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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Macro Flash

Get complete creative control over your close-up photography with these versatile flash and mounting systems

Macro Flash Mounting Systems
When I was getting started in macro photography, I wanted a macro lighting system that gave me more control over the intensity and direction of the light, so I designed and manufactured the Lepp Macro Bracket, an on-camera system that held two flashes on short arms that could be easily articulated and positioned. It was, in a sense, a miniature portrait lighting system attached to the camera, and thousands of photographers used it.

Apply the concepts of portrait lighting, with a primary flash and a fill-flash, to direct light from different directions at different intensity to give natural dimension and shadow to your subject.

In nature photography, the primary light is the sun, and the fill light is the equivalent of the open sky, which softens contrast. Apply this understanding to your artificial lighting to achieve a more natural effect.

Position your primary light off to the side of the subject and your fill near the lens. The difference in intensity between the primary light and the fill can be a ratio of 1:2 up to 1:4, with 1:2 generating a soft effect and 1:4 giving more contrast and contour to the subject.

A third wireless flash, slaved to fire with the two on-camera flashes, can be positioned to light the background or as a backlight to add transparency to the subject.

Check your captures on the LCD on the back of the camera to see your results and adjust your settings in real time.

If I was asked for my perfect macro flash bracket today, I'd want one that's made of lightweight materials, holds at least two flashes securely and allows plenty of versatility in the positioning of the flashes. I've found a few bracket systems that come very close to my perfect bracket. You can use the Canon, Nikon, Metz and some other flashes on various kinds of custom bracket systems, as long as the heads are compatible with a hot-shoe mount.

Two that I've used with success for particular macro applications are the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket and Really Right Stuff B87-QR Flash Bracket, FR-87 Circular Flash Ring and FA-QR1 Strobe Cord Adapter (reallyrightstuff.com).

The Novoflex Uniset (hpmarketingcorp.com) consists of a system of sliding rods, jointed rods and non-jointed rods that attach to a rigid camera plate. You can mount flash units in any desired position.
The Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket attaches to a quick-release base on the camera; it holds arms with articulated segments that allow precise and versatile positioning of the flashes. It's a modular design so one, two or more arms can be attached. I use this accessory on a copy stand because it takes the flashes farther off the camera and gives them a wider range of positions.

The Really Right Stuff bracket system attaches to a semi- or full-circle ring that mounts around (but not on) the lens. The flash extensions can be placed anywhere around the ring. Both the RRS system and the Wimberley brackets can hold either small macro flashes or the far more powerful full-sized hot-shoe flashes.

You can see more of George Lepp's macro photography and sign up for his macro workshops at his website, www.georgelepp.com.


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