Experiments with Flash

In this fast-paced digital age, I’m sad to admit that I’ve neglected my film camera. I can’t stand the fact that I have to go out and get my film developed and spend money on it. On top of that, in order to share the photos online, I have to go through and digitize them or spend even more money and have them put on a CD or emailed to me. Anyway, I was playing around with an SLR my father passed down to me, a Minolta XG-7 with most of the accessories. I never knew the old man was so into photography. The Minolta came bundled with a telephoto converter and a shutter release cable as well as an external flash unit. With the type of film I use, I take full advantage of the flash. However, when it comes to my Canon t2i, I’m not comfortable using flash because I don’t have any practice with it. I can shift the sensitivity up and down to my liking and playing around with flash just becomes an unnecessary hassle.

I got really bored one day and decided to marry my Minolta Auto 200x flash unit to my t2i. Turns out they play pretty well with each other. So for the past few days, I’ve been experimenting with the flash unit and taking pictures in my room. That’s a pretty bold statement because my room is pretty dark and I often have to pump the ISO well above my comfort zone.

A little bit about what I’m working with here:

  • It’s battery operated with auto and manual settings with hi and lo modes.
  • It has a red test button (it’ll come into play later on and I love this feature).
  • There’s a simple detachable flash diffuser/softener.
  • It has a rotating dial so you can get all your manual settings just right.

Somewhere along the way, I figured out that the Minolta will work at speeds up to 1/320 in manual mode. I kept snapping away with the external flash mounted right on the hot-shoe built  into the t2i. Then I realized I have a flash bracket mount with two extra hot-shoes in both a vertical and horizontal orientation. Me being me, I went ahead and experimented with these three variations to see how the lighting changed. Now, flash photography is something I have to experiment more with and use on at least a weekly basis. Here are my results from the flash bracket test:

  1. Mounting the Minolta Auto 200x on the built-in Canon hot-shoe gave me pretty harsh lighting. While this can be useful in some situations, I don’t envision myself using this option after seeing my other alternatives.
  2. Putting the flash on the bracket to the left side and vertical really brightens everything up and achieves the effect of bouncing the flash. It isn’t as harsh because the light is off to one side, but stil manages to brighten everything up. This has got to be the most pleasing lighting and the most effective. I would use this orientation in day to day picture-taking if I wanted to use flash.
  3. My favorite effect is achieved with the flash on the bracket in a horizontal position. This puts the flash quite a ways from the subject and away from the lens, providing what seems to be almost ambient light. It also creates dramatic shadows and adds a great tone to the photos. I prefer this one for artistic shots.

As a note, when I had the flash on the bracket, I had to manually fire the flash using the red test button. I had a very hard time getting the timing right until I dropped down to about 0″3. That gave me enough time to hear the shutter going and fire the flash, with some time for error. This worked out because even though I was a bit shaky, the bright flash froze motion.

I also decided to play with motion and got a cool effect that I wasn’t anticipating. I went ahead and pressed the shutter release and panned the camera. Just as I was over my intended subject, I fired the flash manually. The result looks almost like a double exposure because of the movement and the color, while the flash froze and somewhat stabilized exactly where I was pointed. Overall, a successful flash experiment.

The effect of camera movement with flash

The effect of camera movement with flash

Here are a few photographs I took in my room using the flash unit. They definitely wouldn’t have come out this way without the flash. If you want to pick up the bracket I have, you can find it here on Amazon for $9.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took in my room using flash.

After this post, I took a few more pictures. This time I didn’t mount the flash to anything and held it by hand, positioning it willynilly. As long as I held the camera relatively still and kept the shutter at 0″3, I got great shots. Holding the flash is going to give me a lot of versatility going forward.