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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thank you David Hobby

Ever since I picked up a camera at the age of about 12, right up until roughly three years ago I was an entirely natural light photographer. Flash scared the crap out of me, I hated the look of it and I just didn't understand it.

I remember a pitch black night in the mountains of Uttar Pradesh in India. I had an automatic Vivitar flash and had never really used it. I knew where it went (but had even that wrong as I now know! On-camera flash bad, off-camera flash good) but not really how it worked.

So I bought a roll of print film and shot a whole heap of photos at different apertures to see what the difference in the photos would be. Turned out there was no difference. That's why the flash was alled automatic - it was designed to give you the proper exposure no matter what the aperture was. D'oh. It wasn't TTL but it did a pretty good job. But I was still pretty terrible at using it.

And then about three years ago somebody pointed me to the Strobist site run by an ex-newspaper photographer, the aforementioned David Hobby. To say it changed my world would be an understatement. It completely turned it upside down. I never knew that you could take the flash off the camera. I never knew you could control multiple flashes at once. Hell I had no idea you could modify the light coming out of those things.

Here was a totally new mindset for me. Going from being a passive documentary photographer who spent a lot of time waiting for beautiful light, to a proactive photographer who now preconceptualises a shot before I head out the front door. I've gone from dreading having to photograph anything indoors to actually looking forward to indoor shoots because it gives me a chance to create beautiful light.

The outdoor midday sun now no longer gives me the willies now I know how to overpower it and still have soft beautiful light on my subject. And I can make my son look cool in a way I never could before which gives us quality time together as he actually enjoys having his photo taken.

Why am I mentioning this now, so far down the track? Because I had an assignment yesterday to photograph inside a factory. A factory that required the sanitisation of every little piece of equipment before taking it in. So tripods, light stands and anything else was going to be difficult if not nigh on impossible. So I took in some speedlites (yes I'm Canon hence the spelling) and crafted some mighty fine looking light on a wing and a prayer. With no stands, modifiers or anything just a helpful writer to hold the flash and some nice white walls and roof to bounce it off.

And every prayer I said was a thank you to the great master Hobby. Mind you I'm a definite TTL convert and I know he loves his manual so I'm digging the Syl Area stuff and Joe Mcnally stuff but the person that started it all off is Mr Strobist. There is no possible way I could ever thank him enough for what he's done for my photographic life and career but recommend any of his products or workshops. If you want to learn to use your flash better then this is the place you need to start. Thank you David Hobby. My youngest gives you a big two thumbs up!

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