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OCF – Off Camera Flash

I have seen this subject tackled many times by various photographers and would like to start by saying; there are so many different approaches to this that work. I am simply going to try to tackle why I came to use the equipment I use and how I use it.

First let me say that I am not sponsored by or affiliated with any companies and I have personally purchased all of the equipment that I own. That being said the short answer is Canon cameras and lenses with Profoto B1x and A1 flashes. The long answer is much more complicated and covers technical details that may be boring for others (thus the short answer first).

Let’s dive in… I started shooting black and white film in the nineties and transitioned to digital in 2006 with a 5D MKII. Originally I used Canon speed lights and the clunky custom settings accessed through the selection wheel that were a series of on and off settings in the flash. High Speed sync was not very effective on them and the battery life could not keep up when I wanted to use them in the daytime (I love using flash in the daytime – more later on that). Eventually I managed to get high speed to work better using pocket wizard triggers at first. Occasionally I would have some issues but I was still having to deal with the shape and color of the light that came from speed lights. The shape of these lights is square and the color is very cool, almost blue. The top image below was shot using the MarkII and a 580EXII Speedlight, the next image was shot using a B1x Profoto with a 3×5 soft box. You can see the difference in the color, but the other thing to mention is; the first image was shot at an overlook at the top of Mulholland Drive in LA and the camera left speed light did not fire (it was supposed to add some additional light to his face). I could not get it to fire correctly the rest of the shoot and ended up just tossing it in the bag because of the time constraints I was under at the time.

The next thing to mention is speed… I really like to shoot in the middle of the day when everyone says not to, and to do so I have to shoot at 4000-8000 sometimes. Also, I shoot at an ISO of L or 100 which gets pretty dark in the shadows if I have an ND filter on. When I dial in at f11 or f16 to get more depth it really starts to get dark so I use a variable ND to combat the exposure. You may be asking why not just dial in a higher ISO but I really like the clarity I get when I am at or below 100. As a result I needed a really bright light – Enter the Profoto B1x. This light gave me the ability to carry around in a small bag with no cables the power I had in the studio. The result of this is my own little formula for midday OCF sessions. ISO 100 or L, f2.8-f16 (depending on the artful liberties), and shutter as needed to drop two stops in the ambient and bring my subject in at even exposure. Coming this with a circular polarizer when the clouds are dancing and all of the sudden you are making magic happen in the viewfinder.

Let me know in the comments if this helps anyone and ask any questions you wish and I will try to answer them for you. – dmb

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