Hypersync with Nikon D3x and Nikon SB 800/SB 900 flash – TEST # 1

Hypersync with Nikon D3x and Nikon SB 800/SB 900 flash

Pocket Wizard’s hypersync function allows you to use flash at shutter speeds well over the standard maximum synch speed of your camera (in most cameras the max flash synch speed is around 1/250th of a second).

Why do you need flash synch at speeds over 1/250th second?

So why would you want to use flash at speeds higher than 1/250th? There are many reasons, ranging from freezing action in sports photography to my case where I shoot models outdoors and I run into the typical issues all photographers face……

If you shoot the model in direct sunlight and you want to use a wide aperture to create a narrow depth of field that blurs the background and makes the model pop out of the shot, then you have to use higher shutter speeds, even at low ISO values. My typical early morning sunrise beach shots require shutter speeds in the range of 1/1,000th  – 1/2,000th at my preferred shooting apertures ranging between F2.8 and F4.0 at 100 ISO. This means that you cannot use flash and you need to use reflectors to fill in the shadows.

Outdoor beach glamour photography - Using multiple reflectors to fill in shadows
Outdoor beach glamour photography – Using multiple reflectors to fill in shadows

And while approach this has worked incredibly well for me over the years there are several issues created with the reflector approach

  1. The model has to keep her eyes closed until the moment the trigger is tripped so she does not have to stare into the bright reflector reflecting the sunlight into her otherwise silhouetted face. Keeping the model’s forehead relaxed and her eyes fully open is always a struggle in these situations
  2. Often the wind direction is coming from the same direction as the sun, and to keep the model rimmed by the sun, you end up with her hair blowing around her face, making shooting in the that direction almost impossible.

So it would be really great to shoot at 1/2,000th of a second at f2.8 and use flash to fill in the shadows. This gets around both of the problems above as the model no longer has to deal with a bright light continuously in her face, and it also allows you to orientate the model in such a way that the wind is blowing her hair in an acceptable direction.

Hypersync vs. HSS (High Speed Sync)

There are at least two methods that allow you to use flash at higher than normal synch speeds

  1. HSS (High Speed Synch). This essentially makes the Nikon strobes fire in continuous low power pulses, and while it works very well in most situations, the power fall off from the flash firing thousands of consecutive low power flashes means that you cannot get normal illumination from your flash. So you have to gang several flash heads together and bring the flash units very close to the model. This often results in uneven illumination and also results in overheating the flash heads if you are shooting a lot of images in quick succession. I have used HSS shooting models at high shutter speeds but the inability to pull the flash heads further back from the model to create more evenly lit model has resulted in less than ideal results, and the overheating is a real issue.
  2. Hypersync. This technology is achieved using Pocket Wizard hardware and software to create a pre-trigger event to get most of the illumination from the flash head to synchronize with the higher than normal shutter speed. In my case I use the Nikon specific Pocket Wizard TT1 transmitters and the Pocket Wizard TT5 transceivers. Hypersync can be used with both Speedlights (Nikon, Canon flash heads etc.) and with studio lights, but note that both have to be set at FULL power (in most cases) meaning that you have no flash exposure control other than the distance of the flash to the model. In the case of studio lights, they offer way more power (WS) than speed lights, so can potentially offer substantially faster shutter speeds and allow you much greater flash to model distances and allow you to use modifiers like soft boxes that create more even illumination. However the down side to using studio lights outdoors on location is that they need a power supply (either generator or portable battery) and are heavy to drag around outdoors, and of course large light boxes are prone to blowing over in the wind so you need additional sand bags to secure the light stands. Note that in the case of studio flash units, a light with a LONGER flash duration works better in Hypersync than a flash with  a shorter flash duration as the tail of the flash is better able to synch with the elevated shutter speed

 

TEST:- Hypersync with Nikon D3x and Nikon SB 800/SB 900 flash

In this test I am purely going to see what results I can achieve with my Nikon D3x and my Nikon SB800 and SB 900 strobes in hypersync mode. I have 6 of these but will only use 4 in this test. I wanted to do the test with the default PW settings (not adjusting any timing offsets in the software application) to see if it would work and then only make adjustments if the results were unacceptable.

I wanted to do the test at midday to deal with the harshest conditions but rain kept me inside and the test was conducted late in the afternoon. I shot at 100 ISO and F.8 with a 70-200mm lens.

First determine ambient light exposure

I first checked ambient light with no flash to determine what I considered the ideal exposure to give me the underexposed saturated background that I wanted

Ambient Light Exposure for Hypersync with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights
Ambient Light Exposure for Hypersync with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights

While I actually liked the look of the background exposure at 1/800th, I settled on 1/1250th of a second to see if I could get the flash to synch at shutter speeds that I would typically deal with in my normal early morning beach shoot scenarios.

Pocket Wizard Nikon SB900 / SB800 speed lights in Hypersync

Equipment Setup - Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights - 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Equipment Setup – Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights – 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO

I positioned the flash units as follows. Note that I ganged two SB 900’s as my main lights as the distance to the “model” was too close to get even illumination over the full length of the model with just one bare flash head, so I added a second head lower down on the light stand to illuminate her “legs”.

The right hand side of her face was bathed in direct afternoon light. Below you will see a couple of examples. All images were shot in landscape format. None of the images below have been edited other than the text placed over the images. They are just as they came out of the camera, no adjustment of levels, color, contrast, saturation etc. They are also shown full height so we can see if any banding occurs (bottom of frame in landscape format on Nikon cameras)

I am happy to say that I was able to get very usable results with the 4 Nikon flash heads at speeds all the way up to 1/8000th of a second at F2.8 and at F4.0. The minute I tried stopping down the aperture to F5.6 or smaller, the flash units were not able to illuminate the model adequately, so this is where the studio lights would start to come into play. I achieved these results with the default PW settings, no adjustments were made to the flash offset timing.

It is important to note that when using hypersync, in these elevated shutter speeds, the flash duration is now inherently longer than the shutter speed, so now not only does the aperture control the flash exposure, but so too does the shutter speed. This is completely different to shooting with flash at shutter speeds under the sync speed where shutter speed has not effect on the flash exposure.

This means that if you want to shoot at really high shutter speeds around 1/4000th or faster, you will have to gang several speedlights together to compensate for the reduction in illumination.

Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights - 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights – 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights - 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights – 1/1250th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights - 1/2000th second at F2.8 100 ISO
Hypersync testing with Nikon D3x with SB900 and SB800 speedlights – 1/2000th second at F2.8 100 ISO

Nikon Hypersync Summary

In summary the PW TT1 and TT5 units allow you to use Hypersync with Nikon (and other brands of speedlights) at much higher than standard shutter speeds. This allows you to

  • freeze action in sports photography,
  • use wide open apertures in bright sunlight,
  • to overpower the sun (to a limited effect with speed lights)
  • to underexpose the ambient light background to create deeply saturated images.

And I encourage you to do your own testing. Do not rely on my information as all cameras and flash units behave differently in Hypersync.

Click here to see the next HYPERSYNC test

New Photo Studio – electrical, plumbing, and interior painting

The electrician has rerouted all the conduit and is hanging the lights. The Plumber has installed the sinks and toilets in the bathrooms and the carpenter is installing the kitchen cabinets.

Baseboards painted and drying
Baseboards painted and drying
Photo Studio Gallery showing marble floor, black 8ft doors with frosted glass, and black baseboards.
Photo Studio Gallery showing marble floor, black 8ft doors with frosted glass, and black baseboards.
Updated small bathroom (non ADA) - new tiles and fixtures
Updated small bathroom (non ADA) – new tiles and fixtures
Photo Studio front Lobby showing tiles, black 8ft doors with frosted glass, and black baseboards. Lighting and drop ceiling being hung.
Photo Studio front Lobby showing tiles, black 8ft doors with frosted glass, and black baseboards. Lighting and drop ceiling being hung.
Editing room - new photography studio - black baseboards and glass brick wall
Editing room – new photography studio – black baseboards and glass brick wall
Kitchen cabinets being installed, room for the sink.
Kitchen cabinets being installed, room for the sink.
Kitchen cabinets being installed, room for the sink and the two ADA drinking fountains
Kitchen cabinets being installed, room for the sink and the two ADA drinking fountains (WTF?)

With regard to the kitchen, in case you are wondering why we have TWO DRINKING FOUNTAINS, the new ADA rules specify that you have to have two drinking fountains with 6″ of difference in height. R U KIDDING ME!!!! When is this madness ever going to end

The drywall crew are prepping some of the areas that we have marked, and then we should start with the final interior painting sometime next week.

The daylight studio has a coat of bonding epoxy down to increase the adherence of the filler layer and epoxy paints that will be used to paint the studio floor.

Still have to find some light weight room darkening blinds for the natural light studio as it will be used for both natural and studio light duties

Painting the new Photography Studio exterior

New photography studio - prior to purchase
South Entrance and parking – New photography studio – prior to purchase

Prior to selling the studio the previous owner had a done a great job of painting the studio, but s you can see in the image above, the  green colors they had chosen did not fit our color palette, and more importantly they blended in too much into the background.

With over 50,000 cars a day passing by we wanted a color scheme that would attract attention, be in line with our corporate color palette, and not be too un-Florida!

So we chose the color palette similar to our current web design – a darker coffee color at the called black raisin, a medium taupe waistline below and a light taupe for the majority of the walls. The back-lit store front signs that are being designed are in white and with the dark background they will easily be visible in both daytime and nighttime.

Painting the new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
Painting the new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
Painting the new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
Painting the new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
South Entrance with the new paint colors - new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
South Entrance with the new paint colors – new Danny Steyn Photography Studio

While we like the dark black raisin as the top color for the building, we inverted the colors for the wall as we did not want to white bird droppings to show up on the boundary wall where they often congregate, so here the dark raisin color is used as the waistline to separate the two shades of taupe

Boundary wall - new Danny Steyn Photography Studio
Boundary wall – new Danny Steyn Photography Studio

Build Out Phase (Part 3) – New Photography Studio design project from start to finish

Drywall is complete

We are 6 weeks into the project, and allowing for the break between Christmas and New Year, things are going pretty smoothly. The GC is keeping the project moving along, but to date we have drifted about 2 weeks behind our original schedule. Not a train smash but still a bit disappointing.

All the interior drywalls are all complete. Both Studios as well as the Prop Room and the Gallery will have open ceilings, and these areas all received their dose of matte black paint. There will be some touch up required with the new AC vents that are still being installed.

Photography studio Editing Office dry-wall complete
Photography studio Editing Office dry-wall complete
Photography studio Prop Room dry-wall complete
Photography studio Prop Room dry-wall complete
Photography studio Lobby dry-wall complete.
Photography studio Lobby dry-wall complete.

Floor tiling has commenced

The floor guys have started laying tile in the Lobby, Office and Gallery areas. We had to make a small design change in the Lobby due to the layout of the doors. Unfortunately this means more of one tile and less of another so the lobby will only be completed on Saturday. We had so many compliments on the lobby of our old studio that we have stayed with the same floor design; a dark marble border around a light marble fill. Doors will be black with frosted glass panels.

New Photography Studio construction - Entrance Lobby tiling underway
New Photography Studio construction – Entrance Lobby tiling underway
New Photography Studio construction - Entrance Lobby tiling underway
New Photography Studio construction – Entrance Lobby tiling underway
New Photography Studio construction - Editing Office tiling underway
New Photography Studio construction – Editing Office tiling underway

We chose a busier and slightly darker tile for the Editing Room as the light cream tiles in our previous studio editing room showed the dirt too easily.

New Photography Studio construction - Studio walls and window frames being painted
New Photography Studio construction – Studio walls and window frames being painted

Interior oors are being custom made on site

Due to long lead times we were unable to purchase finished doors so we are having the GC custom make the doors on site. The finish carpenter is doing a great job with the 8ft tall wood doors that we purchased. He has cut out the recesses and is painstakingly installing the frosted glass panels

New Photography Studio construction - 8ft tall doors being custom made on site
New Photography Studio construction – 8ft tall doors being custom made on site
New Photography Studio construction - 8ft tall doors being custom made on site
New Photography Studio construction – 8ft tall doors being custom made on site

 

Build Out Phase (Part 2) – New Photography Studio design project from start to finish

With the structural inspections complete the drywall crew continued their task and now the tape and mud is being applied. Open ceilings in the two studios, gallery and prop room mean 12ft tall walls have to be dry-walled and smoothed. Looking forward to seeing the crew’s tall stilts on the high walls! There will be a drop ceiling in the lobby, editing office, bathrooms and kitchen/makeup areas.

Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Drywall framing, taping and mudding
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Drywall framing, taping and mudding
Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Drywall framing, taping and mudding - editing office
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Drywall framing, taping and mudding – editing office

 

Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Drywall framing, taping and mudding - Main Lobby
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Drywall framing, taping and mudding – Main Lobby

We decided to remove some of the overgrown vegetation to reveal the front of the building so that the signage will be visible to the 50,000+ vehicles a day that pass the studio. We are playing with signage design, paint colors as well as exterior landscaping. Kind of cool to see the exterior moving along as well.

Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Exterior - North Entrance
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Exterior – North Entrance
Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Exterior - North Entrance
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Exterior – North Entrance
Danny Steyn Photography Studio - Exterior - North Entrance
Danny Steyn Photography Studio – Exterior – North Entrance – And vehicle entrance to main studio

 

 

 

The Build Out Phase (Part 1) – New Photography Studio design project from start to finish

THE UNEXPECTED

No construction project goes as planned, and conventional wisdom says it will cost you double what you originally budgeted, but we are fighting like crazy to ensure that that will not happen here. Nevertheless, we have discovered that a lot of work was done to the building over the past 20 years will not meet the current Florida building code and the minute you pull a construction permit, all work, past and present, has to meet the current code. So it looks as though we will have to

  • Completely upgrade the AC system with 4 new units supplying 12 Tons. It’s pretty obvious that the 20 year old A/C system will not be able handle the demand of the new studio design. The plan is to run the A/C every day to cool the editing office, lobby, gallery and bathroom, but only run the A/C in the studios during shoots. So the ability to rapidly drop the temperature in the two large studios is essential. Without dropped ceilings, and a relatively low R19 roofing system, excess capacity will be important to get the temps down fast enough in the summer months.
  • Repair a leak in the roof and wall that caused quite considerable damage to the  drywall in the main studio area
  • Re-look at the wiring of the building. Several electrical penetrations through both the exterior walls and the interior fire walls do not meet current building code and need to be addressed

It’s also time to decide on tile treatments for the lobby and gallery areas. Fortunately Kim’s excellent taste for interior decoration will make my life so much easier.

THE FRUSTRATION

Dealing with the city building department for building permits and inspections can be a trying process. Sometimes it goes well, other times it can be a nightmare. I guess this time around ours was smack in the middle. All our drawings and permits were passed without revision, however our plans got stuck (and lost) within the building department for almost 2 weeks, delaying all progress. And delays cost money.

THE START OF THE BUILD OUT PHASE

Now that we have the permits the build-out has started. Drywall framing is going up, plumbing for the new ADA bathroom and kitchen, duct work for the new AC units and more.

Despite having tried to incorporate as much pre-planning into the design of the new studio as possible, there are several changes that we have implemented through the project and sometimes construction delays give you time to reflect and rethink your strategy!

Damaged drywall due to leaking window seals that needs to be replaced in the Daylight Studio
Damaged drywall due to leaking window seals that needs to be replaced in the Daylight Studio
After rmoving a storage shelf we discovered this drywall rot in the Main Studio. Need to establish what is causing this.
After removing a storage shelf we discovered this drywall rot in the Main Studio. Need to establish what is causing this.
The newly discovered rot in the Main Studio drywall, still need to resolve the source of this leak
The newly discovered rot in the Main Studio drywall, still need to resolve the source of this leak
The empty main Portrait Studio with cyc wall and newly discovered leak and drywall rot!
The empty main Portrait Studio with cyc wall and newly discovered leak and drywall rot!
Drywall framing starts
Drywall framing starts
Looking from the Main Portrait studio, through the Gallery into the Prop room. Lobby to the left, new ADA bathroom to the right
Looking from the Main Portrait studio, through the Gallery into the Prop room. Lobby to the left, new ADA bathroom to the right
Looking from the Editing Room, through the Prop Room into the Natural Light Studio
Looking from the Editing Room, through the Prop Room into the Natural Light Studio
Furring strips for drywall going up in the Prop Room, looking into the Natural Light Studio
Furring strips for drywall going up in the Prop Room, looking into the Natural Light Studio
Drywall going up in the Editing Room, window and door to Lobby, door to Prop Room and Server station
Drywall going up in the Editing Room, window and door to Lobby, door to Prop Room and Server station
Plywood bracing for wall cabinets in the Prop Room. Dedicated AC ducting for server in Server Enclave
Plywood bracing for wall cabinets in the Prop Room. Dedicated AC ducting for server in Server Enclave
Plywood bracing for makeup counter in the Makeup Room. One full width mirror with lighting for 3 stations and outlets for hairdryers, curling tongs etc.
Plywood bracing for makeup counter in the Makeup Room. One full width mirror with lighting for 3 stations and outlets for hairdryers, curling tongs etc.
Plywood bracing for large HD 4K TV Monitor in the Lobby.
Plywood bracing for large HD 4K TV Monitor in the Lobby.