go buy a reflector, now. an experiment with a reflector

I’ve previously talked about how the placement of external flashes can have drastic effects on how images turn out. The type, configuration, and strength of your lighting can affect all sorts of things including, but not limited to: contrast and white balance. If you want to, see this post about flash placement and to see pictures of how it’ll affect your images.

Today, I want to talk about the reflector. You know, the thing you see a lot during photo shoots? For many years, I used to think that a reflector would do absolutely nothing for me in terms of improving the quality and visual appeal of my images, but I was dead wrong. I made the incorrect assumption that reflectors were only needed for portrait photography and wouldn’t help me in any other way. For a while, I was interested in doing some portrait photography, so I went ahead and bought one of the cheapest all-in-one reflectors I could find. I knew I wanted something portable, because I would be doing most of my shooting in either secluded areas or places that required travel. For the most part, I didn’t need anything for illuminating too large a swath of area, so I went with the Fotodiox 5-in-1 22” Premium-Grade Professional Collapsible Disc Reflector.

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WindmillI took this picture of a windmill with my Minolta SLR and had it developed. Sadly, I kept getting these lines running through my pictures and I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m thinking it’s either a light leak or there’s something actually going on with the screen in the camera. Either way, it turned out ok. I was able to minimize the streaking in Lightroom. Couldn’t do too much about the noise though. I kind of like it that way. It’s the feel of analog.



Now this isn’t something you see everyday. I have an analog Minolta XG-9 SLR that I take for a spin every now and again, but the cost of film keeps me on my toes. Yes, I believe in starting out with film because it’s relatively unforgiving. You either have it down or you need to work on it. Not only is there a cost associated with buying film, but also developing it and getting prints.

My Minolta XG-9

My Minolta XG-9

I don’t have a problem with swapping film out; I could do it all day long. SLRs have a calming effect on me. DSLRs on the other hand, have all these options, numbers, and buttons that I hardly ever use. DSLRs are hectic and SLRs are relatively calm. My biggest blockade is the cost. It’s all about the cost of film and the hassle of doing any sort of post production on them, coupled with the hardships of sharing them digitally.

Introducing the DigiPod on Indiegogo. Their tagline: “A digital 35mm film cartridge, that once adjusted, will fit most SLR cameras”. Working off what I’ve read: It’s a digital film pod that replaces the film in a film camera, allowing everything to be saved to a micro SD. It also has a port for connecting to the computer and a built-in battery. Supposedly it can be adjusted from 24 to 3200 ASA, to be set before it is put into the camera and a battery save mode. Neat.

Yea, I’m intrigued and very interested in seeing how it turns out. I imagine it to be a simple plug and go type device that’s easy to use and hassle-free. If successful, the DigiPod would allow anyone to dust off their old 35mm cameras and go for an all day outing.

I read an update just now about an option for RAW file capture, which is plain awesome. That would help out, especially when it comes time for me to import it all into Lightroom.

Go ahead and check this project out at Indigogo and back it if you’re interested. Make sure you check on the updates section every once in a while.


Danny Yu

Experiments in flash

Experiments in flash


I’ve been carrying my Minolta Auto 200x, a dated manual flash for old SLR Minoltas, in my bag for a while. Since I don’t have too much practice with using the flash unattached to my camera, I’ve been doing it over and over on random things and people. This time I tried it on a friend in my house, a low light setting. I set the flash on lo, the ISO to 100, a shutter speed to 0.3″, and an aperture of f/20. If you can’t tell, I held the flash unit away from the camera, coming from the left side. Worked like a charm. After a bit of touchup in Lightroom and Photoshop, I got this dramatic black and white photograph.

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.