How to get the most from your Optical slave- OUTDOORS!

When I was 'breaking out' of photojournalism, what i knew about lighting could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp.

Yes, I had read a few bits and pieces but they did not quite hit the spot, I just did not grasp it

My good friend Dave Beck had just joined the Flash Centre in London and I started to visit him and his colleagues and to be honest that is where my learning began in earnest

Now, photographers in the pre internet days were VERY secretive to say the very least, and to hang out in one of the main hire centers in London to see what was the most hired equipment for what kind of job was an eye opener

We live in an age where knowledgeable retailers are a threatened species, where people shop on line to save a few quid.

Money is saved but who do you call for vital advise when things don't go to plan

I was shooting some time lapse photography with a Pocket Wizard Multi Max in North Yorkshire and I just could not quite work it out. I could have resorted to the manual (heaven forbid!) but I had lost that years ago...

One phone call to Alex Ray at the Flash Centre and he talked me through it for 10 mins until I had sorted the issue.

Try that with your box shifter types......

These guys know some great 'Sweet cheats'

Tricks which help you save your skin when you have really messed up

Some years ago when I was shooting the 'Guinness World Record' series I had travelled down to deepest Devon along with the long suffering Clare (who is now my producer) to photograph Anne Atkin who has the Worlds biggest collection of Gnomes

Now Devon is a long way from the Midlands where I lived at the time, and seems even further away when you have 6 lights to trigger outdoors and have only 1 hard wired sync cable.

Yes folks, I had left all the Pocket Wizards 300 miles away

I was in quite a pickle in deepest Devon

Optical slaves work by detecting the flash from another unit and triggering the unit wirelessly, all well and good but there was so much ambient light they were not detecting the 'trigger' flash

We were lighting such a large area that the shoot was in doubt, not helped by a colony of crows messing on us.....oh the misery....the tears...

So how did I get the shot?

I spoke to Sav at the Flash centre and told him my plight...

'Oh have you tried covering the optical slave receptors with something like cardboard or gaffer tape?'

Here is the optical slave uncovered

And with Sav's gaffer tape modification

By doing this the slave only 'sees' the flash and not the ambient light

Go try it yourself

Now, there is no way I could have got the shot without Sav's help that day

This is not meant to be an 'ad' for the 'Flash Centre'

What I'm advocating is forming relationships with your knowledgeable dealer, no matter who it is, you support them and they will support you