Godox : At last a full flash system for the Fuji’s

As soon as I say this I will be corrected “but I was able to do HSS with Cactus and …. ” etc etc. So let me clarify.

“At last we have a flash system for our Fuji X-Series cameras that scales easily from quick snaps with on-camera flash with TTL to a full system for location or studio with High Speed shutter Sync”

I’ve been working with the system for about 6 weeks now and I’m happy.

Firstly, the important stuff, the colour temperature of all the lights seems fairly constant. They are stated to be 5600k but I have found on the X-T2 with no tweaks this is a little orange and needs pulling back slightly. If shooting with a WB card they come out at about 5500 and a tweak…

The TTL is also, again, consistent and much in line with what the Nikon SB900 / SB800 used to offer on my old Nikon systems.

The system I have put together consists of:

  • AD600B
  • 2 x AD200
  • TT685F
  • X1T-F
  • XT-32 (manual only)
  • Canon off camera TTL flash cable (I state this to clarify what is needed)
  • Also the Canon XS – cable is the one you need to connect to a ProPak 960.

First things first.

I unpacked the 685, AD200 and XT-F on the same day and the first issue was firmware updates for the AD200 and AD600 to enable them to support the Fuji’s fully. This is not the easiest task with two different firmware loaders required (G1 or G2) – one to update the AD600 and another for the AD200. Another issue is the firmware uploader(s) only work on Windows based systems, which, as a Mac user made life really difficult as I could not even get the software to work on a parallels virtual machine. In the end had to resort to my partners windows laptop. Also note that the firmware(s) are very model specific – particularly the AD600 vs AD600M, these are not interchangeable as I found out!

Setting Up / Using.

As with most other systems, the control signals are sent out on one of 32 channels (1-32) so the first stage is to set all of the units (flashes and controllers) to the same channel.

  • X1T-F: There is a button marked CH, press this and rotate the dial.
  • AD200: Hold down the GR/CH button until the channel number flashes. Rotate the dial
  • AD600:
  • TT685: Press the Right-hand most button to enable one of the wireless modes and then one of the centre buttons is labeled CH, press this and rotate the dial.

Next are the Groups. This is a way of enabling the trigger to fire multiple flash heads at different flash values. Setting a number of flashes to the same group will ensure they fire at the same setting. Setting flashes to different groups enables them to be fired at different settings (i.e. manual power, a TL ratio or turned off). As at the moment I have 4 lights, I have set each light to a different group to allow them all to be controlled individually from the trigger.

  • Group A: AD200
  • Group B: AD200
  • Group C: AD600
  • Group D: TT685

The 2 AD200’s are on the first two groups as these are the most used off-camera units. The AD600 is on Group C as the trigger in the TT685 can only control Groups A to C (+ itself). The X1T can control groups A through E. All of my units have a letter on them to remind me of their setting.

Once set, the output value on each flash may be set on the X1T trigger.

  • Use the dial control to select (underline) the group to adjust.
  • Use the Mode button to cycle between the modes: TTL, Manual Power, Off (–)
  • Press the GRoup button to select the group and with its value flashing, use the dial to adjust the output power (or TTL ratio). Press the GRoup button again to confirm the setting.

First Job.

The day I unpacked the units I had a photocall in the evening, a BBC photocall in a hotel for the new Dr Foster series. Biting the bullet, I took an AD200 (with the fresnel head), TT685 & X1T-F (after full testing obviously). My initial setup was to use a single camera with the X1T firing both flashes (mainly because I had not tried or tested using the TT685 as a controller).  Having a bit of time to spare before the talent arrived, I was able to work out using the TT685 as a controller and so ended up with the “long” camera for headshots firing only the AD200 and the “standard” camera firing the AD200 & the camera-mounted TT885 for fill in.

X1T, TT685 on XT-2’s

The really nice thing was having the AD200 fire at totally different values from one camera to another as I swapped between them (with no further input).

Bertie Carvel attends a photocall for the BBC’s Doctor Foster at The Mayfair Hotel on Tuesday August 8th.

Suranne Jones attends a photocall for the BBC’s Doctor Foster at The Mayfair Hotel on Tuesday August 8th.

In anger at Frightfest.

At the end of August it was my annual trip to Frightfest in London. I have been photographing the event for the organisers for 7 years now and a few years back we added live social media from the red carpet (using the iPad workflow).

The festival runs over 5 days during during which I shot 41 separate “red carpet” photocalls. The setup was again an AD200 (this time with a standard reflector over the open bulb) with the TT685 for fill-in (and controller). The units were set to TTL (+0.7 & +0.3 to compensate for the white step & repeat board) and worked flawlessly for the many thousands of shots over the 5 days.

Adam Green , Kane Hodder

Eve Myles, Annette Crosbie.

Jason Flemyng.

Barbara Crampton.

Mel Wayman.

I altered the direction of the shadows by moving & turning the subjects – i.e. more straight on and flattering for the women, turning away from the light for harsher shadows on the men. (easier to do when you co-run the media wall and so are able to fully direct it). The battery life of the AD200 was good, lasting a full day with an overnight charge and both units kept up with the 5fps, 3 frame burst I tend to shoot.

One other thing I had not tried with the XT-2’s until this weekend was the additional sync mode’s, the flash control screen allows HSS, front curtain and rear curtain. HSS as I have mentioned before, allows better control of the ambient light whereas the two “curtain” modes control when the flash fires in relation to the shutter opening. Front curtain fires the flash as the shutter opens, freezing any action at this point and if  the shutter is open long enough, leaves a trail of any moving object away FROM the frozen object. Rear curtain is the opposite, firing the flash at the end of the cycle so that the blurring leads TO the frozen object. I played with this a bit at night… using Rear curtain to capture “Frightfest Ghosts” moving through the foyer.

Frightfest Ghosts 2017

When writing an article like this, it is so easy to miss points out but hopefully that gives you a good idea of how capable the Godox units are when used with Fuji system. Please ask any questions below via the comments and I will do my best to answer them all.

Happy shooting.

 

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HSS – The Godox TT685F & PocketWizards

As is my morning ritual (especially at the weekend) I headed down to the beach for 10 minutes peace before the day starts proper.

Normally I take with me an X-T camera of some description and a sketch pad – quite often I use the sketch pad and not the camera. This morning being bright and sunny I thought I would take the opportunity to see how the new Godox (On camera)  TT685F would work in conjunction with PocketWizards for remote camera use at Red Carpet Events.

My PocketWizards are a set of Plus3‘s which connect into the X-T2 via the Mic-In socket. This necessitates a 3.5mm to 2.5mm lead (using Younogo’s a 2.5mm-2.5mm lead is the requirement) .When first connecting the cable into the camera it prompts you to ensure the socket is set to the correct use – Remote Control or Microphone. (Edit: To clarify – this is to trigger the camera remotely and nothing to do with the triggering of the flash unit). The next key step is to pre-focus and set the camera to manual focus as it would not fire when set to either of the AF modes (I have not noticed this before when shooting interiors, however most of the time I am bracketing & pre-focusing on manual to ensure the focus does not change between brackets for the HDR merge).

Once this was working ok I fitted the Godox to the camera and had a play. This is not a particularly flattering image but it does demonstrate why HSS (High Speed Flash Sync) is such an important tool.

Self Portrait at Worthing, UK, 19/08/2017 : Julie Edwards. Picture by Julie Edwards

The key things to remember when shooting outdoors with flash are –

  • Shutter Speed only affects the ambient light (sun / surroundings)
  • Aperture affects ambient & flash brightness
  • ISO affects ambient & flash brightness

Therefore, shooting into bright sun I was able to balance the ambient (sun and background) by raising the shutter speed to 1/1250, setting the aperture and ISO to suit the flash output (in this case TTL output for laziness but probably near or at full output).

So.. The key is Shutter Speed! Actually no, I stand by the T-Shirt, the key IS motivation!

Have a great weekend!

Hyde Park in Classic Chrome

Since upgrading to the X-T2’s my X-T1 has become my standard “walk around” or “sanity” camera with the 35/1.4 fitted (as I also sold on my X100).

Most of the time my walk-around’s are set to Monochrome as I still really love the way it cuts straight through to the essence of a scene, letting the light and composition “speak”. I feel you really have to nail these two aspects to make a Black and White image really work but it’s clear from comments that quite a few [fellow press photographers] feel that its an “easy way out” or a way to disguise shortcomings in a colour image. So recently I have switched my walk-around to colour, well I say colour, sort of colour – the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation. When this film simulation was first added to the cameras a few years back it was really overused but now the Acros simulation has been added and Chrome being a few years old, it’s over use has diminished.

As always my “walk-arounds” are set up to shoot JPG Fine only and I have also set both the Hi-lights and Shadows to +2 for a really contrasty look. Set this way the shadows do really block up a lot but I kind of like the look.

One of the places I shoot often is Hyde Park as I walk through. Today the mixture of clouds and strong light pushed the contrast further. The images were downloaded through ShutterSnitch over WiFi and edited on the iPADPro in Lightroom Mobile where I mainly pushed the curves further, added clarity and a vignette.

 

The formation of the blue boats in relation to the tower block, along with the dark trees and contrasty sky took my eye here.

 

Here I pushed the sky a little further with a graduated filter in LR but again I really like the layers and mood of this with the boat contrasting against the cafe which contrasts against the trees and sky.

 

Diagonals and Contrast. Its like a Monochrome image – but its not!

 

This tunnel always reminds me of the “Death Wish” series of films with Charles Bronson (filmed in Central Park, NYC).

 

Running in and out of the shadows.

Having an X-T1 as a walk around is kind of nice – now all of my cameras are basically the same format with mostly the same controls and handling, but being able to change what comes out of them in terms of images is really powerful aspect of the Fuji system. Why not give it a go next time you go for a wander?

A bit of CONTRAST

One of my favourite features of the X-Range of cameras is how you can select a film simulation (for example Monochrome)  then tweak it. Living by the coast I often get up early and go for a wander, camera in hand. Yesterday it was an X-T1, 14mm Lens with the film simulation tweaked with the Monochrome set to Red Filter and the +1 on both Shadows and Hilights. I then Post the images with no edits (except the square crops for instagram)…

Beach Cleaning

Someone had a “good” night out.

A different type of Groyne.

Its all Groyne shots this week


The water is warming up

Not yet open


GV


You choose your path – into the light or into the dark….

IPAD (Pro) Workflow

Its been quite a while since my original iPad workflow post. Software has improved and the speed of the iPad Pro has totally changed the game so of course, my iPad workflow has moved on quite a bit.

The first stage of my workflow continues to be ShutterSnitch.  In my opinion this is still the fastest, most reliable method of using the WiFi connection to get the images from the Fujis on to the iPad. When I am sending just a few images (or sending a few at a time as a job progresses) , I can select on the camera and transfer individually via WiFi with ShutterSnitch instantly saving the images to the iPad Camera Roll. The problem comes when I have Job that involves many hundreds of images, all of which have to be looked at, selected then basic edits made, metadata (caption etc) added and sent. WiFi is just not fast enough for this many images. This is the problem I faced when travelling to Cannes for the annual film festival.


As I was flying and would also be carrying my kit most of the day I really wanted to keep weight to a minimum so I decided to stick with the iPad and develop a workflow that would work.

My iPad is a 256GB/4G model and so has more storage than my old MacBook, even so I was paranoid about storage at the start and wanted to ensure the iPad only contained the images that were  “keepers” so my workflow actually started with the camera configuration. I decided to shoot JPG only on to 64GB cards in both slots – slot 1 as the primary storage and slot 2 for backup. At the end of each job (or day) I would ingest the images to the camera roll from the slot 1 card using the standard apple camera connection key. The card was always wiped after ingest. The card in slot 2 remained in place, building a backup of all the image files, only being switched out to my suitcase as it became full. (Note: RAW image files could be used but would be slower).

When working on a full Laptop/Desktop it is common for most press photographers to use Photomechanic to select and caption first before transferring only their “keepers” to their editing software (photoshop or Lightroom). Because of the way iOS protects files and stops apps interacting on the same data, my workflow is actually the reverse. I use Lightroom mobile to select and edit before captioning and sending in PicturePro.

Lightroom Mobile (on Creative Cloud).

There are a number of key settings / stages to make this reasonably quick.

Mobile data: Ensure “sync on mobile data” is turned off.  (Tethering to a phone brings a whole different set of issues as you really do not want LR to try and synchronise all images until back at base).  An iPad on its own 4G connection is a real advantage here and simplifies the sending process.

Collections: Keep a collection per job or day.

Auto Add:  Use the … next to the collection name to enable Auto Add to the relevent collection.

Switching to split view with the photos app running next to Lightroom as the images ingest from the card, they will be added too Lightroom at the same time (see you can multi-task on an iPad).


Speed Flagging: This enables images to be picked or rejected with an upward or downward swipe whilst in the editing screen.


Once the images are ingested, the card is cleared and put back in the camera. I switch to single image view and enabled a filter on the collection to show only unflagged images. I then swipe down to reject, skipping those I am not sure about until i get to the first image I want. Before I swipe up to pick it, I complete the basic edits – crop, curves, levels etc. and then holding the finger (or pen) on the screen I use the pop up to copy the settings (all settings excluding crop). Only then do I swipe up. The process then continues, swiping down to reject and pasting the edits, (hold down again), cropping then swiping up to pick going through all of the images.


Once at the end I know I have all the selects and rejects. I switch to the “All Lightroom Photos” selection, set the filter to “Rejected” and delete all the images.

The next stage is surprising! I go to the camera roll and delete all the images  just ingested (it’s ok! They are held within Lightroom now – its made copies in its database).

I now export the images from Lightroom to the camera roll (this is a slow process as there is a limit on exporting 15 at a time), selecting the maximum size option.  This leaves just the edited selected images on the camera roll ready for captioning and sending.

PicturePro

In PicturePro I make extensive use of base templates. Upon opening the correct image folder / date should be selected.


Load the metadata editor on the first image and load the relevant template and edit the data to suit. I then copy the data before using the save and next button, paste in the data from the last image, tweak and move on.  Each image that is annotated has a small icon on its lower centre (in grid view).


Once done I select the annotated images (hold to select a batch, double finger tap to add single images to the selection) and export using the FTP panel, resizing, renaming and saving the images in relevant folders as they are transmitted. Each image that is exported has a small icon on its lower right (in grid view).

Once Back at Base
PicturePro has stored all the captioned and edited images in folders which can be accessed via FTP. Lightroom will synchronise all the original images, with edits via Creative Cloud to the desktop machine. (But no metadata on them). I add the PicturePro images to my Lightroom to sit alongside the originals which I leave uncaptioned because I know I can find them via the captioned exported versions.

Conclusion

There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to this workflow. I find the iPad an extremely nice tactile thing to use, using the Pencil and Keyboard I can work on my lap, on the floor, seat, basically anywhere, much easier than if I were balancing a Laptop. Using the pencil on the image itself as a tablet is a joy with the keyboard folded back out of the way until needed for captioning. Batch editing is minimal though, I cant apply the same edit to 100’s of images in a single manoeuvre but I dont see this as a huge issue as I normally have to look at each to crop it as I want so pasting the settings as I crop does not really slow me down. Its always pointed out that iPads have no colour management. Correct, the screen cannot be calibrated but its a mobile platform, it’s not used in a nice controlled environment. Every day I am out shooting and editing in different light with differing ambient levels and colours, so is this really the issue many flag it to be?

Comparing the captioning between PicturePro and Photomechanic the main loss again is batch processing. In PicturePro I do have to check and paste the metadata into every single image but this does have the advantage of ensuring I think about every caption.  At the time of writing PicturePro doses have one or two issues. It will crash every now and then but with this workflow I do not lose any work – its more just having to restart the software (which is almost instantaneous). PicturePro also has image editing which I have used in the past for small batches when I need to be very fast but a bug affecting only the iPad Pro means I am waiting on a software update before I can do this again.

This post has been a long time coming, the workflow has been tweaked and will continue to be but it was working this way that I sent almost 3000 images over 10 days from Cannes so I think it works. let me know your thoughts, comments , questions.

Julie

Happy accident with the 100-400

With a few “long distance” jobs coming up in the next few weeks I thought it was time to purchase the XF100-400, I added the 1.4TC as the saving is reasonable and you never know when it might come in handy (as it works well with the 50-140 as my previous post proved).

As when I last used the 100-400 I did not have the converter I thought, despite the poor weather and light I would take the pair down to the beach and see what they made of the wind-farm that is sprouting off of the Sussex coast.

I took this image at the full 840mm 35mm Equivalent reach (ISO 800, 1/450th and F8 on an X-T2) because I liked the contrast between the old torn stark fisherman’s marker flags and the modern windmills softened by the atmosphere and weather. As I processed the from RAW (pushing the Velvia simulation to extreme) I noticed a dark patch in front of the windfarm.

Zooming in at 1:1 I saw this..

Im not sure how far out the Dolphin was (please don’t correct me on type / species etc, I understand I am probably wrong) but I was unable to see it by eye and although not a very technical test, given the conditions (it was blowing a gale, I was hand holding etc ) I am pretty impressed.

Ill follow up with more considered thoughts later.

X-T2 : Finally!

I sort of stopped writing this blog a while back, the X-T2 was released and I was in a “no kit investment year” (I run my kit spending cyclicly where I have a year of investment, then a year where it all has to pay for itself before I invest again). Once the X-T2 was out I kind of realised that nobody really wanted to read about my using the older cameras so I put the blog on hold. (If thats not the case, let me know!).

Now we are into a new year, an investment year, and the first of those investments has just arrived following a good deal from Calumet‘s Jamie (and the help of a friend – Mike). I have added an X-T2 plus grip and a lovely Millican bag (that I will use for wandering with a single camera).

This morning I went for a wander, adding a 16-55/2.8 and the old 55-200/4.8. This was not really a test, more a “lets get to find out a little bit about you”. I’m a sucker for monochrome as you probably know so I set it to JPG and ACROS simulation. Heres a cross-section of images – mostly straight out of the camera, just cropped (unless I specify otherwise in the caption).

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55, blacks pulled down slightly. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55 , shadow and hi-light pushed in camera, SOOC. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.16-55 clarity +4. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity, curve adjustment. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Hi-lights and exposure recovery. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, medium clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

There is nothing groundbreaking in these shots but they were all testing aspects of the kit and helping me get used to the new controls layout. I used the 55-200 because I wanted to see if the new AF made this lens more useful – it does, it kept up with the birds better than my pre-coffee panning technique. I am pleased with the ACROS simulation and how it handles edits (to the hi-lights and shadows). This afternoon I will use it on a proper job but for now I can sum up my likes and dislikes:

Likes:

  • Focusing – the tracking is far better.
  • Joystick – moving the focus points is a breeze
  • Landscape / Portrait AF pattern – having different points selected in the 2 camera orientations is brilliant (Firmware 2.0)
  • Speed – A far more responsive camera
  • ISO adjustment on the front command dial
  • ACROS

Dislikes:

  • Back button focussing – my Tracking / Single shot trick (see this article) no longer works, BBF is less useful

So thats overwhelmingly positive then!

Now I have current kit, I will be writing a lot more again so make sure you head back. More thoughts to follow (and you can expect posts on the 150-400 soon also). Thank you for visiting.