going to be the same so I put my camera on a tripod and just stood there pocket wizard in hand. I realized that if I had planned ahead I could of brought a lawnchair and and icy glass of lemonade. You can see the rest of the shots here

2009 Sea Otter Downhill , originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Project Industries Photoshoot

A few weeks ago I did a photoshoot for Project Industries, a new clothing company. I needed to shoot a bunch of images of the clothing for the online store, as well some lifestyle type images for the website and lookbook. The shoot was at Ginger62, a Vancouver club, and lighting was an interesting challenge. For the store images I shot everything fairly basic, 5 foot Octodome with a 36 inch white reflector and a 10 foot grey backdrop. The idea was to show off the clothes, not the photography. The lifestyle images however were a different story. The club has an awesome atmosphere when the lights are turned down and it looks like a club, so rather than try to recreate that with a whole bunch of lights and gels I simply tried to use what was there and light very selectively. I used 2 or 3 SB800's with various grids and gels from Honl to put small amounts of light where it was needed to show off the models and the clothes without destroying the ambient atmosphere. I think it worked out fairly well, take a look at the photos on Flickr and let me know what you think. (click on the image below to go to the flickr group)

Laurent, Raquel, and Jamie, originally uploaded by ianhylands.

Bootleg Canyon or "BT goes home"

This past weekend I went to Boulder City, Nevada for Crash Enterprises St. Patty's Day Feast. Although the race was a great reason to go, the real reason I went was to say goodbye and pay respect to my good friend Brent Thomson. Brent was the man that built all the riding trails in Bootleg Canyon and in the past 10 years I've come to know him fairly well. He passed away several weeks ago from complications arising from a quadruple bypass surgery, which is ironically the same thing that got him started riding bikes and building trails 15 years ago.
While I was there I shot some photos of the event for Bike Magazine. Shooting in the mid day sun in the desert doesn't really lend itself to great light, so I used my Pocket Wizard Multimax's to shoot at 1/1250 f8 which allowed me to underexpose the sun and still use fill flash on my subject in this shot. See my post on High Speed Sync with the MultiMax's for more info on how to do this.

Friday, March 13, 2009

High Speed Sync photography with the Pocket Wizard Multimax

I had great intentions of doing a video of this post and I even went out and got a new video camera, but actually getting it filmed has turned out to be a whole different story. So it's been a few weeks and I need to get this post done, and it's not going to be a video for at least a while yet.
I've been shooting at 1/1000th of a second and faster and syncing with flash using the Pocket Wizard Multimax's. It's not hard to do, but you do have to experiment a bit with settings.

The Theory behind it all
The basic premise of it is this: When you press the release the camera opens the shutter and sends a signal to the flash once it is fully open. The key part here is "once it is fully open" that means that at 1/250 the sync signal isn't sent the moment the shutter begins to open, but once it is fully open. This is important to us because with a full frame camera that signal is sent part way through the exposure. And if you set your shutter speed to 1/1000 then the flash will fire somewhere near halfway through your shot. So even if you have a long flash duration, you'll lose a significant part of the frame. What we need to do is to get the flash to fire the moment the shutter begins to open, and keep firing until it closes. The keep firing part is accomplished simply by using a flash (or flashes) with a long duration, longer than your shutter speed. The part about getting the flash to fire before it gets the signal is a little bit trickier. The Pocket Wizard Multimax offers a solution with its delay setting. Basically you set up the camera as a remote with one Multimax in receiver mode and no delay. You set up your flashes with Multimax receivers and set a delay on them so that they fire just before the shutter opens. Now I know some of you are probably thinking, "if you put a delay on the flashes and none on the camera then won't the flash fire after the camera?" and in a perfect world you'd be right. However the camera takes a lot longer to receive the signal and trip than the flash does. Cameras are mechanical and need to do a lot more than a flash does. And when I say a lot longer, I'm talking in 10,000's of a second here. Using another Multimax as a transmitter you fire the camera and the flashes, pretty simple really.
The new Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 with Hypersync should be able to eliminate having to use a separate Transmitter to fire the camera and the flashes. Just set the delay on the TT5 on the camera hotshoe and press the shutter release. The Transmitter knows when the camera is going to fire before it happens, and it can pretrigger the flashes. Same effect, different execution.

Setting it up
I'm going to assume at this point that if you're going to try this you know how to set your camera up as a remote so I won't tell you how to do this now. You can set the camera Multimax to whichever channel and zone you want, as long as it's above 16.
Next you need to set up your flash. Connect the sync cord to the flash from either of the Pocket Wizard ports, I frequently use both of them and put two flashes on the same receiver. Just make sure that when you set the delay you set it for both the ports. You do this by choosing menu:a:a:a that will set up Port 1 and Port 2. If you just want to use Port 2 (the flash port) you enter menu:a:a:b
The menu should now say "SET DELAY" and you should have some numbers at the bottom in the format 0.0000 To start with you want them to say something close to 0.0420sec, you adjust them using the ABCD buttons and the up/down arrows. This number will be different for every camera and flash combination but at least for the Nikon cameras I've found that this is a good starting point. Once you're done there hit menu again to return to the main screen, which should now say DELAY: 0.0420 above the zone letters. Don't forget this part.
Now all you need to do is set your flashes to full power and your camera to 1/1000 and do some tests.

Testing the setup
This is the most important and time consuming part of the whole deal. Once you have set a delay on the flashes and the camera is ready to go you need to confirm that the delay is correct. It probably won't be in the beginning, and you'll need to go back and adjust it. I find it easiest to put the camera on a tripod for this and point it at something reasonably close that fills the frame (5-10 feet is good) Then you need to point your flash at the same object and using the Multimax transmitter fire the camera and the flash. (doing this in a darkish place definitely helps) If everything is setup correctly you should hear the camera fire and see the flash fire. Then take a look at your image. Is there any flash in the shot at all? Is it lighting up all of the image or only part of it? If it's perfectly lit from top to bottom you're very lucky. Write down all the settings in your notebook. It probably won't be perfectly lit this first time and you'll have to play around a little. If there is no flash in the frame at all and you saw the flash fire then set your shutter speed down to around 1/250 and try again. If there is still nothing, go lower until you see the flash in the frame, if you get to 1 second and there is still nothing then you probably need to adjust your delay a fair bit until the flash shows up. Once you have the flash in the frame you can fine tune the delay. This is accomplished by trial and error, adjust your shutter speed to where you want it, then adjust the flash delay by one or two 10,000 in either direction and observe the results. Then go the other way and see how it changes. You should be able to move the flash in and out of the top and bottom of the frame. Remember that after adjusting the delay you need to press menu to exit to the main screen before shooting an image. Write down everything that you think works for you, including the Camera, shutter speed, flash type, flash power, and delay.

You may notice a whole bunch of different problems that come up with different cameras. Little things like sometimes you'll take 5 photos in a row and they'll all have slightly different amounts of shutter showing. Remember that if your shutter speed is 1/1000 then 1/10 of your frame is 1/10,000 of a second, and most camera shutters aren't that accurate so things like this happen. The only real solution is to play around a little more and use a flash with the longest duration possible.

If you end up doing this and have any other input please let me know!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Steve Smith shoot

I did a really quick little shoot for NSMB with Steve Smith a week or so ago. Really quick because by the time we got started it was almost getting dark. NSMB was doing a review of the new Evil "Revolt" Downhill Bike and needed some images, you can see the finished review here. Here are a couple of shots from the shoot.

There are 4 lights in this shot, all SB800's. I started by creating the "ambient" light with a straw gelled flash really high up and a little back on the left. That was to give the whole scene a warm look and to show off all the cool moss on the trees. Then I used 2 lights in the front to light Steve, one behind the tree on the left of the trail, and one in kind of the same spot on the right. That was working fairly well but the background was really dark so I decided to put a light behind Steve to give him a bit of separation from the background. It's on the right hand side.

This shot is very similar in lighting with just a few small changes. I used a straw gelled light on a really tall stand to create the warm look to the greenery, then used 2 lights to freeze Steve a little and take the color cast from the straw light off of him. I wanted a bit of blur in the photo so I placed these lights lower and kept them pointed up away from the ground as much as possible. I used a slower shutter to create a little blur and also to try and bring out some of the background.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More info on the new Pocket Wizard Flexx TT5 and Hypersync

I was just checking out Rob Galbraith's review of the new Pocket Wizard TT5 and it looks great. He's confirmed what I was saying about Hypersync being able to work at shutter speeds higher than 1/500, and given us some great graphs of how it works as well as some photos.

Thanks Rob!

(You can also download the user guide from Pocket Wizard here)

Friday, February 20, 2009

High Speed Sync Part 1

In my last post I mentioned that with the new Pocket Wizards Hypersync mode they're saying that you can sync at up to 1/500th of a second and that I thought you could go faster. I'd like to clarify that a little. While Hypersync, or an early sync signal, is key to high speed sync and especially with a full frame camera, that alone won't do it. And 1/500th - 1/800th sync is pretty hard to get, 1/1000th is a little easier. The reason for that is that at 1/500th of a second shutter the opening is a slit, (see the photos in Camera Sync Speed and Flash from last July) and no matter how early you fire the flash you're not going to change that. What you need to rely on is the flash duration being slow enough to cover the entire frame as the shutter moves across it. That's kind of opposite of what we normally want for action, which is a really fast flash duration. And 1/500th shutter with 1/500 flash is often not as good at freezing as 1/250th shutter with 1/2000th flash duration.
As you've probably already guessed from reading this far there is a lot going on when you are syncing at high shutter speeds. I like to shoot at 1/1000 of a second and run my SB800's at full power. That gives me a flash duration of close to 1/1000 of a second, which is pretty close to the shutter speed, but it still doesn't quite always fill the entire frame. You will also notice that the light falls off a bit through the end of the frame as the flash duration measurement of T.5 (measured from when the flash hits full power until it drops to half power, thus the .5) includes a full one stop range in flash output. Ie at full power if the flash is at f8, when it drops to half power it'll be at f5.6, which is more than enough light to still be visible, and enough of a difference to be noticeable. Also when your flash duration is so close to the shutter speed you start to notice things like the 1/15,000 to 1/20,000 of a second irregularities in the shutter. Sometimes you see a little of the shutter curtain, sometimes you don't, there aren't many cameras that have shutters that are accurate to 1/15,000 of a second or faster.
So what I'm really saying is that to sync your flash at faster than 1/500th of a second you really need a slow duration flash, and slower is better to some extent. If you're shooting at 1/1000th and your flash duration is 1/500th, then the flash turns on, your shutter moves across the image, and then your flash turns off, with a bit of leeway on either side.
To do this you need to be able to fire the flash 1/10,000 of a second or so before the shutter opens, and you need to be able to adjust that sync point by 1/10,000's of a second to make up for variations in shutters and flashes.
David Hobby said in his review of the new Pocket Wizards on his Strobist blog that "It's only a matter of time before the message boards start lighting up with best settings for every camera and flash model combos to rack the full sync out as far as possible." Well I can tell you from experience that there is a different setting for every shutter speed and flash power combination with every different camera and flash model. So it's going to be a huge list. I started making one with exact sync offsets for my SB800's and my D2Xs and my D700 or D3 and realized that while you can get pretty close with a chart, I find I still need to finetune by 1/10,000's up and down every time I set up.

This is a lot of tech information and may be a little much for those of you that aren't total geeks, so I'll follow this up with a few more posts on the topic and eventually (hopefully soon) a video post about how to set up Pocket Wizard Multimax's to do all this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pocket Wizardry

Pocket Wizard has just announced the new Flex TT5, the successor to the MultiMax. While it's currently only available for Canon, a Nikon version will be available soon. You can read about it here
So why would a flash trigger be Nikon or Canon specific you ask? That's because it reads and uses the camera's TTL codes and each manufacturer uses slightly different pins on the hotshoe to transmit those codes. It also does something else that is way more important for me, it allows you to pretrigger the flash. They call this HyperSync, and this is their brief description of what it does
"With PocketWizard HyperSync™ Technology, the FlexTT5 can precisely advance the timing of your flash trigger so that increased flash sync speeds, up to 1/500th of a second is achievable with many strobes."
Now while they say 1/500th of a second sync speeds are possible, the reality of it should be far greater. I can currently sync at 1/1000 or even 1/2000 using the now old fashioned MultiMax's with just about any camera. Here are a couple of examples shot with my full frame D700.

You may notice that the image shot at 1/2000 only has light on the bike rider and not on the rest of the frame vs the image shot at 1/1000 that has light across almost the entire frame. This is not really a technical issue, I just used a couple of other flashes on the 1/1000 shot to light up the jump. It's a bit more work to figure out but not technically more difficult. Both images used SB800's to light the rider, and for the image shot at 1/1000 I used a couple of Quantum T2D's to light the jump.

I'll try to have a post up in the next day or so with details on how to sync at 1/500th and higher.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Upcoming Posts

So I'm trying hard to get into the habit of posting more often. I'd like to be able to post almost every week, or sometimes twice a week. I just need to put the time aside to actually write the posts.
I shot a few things in the past week that I'd like to write posts on, and I'm going to Jamaica in a couple of days for the Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival so I'll have a few posts about that trip. I also get asked questions about stuff through emails and conversations, I'll try to put those questions and answers into posts as often as possible as well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Red Bull Crashed Ice 2009 - Shooting in the cold

I started off planning to blog every event and photoshoot this year as they happened. It was pretty much a new years resolution for me, but I'm already struggling with it. Here goes for a post I started a couple of weeks ago.
Red Bull Crashed Ice is one of the craziest looking events I've ever shot. It's like a skier cross or boarder cross event, except it's on ice skates, on ice, downhill, with turns and jumps and all sorts of other fun stuff. It's the kind of event that Red Bull is famous for and I've shot the one in Quebec City for the past 4 years now. Aside from all the craziness of the event itself it's also a fairly difficult event to shoot. It takes place at night in Quebec City in the winter so right away you can correctly assume that it's dark and it's cold. Red Bull and Gestev (The company that produces the event) do a really good job of lighting the place up so it looks awesome on TV and in photos. But that light still falls way short of what you'd really want if you could choose. Here is a brief description of the Crashed Ice photography issues over the last couple of years.

The first year the track itself was fairly dark, hidden behind the crowds and the boards. I shot with a couple of Quantum Q flashes, placing them on tall light stands and trying to light up the crowd and the action, while still shooting at a high enough ISO to get the ambient lighting on the buildings etc. This worked to a point and I got some great shots, the biggest issues were the crowd (60,000 or so) and the cold. The crowd was a major factor as it was very difficult to move around and leaving a light stand in a location for a short period of time was almost impossible. Without even worrying about it being stolen or tipped over the biggest issue was probably trying to retrieve it whenever I wanted to change locations. Also the first year it was about -20 Celsius, which is cold, not extreme cold, but definitely cold enough to be an issue. I was mostly concerned about batteries but the biggest trouble came with the lcd screens. The Quantum flashes and the Pocket Wizard triggers both use lcd display screens to show you what's going on and after about 2 hours in the cold they started to go out. My flashes and Pocket Wizards still
worked but I had no idea of what the settings were because the displays were completely blank. Lesson number 1 for shooting in the cold, bring pocket warmers and tape for all your gear. Little point and shoot pouches work great for the pocket wizards, you can fit a hand warmer in there with them and they'll go all night with no problems. I didn't have pouches big enough for the Q Flashes so I just taped pocket warmers to them. Not as good a solution, but better than nothing at all. Here are a couple of shots from that year.

The last 3 years they put lights in the boards and increased the amount of light on the buildings so it's been a lot easier to shoot. And this year with the new cameras and the higher ISO's it should have been a really easy event to shoot. No flash, just put the ISO at 1600 or 3200 and shoot away. Last year I shot with a Nikon D2Xs and most of my shots were at ISO 640 or 800 around 1/250 f2.8. Not what you'd call ideal for action. This year I was shooting with a D700 and getting 1/800th at f.4 and 3200 ISO which was awesome, the only problem was the cold. At -37 Celsius Digital Cameras have some serious issues. I kept spare batteries in a pocket with handwarmers and swapped them out occasionally, so that wasn't as much a problem as it could have been, my friend Yorick went through 3 batteries in several hours. The biggest problems had to do with the lubricant in the lenses becoming quite stiff, and the lcd and indicator lights not working properly. The lens problem was mostly an issue with my 70-200 zoom, it was so stiff it felt like was going to tear the lens off the camera when I zoomed. Autofocus was also an issue, I could definitely notice the focusing speed slow right down as the lenses got cold, not good when you're trying to focus track. The LCD screen on the back of the camera started to flicker a lot, and the focus indicator light in the viewfinder quit working all together. This was really a problem in the end when I was trying to prefocus to avoid the really slow autofocus.

I did a fair bit of reading before and after the event and came up with a few recommendations for cold weather (below -20C) shooting.
1. Do not bring your camera or lenses inside if you can avoid it. Besides the usual problem with condensation on and in cold lenses and camera bodies when they're brought into a warm humid environment, lenses supposedly also work better when they're consistently cold. Aside from the lubricant issues, lenses suffer from the glass and metal parts expanding and contracting at different rates when they're brought in and out of the cold. So leaving them in the same temperature to 'acclimatize' before using them is supposedly a good idea.
2. Keep spare batteries in your pocket with handwarmers to keep them warm, then switch them often.
3. As a part of number 1 above, if you do need to bring your cameras inside, take the cards out in the cold and put your bodies and lenses in sealed ziplock bags inside your camera bag and don't open your bag for several hours. Don't open the zipock bags until the bodies and lenses are no longer cold to the touch. (At Crashed Ice this year we saw more than one photographer walk into the media room with a 300 2.8 over their shoulder or attached to a monopod. Once inside the lens would immediately be almost dripping wet, with condensation on both sides all the lens elements. A short time later the photographer would walk back outside into the freezing temps and all that moisture would freeze solid. Hard to shoot with a lens full of ice.)

A few photos from this years event...